Capitol Ideas: Farm Show wind turbine

A recent post on Capitol Ideas, the popular state government blog by Morning Call reporter John L. Micek.

Behold The Power Of Wind.

The wind turbine near the Exposition Center on the grounds of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex has been blowing for nearly two years, but with interest in energy conservation growing, its popularity may have never been higher.

“It serves as an example of this emerging technology,” said Patrick Kerwin, the executive director of the Farm Show Complex. “It’s a demonstration project to show that wind does produce real electricity and work well.” More…

Read the rest on Capitol Ideas.

Post-Gazette: Democrats hate electric deregulation

HARRISBURG — Deregulation of electric rates in 2010 in many areas of the state could constitute “the biggest tax increase in Pennsylvania history,” state Senate Democrats said yesterday.

Since 1996, the rate at which many Pennsylvania energy companies have been able to recoup power plant construction costs from consumers has been capped.

But by 2010, the rate caps will expire for customers in parts of western Pennsylvania served by West Penn Power, plus many residential and business customers in northeast and central Pennsylvania, along with the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia areas. Rate caps for Duquesne Light already have ended.

“Nobody is going out of business” in the state’s electricity industry, said Sen. Vincent Fumo, D-Philadelphia, noting high profit margins and well-salaried executive of electric utilities. “[Allowing these caps to expire] would be the biggest tax increase in the history of the Commonwealth since Ben Franklin.”

He was joined in his criticism by Democratic Sens. Jim Ferlo of Highland Park, Wayne Fontana of Brookline and Sean Logan of Monroeville.

“Utility shutoffs have already risen 37 percent compared to last year,” said Mr. Logan. “Unless we take decisive steps soon, I fear for how many people will be unable to pay and will have their electricity shut off when deregulation hits its statewide peak in 2010.”

Read the rest on Read some of the color interjected by Sen. Vince Fumo here. Image courtesy of The Cobb School.

Post-Gazette: Environment, energy in budget deal

I contributed to this report by Bill Toland, as appeared in the July 1, 2008 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.This is part of a post-graduate internship with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association (PLCA).

Part of yesterday’s budget deal included a rough agreement to spend $650 million on environment- and energy-related programs, $500 million of which will come from new borrowing over two years.

From the pot of $500 million, $180 million will be spent on solar power — $100 million to help residents and businesses install solar power equipment, and $80 million for capital projects relating to recruiting solar energy companies and jobs.

An additional $165 million over two years is earmarked for alternative energy projects, distributed through the Commonwealth Financing Authority, an agency that administers a variety of economic stimulus packages. On top of that, $40 million goes to the Ben Franklin Technology Partnership (a risk-capital investor attached with the state); $25 million goes toward the construction of “green” buildings; and $25 million more goes to help coal companies reduce their mercury emissions.

Read the rest on Image courtesy of Forums.

Capitol Wire: Clean air taxi cab bill

I continue to cover the State Capitol for Capitol Wire, a service for which you don’t have a subscription, so I can only give you a taste.

HARRISBURG (June 23) – The majority of Pennsylvania taxicabs would be clean air cars in eight years under legislation amended and approved by the House Consumer Affairs Committee Monday.

Special Session House Bill 49, introduced by Rep. David Kessler, D-Berks, passed the committee 21-7. As amended by committee Chairman Joseph Preston, D-Allegheny, the bill calls for 80 percent of a company’s common carriers designed to carry eight passengers or less to be clean air vehicles by 2016. All taxicabs purchased 180 days after the bill’s enactment would need to be clean air cars, and $500 per purchase tax credits would be available to offset the costs.

“With the savings in gas costs alone, the switch makes perfect sense,” said Kessler. Even small cab companies would stand to benefit from the higher fuel efficiency, he said.

Seven of the 13 Republicans on the committee voted against the bill, including Minority Chairman Robert Godshall, R-Montgomery.

Pay to subscribe on Capitol Wire to read the rest. Image courtesy of Broadway Cab.

Mass transit makes us warm, development assures it won't matter

A handful of suburban communities are working on offering more dependence on mass transit, as SEPTA Watch first reported back in February.

But, despite grumbling about the cost of gasoline, there isn’t any real conversation about reversing suburban development, which, as anyone can see with a drive through one of these communities, are horribly inefficient lifestyle.

We must be decades away from a different form of development, which means this country will have built that many more developments, private drives and shopping malls that offer no solution for people other than to drive.

Continue reading Mass transit makes us warm, development assures it won't matter