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With oil production down by 9. Gusts have been known to topple tractor trailers. Spanish energy company Acciona Energia says the 6,acre farm should generate megawatts of electricity with turbines, 25 of which are already operating.

The rest should be on line by the end of the year, making the project the largest of its kind in Latin America. It will produce enough energy to power a city of , people, while reducing carbon monoxide emissions by , metric tons each year, according to the company. The project is also a joint venture with Cemex Inc. Energy Secretary Georgina Kessel said the government is planning a series of wind projects that by should generate 2, megawatts of electricity. The mayor of Juchitan, the municipality where La Ventosa is located, attended the ceremony but called for more benefits for the local community.

Critics argue that foreign companies build the turbines, rent the land, run the project and produce the power for companies like U. The United States demanded rights to transport goods over the isthmus in the s, and foreigners tried to build a railway alternative to the Panama Canal there. Honolulu-based Sopogy announced last week that it will build a megawatt system in Toledo, Spain, using its proprietary technology in partnership with a German energy financier and a Spanish project developer.

The system could generate enough electricity to power 15, homes. Posted in Dept. We are also gratified by signs that the Obama administration in the United States is keen on leveraging renewable energy sources as commercial sources of energy for the country. Taylor concluded. OPT continues to make steady progress on development of the kW-rated PowerBuoy PB , which comprises a significant portion of our current backlog.

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The design of the PB structure is on track to be completed by the end of calendar year , and is expected to be ready for complete system testing in OPT continues to work actively with an independent engineering group to attain certification of the kW PowerBuoy structure design. During the second quarter of fiscal , the Company announced that it expects to benefit from the energy production tax credit provision of the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of Production tax credit provisions which were already in place served only to benefit other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

The Act will, for the first time, enable owners of wave power projects in the US to receive federal production tax credits, thereby improving the comparative economics of wave power as a renewable energy source. The DoE grant will be used to help fund the fabrication, assembly and factory testing of the first PowerBuoy to be installed at the Reedsport site. This system will be a kW-rated PB PowerBuoy, major portions of which will be fabricated and integrated in Oregon.

OPT is working closely with interested stakeholder groups at local, county and state agency levels while also making steady progress on the overall permitting and licensing process. OPT is currently working on building the power conversion and power take-off sub-assemblies. The Company is also reviewing prospective suppliers for manufacturing of the PowerBuoy, which is on track to be ready for deployment by the end of calendar year SWRDA has forecasted that the Wave Hub connections, cabling and grid connection infrastructure will be completed by the end of the calendar year.

A second, smaller wind farm is already functioning nearby, giving a combined output of gigawatt hours per year. That would provide enough energy for , homes, or most of the northern city of Viana do Castelo and its surrounding districts, he told the Publico newspaper. The Moura solar farm, which will include a research centre, should be twice the size of any other in the world when it is fully up and running in two years time.

That is more than twice the UK target. It also uses its subsidies policy to insist that manufacturers of turbines and solar panels set up production plants. Newton, Iowa — Like his uncle, his grandfather and many of their neighbors, Arie Versendaal spent decades working at the Maytag factory here, turning coils of steel into washing machines.

When the plant closed last year, taking 1, jobs out of this town of 16, people, it seemed a familiar story of American industrial decline: another company town brought to its knees by the vagaries of global trade. Except that Mr. Versendaal has a new factory job, at a plant here that makes blades for turbines that turn wind into electricity. Across the road, in the old Maytag factory, another company is building concrete towers to support the massive turbines. Together, the two plants are expected to employ nearly people by early next year.

Versendaal says. The wind is blowing out there for anybody to use. From the faded steel enclaves of Pennsylvania to the reeling auto towns of Michigan and Ohio, state and local governments are aggressively courting manufacturing companies that supply wind energy farms, solar electricity plants and factories that turn crops into diesel fuel. This courtship has less to do with the loftiest aims of renewable energy proponents — curbing greenhouse gas emissions and lessening American dependence on foreign oil — and more to do with paychecks.

In the face of rising unemployment, renewable energy has become a crucial source of good jobs, particularly for laid-off Rust Belt workers. Amid a presidential election campaign now dominated by economic concerns, wind turbines and solar panels seem as ubiquitous in campaign advertisements as the American flag. No one believes that renewable energy can fully replace what has been lost on the American factory floor, where people with no college education have traditionally been able to finance middle-class lives.

