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At a wind energy conference in California Monday, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer criticized Bonneville Power Administration for shutting off wind turbines last week when there was too much hydropower coming onto the grid.
The Obama administration released new rules Friday for protecting wildlife from wind farms.
The second annual Small and Community Wind Conference is being held in Portland this week.
Northwest utilities were busy Tuesday. Portland General Electric settled a long-standing lawsuit over its coal plant. At the same time, the Bonneville Power Administration addressed its complicated relationship with wind power by making two announcements Tuesday.
A Seattle wind energy company and an Oregon port have won federal funding to develop an offshore wind energy platform.
Stanford researchers don't think it makes sense to build grid-scale batteries to store surplus wind energy. To understand why, think about whether you'd spend $100 on safe to store a $10 watch.
Wind energy is fast becoming a major industry for the Columbia River Gorge and its surrounding counties. Several projects (pdf) in various stages of development promise to bring in temporary construction jobs as well as some more permanent wind technician positions. The local community college already offers a training program for aspiring wind technicians and local landowners are exploring the benefits of leasing their property to accommodate wind turbines for decades to come. Many residents are optimistic that these projects will bring in tax revenue that could offer a much-needed boost to the struggling rural area. Wind farm development in the Gorge has also met with some local opposition, which cites concerns that turbines will negatively impact the scenic area — specifically the tourism dollars many residents depend on. The Bonneville Power Administration is also uneasy about the spike in wind farm development and the economic drivers behind it (namely tax credits and state renewable energy requirements).
"Pink slime" is the pejorative nickname given to what the food industry calls "lean finely textured beef." What both terms refer to is ammonia treated ground beef made from the fatty, unused trimmings of other cuts. Reports by The Daily and ABC News on the widespread use of the beef sparked outrage, and inspired a petition to ban the USDA from buying the product for schools. The USDA responded by letting schools choose whether to use pink slime or not — at least at the 20 percent of American schools where it is in charge of food purchases. Since that announcement, many grocers have committed to stop carrying the product. Unsurprisingly, Beef Products Inc., which manufacturers the product, announced this week it will suspend operations at three of its four factories.
Rob Smith joins us for our usual business check-in. Oregon's film and television industry is thriving thanks to three TV shows that are shooting here: Portlandia, Grimm and Levereage. But there's actually a shortage of local talent — such as animators and graphic artists — according to some of the smaller produciton companies that are based here. There's a dispute going on at the Port of Portland's container terminal. The longshoreman's (ILWU Local 8) union claims it has jurisdiction over refrigerated containers coming in to the port, but the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers says otherwise. The ILWU is suing the terminal's owners and meanwhile, shipping at the terminal is slower than normal. A Vancouver-based yacht-building company is showing what it means to diversify a niche business in order to weather touch economic times. After a severe reduction in staff since 2008, Christensen Shipyards branched out to building renewable energy products like wind turbines as well as some defense contracting work. Town car and limosine companies in Portland are unhappy with the city's regulation that they must charge more than cabs for rides to the airport. Two companies have filed a lawsuit against the city to try and change the long-standing rule.
Longtime homeless advocate Ibrahim Mubarak leads "Under the Bridges" tours of Portland's homeless camps. He says the tours give people a rare glimpse into the lives of those who make their homes under Portland's iconic bridges.
Think Out Loud took the tour on Tuesday and took some photos:
Photo credit: Rachel Sapin/OPB Mubarak helped to start Right 2 Dream Too, a semi-permanent encampment in Old Town/China Town for Portland's homeless. He was also one of the co-founders of Dignity Village a decade ago. He says,
"My tour is to take people into areas they normally don't go, and normally wouldn't go to. When I was sleeping on the streets, sometimes I found refuge sleeping under the bridges, especially in the industrial Southeast area."The Under the Bridges walk happens every first and third Tuesday of the month. Starting at Right 2 Dream Too, the tour makes stops at the Union Gospel Mission and the Portland Rescue Mission before crossing the Burnside Bridge and winding south along the East Bank Esplanade toward the Hawthorne Bridge. Mubarak says the walk takes roughly two hours, as he hands out flyers on homeless rights to people camped under the bridges. He also encourages tour participants to interact with the people they meet at each stop. Mubarak believes people walk away from these tours seeing homeless people in a more empathetic light. "They hear their stories and realize this person is human too," he says. Still, the idea of bringing non-homeless people into the places where homeless people live has been criticized as "class tourism."
Pictures of seals with plastic rings around their snouts and birds caught up in discarded nets can capture the public imagination, but for the last few years scientists have been concerned about a very different kind of ocean debris: microplastics. These are either tiny pellets created for industrial or cosmetic purposes, such as the exfoliating beads in some facial cleansers, or small particles of plastic that have broken down from larger pieces by the constant work of sun, wind, and water. Whatever the origin, as KUOW reporter Ashley Ahearn recently reported, these microsplastics are everywhere:
Microplastics have turned up in samples taken from every ocean on the planet and species from the bottom to the top of the marine food chain have been found to ingest these tiny particles – from sharks, seabirds and turtles to filter-feeders and krill.Of course, it's easier to find these microplastics than to find out exactly what effects they're having on ocean — or human — life. But some of the additives in plastic have been found to cause genetic or hormonal problems in lab animals, and plastic has also been found to accumulate potentially harmful toxins (pdf).
A lot of the biggest Northwest environmental stories surrounded energy issues. Coal plants in Centralia, WA, and Boardman, OR both faced pressure to close their doors sooner than planned. Those closures come at the same time that Longview, WA and Bellingham, WA proposed coal export terminals to ship the resource to China. Idaho joined in on the national push toward "fracking" for natural gas. And the federal decision to postpone the Keystone XL oil pipeline has raised the question of whether we'll see more oil tankers in NW waters as companies look for other routes to carry oil to China. The national Solyndra controversy raised questions about the certainty of investments in the local renewable energy industry. The wind and hydroelectric industries tried to work out the kinks of how to deal with the times when too much energy gets generated by both sources. And the Japanese tsunami that led to the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis and cleanup has raised quesitons everywhere about the safety of nuclear energy.
Writer, educator and self-described feminist pornographer Tristan Taormino will speak to students at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University this week. Over the past few months, she's had an on-again, off-again relationship with OSU. In October 2010, she was invited to be the keynote speaker at the university's Modern Sex Conference, taking place this week. Last month, the university uninvited Taormino, citing her involvement in the pornography industry. Administrators argued that paying for Taormino to speak on campus would be an inappropriate use of taxpayer money.
When University of Oregon literature professor Jennifer Burns Levin caught wind of the original cancellation, she jumped at the opportunity to bring the writer and sex educator to the Eugene campus. The cost of Taormino's appearance at the University of Oregon will be paid for by a combination of student and public funds. In the past, Taormino has lectured at top colleges and universities including Yale, Cornell, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Smith, Vassar, and New York University, about issues affecting sexuality and feminism.
Two development projects are being proposed within 30 miles of one another on the Columbia River Gorge. One would create a "destination resort" on an empty industrial site on the Washington side of the river. It also near one of the most popular wind surfing spots on the river, known as "The Hatch." The other project would create an off-reservation casino in the small town of Cascade Locks, to be run by and for the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs. The proposed project could create 1,700 new jobs — in a town that only has around 1,100 residents right now. The tourism would be a boom for both the city and the tribes.