Science & Technology
Biofuels For Commercial Airliners PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by USDA Communications Office   
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 12:30

A new TV feature is available on the USDA FTP site. The new feature can also be seen on USDA's YouTube channel and downloaded as a video podcast. See below for details.

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FEATURE – BIOFUELS FOR COMMERCIAL AIRLINERS

INTRO: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is touting the goal of expanding the use of advanced biofuels to boost rural America. The U-S-D-A’s Bob Ellison has more. (1:33)

 

MADE IN THE U-S-A BIOFUELS POWERING AMERICA’S COMMERCIAL AIRLINES. THAT’S ONE OF THE MESSAGES AGRICULTURE SECRETARY TOM VILSACK BROUGHT TO A COMMERCIAL AVIATION ALTERNATIVE FUELS INITIATIVE EVENT HELD IN WASHINGTON D-C.

 

Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary: So it’s important for us to celebrate the success we marked this year for Alaska Airlines and United Continental, utilizing biofuel in commercial flights for the first time. And we obviously want to expand on that.

 

BECAUSE EXPANDING THE USE OF BIOFUELS WILL, VILSACK SAYS, BOOST THE ECONOMY IN RURAL AMERICA.

 

Vilsack: And for us at USDA advanced biofuels connected to the aviation industry is as much about fuel as it is about jobs. The ability to create good jobs primarily, in our view, in rural communities.

 

VILSACK SAYS THOSE JOBS WILL BE AT NEW RURAL BIO-REFINARY PLANTS TURNING NON-FOOD BIOMASS MATERIAL INTO ADVANCED BIOFUELS.

 

Vilsack: The Department of Energy will help and assist the development and construction of a number of prototype, commercial sized bio-refineries. We anticipate and expect that they might be able to provide assistance to as many as four or five of these bio-refineries located throughout the United States.

 

RECENTLY IT WAS ANNOUNCED THAT THE U-S NAVY PURCHASED FOUR HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND GALLONS OF ADVANCED BIOFUEL TO POWER SHIPS AND PLANES…THE SINGLE LARGEST EVER GOVERNMENT BIOFUEL PURCHASE. FOR THE U-S DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, I’M BOB ELLISON.

USDA Down To Earth Video Podcast

 
Midland Communications Helps Companies Take Advantage of Significant Tax-Breaks for New Technology PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Brian Suerth   
Monday, 12 December 2011 16:05

Midland Communications Educates Customers on Powerful Stimulus Plan

DAVENPORT, IA - November 30, 2011 - Midland Communications, a leading provider in unified communications, announced today that the company is helping customers take advantage of a large tax-break for small to mid-sized businesses with Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 179. The tax benefit targets businesses who are contemplating large equipment purchases, such as technology, and significantly reduces the cost of purchasing such equipment. Section 179 allows business owners to write-off the entire cost, up to $500,000, on new equipment purchases made by December 31st, 2011.

Many Americans were left wondering how the Stimulus Package would have an impact on their lives and Section 179 has answered that question for many business owners. Creating significant savings on major purchases of equipment, software or phone systems, the federal government has enacted this bill in an effort to spur business-to-business spending. Right now businesses can expense the entire purchase price of qualifying equipment/software/phone systems in the first year up to $500,000 (to be reduced to $125,000 at the end of the 2011 tax year). Also slated to expire at the end of the 2011 tax year is the 100% Bonus Depreciation, which will drop down to 50 percent. For example, assuming you're in a 35% tax bracket, a $45,000 purchase would drop dramatically, and would cost approximately $29,250 after Section 179 has been applied to the transaction. In a transaction like this, Section 179 would yield a total savings of $15,750. While every transaction is different and tax professionals should be consulted on specific situations, the potential rewards of this government program has persuaded many business owners to seriously consider investing in new equipment before year-end.

The one caveat associated with this powerful program is that the new equipment must be in use by December 31, 2011 in order to qualify for the massive savings. This year, Section 179 also extends to cover software purchases in addition to traditional equipment. Many business owners have installed new business phone systems as a result of this addition to the tax code, because recent breakthroughs in telecommunications are enabling businesses to collaborate better, faster and more efficiently with one another.

"We were stunned to find out that so many of our customers had not yet heard of Section 179," commented Jason Smith, Vice President of Midland Communications. "We may specialize in delivering technology solutions to our customers, but we treat our customers like partners. If we find something as powerful as this we have always considered it to be our duty to communicate this information to our customers. Our goal is to introduce our customers to technology that increases their productivity, but more importantly increases their profitability . When an opportunity like this comes along, we're thrilled to skip discussions regarding technology, and go straight to the part where our customers get to enjoy increased profitability. That's why we're different and we plan on continuing to treat our customers like gold."

