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DOE Expects Higher Heating Costs this WinterTV Viewers Gear up for Conversion to All-Digital TelevisionHow Families Can Cope With Economic StressIllinois 4-H Members Win National 4-H Engineering BowlNear To Slightly Warmer Than Normal January ExpectedMIT Suggests Energy SolutionNew Opportunities Emerging for Rural Illinois Development

Pat QuinnIllinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn (center) presented an Environmental Hero Award to the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC) and Prairie Power, Inc. for their newly-converted plugin hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). John Freitag (left) of the AIEC and Greg Nieman of Prairie Power accepted the award. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory and seven electric co-ops across the country have joined the effort to give PHEVs a real-world test. So far, the converted Toyota Prius is getting about 80 miles per gallon and more than 100 mpg under certain conditions. “This is just one example of how we can take steps toward reducing our dependency on foreign oil,” says Quinn.

DOE Expects Higher Heating Costs this Winter

The average heating bills for U.S. households will be 15 percent higher this winter compared to last winter, according to the latest projections from the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA’s “Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook,” released in October, expects higher fuel costs to cause most of the increase, although colder weather will also contribute to the increase in many areas.

As has been the recent trend, those using heating oil will suffer most, with a 23 percent increase this winter. Those using natural gas for heating will experience an 18 percent increase, while those using propane and electricity will face the smallest impacts, with increases of 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

The report is also the first to note the ongoing impacts of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike on energy supplies in the United States. U.S. oil production will fall below 5 million barrels per day for the first time since 1946, while gasoline inventories are now at 180 million barrels, their lowest level since August 1967. In addition, natural gas production from federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico is projected to decline by 9.1 percent for 2008. In early October the Minerals Management Service (MMS) estimates that 44.8 percent of oil production in the Gulf remains shut-in, along with 38.7 percent of the natural gas production.


TV Viewers Gear up for Conversion to All-Digital Television

After Feb. 17, 2009, full-power television stations will broadcast in digital only. Digital broadcasting allows stations to offer improved picture and sound quality, and digital is much more efficient than analog. Further, DTV can provide interactive video and data services that are not possible with analog technology.

An important benefit of the switch to all-digital broadcasting is that it will free up parts of the valuable broadcast spectrum for public safety communications (such as police, fire departments and rescue squads). Also, some of the spectrum will be auctioned to companies that will be able to provide consumers with more advanced wireless services (such as wireless broadband).

For viewers who have one or more televisions that receive free over-the-air programming (with a roof-top antenna or “rabbit ears” on the TV), the type of TV you own is very important. A digital television (a TV with an internal digital tuner) will allow you to continue to watch free over-the-air programming after Feb. 17, 2009. However, if you have an analog television, you will need a digital-to-analog converter box to continue to watch broadcast television on that set.

To help consumers with the DTV transition, the Government established the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program. Every U.S. household is eligible to receive up to two coupons, worth $40 each, toward the purchase of eligible digital-to-analog converter boxes. The coupons may only be used for eligible converter boxes sold at participating consumer electronics retailers, and the coupons must be used at the time of purchase. Manufacturers estimate that digital-to-analog converter boxes will sell from $40 to $70 each. This is a one-time cost. For more information on the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program, visit the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Web site at, or call 1-888-388-2009 (voice) or 1-877-530-2634 (TTY).

For more information go to or call 1-888-CALL-FCC.

How Families Can Cope With Economic Stress

Economic stress, job loss or pay cuts can create tremendous stress on a family. Here are some tips to protect your family during the stresses in our current economy:

  • Greet each family member warmly every day. Never lose sight of how precious your family is.
  • Provide structure and a predictable routine. Family meals and other daily routines help bring security in an insecure situation.
  • Communicate beliefs, emotions and responsibilities with your family. Involve family members in making major decisions.
  • Make time for family fun and leisure activities.
  • Resist using alcohol or drugs to de-stress.
  • Build a support network with relatives, friends, neighbors and community members.
  • Get help with managing your finances. Communities provide resources that can help.

