Slightly Warmer Than Normal July Forecasted • Help Resolving Health Care Billing • Co-ops Score High Marks for Customer Satisfaction • DOE and EPRI to Work Toward Energy Efficiency Goals • Standards to Increase Fuel Economy by 25 Percent by 2015 • Self-Employment Growing in Rural America • Illinois Seismic Safety Task Force Reviews Earthquake Damage Prevention • Home Financing Help from Illinois State Treasurer • Nissan to Sell an Electric Vehicle in the United States in 2010 • Animal Abuse Linked to Domestic Violence
Slightly Warmer Than Normal July Forecasted
Sea-surface temperatures across the Equatorial Pacific have remained cooler than normal over the last few months. This persistent cooler than normal trend indicates that the La Nina, which developed last fall, is likely to continue through at least most of the summer of 2008 if not beyond.
Past climate records indicate that Illinois often experiences a warmer than normal summer season when a La Nina event is ongoing. The years of 1989, 1996, 1999 and 2006 all featured some degree of La Nina and all of these years had a warmer than average summer, especially during July and August. Therefore, with a La Nina fully in place and other climate indices such as the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) also indicating a weather pattern that would support extended periods of warmer weather, it is expected that mean temperatures will average 1 to 3 degrees above normal across Illinois during July.
The Illinois map this month shows the average number of cooling degree-days across the state during July. As can be seen, a wide range in values between northern and southern parts of the state is often the case. Total cooling degree-days across the state this July are expected to be higher than average by about 30 to 90, which will result in higher than normal energy costs with respect to cooling. It should be noted that one factor that may keep temperatures from reaching well above normal levels is all of the excess rainfall that much of the state saw during the spring. This would play a role mainly during the first half of the summer season, but could have an influence on the overall mean temperature during June and August.
Help Resolving Health Care Billing
The world of health care and health care coverage is complicated and often overwhelming. The Illinois Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau operates a toll-free helpline that allows consumers to ask questions, file complaints or request assistance in resolving specific problems with insurance companies and health care providers.
You may be able to resolve a problem by exercising your rights under the Illinois Fair Patient Billing Act. This law, which went into effect in 2007, is designed to protect health care consumers from unfair billing practices and abusive collection tactics.
All Illinois hospitals are required (among other things) to notify patients of the availability of financial assistance, provide detailed billing information and follow a specific protocol prior to submitting patients to collection actions.
For assistance in resolving a billing dispute call the Illinois Attorney General’s Health Care Helpline at 1-877-305-5145; TTY: 1-800-964-3013.
Co-ops Score High Marks for Customer Satisfaction
Did you know that the Illinois electric cooperatives scored a composite 80 in the state’s 2007 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) score? This compares to a 77 score for all the Illinois electric cooperatives in 2004 and a 72 average score for the national energy utilities index last year.
The ACSI is available to all Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives and is a uniform and independent measure of household experience. The ACSI score is given on a 100-point scale. The ACSI is produced by the Stephen M. Ross Business School at the University of Michigan, in partnership with the American Society for Quality and international consulting firm CFI Group.
DOE and EPRI to Work Toward Energy Efficiency Goals
The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) agreed to closely coordinate their research, development and deployment of energy efficient technologies. DOE and EPRI will also promote digital communication between the electric grid and buildings by testing and developing digital devices that will allow building energy management systems to communicate with utility smart-grid applications.
Standards to Increase Fuel Economy by 25 Percent by 2015
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed new fuel economy standards in April that will result in a 25 percent increase in fuel economy by 2015. The proposed new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards apply to cars and light trucks—pickups, vans and sport utility vehicles (SUVs)—starting with vehicles in model year 2011, most of which will go on sale in late 2010.
The proposed standards increase fuel economy by 4.5 percent per year for five years. For passenger cars, the proposal would increase fuel economy from the current 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) to 35.7 mpg by 2015. For light trucks, the proposal calls for increases from 23.5 mpg in 2010 to 28.6 mpg in 2015. The proposed standards are the first step in implementing a 40 percent increase in fuel economy by 2020, as mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
Self-Employment Growing in Rural America
Self-employment in rural America has grown by more than 240 percent since 1969. Meanwhile, growth in rural wage-paying jobs grew by only 61 percent over the same time frame. At present, approximately 5.3 million rural residents are self-employed. If present trends continue, the self-employed will account for one-third of the rural workforce in 2015.
In 2005, the average self-employed rural worker earned about half ($16,851) of his or her employed counterparts ($31,596). Policy makers must get a better understanding of the challenges and issues facing the rural self-employed. They should also provide strengthened technical assistance and easier access to support programs at local colleges, universities and elsewhere. In addition, rural leaders should invest to help develop a stronger base of local services for this workforce. These services might include childcare providers, legal and accounting services and temporary help agencies.
