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ALEC Agenda Reveals Anti-Renewable Energy Strategies for December Summit

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ALEC Agenda Reveals Anti-Renewable Energy Strategies for December Summit

Graphic credit: The Oldspeak Journal

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) had no success influencing states to roll back clean energy standards this year, but that doesn't mean the organization is done trying.

For the first time, ALEC posted an online agenda for its Energy, Environment and Agriculture (EEA) task force, which will meet at the States and Nation Policy Summit Dec. 4-6 in Washington D.C. The agenda is seemingly filled with resolutions aimed at slowing the growth of key elements within the renewable energy sector.

First, the group, whose members consist of natural gas companies like Koch Industries and Exxon Mobil, will consider a resolution that would encourage legislators across the country to enforce utility payments on residents who generate their own electricity and interconnect to the grid. ALEC believes those who use solar and other distributed generation (DG) systems have an unfair advantage because they get credit for energy generation through net metering.

"When net-metered customers are credited for the full retail cost of electricity, they effectively avoid paying the grid costs, and these costs for maintaining the grid then are shifted to those customers without rooftop solar or other DG systems through higher utility bills," the resolution reads.

Though a recent report from ProgressNow details failed attempts by ALEC to eliminate renewable portfolio standards throughout 2013, ALEC is calling on states to update net metering policies so that anyone who uses the grid in any way—even adding energy to it—would have to pay a fixed charge or some other rate mechanism.

The agenda also includes two resolutions with updated language to reiterate ALEC's desire to halt the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed greenhouse gas emission standards for new and existing power plants and the agency's plan to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

"These two draft resolutions are the newest in ALEC’s ongoing work to block policy solutions to climate change, mainly by slowing down the inevitable phaseout of carbon pollution from coal plants," said Greenpeace researcher Connor Gibson. "[The emission standards resolution] includes more specific references to EPA’s New Source Performance Standards and the development of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology. ALEC member utilities will likely argue behind the scenes over this language at next month’s meeting since some ALEC members are already developing CCS, and the ALEC resolution lambasts the technology."

ALEC notes on the agenda that model policies are not official until passing its Commerce Task Force and national board of directors. Both groups have sessions scheduled before the EEA meets.

ALEC will introduce a new member on the final day of the event, America's Natarual Gas Alliance, which was partly founded by former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon. Chesapeake Energy is also an ALEC member and known as one of the country's largest fracking companies.

Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES and FRACKING pages for more related news on these topics.

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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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