 
Governor Quinn Announces Grants to Improve Energy Efficiency in Public Sector Facilities PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Nafia Khan   
Monday, 21 November 2011 15:38

Pilot Program Will Yield Public Sector Energy Savings;
Create More Than 100 Green Jobs

CHICAGO – November 16, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today announced Illinois Energy Now grants to help more public sector entities – such as schools, parks and police – incorporate energy efficiency into their buildings and save money. Awarded through the Illinois Energy Now Public Sector Energy Efficiency Aggregation Program, the grants will provide an estimated $7.1 million in energy cost savings to public sector facilities, including schools, community colleges and local municipality buildings. The initiative will help create more than 100 green sector jobs.

“By improving energy efficiency in public facilities, we are making Illinois a greener place to live and work,” Governor Quinn said. “This program will help save money on public facility energy costs and create green sector jobs to keep our economy growing.”

The Illinois Energy Now program offers a portfolio of both electric and natural gas efficiency programs to achieve targeted annual energy savings goals. The program ensures that the state meets its annual energy savings targets in three sectors: units of local government, community colleges and K-12 schools. The state of Illinois works with the electric service territories of ComEd and Ameren Illinois, and gas service territories of Ameren Illinois, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas to ensure that the state meets its annual energy savings targets.

Grant recipients include the city of Chicago, the Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN) Community College Partnership, and the Metropolitan Mayors Council. Each of these grantees is responsible for identifying projects eligible for public sector incentives, administering the applications and implementation, and reporting back project data and progress.

Grantee

Amount

Estimated Energy Cost Savings over 3 yrs

City of Chicago

$4.9 million

$3.5 million

Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN) Community College Partnership

$2 million

$2.4 million

Metropolitan Mayors Council

$750,000

$1.2 million

 

The County Commissioners Association was also awarded a $260,000 Illinois Energy Now grant to increase awareness of the energy efficiency incentives for public entities, with the goal of bringing in 60 projects that otherwise would not have had the technical resources to apply.

“Prior to the implementation of the Illinois Energy Now program, Illinois did not have a coordinated effort to achieve public sector energy reduction goals,” DCEO director Warren Ribley said. “Through this program, we are helping to lower the energy bills of schools, parks and police stations, while creating green sector jobs.”

The Illinois Energy Now program was created under the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard law, giving Illinois among the most ambitious energy efficiency standards in the nation. The initiative requires Illinois utilities to reduce overall electric usage by 0.2 percent of demand in 2008, escalating to 2.0 percent by 2015.

“Illinois' emphasis on energy efficiency is good policy and good for jobs because it puts our union brothers and sisters to work and provides public sector workers with more resources to make their communities better,” said Michael T. Carrigan, President of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

As part of Governor Quinn’s efforts to ensure greater energy efficiency and create more green industry jobs, the state’s energy efficiency programs created more than 1,440 direct and indirect jobs in the green economy last year. The State Energy Office within the Illinois Department of Commerce of Economic Opportunity administers public sector and low income programs, while utility partners – ComEd, Ameren Illinois, Nicor, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas – administer residential and business energy efficiency programs. For more information on Illinois Energy Now programs, visit www.illinoisenergy.org.

###

 
Braley Bill Would Boost Iowa Jobs in Growing Wind Energy Industry PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Jeff Giertz   
Tuesday, 08 November 2011 12:45

Braley working across party lines to extend wind energy production tax credit 

 

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) announced a bipartisan effort to boost job growth in the expanding wind energy industry.  Braley joined with Representatives Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to introduce a bill extending the renewable energy production tax credit through 2016.  Unless current law is changed, the wind energy tax credit will expire at the end of 2012.

Iowa is first in the nation in per-capita wind energy production, and second nationally in total annual wind energy production in megawatt-hours.  According to the Iowa Wind Energy Association, the Iowa wind energy industry already employs over 3,000 full-time workers.

“Investments in Iowa’s wind energy industry have created thousands of jobs and made Iowa a world leader in clean energy technology,” Braley said.  “Extending the renewable energy production tax credit will keep the economic momentum going.  Wind energy is still a widely untapped resource in Iowa – and that means there’s still untapped potential for business investment and job creation.

 

“Wind energy is good for the economy, good for the environment, and good for farmers.  Our bipartisan bill will promote job-creating wind energy projects and provide incentives to expand wind energy production.”

The American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act extends the wind energy production tax credit by four years, allowing it to expire at the end of 2016.  It also extends a production tax credit for biomass and geothermal energy production by three years, allowing it to expire at the end of 2016 as well.

Braley introduced similar legislation extending the renewable energy production tax credit in 2008 and 2009.

# # #

 
Questions about Mobile Phone Stalking Apps PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 14:48
Sens. Franken, Grassley, Lead Bipartisan Group in Pressing for Investigation of Mobile Phone “Stalking Apps” that Allow Abusers to Secretly Track Victims

Senators Ask Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission to Look Into Legality of Apps

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) led a bipartisan group of Senators in calling on key federal agencies for an investigation into mobile phone “stalking apps.”  The apps are designed to allow domestic abusers and stalkers to secretly track a victim’s movement and location, read a victim’s email and text messages, or listen to a victim’s phone calls—all without the victim’s knowledge or consent.

