Rhode Island could build North America’s first offshore wind farm


Near the Danish island of Samso
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

The governor of Rhode Island signed a final agreement yesterday with Deepwater Wind for a big offshore wind farm for the tiny state, announcing that construction is expected to start in late 2010. That puts the $1.5 billion, 400 MW project in line to be the first offshore wind farm constructed in North America, according to Gov. Donald Carcieri.

Although there are numerous offshore wind farms in Europe, offshore projects have met with repeated resistance in the U.S., either due to cost, or, in the case of Cape Wind in Massachusetts, vocal opposition to turbines from prominent residents, who fear that such development could ruin their ocean view.

Carcieri first announced a deal with Deepwater Wind back in September after putting out a request for proposals earlier in the year. Deepwater Wind, backed by First Wind, DE Shaw & Co. and Ospraie Management, has since made another deal for a big offshore wind project in New Jersey.

The Rhode Island project is likely to be a little late in meeting the governor’s original target of generating enough power to cover 15 percent of the state’s electricity needs by 2012. Phase One of the project, to go in state waters, is expected to be complete in late June 2012 and generate 20 MW of power. A timeline for Phase Two, which will go in federal waters, has yet to be released. Deepwater Wind will first need approval from the Minerals Management Service, part of the Department of the Interior, for a lease of submerged federal lands to build the larger wind farm.

Good for Rhode Island – the smallest of the forty-eight.

They picked a good time to build in the region. Most Green activists and just plain sensible people who look to green alternatives for a future – are fed up to their eyeballs with NIMBY’s like the Kennedys – and nutballs like Bush. Not a bad time to get started with change.

ABG First Drive: Honda Insight – 50+ mpg without breathing hard!

As 2009 kicks off, Honda is launching a new hybrid-only model that revives the Insight name on an altogether more practical machine. This time Honda is aiming for real mass market appeal with a price the company hopes will make the new Insight “The Hybrid for Everyone.” Honda invited us out to Arizona before Christmas to sample the new Insight and we can now tell you all about it. Read on to find out if Honda’s Insight is on target.

In many respects, the original Insight was what the EV1 might have evolved into if GM had followed some of the development paths it looked into. The parallels to the EV1 are numerous. As much as people like to mythologize the EV1, even if GM had continued to produce it, it is unlikely that it would ever have been a commercial success because of its configuration. As much as green car fans like to tout the facts that most people drive alone most of the time and don’t drive very far, the chasm between what people need most of the time and what they buy is a large one.

Part of Honda’s goal with the new Insight was to create a car that was recognizable as a hybrid. This led directly to the shape you see in the photos (check out the gallery). As both Toyota with the Prius and General Motors with the Volt, one of the keys to maximizing the efficiency is to minimize the aerodynamic drag. Hence the Insight has a shape that moves through the air with minimal resistance.

Continue reading

You can’t even trust avocados, anymore

State auditors have uncovered as much as $2 million in questionable spending by the California Avocado Commission.

During a three-year period examined by auditors, employees of the commission — based in Irvine, Calif. — used official credit cards to pay for more than $1.5 million in home remodeling, sports tickets, health club memberships and delivery of restaurant meals…The commission’s 18 employees also ran up charges for $850 hotel rooms at resorts and apparel from high-end retailers including Nordstrom, Talbots and Ann Taylor that was characterized in expense reports as uniforms.

Commission board members, along with family members, guests and employees received “massages, nail service, facials and body treatments” during meetings at luxury resorts, the auditors found.

The auditors concluded there had been “a significant amount of discretionary expenses that appeared questionable at best and even personal at times.” The items and services “may be considered gifts of public funds,” the auditors’ report said.

Commission board Chairman Rick Shade said some of the auditor’s criticism was unwarranted.

I don’t feel it was all that lavish,” he told the L.A.Times, “but I agree that certain areas had problems.”

We should all have problems like that. Right?

Students petition for removal of entire school board

In what may be the first attempt in California to unseat an entire school board, high school students and supporters who want to oust all five members collected enough signatures to put the issue before voters, the Tuolumne County clerk said Friday.

The students organized the recall campaign as a civics project after the board of the Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District voted to get rid of their popular math teacher, a former professional football player.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” said Tioga High School senior Billy Hilton, 17, one of the student leaders of the recall effort. “I don’t think this has happened many other places. We were able to do it because our school and community are so small and tight-knit…”

The California School Boards Assn., which represents 95% of the state’s school districts, does not keep election records, but staff members said the recall of a school board is uncommon if not unprecedented. “We can’t remember a time when a whole board has been recalled…”

It is unclear how the allegation of plagiarism reached the school district. The university said the allegation was unfounded, but the school board has refused to take Dutton back.

Dutton, who hopes to return to Tioga High and resume teaching math, said he was overwhelmed by the support from the students and community. “I knew that I had a good relationship with them, but you never think that the kids would rise up and do something of that sort,” he said. “I can’t say enough about their support. It reiterates for me that this is the right career for me.”

Regardless of what may have been presented to the school board, it was a Star Chamber proceeding with the teacher having no right to confront accusers or challenge so-called evidence. If you run a school board like the Inquisition, you deserve to be thrown out of office.

