2 weeks ago

Auburn University researchers aim to fuel new markets from hurricane-ravaged timber

A team of researchers from Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences is exploring ways to give new life to downed timber that has been decimated by hurricanes.

The body of research, coined “The Downed Timber Initiative,” aims to develop methods of retrieving fallen trees and branches that would otherwise go to waste or become fuel for wildfires, and then develop innovative products from the salvaged wood.

The research is funded by a $1.05 million federal appropriation to the U.S. Forest Service. The funds will be allocated to four Auburn research teams led by faculty members Sole Peresin, assistant professor of forest biomaterials; Tom Gallagher, the Regions Professor of Forest Operations; Brian Via, the Regions Professor of Forest Products; and Yucheng Peng, assistant professor of sustainable packaging systems. Each researcher will work with a Forest Service representative.

Graeme Lockaby, the Clinton-McClure Professor in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, said the idea began as he spoke to landowners who were facing the ravages of Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 tropical storm that made landfall Oct. 10, 2018, and obliterated hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of timber in the Southeast.

Landowners had just 30 days to extract downed timber because the region’s hot, wet climate leads to rapid decomposition. Lack of access to the wood for extraction exacerbated the dilemma. In addition, the immense volume of flattened timber in hurricane-affected areas quickly saturates the market, resulting in dropping wood prices as mill quotas overflow.

When landowners asked for solutions, Lockaby had to tell them, “At this point, there’s not very much you can do.”

That led to discussions with a group of faculty, which envisioned developing a harvesting machine component capable of extracting fallen timber and the potential for making commercially valuable products from partially decayed wood.

Lockaby said research often doesn’t translate well to the people it will benefit most. This case was an exception.

“Our work is technical. We’re passionate about it, but it’s difficult to understand if you’re not trained in a specific discipline. Oftentimes, people wonder, ‘How relevant is that? Is it going to touch my life?’” he said. “This will clearly touch people who live in those areas, especially forest landowners who depend on timber sales.”

Hurricanes break off, tangle and lay timber horizontally, Gallagher said, making harvesting difficult when using the equipment currently available. He is developing an attachment that loggers could borrow – rather than buy – to make collecting scattered timber easier.

Via is developing methods to use acoustics to measure timber strength and degradation of downed timber as a resource for making cross-laminated timber, or CLT, which is lumber glued together into three or more layers.

“Stronger timber can be sent for use in structural applications like lumber and CLT, while partially degraded timber might be salvaged into other product areas,” Via said.

Timber rated as “weak” or “degraded” by acoustics will be sent to develop other product streams, such as wood composites, nanocellulose and wood-plastic composites.

Peng will use quality wood fibers from downed timber to develop bio-based composites for value-added applications in automobiles, construction and packaging.

“The goals are to maximize the utilization of our renewable natural resources for sustainability and to get the maximum return for the landowners, lowering their loss during natural disasters,” Peng said.

Peresin will work with the USDA Forest Products Lab to process partially decayed timber into micro/nanomaterials, or CNMs, which will form the basis of an array of products that will allow harvested downed timber to penetrate large markets. Her team will upscale CNM production and design bio-based carriers for pesticides and controlled-release nutrients for soil remediation.

“The innovative research of our faculty has the potential to offer significant business and economic opportunities to the forest industry,” said Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

7 Things: Only 13 coronavirus deaths in Alabama without pre-existing conditions, Jones’ voting record is closer to Schumer than Shelby, vaccine info by December and more …

7. Stephen King’s Twitter isn’t IT

  • It’s no secret that famed author Stephen King has been politically outspoken, especially in more recent years. Now, he’s calling out former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville for not being willing to debate U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).
  • King on Wednesday tweeted, “Tommy Tuberville wouldn’t even debate Doug Jones. Hey, Alabama, do you know a chicken___ when you see one? Or – ha-ha—when you DON’T see one?” This came right after Tuberville was a no-show at the debate event co-hosted by the College Democrats and Republicans at Auburn University, which Jones attended.

6. Walmart is removing guns

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  • Due to continued civil unrest in Philadelphia, Walmart has decided to remove firearms and ammunition from the sales floor in stores throughout the United States. Store spokesperson Kory Lundberg said this is being done as a “precaution.”
  • The firearms and ammunition will still be available for purchase, but they’ll no longer be on display. Lundberg also noted that this has been “done on several occasions over the last few years” in times of civil unrest.

