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144 Bipartisan Congress Members Request Wind Tax Credit Renewals

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144 Bipartisan Congress Members Request Wind Tax Credit Renewals

There are 80,000 people in the U.S. who are employed in the wind energy industry—an industry that has secured $105 billion in investments since 2005.

At the same time, the cost to deploy the energy has dropped by 43 percent in four years and wind has risen to become the fifth-largest power source in the U.S.

A bipartisan group of 144 Congressional members says that growth didn't happen without the support of the U.S. government. If the form of renewable energy is to continue limiting emissions, wind energy will need another economic boost in the form of tax-credit renewal, the senators and representatives wrote in a pair of letters to the Senate Finance Committee's leadership.

U.S. Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are leading the charge for the renewal of tax credit to benefit wind energy. Photo credit: Office of U.S. Sen. Mark Udall

 U.S. Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) encouraged 24 other senators to sign a letter urging the finance committee to include renewals of the production and investment tax credits as part of any legislation that renews other credits.

"Like all businesses, the wind industry seeks certainty and predictability so that long term project decisions and investments can be made," the letter reads. "Without that stability, we once again risk losing many of the jobs, infrastructure and investment that the wind industry has created.

"Furthermore, we risk weakening our national energy security by failing to foster such an important source of clean, domestic energy."

Two U.S. House of Representatives members from Iowa—Democrat Dave Loebsack and Republican Steve King—crafted a companion letter to the finance committee with 118 other signatures from around the House.

Environment America's federal global warming program director Julian Boggs says this type of across-the-aisle cooperation gives wind energy proponents the best chance at reviving the two credits.

“This is exactly the kind of bipartisan effort needed to overcome the gridlock blocking the renewal of commonsense, popular and vital investments in clean energy," Boggs said. "It’s the 21st century: we have the technology to produce clean energy that doesn’t threaten our climate or our children’s future."

Political groups have been calling for tax-credit renewal before and after the 2013 expirations of the investment (ITC) and production (PTC) tax credits, but this is easily the largest group to band together. In November, 11 governors, known as the Governors Wind Energy Coalition, requested an extension from Congress. The same group also met with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in February to prepare the energy grid for more wind power.

In December, former U.S. Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus proposed a PTC extension, but only through 2016. In February, U.S. House of Representative Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, (R-MI), announced a PTC extension that would retroactively reduce the credit from about 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour of produced energy to 1.5 cents. The incentive would then be eliminated in 10 years.

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-LA, recently declared the PTC to be "dead". Outside of tax credits, President Barack Obama proposed about $28 billion in renewable energy investments last month as part of the 2015 budget.

"Each day that passes without tax incentives in place for wind energy means more delay in expanding pollution-free renewable energy that never runs out, and a greater risk of long-term damage to America’s growing clean energy economy," Boggs said. "The Senate and the House should act quickly to restore the Production Tax Credit and the Investment Tax Credit for wind energy.”

Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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