In West Branch, Iowa, a town of 2, people east of Iowa City, workers now assemble wind turbines in a former pump factory. In northwestern Ohio, glass factories suffering because of the downturn in the auto industry are retooling to make solar energy panels. Johnston, who started a solar cell factory called Solar Fields in Toledo in The market is potentially enormous.

In a report last year, the Energy Department concluded that the United States could make wind energy the source of one-fifth of its electricity by , up from about 2 percent today. Much of the growth would be around the Great Lakes, the hardest-hit region in a country that has lost four million manufacturing jobs over the last decade.

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Throw in solar energy along with generating power from crops, and the continued embrace of renewable energy would create as many as five million jobs by , asserts Daniel M. The unfolding financial crisis seems likely to slow the pace of development, making investment harder to secure. But renewable energy has already gathered what analysts say is unstoppable momentum. In Texas, the oil baron T.

Boone Pickens is developing what would be the largest wind farm in the world. Most states now require that a significant percentage of electricity be generated from wind, solar and biofuels, effectively giving the market a government mandate. And many analysts expect the United States to eventually embrace some form of new regulatory system aimed at curbing global warming that would force coal-fired electricity plants to pay for the pollution they emit. That could make wind, solar and other alternative fuels competitive in terms of the cost of producing electricity.

Both presidential candidates have made expanding renewable energy a policy priority. Beneath the surface, realignments are characterized by major shifts in the voting coalitions that support the two parties. Demographic groups and regions move to and fro between the parties. These demographic shifts, and the attendant ideological solidification of the two parties, leave some politicians, like Senator Specter, who no longer represent their party's mainstream thinking, as outliers and essentially marooned.

Faced with the prospect of almost certain defeat by a reduced and much more conservative base in next year's Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary, the politically moderate Specter made the only rational choice he could and left the Republican Party. The last previous realignment, which began with election of Richard Nixon in , saw the movement of numerous Democrats, primarily Southerners, to the Republican Party. Starting with Strom Thurmond and continuing through Richard Shelby, these conservative Democrats, along with many of their constituents, saw the GOP as a more comfortable political home.

But the movement between the parties wasn't only Southern, nor was it only in one direction. If history is any guide, Arlen Specter's move from the Republican to the Democratic column will not be the last during the next several years. Other moderate Republicans, most likely from New England, the Northeast, and the upper Midwest, will almost certainly join him. At some point, it is also probable that a smaller number of conservative Democrats, who feel uncomfortable or politically threatened by President Obama's activist agenda, will find the GOP more compatible with their beliefs and fortunes.

Just as the baseball offseason is a time for trading players, a political realignment leads to changes in the rosters of the two parties. Let the switching begin. Note: Rob Shaprio also has a great post about the auto bailouts from yesterday. This posed a huge but not initially recognized risk to GM. In , as GM came the closest it would ever come to achieving its sixty-percent market share goal, GM was paying the entire health insurance bill for its employees, survivors and retirees, and had agreed to "30 and out" early retirement that granted workers full pensions after 30 years on the job, regardless of age.

Its world then began to come apart. At the same time, the Japanese with their then superior, lean manufacturing techniques stepped into the vacuum, gaining a foothold in the North American car market that they have continued to expand. The turmoil of the seventies and the pressure from Japanese competition drove those average margins down to 5. Finally, in this decade the slide has actually taken the company into an average of negative margins. In addition, the government's demands that GM dismantle more brands and shut down more dealerships suggests the process may get a lot uglier by the May 31 decision deadline.

The kind of GM that emerges from these negotiations will have a huge impact on these workers and on the many industrial towns that depend on the car business for their basic existence.

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He also will face predictable Republican calls to let the market work its will, even if it means the end of the company. Bush's administration. Cross-posted at New Geography. While noting that President Barack Obama has higher job approval scores than any president in the past three decades, some in Washington also wonder how long this honeymoon can last and how much Obama can get done before it ends.

The answer to those two questions lays in placing both Obama's performance and the questions themselves in historical context. As the late V. Key, the founder of modern political science research, pointed out in his masterful book, The Responsible Electorate, voters make their decisions in retrospect. Specifically, the public's judgment about how well a president is doing is based in part on how it evaluates his predecessors, especially the president who immediately preceded the current president.

