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State park savings

Stimulus Act Includes $45 Billion in Energy Spending

Guest Opinion: A financial crisis solution

Does technology keep your family together?

Energy Efficiency Tip of the Month

Kentucky improves adult literacy


State park savings

Kentucky State Parks are offering a Spring Fling Value Rate coupon good for a $50 a night lodge room at selected state resort parks Sunday through Thursday. The offer is good through May 21, 2009, at Blue Licks Battlefield; Buckhorn Lake; Carter Caves; Greenbo Lake; Jenny Wiley; Kenlake; Pennyrile Forest; and Rough River Dam. All resort parks have a restaurant, trails, and other recreational activities. Most offer camping starting in April. The coupon is available at www.parks.ky.gov (look for Coupons and Discounts). The coupon is for leisure travel only and cannot be combined with other offers. There are a limited number of rooms for this offer at each park. For online reservations, use the code “BACKYARD” and bring the coupon with you at check-in.

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Stimulus Act Includes $45 Billion in Energy Spending

The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, signed into law in February, allocates $45.2 billion to energy-related programs and authorizes nearly $20 billion in tax credits for renewable energy, energy-efficiency, and electrical transmission projects, according to Platts, an energy information service.

The stimulus act provides $4.5 billion for the Smart Grid Investment Program and includes $16.8 billion for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)—nearly 10 times the funding received in 2008. The new law is expected to create thousands of “green collar” jobs (for more, see this month’s The Future of Electricity column, “Jobs for a green economy”) and the president said the act would double renewable energy use in three years by spurring $100 billion in new “clean energy” projects.

The act includes $6 billion to support loan guarantees for renewable energy and electric transmission technologies. The funds are expected to guarantee more than $60 billion in loans. Projects receiving guarantees must start construction by September 30, 2011, and involve renewable energy, electric transmission, or leading-edge biofuel technologies.

Carbon capture and sequestration-related programs receive $4.7 billion, with $1 billion of this amount for fossil energy research and development, $800 million for the Clean Coal Power Initiative Round III Solicitation, and $1.5 billion for competitive solicitations, including a range of industrial carbon capture and energy-efficiency improvement projects.

The act directs $5 billion toward the Weatherization Assistance Program to make homes energy efficient.

The act also stipulates that $3.1 billion of EERE funds go toward the State Energy Program for additional grants that do not need to be matched with state funds. But these funds are for states that intend to adopt strict building energy codes and provide utility incentives for energy-efficiency measures.

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Guest Opinion: A financial crisis solution
by Paul Hazen

What caused our current economic crisis? It was greed, deregulation, and predatory lending, so popular thought goes.

There’s one major flaw in the logic of this finger pointing—these are symptoms, not causes, of our financial system. In other words, it’s the nature of the beast.

People want to know where we go from here, what sort of business model could have averted the crisis. The answer is simple, and decidedly American.

We need to invest in business cooperatives.

Structurally, cooperatives are distinct from investor-owned businesses. Those who use a co-op’s services actually own an equal share of the business.

Co-ops include Fortune 500 businesses such as Land O’Lakes, the Federal Home Loan Banks, Sunkist, and the Associated Press. Co-ops hold more than $1 trillion in assets, and have more than 125 million members.

Following the Great Depression, credit unions—another type of cooperatively owned business—grew exponentially. Experts agree that credit unions will most likely see a similar surge in the near future.

Credit unions have remained stable in the current wave of bank failures. Credit is flowing as freely today as it was a year ago.

That’s because credit unions, like other cooperatives, don’t answer to investors. Consequently, they’ve made less risky moves, like packaging subprime mortgages into stock and selling them on the market. Because every member is an equal owner, there’s no incentive to try to manipulate stock price. No single person stands to gain more than another.

This makes for business with a face. Because revenues stay local, credit unions’ gains represent gains to the community. And as an owner, each member has a say in the business’ governance. This creates a culture of transparency, a far cry from the culture of many investor-owned corporations.

These efficiencies manifest in real, tangible benefits to consumers. Credit unions offer better interest rates on deposits, and lower interest rates on loans.

What draws members to credit unions—strength, good deals, self-reliance, community focus—also draws people to other types of business cooperatives. Food co-ops, housing co-ops, purchasing co-ops (buyers that come together to leverage economies of scale)—all have blossomed in recent years, bringing services to people who either couldn’t afford them or were geographically marginalized.

There’s no such thing as an invulnerable business model, and certainly co-ops feel the stress of a weakened economy. But as the Great Depression showed, business cooperatives can help stabilize an economy in turmoil.

By working cooperatively, Americans will regain the trust in each other, and in the economy.

Paul Hazen is president and CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association, which develops, advances, and protects cooperatives across all sectors. Learn more about NCBA at www.ncba.coop.

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Does technology keep your family together?

Has computer technology helped your family stay in touch? Is your next family reunion just a computer mouse click away? Write to us and let us know how your family uses Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, blogs, video conferencing, personal Web sites, or other Internet applications to reunite across the miles. Send your story describing your “electronic family gatherings,” with Subject: Electronic Gathering, along with your name, address, and phone number to e-mail@kentuckyliving.com by April 30 and we may include you in a feature story in our December 2009 issue.

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Energy Efficiency Tip of the Month

To trim high heating costs, open draperies and shades on south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to enter your home. Close them at night to reduce the chill of cold windows.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

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Kentucky improves adult literacy

A national assessment shows that literacy levels of Kentucky adults have improved while nationwide levels have held steady.

The study, from the National Center for Education Statistics, is the most comprehensive measure of adult literacy since 1992.

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy: Indirect County and State Estimates of the Percentage of Adults at the Lowest Literacy Level for 1992 and 2003 provides estimates on the percentage of adults—for all states and counties in the U.S.—who lack basic prose literacy skills. The study is based on a survey of 19,000 Americans age 16 and older, given in 1992 and 2003.

According to the study, the Kentucky population lacking basic prose literacy skills decreased 7 percentage points from 19 percent in 1992 to 12 percent in 2003.

In 2003, 21 other states had a higher percent of population lacking basic prose literacy skills than Kentucky, compared to five states in 1992. Prose literacy is defined by reading materials arranged in sentences and paragraphs. Examples of prose literacy include newspaper articles, editorials, and brochures.

For a full copy of the study, visit the NCES Web site at http://nces.ed.gov.

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