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November 28, 2007

Jobs created through green initiatives

The mayors of the Twin Cities say that the increase in attention to go green could create more jobs. A study, endorsed by the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and released by the Renewable Energy Project on Monday, says that Minnesota can create “more than 18,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs in the wind, solar and other alternative-energy businesses over the next decade,� according to the Star Tribune.

The Renewable Energy Project is working with the Blue Green Alliance to document the jobs that can be created if the energy bill calling for 15 percent of U.S. Electricity to come from alternative sources by 2020 passes. Minnesota has already passed a law calling for 25 percent of its electricity to be generated by alternative sources by 2025.

According to the Star Tribune, both St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said they have begun plans to both “expand and add companies in the conservation and alternative-energy industries.

The Blue Green Alliance is a partnership between the Sierra Club and United Steelworkers and focuses on three key issues (global warming and clean energy; fair trade; and reducing toxics) while concentrating efforts in Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin, according tho their website (bluegreenalliance.org).

Minnesota Public Radio has reported that the Mayors' Green Manufacturing Initiative are expected to be released in January, showing the “job potential in renewable energy, transportation, and building products.�

November 18, 2007

Recycling effort halted

Electronic recyclers got more than they could handle during the three-day effort at the Mall of America. People could drop off old TVs and computers to be recycled for free, and, according to the Pioneer Press, over 5,000 cars brought “1 million pounds of old electronics� on the first day.

When the collection ended on Friday, dated electronics had filled 86 trucks, reported the Star Tribune. Twenty cars were already in line to recycle one hour before the collection began on that second-day; that afternoon, other cars would be turned away.

A 2006 law prohibits Minnesotans from throwing the cathode ray tubes from both TVs and computers in with the trash, and earlier this year another law “requires electronics manufacturers to collect and recycle 60 percent by weight of what they sold the previous year,� said Garth Hickle, product stewardship team leader for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

With the new federal communications law of February 2009, there will be no more analog signals for TVs. This means that consumers will have to invest in cable or satellite TV, a digital converter or a brand new TV.

Old TVs can be recycled at collection spots throughout the state, but there can be a charge. Hennepin County has free drop-off centers in Brooklyn Park and Bloomington, while Minneapolis has free curbside pick-ups, according to Hickle.

Metro Transit goes green

Last Thursday, Metro Transit introduced its new line of green buses with a procession down Nicollet Mall. The 17 green-wrapped buses that were shown off are the some of the first of the 150 hybrid-electric buses that Metro Transit will buy over the next four years as part of its “Go Green� campaign. According to the Star Tribune, these hybrids cost $557,000 each, 80 percent of which is paid for by the federal government. Local sources fund the other 20 percent. Standard city buses cost $356,500.

The hybrids that Metro Transit has already been using get an average of 4.71 miles per the gallon, compared to a typical bus’s 3.86 miles per gallon. Metro Transit expects to save 338,000 gallons per year once the 172 total hybrid buses are running in five years.

The Star Tribune reports that “Metro Transit is expecting a 22 percent or greater improvement in fuel economy, which translates to 1,965 gallons of fuel per bus saved annually, along with less soot and other pollutants.� The hybrid buses reduce emissions by 90 percent.

Metro Transit first introduced three hybrid buses in 2002. From this Tuesday until the end of the year, hybrid buses will travel various routes, offering free rides. On Mondays, routes 17 and 18, which include stops in the Nicollet Mall area, will also be free.

November 10, 2007

Facebook plans targeted advertisements

Facebook announced Tuesday that it plans to use target advertising based on user actions. Companies will now be able to build profile pages similar to those of typical users, though company pages won’t be able to access individuals’ profiles like friends do even if “users formally declare themselves ‘fans’ of a company,� according to the Star Tribune. Businesses will be able to tailor their ads to activities of users: if a friend buys a book, a business can use the friend’s photo to get others to take similar action. Profile information may also be used for targeted ads, allowing businesses to “fine-tune their audiences.�

A special coding Facebook calls “Beacon� can be embedded to allow outside sites to create alerts for other Facebook friends—if someone lists something on eBay, then a message can be sent to their friends to allow them to look at the listing.