Sens. Franken and Grassley wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice and urged the agencies to determine whether such apps are legal under current law. The letter was also signed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Stalking apps are dangerous,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “We ask that you quickly determine if they are also illegal. If so, we ask that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission use their full force to investigate and prosecute those behind the development and marketing of these products for illegal stalking.

Stalking apps are directly marketed to individuals seeking to secretly track their spouses and intimate partners. “Worried about your spouse cheating?” one apps’ website asked, offering the ability to “Track EVERY text, EVERY call and EVERY Move They make Using our EASY Cell Phone Spy Software.” Other apps make similar claims, telling users that they can “track her movements throughout the day” or even “tap her actual phone call.” According to 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics data, some 26,000 Americans are victims of GPS stalking annually, including by cell phone—although most advocates believe that number if considerably larger in 2011.

The letter cites an example of a victim from St. Louis County, Minnesota, who was tracked by her abuser through her smartphone during her trips to various county buildings to obtain an Order of Protection against him.  This example was drawn from testimony submitted by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women and the National Network to End Domestic Violence to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, which Franken chairs.

You can read the full text of the letter below.

 

The Hon. Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Attorney General

Department of Justice

 

The Honorable Jon Liebowitz

Chairman

Federal Trade Commission

 

Dear Attorney General Holder and Chairman Liebowitz:

We are writing to express our urgent concern about the proliferation and use of so-called “stalking apps”—mobile apps for cell phones and smartphones that allow a domestic abuser or stalker to continuously and secretly monitor a victim’s movements and whereabouts.  Based on 2006 data, the Bureau of Justice Statistics has estimated that more than 26,000 persons are victims of GPS stalking annually, including by cell phone.  Reports from advocates—and the boom in mobile technology—strongly suggest that this figure is much higher in 2011.  We ask that your agencies investigate whether the developers and distributors of stalking apps are in compliance with all applicable federal criminal and consumer protection laws.

In testimony submitted for a May 2011 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women and the National Network to End Domestic Violence recounted the disturbing experience of a Minnesota woman who was stalked through her smartphone:

In a recent case in Northern St. Louis County, MN, an advocate reported that a woman who entered the domestic violence program located within a county building received a text message from her abuser within five minutes of entering the building. The abuser asked why she was in the county building. The woman was extremely frightened and the advocate helped her obtain an Order for Protection (OFP) at the local courthouse. After filing the OFP, the woman received another text message asking why she went to the courthouse and if she was filing an OFP against him. The only device the woman had on her was her smart phone and they later concluded that her abuser was tracking her via a location tracking application or service on her phone.

This excerpt reflects just one example of numerous cases of stalking through mobile devices.

Stalking applications are widely available and simple to install, usually by a spouse or intimate partner.  Anyone who leaves their mobile phone alone for five minutes could have stalking software installed without their knowledge. See Ben Goldacre, “How I Stalked My Girlfriend,” The Guardian (Jan. 31, 2006).  Once installed, stalking apps can allow an abuser to listen to his victim’s phone calls, read her emails and text messages, and track her real-time GPS location—entirely without the victim’s knowledge or consent.

These apps are openly marketed to individuals who are trying to stalk or “spy” on an unwitting victim.  “Worried about your spouse cheating?” one app’s website asks.  “Track EVERY text, EVERY call and EVERY Move They make Using our EASY Cell Phone Spy Software.” Another app brags that its software will “turn a mobile into a secret gps [sic] tracking device.” Still another site advertises that it will allow a user to “[t]rack her movements throughout the day,” “[k]now what number she is calling or receiving,” and even “tap her actual phone call.”

Location-based services (LBS) offer consumers numerous benefits.  They help users navigate commutes and avoid traffic, help locate lost or stolen wireless devices, and also help parents keep track of their families.  Indeed, most major wireless carriers offer their customers legitimate services that allow them to track the locations of the users of their calling plans—especially minor children.  While these services can be abused by individual customers, all major carriers take precautions pursuant to voluntary industry guidelines to notify a wireless user that he or she is being tracked through one of these services.

In contrast, stalking apps abuse and misuse LBS to affirmatively facilitate stalking.  Indeed, these apps are designed to run secretly on a victim’s phone and are actually marketed to abusers as being “undetectable.”  While many of these apps also advertise themselves as a mechanism for parents to keep tabs on their minor children, their design and marketing suggests that this is an attempt to legitimize an otherwise suspect activity.  We believe that in most cases, stalking apps’ intrusion into victims’ privacy and their potential for abuse will far outweigh any legitimate purpose that these apps may serve.

Stalking apps are dangerous.  We ask that you quickly determine if they are also illegal.  If so, we ask that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission use their full force to investigate and prosecute those behind the development and marketing of these products for illegal stalking.

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