5. Biden campaign refuses to address Hunter Biden issues

  • There has been further confirmation that the FBI has an open investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter. In spite of that, the Biden campaign continues to not even address the issue and declare that they will not engage in questions about the matter.
  • During an interview with financial outlet Cheddar, the Biden campaign’s national press secretary Jamal Brown was asked to respond to the allegations made by Hunter Biden’s former business partner Tony Bobulinksi. He responded by declaring the question off-limits, saying, “We’re not going to waste any time on this smear campaign. It’s just another distraction from Trump’s failed leadership.” Instead of receiving further grilling, the anchor responded by saying, “Fair enough.”

4. Democrats could take the Senate

  • Sheffield, AL’s own Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been very honest about where the Senate stands, and he’s said that there’s a “50-50” chance that Republicans could lose control of the Senate.
  • McConnell also said that looking “at the Democrat Party today, you out to be frightened. We’re fighting for our way of life.” He has remained confident that he’ll win reelection in Kentucky.

3. We’ll know more about vaccines by December

  • As one of the leading infectious disease experts and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Anthony Fauci told the University of Alabama at Birmingham during a virtual coronavirus research symposium that we’ll have more information on a vaccine for the virus in the coming months.
  • Fauci advised, “[B]y the end of November to the beginning of December, we will know – based on the size of the trial and rate of infections that are going on in this country – if we will have a safe and effective vaccine.” Facui added that he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the vaccine.

2. Jones is closer to Schumer

  • FiveThirtyEight.com has released a “Trump Score” for how closely members of the legislature have voted with President Donald Trump, and U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) only scored 34.8% since taking office in 2018.
  • For comparison, U.S. Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Mark Werner (D-VA) scored closely with Jones at 37.9% and 35.5%, respectively, but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) scored 23.4%, U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) had 22.6%, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) had 20.3% and U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) scored 23.0%.

1. Cases and hospitalizations are on the rise

  • There have been spikes with the coronavirus across the globe, the United States saw its biggest day ever yesterday. Alabama is now seeing an increase in both cases and hospitalizations, but both numbers are far below the peak of the pandemic Alabama saw in July.
  • The Alabama Department of Public Health is now reporting that there have only been 13 deaths from the coronavirus that didn’t have any underlying health conditions as a contributing factor, which is due to a change in criteria that dropped the number from 130 to 13. This isn’t to say this isn’t a big deal, but it does mean that it is even more important to protect the vulnerable as we continue to safely reopen.

5 hours ago

State Sen. Albritton: ‘Still questions’ on Ivey prison proposal locations, including Escambia County site

Two of the three locations named in Governor Kay Ivey’s recently announced prison proposal have received a degree of public pushback from local residents.

A location near Brierfield had been the subject of public scrutiny by Bibb County and nearby Shelby County residents. Elected officials in Elmore County have also expressed concern over a site near Tallassee.

The third site in Escambia County near Atmore had been seemingly free of controversy. However, according to State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore),whose district includes the proposed Escambia County location, that is not necessarily the case.

During an interview with Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5, Albritton said there were some issues he and others were attempting to iron out with the Alabama Department of Corrections on the southern proposed site.

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“I spoke with Commissioner Dunn yesterday about this very issue, and there are still questions out there about all three of the sites selected, and we’re still trying to get some answers on some things,” he said. “But Jeff, we have got to have new prisons. There’s just no doubt that some construction has got to be done. We tried several times on the legislative side to put through a plan, and both times that we got it through the Senate and down to the House, the House killed it. The latest one, it had been through the House, it had been through the Senate. It had even been through the conference committee in the Senate and the House wouldn’t take it out of the basket. It just died. The governor — we challenged her, and she challenged us and said if I could depend on the legislature pass something, fine. But you haven’t. We’ve got to have a plan. At least the Governor has a plan. Whether I like it or don’t like it, it is a better plan than what we have right now.”

The Escambia County lawmaker said there had been complaints but said they had chosen not to take a public approach to their response.

“Of course, we’ve gotten complaints,” Albritton said. “We’ve got all unique circumstances. We have been pushing back. We haven’t been pushing back publicly. We have had discussions, and that was part of the discussion yesterday. We are trying to work out some of the details and finalize some of the matters and get some answers. But I did not see any particular gain in going public in this fight. We just need to try to work it out the best we could.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

6 hours ago

Rejecting the Joe Biden energy plan and the Green New Deal

Energy is a resource that we cannot ignore. It is a crucial part of our everyday lives in America. When we flip the lights on in our homes, we do not worry about them working, we expect them to work. That is called “Reliability” in the utility world. Well, that is no longer the case in some parts of America. The reason for that is radical left policies that have been the groundwork for the Green New Deal – a move to unreliable, uncontrollable and expensive energy production.

