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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

News Follow-Up

Air Date: Week of

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New developments in stories we’ve been following recently.


CURWOOD: You're listening to NPR's Living On Earth.

[Music up and under]

CURWOOD: Time now to follow up on some of the news stories we've been tracking lately.

[Music up and under]

CURWOOD: Recently, we talked about the state of New York's plan to require renewable energy use in its government buildings. In California's Alameda County, the Santa Rita Jail has gone one step further. It's using renewable energy that it harvests from solar panels on its own roof. Matt Muniz is the county's energy program manager. He says the California energy crisis has helped to make the solar project even more economical.

MUNIZ: Environmentally, it's a good project, but it also has to meet the criteria so that it's still cheaper to do the project, generate our own electricity through solar, than it would be if we were to buy it from the utilities.

CURWOOD: Mr. Muniz says the jail's solar panels will provide up to a fifth of its energy needs. That works out to a savings of about $300,000 annually.

[Music up and under]

CURWOOD: Last fall, we reported on Arizona's tax credit plan for owners of vehicles that use alternative fuels. The hitch was that drivers didn't need to actually use alternative fuels to cash in. Kathy Peckardt of the state's administration department says, now owners must use a certain amount of alternative fuels, to receive the credit.

PECKARDT: Most of the taxpayers, I believe, are happy that we could save a half a billion dollars of taxpayer money, money that can be used for children and health care and public safety and other vital needs.

CURWOOD: Estimates now place the total cost of the tax credit program around $200 million.

[Music up and over]

[Killer whale calls]

CURWOOD: That's Keiko, the killer whale made famous by his starring role in the movie "Free Willy."

[More killer whale whistling calls]

CURWOOD: Several years ago, we reported on the early stages of a plan to release him from captivity. For about three years, this healthy, 25-year-old orca has been swimming in a bay off Iceland. Although he's free to leave, Keiko chooses to stick close to home. So, his handlers take him on what they call "boat walks," excursions of about 50 miles a day in the open ocean. And now Keiko is starting to interact with wild killer whales. Charles Venick, of the Ocean Futures Society, says these meetings are vital for Keiko.

VENICK: It's very easy to open a gate and release an animal, say "Goodbye, you're out on your own, let us know how it goes." In this case what we're doing, is continue to try to bring him in contact with groups of whales, so that he can bond with a given pod, because theses animals live in a social group.

CURWOOD: Mr. Venick says the ultimate goal is for Keiko to make that bond, and eventually leave his human companions behind.

[Calls from whale]

CURWOOD: And that's this week's follow-up on the news, from Living On Earth.

[Music up and over]



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