Feds Ramp Up Energy Efficiency Tax Credits •
U.S. Wind Power Capacity Vaults to Top Spot due to Rapid Growth •
Organic Grower Certification Help •
The Senior Health Insurance Program – SHIP •
Census Shows Increase in Number of Illinois Farms •
Credit Unions are Consumer Focused •
$7 Billion for Rural Broadband •
Supercar Manufacturer Unveils All-Electric Powertrain
Feds Ramp Up Energy Efficiency Tax Credits
Maybe you’ve been thinking about making some energy efficiency improvements on your primary residence but you’re holding off because of the shaky economy. The government is providing incentives to make those improvements less painful to your pocketbook.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also known as the Economic Stimulus Bill) that President Obama signed in February is ramping up energy efficiency tax credits that were already in place. The tax credits that were previously effective for 2009 have been extended to 2010.
For existing homes, a tax credit will cover 30 percent of the cost of energy-efficient doors and windows, insulation, non-solar water heaters, air conditioners, furnaces, heat pumps and boilers. There is a cap of $1,500. You can include material and labor costs in the tax credit calculation if the improvement is for an HVAC system such as a heat pump.
Although the increased tax credit for windows will be a more attractive incentive, fewer Energy Star-rated windows will qualify for it. Be sure to check with your window vendor to ensure the brand/style you select will qualify.
For renewable energy systems such as geothermal heat pumps, small wind energy systems, solar water heaters and solar panels a 30 percent tax credit is available through 2016 and there isn’t a cap.
Take a close look at your home and see what you can do now to reduce your energy usage and improve your comfort. You’ll reap the benefit for many years to come.
If you’re interested in more information about energy efficiency, log on at www.energystar.gov or contact your local electric cooperative.
U.S. Wind Power Capacity Vaults to Top Spot due to Rapid Growth
The U.S. wind energy industry shattered all previous records in 2008, installing 8,358 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity and placing the United States above all other nations in terms of installed wind power capacity. U.S. wind capacity increased by 50 percent, bringing it to a total of 25,170 MW. Pictured here is Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative’s wind turbine located near Winchester. Recently, Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative, Auburn, completed installation of its wind turbine. Adams Electric Cooperative, Camp Point, is working on a similar project. Prairie Power, Inc., an Illinois generation and transmission co-op, is currently developing a 30 megawatt wind energy project. And both Southern Illinois Power Cooperative and Jo-Carroll Energy are members of the National Renewables Cooperative Organization, a national organization representing 24 electric co-ops that will help develop renewable energy.
Organic Grower Certification Help
The Illinois Department of Agriculture has obtained an additional $45,000 to reimburse growers and handlers of organic agricultural products for the cost of their USDA certification.
This program covers 75 percent of certification costs, up to a maximum of $750, for eligible recipients. However, the funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The assistance comes from the USDA’s National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program. Funds that have not been dispersed by Sept. 30 must be returned to the federal government. Application forms can be obtained either online by visiting the department’s Web site: http://www.agr.state.il.us/marketing/Mkt_Organic_Cost_Share_Program.html or by calling the department’s Bureau of Marketing and Promotion at 217-524-9129.
The Senior Health Insurance Program – SHIP
The Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) is a free insurance counseling service for Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers. The program was initiated in the fall of 1988, and now has 180 offices throughout the state staffed by more than 700 volunteer counselors.
All offices are volunteer-based and supported by local sponsoring organizations that offer services to seniors. SHIP is sponsored by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Division of Insurance, and is offered statewide to Medicare beneficiaries of all ages. SHIP is not affiliated with any insurance company and volunteer counselors do not sell or solicit any type of insurance.
SHIP staff also maintains a toll-free line to provide beneficiaries easy access to information and assistance each business day. The phone line is staffed from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, by staff trained in all of the above mentioned areas, as well as other more complex insurance issues.
Since SHIP’s founding in 1988, the program has saved Illinois’ Medicare beneficiaries more than $7 million in nearly 125,000 counseling sessions.
To reach the SHIP program, or to find an insurance counselor in your area, call SHIP toll-free at 800-548-9034, or go to www.idfpr.com.
Census Shows Increase in Number of Illinois Farms
New census figures released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) show the number of Illinois farms grew 5 percent, from 73,027 in 2002 to 76,860 in 2007. However, Illinois lost more than half a million acres in farmland over the past five years.
2007 statistics also show that Illinois remains the national leader in sales of grains, oilseeds, dry beans and dry peas, and in pumpkin acreage. Illinois also has the most horseradish acres. It ranks second in the nation in corn for grain acres and soybeans for beans acres. Illinois is fourth in the nation in hog and pig sales and inventory. And Mason County is the number one county in the nation in popcorn acres.
There also were increases in the number of female principal farm operators, from 237,819 in 2002 to 306,209 last year. For more information go to www.agcensus.usda.gov.
Credit Unions are Consumer Focused
Credit unions are cooperative businesses guided by democratic principals that govern all co-ops.
Cooperatives exist to serve their members, who also act as owners of the business. They provide services and goods that meet specific member needs, such as financial services for a community. And because credit unions tend to be smaller and cater to a select group of people, consumers experience a more personal relationship with the staff than at a traditional bank. Credit unions are routinely rated higher than banks in customer satisfaction surveys.
“The credit crisis and subsequent bank bailouts reinforced consumer perceptions that large, for-profit financial institutions are indifferent or even hostile to the interests of their customers,” says Paul Hazen, CEO of National Cooperative Business Association. “Credit unions have stood apart during this crisis. While many banks have faltered due to high-risk, high-reward investment practices, credit unions stuck to their tried and true practice of making responsible loans to their members.”
Credit unions represent an important consumer-focused part of the financial system. Though credit unions have not been immune to the challenges of the foreclosure crisis, overall they have fared better than banks. Because their mission is serving the needs of members, depositors and borrowers, credit unions continue to attract new members. And while many banks have curtailed lending and increased fees even to the most creditworthy consumers and small businesses, credit unions continue to lend responsibly. Almost everyone is eligible to join one of the roughly 9,000 credit unions operating in the United States.
For more information go to the Illinois Credit Union League’s Web site: www.iculeague.org
$7 Billion for Rural Broadband
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes more than $7 billion in funding to improve broadband access across the country. The $7.2 billion in broadband funding will be put to use in two different ways.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will receive $4.7 billion to distribute as grants designed to improve broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas, increase broadband adoption, improve access to broadband by public safety agencies, and stimulate the economy and create jobs. The remaining $2.5 billion will go to the Rural Utilities Service, which works to connect rural Americans to broadband, allowing them to reach all the services and opportunities the digital age has to offer.
Supercar Manufacturer Unveils All-Electric Powertrain
The manufacturer of the world’s fastest production car, the 1,287-horsepower Ultimate Aero, has developed an all-electric powertrain for the vehicle. The company is building the Ultimate Aero EV to prove the electric vehicles provide more linear power and overall performance than internal combustion cars. The Ultimate Aero EV drivetrain will feature twin motors capable of producing 1,000 horsepower and 800 pound-feet of torque, enabling it to rocket to 60 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds, reaching a top speed of 208 miles per hour. The system will have a range of 150-200 miles. SSC plans to roll out its first full-scale, pre-production Ultimate Aero EV by mid-2009 and deliveries to customers may start before the end of the year.
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