And as your Public Service Commissioner, I am very worried about it! Look at California. Between 2011-2018, electricity prices rose 27% more in California than they did the rest of the country. During that time, California’s carbon emissions rose 3.7%. As California has all but phased out nuclear energy, they are on the verge of phasing out gas-powered energy as well. Due to an over-reliance on renewable energy sources that could not sustain the stress to their power grid, California has announced multiple rolling blackouts in 2020. The radical environmental activists continue to push for more and more renewable resources that can not yet sustain the demand Californians have for power. With regard to the climate crisis, Governor Gavin Newsom said that “California is America fast-forward.” I hope we are not. The unreliability of their power supply, the high cost of energy, and highly regulated industry has all but destroyed their economic growth. California has been a test case for the Green New Deal, and it has failed that test emphatically.

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We all know that Joe Biden supports the Green New Deal. He denies it publicly when questioned about energy reforms he supports, but his own website calls it a “crucial framework.” We know Kamala Harris supports the Green New Deal because she was an original co-sponsor of the bill. Harris is so adamant about getting the Green New Deal passed that she stated during a 2019 town hall that she would support abolishing the legislative filibuster to get the deal done. At last week’s presidential debate, Joe Biden said that he wanted to “transition from the oil industry.” Joe Biden’s team has spent a lot of time performing damage control on that comment, stating that the oil industry would remain by “branching out beyond oil.” Biden and Kamala Harris have been walking back comments on fracking as well. During the debate, Joe Biden denied saying he was going to end fracking and tried to clarify that his position was no new fracking on public land. This is patently false. Biden and Harris spent their entire time during the Democratic primary speaking about how both would end fracking in the United States. Biden and Harris have repeatedly stated that they want to ban fracking, with Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez calling fracking “unnecessary.”

So which is it? Do we take them at their word when they play damage control, or do we take them at the word when they were on the campaign trail, and hold them to the language of Green New Deal proponents? A Biden administration simply cannot be trusted to do what is right for Alabamians when it comes to energy and utilities.

My job is to represent the best interests of every single Alabamian. Businesses flock to Alabama because of our affordable and reliable utilities and I want to keep it that way. I want Alabamians to be able to use their hot water when they need to; to be able to use their electricity when they need to; and I want energy-producing companies to have the empowerment to continue serving Alabama while making advances in cleaner and renewable technologies, available at the cheapest rates possible. I am working to ensure that we as Alabamians respect the environment and continue to make advances in clean energy, while utilizing our backbone energy sources, such as clean coal and natural gas, that have proven to be reliable.

The decision is straightforward for me: what is best for Alabama is a federal government that allows Alabama to continue prospering in the manner it has been. I oppose Joe Biden’s radical progressive plans that undermine the sovereignty of the state, kill jobs and end the fossil fuel industry that produces efficient and affordable energy and is ever-expanding the way that it becomes cleaner and better for the environment. Joe Biden’s climate and energy plan will make the people of Alabama’s lives worse, not better.

I hope you all keep these things in mind when you go to the poll on Tuesday. I encourage everyone to vote because it is a privilege and an honor to live in a country that supports free and fair elections, and energy that is reliable and affordable like it has been the past four years under the Trump administration. Let your voices be heard and let’s keep Alabama great.

Jeremy H. Oden serves as Alabama Public Service Commissioner, Place 1. Opinions expressed above do not represent the position of the Public Service Commission or its other commissioners.

20 hours ago

Data: Doug Jones closer to Chuck Schumer, Mazie Hirono than to Joe Manchin on supporting Trump

Only four full days away from the November 3 general election, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) continues to claim to be a moderate on the campaign trail. However, the data paints a much different picture.

The highly respected, non-partisan data and analytics site FiveThirtyEight.com hosts a comprehensive database tracking each member of Congress’ voting history. This includes a tally of how often representatives and senators vote with or against President Donald Trump’s position; this data is formulated into a percentage, comprising each legislator’s “Trump Score.”

The dataset also takes Trump’s margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016 (in each state for senators and each district for representatives) and calculates a predicted Trump Score that hypothesizes how often a member is expected to vote with Trump based on that margin.

FiveThirtyEight then compares each legislator’s actual Trump Score to the predicted score to effectively see the approximate difference between the sentiment of a legislator’s constituents and that individual’s congressional votes.

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Examining Jones, the data showed Alabama’s junior senator has a Trump Score of only 34.8% since he took office in January 2018. The data is up-to-date, with Jones’ latest vote against Justice Amy Coney Barrett factored in.

In contrast, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has a score of 51.6% and U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) came in at 51.5%; both are perceived-moderate Democrats.