Bush, the most poorly evaluated president in polling history. Similarly, President Jimmy Carter had slightly higher numbers than Obama at this point in his presidency, presumably because his style was so different than that of Richard Nixon, the only president forced to resign because of his malfeasance in office. But positive attitudes toward Barack Obama are based on far more than negative attitudes toward his Republican predecessor. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, two Presidents who served toward the end of the last civic era in American history, a period that ended with the election of Nixon in In civic eras, Americans have much more positive attitudes toward political institutions than in politically divided and gridlocked idealist eras such as the Baby Boomer-dominated one we just left.

In civic eras, the public wants and expects governmental action. By contrast, in idealist eras, presidential approval ratings tend to fall fairly quickly in a President's term, signaling the end of the honeymoon. This happens as soon as the President begins to take action that is bound to offend at least one half of the divided electorate. For example, Franklin Roosevelt, who kicked off America's last previous civic era in , never really did see an end to his honeymoon in terms of decreasing popularity, at least not until well into his second term.

And, of course FDR won reelection to a second term in by an even larger margin than he did in While many inside the beltway may not recognize that we have entered a new era in American politics, both the President and the public do. Barack Obama should have the popularity to prove it for some time to come. This ceremony caps his campaign promise to ask Americans to reinvigorate their country through community service.

Not everyone is ready to join hands and sing the praises of the concept, however. Of those Republicans expressing their opposition in the Senate, only one , John Ensign of Nevada, was from a state that Obama carried. As Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina put it on his Web site , "We need to recognize that this bill does represent a lot of what's wrong with our federal government today It's small, it's personal, it's responsible, it's accountable.

These are just two examples of Millennials deep desire to serve. Ninety-four percent of Millennials believes community service is an effective way to solve problems at the local level and 85 percent thinks that is true for national problems as well. At the signing ceremony, the President will be joined by many other equally committed sponsors of the concept of national service, including Senator Ted Kennedy in honor of whom the final legislation was named "The Edward M.

In the Pew survey, a nearly unanimous 88 percent of Democratic identifiers, as opposed to a scant 27 percent of Republicans, approved of the president's performance, a gap of 61 percentage points. While Gerson's statement of the facts may be correct, his interpretation is dead wrong. The election of President Obama last year brought America into a new civic era, a turning point that has occurred roughly every eighty years throughout American history.

Each time the country enters a civic era there is a rise in partisan identifications, a more coherent ideological divide between the two parties, and an increase in straight ticket voting.


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Even Gerson noted that polarization might be a good thing when it is a "decisive" and "ambitious" president like Franklin D. Roosevelt who is doing the polarizing to achieve overriding national goals. Despite Gerson's attempts to blame Obama for our current level of partisan divide, the truth is that such a division is inevitable in a civic era.

The polarization between Democrats and Republicans in the Pew and every other survey has much less to do with President Obama's personal and political style, as Gerson suggested, than it does with the inability of his own Republican Party to adapt to this new era. From the earliest Pew survey conducted in , the first year of George H. Bush's administration, through , there was near parity in the distribution of party identifiers within the electorate; no more than three or four percentage points ever separated the Democrats from the Republicans.

By contrast, since the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as Democrats has risen significantly, while the number saying they are Republican has fallen. And, only 21 percent of American voters are "pure" Republicans, a group that consists only of those willing to call themselves Republicans and does not include independents that say they lean toward the GOP. This is the smallest number of "pure" partisans for either party in any survey ever conducted by Pew.

Quite simply, the GOP has become an ever-declining corps of conservative true believers. A recent Frank N. As a result, Republicans see things very differently than almost everyone else. In that poll at least sixty percent of both women and men and all age and ethnic groups have a positive impression of the president.

Given the distance of the Republican Party from the current American political mainstream, and the increased sense of party loyalty felt by many Americans, it shouldn't be surprising that most of the public is reticent to see President Obama compromise with Republicans on important public policy questions as Gerson suggests. By refusing to do so, it is the Republicans and not Barack Obama who are now polarizing American politics and, as a result, it is they who are polarized from most of their fellow citizens as well. If Republicans like Michael Gerson truly want to see bipartisan policymaking, they will have to retreat from their position as a corporal's guard on the right wing of American politics and join the rest of the country in seeking real solutions to the major issues facing the United States at the dawn of the 21st Century.

