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Points of the Day

May 10, 2010

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Remaining LNG projects face obstacles

After the demise of NorthernStar's Bradwood Landing project last week, the two remaining LNG proposals in Oregon face daunting regulatory processes before they can be approved.

The projects, one by Jordan Cove in Coos Bay and the other by Oregon LNG in Warrenton, may have an easier time because they lack specific environmental issues brought about by the Bradwood Landing location. But they may also come up against economic challenges.

The economics of importing natural gas are looking bleak. Financial backers are more reluctant than they were a few years ago. And domestic competition is coming on strong, with a proposed pipeline from Wyoming on the verge of final approval and nabbing the same customers an LNG terminal in Oregon would need.

Yet the moral of NorthernStar's story isn't necessarily that an LNG terminal isn't viable in Oregon, or that the permitting process is impossible, observers say. Rather, it may be that NorthernStar went about it in the wrong way, and ultimately sank its own ship.

Read the whole story at OregonLive.com.

College aid budget tightens

The number of students receiving state tuition grants may fall by more than half this year, due to a shrinking grant funding pool.

The Oregon Student Assistance Commission, the agency in charge of distributing the grants spent $20 million more than expected, cutting into the budget for the coming school year.

The Opportunity Grant is the state’s main need-based college aid program, awarding tuition grants to students based on financial need as determined by standards used in the federal Pell Grant program. The state program expanded in the 2007-09 biennium when legislators more than doubled its budget as part of Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s push to sharply increase the number of Oregonians with a college degree...
With far more students seeking aid than expected — and far more of those students qualifying for the maximum grants — the models the agency used to determine the number of grants to award failed.

Read the whole story at The Register-Guard.

"Green Driver" app avoids red lights

Eugene-based On Time Systems is beta testing an application that will help drivers save time and gas by calculating a route that avoids red lights.

The iPhone app, which is called "Green Driver," was shown in early testing to speed up trips by 3 percent compared to drivers who just went on instinct.

Green Driver uses real time data from the city’s traffic signal system in combination with global-positioning satellite technology to guide motorists to their destination. A map on the phone’s screen shows the route from Point A to Point B with the fewest red lights at that moment. If the signals change, the route changes. The idea is to get motorists to their destination as quickly as possible, saving time and gas...

Green Driver began beta testing last week in Eugene, with 40 select iPhone users trying the system, reporting bugs and problems and offering suggestions for improvements. Ginsberg hopes to make the program available on Apple’s App Store sometime this summer, depending on how the beta testing goes. Versions of Green Driver for other smartphones are expected to follow as quickly as they can be developed, [Matt Ginsberg, CEO of On Time Systems] said.

Read the whole story at The Register-Guard.

Build America bonds fund road work

Oregon's first-ever sale of Build America bonds will enable the Oregon Department of Transportation to fund bridge and highway projects throughout the state.

The road work projects will by funded by $580 million in bonds, 93 percent in new bonds and the rest in tax-exempt bonds.

The new Build America bonds will save Oregon an estimated $56 million in financing costs. The bonds, whose chief congressional sponsor was U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., are taxable. But the U.S. Treasury provides a subsidy to offset borrowing costs. The average interest rate was 3.74 percent.

"We are stretching public dollars further and can create even more jobs," said state Treasurer Ted Wheeler.

Read the whole story at the Statesman Journal.

Hillsboro airport growing for businesses

Business leaders tout the $16.9 million expansion of the Hillsboro Airport a key development for the area's economic future.

Access to air travel is crucial to many businesses deciding to move into the area, as it will provide easy transport in and out of the region.

Located near the Sunset Highway at the northeast corner of Hillsboro, the airport is home to the Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum, the annual Oregon International Airshow and, perhaps most important, private jet service used by executives from Intel and Nike, among others. These companies routinely ferry employees to other places in the West and helped make Hillsboro nearly as busy as Portland International Airport in 2009. While Portland's airport registered 226,584 flights in 2009, the Hillsboro Airport logged 220,983, according to the port’s annual report...

But the airport is close to its capacity. Small planes share the same runway with corporate jets, causing a bottleneck that slows operations. Design is underway and construction is expected to start this summer on a 3,600-foot-long secondary runway that will run parallel to the existing 6,600-foot-long runway.

Read the whole story at OregonLive.com.

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