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Trump Admin Sits on $43 Billion Intended for Clean Energy Loans While Unemployment Soars

Politics
Trump Admin Sits on $43 Billion Intended for Clean Energy Loans While Unemployment Soars
In September 2011, the DOE issued a $90.6 million loan guarantee to finance Alamosa, a 29.3-MW high concentration photovoltaic solar generation project in Colorado. The project started commercial operations in April 2012 and created 75 construction jobs and hundreds of supply chain jobs across several states. U.S. Department of Energy

While the nation struggles to find ways to put money in peoples' pockets and to ramp up the economy so people can get back to work, over $43 billion in low-interest loans earmarked for clean energy projects sits undistributed by the Trump administration, according to The New York Times.


The president has long questioned the efficacy of renewable energy sources, has suggested that wind turbines cause cancer, and championed coal as a clean and efficient source of power. Despite his reluctance to champion green energy infrastructure, some lawmakers and energy experts think it is unacceptable that tens of billions of dollars that Congress long ago authorized, with bipartisan support, has not been dispersed.

"We're searching high and low all over Washington, DC, for money to put people back to work and here we have more than $40 billion," said Dan Reicher, executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University, who served at the Energy Department in the Clinton administration, to The New York Times. "This is the moment to really put these programs back in gear."

The loans passed through Congress well before the coronavirus forced nearly 30 million people into unemployment. However, they have been held up by the Energy Department.

"They haven't put out any or almost any of these loans since he's become president," said Representative Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as The New York Times reported. "There's an ideological or political aspect to this. The president is not someone who seeks to promote the clean energy sector."

Holding up the loans during the pandemic seems particularly strange since the money could help many people to start working. Anne Reynolds with the Alliance for Clean Energy told POLITICO that energy efficiency companies have laid off between 40 and 50 percent of their workforce.

In New York, for example, the state saw layoffs to nearly 5,000 clean energy jobs in March. Congressman Pallone said that the renewable energy sector had created more than 3 million jobs.

"These utility-led programs could drive significant job and economic growth statewide as we step out of our current pause," said Reynolds, as POLITICO reported. "We are at risk of losing a skilled and trained workforce as work is stalled, and job losses and furloughs accelerate."

While an injection of capital would help restart green energy projects and allow companies to hire back employees, there is little reason to believe the Trump administration will issue any of the loans.

The last new project to be approved under the loan program was in 2016, under the Obama administration. To get the money out of the government's hands and into an investment in renewable energy infrastructure, Pallone said he plans to find a way to address the unspent loans in the next stimulus.

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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