To understand why pensions are still important, you have to understand the awkward beast that benefits professionals refer to as the U. It is not really one "system" but three, which complement each other in the crudest of fashions. The highest tier, available to the rich, is private savings. In between, for people who do not have a hedge-fund account and yet want to retire on more than mere subsistence, there are pensions and k 's. Currently, more than half of all families have at least one member who has qualified for a pension at some point in his or her career and thus will be eligible for a benefit.

And among current retirees, pensions are the second-biggest source of income, trailing only Social Security. During most of the 90's the decline in pension coverage was barely lamented. It was not that big companies were folding up their plans for the most part, they were not but that newer, smaller companies weren't offering them.

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As the small companies grew into big ones think Dell, or Starbucks, or Home Depot , traditional pensions covered less of the private-sector landscape. This did not seem like a very big deal. Younger workers envisioned mobile careers for themselves and many did not want pension strings tying them to a single employer. And most were able to put money aside in k 's, often matched by an employer contribution. It happened that k 's, which were authorized by a change in the tax code in and which began to blossom in the early 's, coincided with a great upswing in the stock market.

It is possible that they helped to cause the upswing. In any case, Americans' experience with k 's in the first two decades of their existence was sufficiently rosy that few people shed tears over the slow demise of pension plans or were even aware of how significantly pensions and k 's differed.

But k 's were intended to be a supplement to pensions, not a substitute. From the beneficiary's standpoint, pensions mean unique security. The worker gets a guaranteed income, determined by the number of years of service and by his or her salary at retirement. And pensions don't run dry; workers or their spouses get them as long as they live. Because the employer is committed to paying a certain level of benefits, pensions are known as "defined benefit" plans.

Since an individual's benefit rises with each year of service, the employer is supposed to sock money away, into a fund that it manages for all of its beneficiaries, every year. The point is that workers don't or shouldn't have to worry about how the benefit will get there; that's the employer's responsibility. Of course, the open-ended nature of the guarantee -- the very feature that makes pensions so attractive to the individual -- is precisely what has caused employers to rue the day they said yes. No profit-making enterprise can truly gauge its ability to meet such promises decades later.

A k , on the other hand, promises nothing. It's merely a license to defer taxes -- an individual savings plan. The employer might contribute some money, which is why k 's are known as "defined contribution" plans. Or it might not. Even if the company does contribute, it offers no assurance that the money will be enough to retire on, nor does it get involved with managing the account; that's up to the worker.

These disadvantages were, in the 90's, somehow perceived with the help of exuberant marketing pitches by mutual-fund firms to be advantages: k 's let workers manage their own assets; they were a road map to economic freedom. Post-bubble, the picture looks different. Various people have studied how investors perform in their k 's. According to Alicia Munnell, a pension expert at Boston College and previously a White House economist, pension funds over the long haul earn slightly more than the average k holder. Among the latter, those who do worse than average, of course, have no protection.

Moreover, pensions typically annuitize -- that is, they convert a worker's retirement assets into an annual stipend. They impose a budget, based on actuarial probabilities. This might seem a trivial service some pensioners might not even realize that it is a service. It is the amount after deducting the annuity provider's costs and profit that the average person could live on so as to exhaust his savings at the very moment that he draws his final breath. So the question arises: what if he lives longer than average? This is the beauty of a pension or of any collectivized savings pool.

The pension plan can afford to support people who live to 90, because some of its members will expire at It subsidizes its more robust members from the resources of those who die young. This is why a k is not a true substitute. Jeffrey Brown, an associate finance professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a staff member of the president's Social Security commission, notes that as baby boomers who have nest eggs in place of pensions begin to retire, they will be faced with a daunting question: "How do I make this last a lifetime?

The country's first large-scale pension plan was introduced after the Civil War, when the federal government gave pensions to disabled Union Army veterans and war widows. Congress passed an act in that extended pensions to all veterans 65 and over. This converted pensions into a form of social welfare. Over the next 20 years, states and cities added pensions for police officers and firefighters.

By World War I, most teachers had been granted pensions as well. Governments couldn't offer big paychecks for workers -- teachers, the police, firefighters -- so it offered stability and pensions instead. In the private sector, the first pension was offered by American Express, a stagecoach delivery service, in Railroads followed suit. Employees were required to work for 30 years before they qualified for benefits, and thus pensions helped companies retain employees as well as ease older workers into retirement.