Source: “Self-Employment in Rural America: The New Reality,” by Stephen J. Goetz, appears in Rural Realities, Vol. 2, No. 3 (2008).
Illinois Seismic Safety Task Force Reviews Earthquake Damage Prevention
In May, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced the creation of the Illinois Seismic Safety Task Force (SSTF) to enhance earthquake mitigation measures. The Seismic Safety Task Force will assess the adequacy of existing earthquake mitigation strategies, particularly of those in high-risk areas along fault lines in the southern portion of the state.
On April 18 at 4:37 a.m., a 5.2 magnitude earthquake was reported in Wabash County in southeastern Illinois, with shaking felt throughout Illinois. The state experienced 29 aftershocks measuring as high as 4.6 in magnitude. Damage from the incident was mostly minor.
The taskforce will identify ways to enhance protections for home and business-owners that need earthquake insurance and determine the best way to make all forms of building structures stronger and more durable. It will be charged with establishing high-risk zones to further secure roads, bridges and buildings, including critical infrastructures such as hospitals, fire stations, police departments, schools and highway bridges.
Since earthquakes are rare in the Midwest, most home and business owners have historically declined to purchase earthquake insurance, which is offered as separate coverage at additional costs. Current Illinois law does require notice to homeowner insurance applicants in high-risk zones of the availability of earthquake insurance.
“Thousands of Illinois families were caught off guard by the recent earthquake that struck Illinois. I am delighted to be part of this task force, a coalition that will address the truly devastating affects of earthquakes, especially downstate and in other high-risk areas. We will work together to find effective ways to limit the damage and help create awareness among communities statewide,” says Rep. Brandon Phelps, (D-Harrisburg).
Home Financing Help from Illinois State Treasurer
Our Own Home was established in 2002 to help Illinois residents buy a home or keep their existing homes from going into foreclosure. Since that time, more than $23.8 million in loans to more than 380 families have been processed.
Our Own Home helps borrowers purchase a home or refinance a mortgage if they are facing certain financial hardships due to circumstances beyond their control and show that there is likelihood that they will be able to resume making payments again. The free program is designed for those who are close to securing a conventional, affordable mortgage, but due to some factor, such as bruised credit, lack of down payment or a high debt-to-income ratio, are not quite there.
Our Own Home provides lenders with extra security on mortgages they might otherwise reject. The Treasurer’s Office guarantees 10 percent of each loan amount for the first five years of the mortgage. Should there ever be a default, this ensures that a lender recovers at least part of its investment.
If you have questions, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 312-814-11899 or 888-803-4663.
Nissan to Sell an Electric Vehicle in the United States in 2010
Nissan Motor Company, Ltd., announced that it plans to introduce an all-electric vehicle in the United States and Japan in 2010. Currently, the electric vehicle market is being led by relatively small startup companies, such as Zap, Tesla Motors and Aptera.
While Nissan is going all electric, General Motors Corporation (GM) is developing a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt. GM also announced plans to deploy its V-8 Duramax turbo-diesel engine in its 2010 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. The advanced diesel engine will meet emissions standards in all 50 states, while cutting fuel consumption by 25 percent.
Meanwhile, Ford Motor Company is achieving greater fuel economy through the use of more efficient six-speed automatic transmissions. Ford will double the number of six-speed transmissions in its cars and trucks sold in North America by the end of next year. Compared to four- and five-speed transmission, the advanced six-speed transmissions cut fuel consumption by as much as 6 percent.
Animal Abuse Linked to Domestic Violence
Most people consider their pets to be family members. While the bond between animals and humans has certainly evolved over the years, animal abuse and neglect is, unfortunately, still a very real problem in today’s society. There is also a demonstrated link between animal abuse and domestic violence and child abuse. Animal abuse may be an indication there is other abuse happening in the family.
“In the context of domestic violence, pets can be used by batterers to intimidate or control family members,” explains Cheryl Weber, a licensed social worker and client counselor for the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana.
“Concern for the safety of their pets can be a barrier to women leaving abusive relationships,” says Weber. To remove that obstacle, an increasing number of shelters are partnering with animal shelters to provide foster care for the animal victims of domestic violence.
If the lives of the animals or other individuals in an abusive situation are in imminent danger, call the local police department so immediate action can be taken. Animal abuse is certainly not limited to household pets. Wildlife and livestock are often the subjects of either abuse or neglect. In these instances, cases should be reported to your local United States Department of Agriculture office or animal control.
For more information, contact your local veterinarian or local animal control. For a fact sheet on pets and domestic violence, visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence at www.ncadv.org. For crisis intervention, safety planning or referral to local domestic violence services, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at www.ndvh.org or 800-799-7233. For information on pet safety programs or the link between animal abuse and family violence visit American Humane at www.americanhumane.org.
Source: Sarah Dowling, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, 217-333-2907.
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