Toyota to launch electric commuter car by 2012


One variation on the IQ platform
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Toyota Motor Corp said it would launch an all-electric car for city commuting by 2012 in the United States as part of its plan to speed up the introduction of green cars. The FT-EV concept made its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Sunday, where the world’s top automaker is also unveiling two new gasoline-electric hybrid cars.

The FT-EV concept shares a platform with the tiny iQ urban commuter car, which runs on a gasoline engine and emits just 99 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.

“Now, more than ever, while we are so focused on the pressing issues of the moment, we cannot lose sight of our future,” Irv Miller, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. group vice president.

Toyota said the concept car is targeted at the urban dweller driving up to 50 miles between home and work, for instance.

“Last summer’s $4-a-gallon gasoline was no anomaly,” Miller said. “It was a brief glimpse of our future.”

Makes sense to me.

Salmonella? Only worry if you’re in hospital – or school. WTF!

An Ohio peanut butter distributor has issued a voluntary recall for two brands of peanut butter after health officials in Minnesota said they had found salmonella bacteria in a tub of peanut butter that is distributed to schools and hospitals. The recall, and the Minnesota report, could be the breakthrough in the search for the source of a salmonella outbreak that has struck in 42 states so far.

Officials from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture issued a product warning Friday after preliminary laboratory testing indicated the presence of salmonella in a container of creamy peanut butter from King Nut, according to published reports.

Late Saturday, King Nut Companies of Solon, Ohio, announced it had issued a recall of all peanut butter distributed under its label and manufactured by Peanut Corporation of America, of Lynchburg, Va. The company also recalled its distribution of Parnell’s Pride peanut butter, which is also made by Peanut Corporation…

King Nut distributes peanut butter through food service accounts and does not sell it directly to consumers.

Most reported cases of salmonella occur in children. In the current outbreak, victims have ranged in age from less than 1 year to 103.

Man cannot live on bread alone. He must have peanut butter.

UPDATE: Hiding out in bankruptcy.

All the Flu in the U.S. this winter is resistant to the main antiviral drug


The alternative to Tamiflu – a Relenza powder inhaler – Gack!
Daylife/AP Photo by Jeff Morgan

Virtually all the flu in the United States this season is resistant to the leading antiviral drug Tamiflu, and scientists and health officials are trying to figure out why.

The problem is not yet a public health crisis because this has been a below-average flu season so far and the chief strain circulating is still susceptible to other drugs — but infectious disease specialists are worried nonetheless.

Last winter, about 11 percent of the throat swabs from patients with the most common type of flu that were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for genetic typing showed a Tamiflu-resistant strain. This season, 99 percent do.

“It’s quite shocking,” said Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, director of infection control at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. “We’ve never lost an antimicrobial this fast. It blew me away.”

The single mutation that creates Tamiflu resistance appears to be spontaneous, and not a reaction to overuse of the drug.

Complicating the problem, antiviral drugs work only if they are taken within the first 48 hours. A patient with severe flu could be given the wrong drug and die of pneumonia before test results come in. So the new guidelines suggest that doctors check with their state health departments to see which strains are most common locally and treat for them.

This is all pretty scary. I know a few folks who rely on keeping Tamiflu on hand at least during flu season because they’re in one or another of the groups that have higher susceptibility. Certainly scares the hell out of a cranky old geek like me.

BBC apologizes for editing interview to give opposite view!

The BBC has been forced to apologise to an acclaimed psychologist and writer after editing her derogatory comments about religion so that a radio programme broadcast “the opposite” of what she had said.

Dorothy Rowe complained to the corporation that her interview on the Radio 2 programme What Do You Believe? had been so heavily edited that the final version misrepresented her views. During a 50-minute recorded interview, Rowe, best known for her work on depression, had attempted to comment on the subject proposed by the programme’s producer: “Why so many people want to believe in God and search for faith.” But she was aghast to hear how her words were eventually used.

In an email to the corporation, published on her website, Rowe stated: “My words were edited to make it sound that I held a favourable opinion of religion in that it gave a structure to a person’s life. What was not broadcast was what I had said about how such structures can be damaging to people. Being misquoted in this way concerned me greatly.”

Rowe…said on her website she had no option but to complain as she was acutely aware of the dangers of “having something in the public domain that did not represent my views” and which would “could cause me considerable problems, particularly when the subject matter was religion”. She said the interview “sounds like I am giving unqualified praise to religious belief. There is no mention of what I talked… about at length, that religious belief can cause immense misery. I often summarise this with: ‘The church keeps me in business’.”

What Blair hath wrought…

Bush takes last Air Force One flight


Daylife/AP Photo by Haraz N. Ghanbari

President George W. Bush took his last official Air Force One flight on Saturday to Virginia for a ceremony to place a warship named after his father into active duty.

Bush, who leaves office on January 20 when President-elect Barack Obama enters the White House, attended the commissioning of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush, with close family members and senior officials.

The president’s helicopter, Marine One, landed on the flight deck and Bush emerged with his father, the former president, who was walking with a cane. Their wives followed.

For Bush, it was a day of his final flight on Air Force One, the presidential jet. He will fly to Texas after Obama’s inauguration most likely on the same jet but it will no longer be designated as Air Force One, which is reserved for a plane carrying the president.

BTW – Dumbo didn’t know it was his last flight on Air Force One until a journalist told him. 🙂