These employers thought of pensions as management tools, not as employee "benefits. First came the tax deduction. This feature was abused, as companies used pensions to shelter payments to their executives. The rules were gradually tightened, however, forcing plans to include the rank and file. World War II gave more incentives to create pensions: punitive tax rates made the pension shelter enormously attractive and a government freeze on wages meant that pensions were the only avenue for increasing compensation.

The effect of these policies was to encourage unions to bargain for pensions and to pressure employers to grant them. After the war, John L. Lewis, the legendary labor leader, staged a strike to win pensions for miners. Ford Motor capitulated to the U. This led to a so-called pension stampede; by , 40 percent of private-sector workers were covered.


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  • Meanwhile, in the auto industry, the seeds of the problem were already visible. Companies might establish plans, but many were derelict when it came to funding them. When companies failed, the workers lost much of their promised benefit. The U. The union didn't have the muscle to force full funding, and even if it did, it reckoned that if the weaker manufacturers were obliged to put more money into their pension funds, they would retaliate by cutting wages.

    Thus in , Studebaker, a manufacturer fallen on hard times, agreed to increase benefits -- its third such increase in six years. In return, the U. This bargain preserved the union's wages, as well as management's hopes for a profit, though it required each to pretend that Studebaker could afford a pension plan that was clearly beyond its means.

    Four years later, the company collapsed. The Studebaker failure was a watershed. Thousands of employees, including some who had worked 40 years on the line, lost the bulk of their pensions. A union pension expert tellingly explained to Walter Reuther, the U. Though business was skeptical of the idea, a decade later, in , Congress finally passed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or Erisa, which, among other protections, established the P.

    Erisa, according to Wooten, who wrote a history of the act, completed the transition of pensions into a part of the social safety net. It was also the birth of moral hazard. Erisa, which would be amended several times, was supposed to ensure that corporate sponsors kept their plans funded. The act includes a Byzantine set of regulations that seemingly require companies to make timely contributions. As recently as , most corporate plans were adequately funded, or at least appeared to be. Their assets took a serious hit, however, when the stock market tumbled.

    In retrospect, they had been cavalier in assuming the bull market would continue. And they were burned again when interest rates fell. Since pension liabilities are, for the most part, future liabilities, companies calculate their present obligation by applying a discount rate to what they will owe in the future.

    As interest rates move lower, they have to set more money aside because it is assumed that their assets will grow more slowly. The principle is familiar to any individual saver: you need to save more if you expect, say, a 5 percent return on your investment instead of a 10 percent return. What is much in dispute is just which rate is proper for pension accounting. Corporations have been gaming the system by using the highest rates allowable, which shrinks their reported liabilities, and thus their funding requirements.

    Depending on whom you talk to, General Motors' mammoth pension fund is either fully funded or, as the P. What is not in dispute is that when interest rates fell, the present value of pension liabilities by whatever measure soared. The confluence of falling stock prices, plunging interest rates and a recession in the beginning of this decade was the pension world's equivalent of the perfect storm. An unprecedented wave of pension sponsors failed and then dumped their obligations on the P.

    To do so, a sponsor generally must prove that it could not re-emerge as a viable enterprise without shedding its pension plan. By far the most costly failures were in airlines and steel, although the list ranges from Kemper Insurance and Kaiser Aluminum to Murray, a lawn-mower manufacturer. As the P. Mispriced insurance, like mispriced anything, sends the market a distorted signal.

    Belt, the P. He also argues, rather convincingly, that lax rules allowed pension sponsors to get away with inadequate funding. For example, United Airlines did not make contributions to any of its four employee plans between and , when it was heading into Chapter 11, and made minimal contributions in Even more surprisingly, in , after two of its jets had been turned into weapons in the Sept.

    Bethlehem Steel similarly enjoyed a three-year funding holiday as it was going through hard times, letting its liabilities swell in advance of turning them over to the government.

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    Ending a Career in the Auto Industry - “30 and Out” | Melissa A. Hardy | Springer

    Meanwhile, in order to gain its unions' approval for plant shutdowns, it agreed to costly benefit enhancements. In Bethlehem filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It was guided through its bankruptcy by none other than Miller, now the Delphi C. Miller disputes the notion that capital-scarce companies like Bethlehem intentionally game the system by shirking funding. Neither Bethlehem nor United broke any laws. Both companies made the full contributions required under Erisa.

    When the P. For companies that terminate their pension plans, such gross underfunding has become the norm.