The U of I Extension helps low-income families through our Food Nutrition Program (FNP) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) - For budgeting help see Getting Through Tough Times, at And if you’ve lost your job, look for Bouncing Back When Your Income Drops: Working Together as a Family found at

Source: Patti Faughn, Family Life Educator, University of Illinois Extension, Springfield Center, 217-782-6515.

Illinois 4-H Members Win National 4-H Engineering Bowl

4-H Engineering Challenge WinnersIllinois 4-H members Mitchell Daugherty (Woodford County), Matthew Dehlinger (Richland County), Nick Salger (Randolph County) and Paul West (Henry County) won the National 4-H Engineering Bowl at the National 4-H Engineering Challenge in West Lafayette, Ind., Sept. 28-30, 2008. Illinois brought home top honors in the Engineering Bowl competition, defeating a combined team from Florida and Alabama in a preliminary round, Mississippi in the semi-finals, and Indiana in the final round to bring home the title.

The event drew 53 contestants from 12 states. Prior to the National Engineering Challenge, all of the contestants had previously won state competitions to qualify for the national event, which presented opportunities for individual competition in each of the project areas listed below.

Illinois National 4-H Engineering Challenge winners (l-r) are Matthew Dehlinger (Richland County) fourth in Tractor; Paul West (Henry County) fifth in Electric Energy; Nick Salger (Randolph County) second in Tractor; and Mitchell Daugherty (Woodford County) second in Electric Energy.

Near To Slightly Warmer Than Normal January Expected

The latest long-range forecast models and climate indices are currently indicating that January of 2009 will see temperatures that average near to slightly above normal across Illinois.

Total heating degree days, as well as energy costs with respect to heating, are expected to also be lower than average in January, which should benefit the consumer.

The Illinois map this month shows the mean temperature departure from normal across the state for the past autumn season. On a whole, the state saw an average September through November when it came to temperatures. However, as can be seen, there was some contrast between the western and eastern portions of the state.

MIT Suggests Energy Solution

Construction of new coal-fired power plants in the United States is in danger of coming to a standstill, partly due to the high cost of anticipated requirements to capture all emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), according to a recent report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). But an MIT analysis suggests an intermediate step could get construction moving again, allowing the nation to continue to use its abundant, low-cost coal reserves while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The MIT approach, called partial capture, can get CO2 emissions from coal-burning plants down to emissions levels of natural gas power plants. New coal plants with lower CO2 emissions would generate much-needed electricity while also demonstrating carbon capture and providing a setting for testing CO2 storage—steps that will accelerate the large-scale deployment of full capture in the future.

Source: CFC Solutions News Bulletin

New Opportunities Emerging for Rural Illinois Development

A new economic reality has emerged across the country in the wake of widespread job losses in manufacturing and other sectors. Unlike the older industrial economy, this new economy is embedded in smaller companies with unfamiliar names, says Timothy Collins, Assistant Director, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, Western Illinois University.

According to a recent Rural Research Report from the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University, new companies share common characteristics. They are flexible, adaptive and connected.

Rural communities have new and unprecedented opportunities, such as renewable energy, innovative manufacturing, value-added agriculture and cultural tourism that could create wealth even in the smallest places, says Collins.

Dozens of rural communities are now busy reinventing themselves by:

  • mapping their assets and uncovering new opportunities
  • leveraging their trusted networks to build stronger business connections on the outside
  • aggressively pursuing broadband connections and new linkages with colleges and universities
  • teaching and mentoring entrepreneurs
  • reinventing their high schools
  • collaborating with neighboring counties in new and different ways
  • providing responsibilities more quickly to younger residents
  • seeking advice and guidance from younger leaders

For more information about the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, visit or contact Timothy Collins at 800-526-9943.

Source: Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, Western Illinois University.


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