This is another step in lowering the guard on user privacy, though Facebook won’t provide advertisers with identifying information. Criticism arose with the implementation of the news feed feature months ago, which allowed updates on friends’ actions. Some users used Facebook’s own groups feature to show how displeased they were with the “stalkerish� new add-on. Because of the response, Facebook allowed users to turn off that feature. The targeted ads plan allows users can control what they share, but they can’t choose to opt out of ads.

The other top social networking site, MySpace, currently lets businesses make their own profile pages and announced that “it would expand its targeting program to include more categories and more advertisers� on Monday.

November 9, 2007

Possible delays for MnDOT projects

State Transportation Commissioner and Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau announced Thursday that there may be delays in other state projects because of the funds drained by work on the new Interstate 35W bridge.

At a legislative hearing on Thursday, two Minnesota Department of Transportation financial specialists said that there is enough money “to pay for its schedule road construction program through February,� according to the Pioneer Press. Because of this, lawmakers did not request extra money for the department.

The federal government has given Minnesota $178.5 million and is promising an additional $195 million for a new bridge, according to the Star Tribune. But the Pioneer Press reports that “MnDOT needs legislative permission to spend $135 million more than its current budget to pay for both the bridge and its previously scheduled road projects.�

According to House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, the legislative panel will meet again in December, when they could make further adjustments to MnDOT’s spending level.

Keillher also expressed concerns about Molnau, telling Pioneer Press’s Bill Salisbury: “It is disingenuous and misleading to tell lawmakers one thing and members of the media another.� Minnesota Public Radio also reports that the Senate’s lead transportation expert “said he will effectively move to fire Molnau when lawmakers return in February.�

November 4, 2007

Continued support for Minnesota steel plant

The Indian company that plans to build a steel plant in northeastern Minnesota has agreed to comply with U.S. and international laws, said Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Wednesday.

Essar America’s Chief Executive Madhu Vuppuluri sent Pawlenty a letter assuring the governor that “ no investment or firm commitment will be made in Iran, unless and until permitted to do so under the applicable U.S. or international laws,� according to the Pioneer Press. The letter also said that Essar “considers its investments in the state of Minnesota of strategic importance both to Essar and to the state and people of Minnesota.�

Pawlenty now will offer state assistance for the plant after considering withdrawing support after suspicions of Essar dealings with Iran, including a negotiation “to build an $8 billion to $10 billion oil refinery in Iran,� according to the Pioneer Press. Such dealings would violate the Iran Country Sanctions Act, which “imposes sanctions on foreign companies that invest more than $20 million a year in Iran’s energy sector,� according to the Star Tribune.

Pawlenty sent Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice a letter on Monday to ask the U.S. State Department if Essar Global could potentially violate the act.

The proposed steel plant will cost $1.6 billion, be built in Itasca County and produce 2.5 million tons of steel per year, reports Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press. It would also provide 700 jobs to a region of Minnesota that has lost over 10,000 mining jobs since 1979. Itasca County is asking the Minnesota Legislature for over $60 million for roads, railroads, and various utility lines for the plant.

November 3, 2007

Pawlenty and Steger partner for the environment

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Arctic explorer Will Steger are joining together against global climate change in Minnesota. They announced their partnership on Monday “after participating in a panel discussion on the impact of climate change on Lake superior’s economy, natural systems and tourism,� according to the Pioneer Press.

Pawlenty also said Monday that he hopes to join Steger on his trip to the Canadian Arctic this spring to observe the ice sheets Steger has noticed shrinking. Pawlenty hasn’t made any promises to join the expedition because of potential conflicts with the upcoming legislative session.

The “Making a Great Lake Superior� conference included discussion of “pollution, invasive species and shoreline development,� according to the Star Tribune. Those topics all have good news and comment from Prof. Deborah Swackhamer of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment said that there has been a decline in concentrations of “legacy contaminates� like DDT and PCBs.

Climate change has affected the lake, however, as ice cover on the lake is decreased and the “average summer water temperature is increasing 2 degrees a decade,� said Prof. Jay Austin of the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Large Lakes Observatory. According to the Star Tribune, Austin said that effects of these changes could mean more evaporation on the lake “and a drop in average water level.�

The Pioneer Press reports that both Pawlenty and Steger have plans to tour Lake Superior and also look at climate change’s effects on Minnesota’s northern forests.