Other Democrats who have been recently ousted from office by voters in red states also scored significantly higher than Jones, including U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota (54.8%), Joe Donnelly of Indiana (54.2%), Claire McCaskill of Missouri (45.8%) and Bill Nelson of Florida (43.4%). Even current blue- and purple-state Democratic Caucus members had higher Trump Scores than Jones, including U.S. Senators Angus King of Maine (37.9%), Mark Werner of Virginia (35.5%) and Jacky Rosen of Nevada (35.1%).

In fact, Jones’ Trump Score is closer to the far-left wing in his party than the more-moderate senators. The Democrat from Alabama scored closer to the likes of U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) than to Sinema and Manchin; Jones scored closer to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) than to Heitkamp.

Overall, Jones also scored closer to the extreme left of his party than he did to the left-most Republican, U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).

Based on Trump’s 2016 margin, Jones’ predicted Trump Score was 85.5%. This means his actual Trump Score was 50.7 percentage points lower than expected. That massive margin was second-largest nationally, with only U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) having a higher negative differential.

The more recent data paints an even worse picture for Jones. Looking at only the 116th Congress, which began in January 2019 and is still in session, Jones’ Trump Score dropped to 23.1%. Simply put, the more time he spent in D.C., the further to the left Jones went.

The Yellowhammer State’s senior senator is a much different story; U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has an overall Trump Score of 93.5%.

Jones will face Republican U.S. Senatorial nominee Tommy Tuberville at the ballot box on Tuesday.

RELATED: Tuberville: Jones’ vote against Barrett ‘represented the liberal beliefs of his high-dollar campaign donors in California and New York’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

20 hours ago

Alabama rocket CEO and former Air Force leader: Military threat from China now extends to space

When an Alabama-built rocket powers another critical national security satellite into space next week, it will be the latest such satellite in the ever-increasing use of space to gain military advantage on the ground.

The satellite, operated by the National Reconnaissance Office, will enhance communication for America’s warfighters across the globe.

However, the United States’ ability to operate in space and leverage its potential for national security purposes could be made more difficult, according to two experts who participated in the AscendxSummit conference last week.

Tory Bruno, president and CEO of Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA), and former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson both concluded that foreign governments are challenging America’s space superiority, with China being at the forefront of the effort.

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“The threat has changed,” explained Wilson. “The United States is heavily dependent on space for national security, and we need to respond to that emerging threat.”

That dependence on space comes from satellites which assist U.S. military operations around the world.

By the end of last year, the Air Force had 80 satellites in use, the Navy had 13, and the National Reconnaissance Office was utilizing 40. The smallest satellite being the size of a toaster and the biggest the size of a school bus.

Some serve important communications functions, while others serve as mechanisms for intelligence gathering, including the ability to provide missile warnings. These satellites are trained at the Earth and employ infrared technology to identify the hot plumes of gas that come from the end of rockets and then calculate the trajectory and warn the national command authority.

These capabilities have naturally drawn the attention of America’s adversaries.

Wilson has previously drawn attention to the threat from China with its launch of a missile the size of a telephone pole to destroy a dead weather satellite.

She said China and Russia have been developing the means to interfere with or destroy American military satellites in order to influence military operations on the ground.

Bruno expressed his belief that we stand at a pivotal moment in human history. He cited an “unprecedented set of decades that stretch out in front of us in space” with the potential to tap into near limitless resources which would allow for a self-sustaining economy on Earth.

At the same time, Bruno warned of a need for a national security space strategy which takes into account threats in orbit.

“We are heading back immediately today into an environment of pure competition,” he elaborated. “With a resurgent Russia, a rising China, countries that have ambitions around the world that not only potentially limit America’s influence but potentially limit the growth and expansion of democracy and freedom to be curtailed by totalitarian regimes and governments.”

Bruno sees access to space as essential for America to maintain its position of strength, saying that while the U.S. military is not the largest in the world, it is the most capable because it is enabled by space.

“For the first time in history, space, the previously historically peaceful domain is now being weaponized as we speak by these adversaries,” Bruno remarked. “That brings with it the potential to limit our unrivaled use of space to keep the peace around the globe.”

He said other nations seeking to weaken the U.S. military are attempting to take space away because that is a far easier approach than conventional warfare.

Wilson believes it is the space prowess of the United States which has made it a target of China and other countries.

“One of the reasons why this subject continues to interest me is that America is the best in the world at space, and our adversaries are seeking to develop the capability to deny us the use of space in crisis or at war,” she observed.

The White House earlier this month released a “National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies.” The document outlines how the United States will promote and protect its competitive advantage in fields which include space and military technologies.

A statement from the White House addressed the need to develop such a national strategy:

As our competitors and adversaries mobilize vast resources in these fields, American dominance in science and technology is more important now than ever, and is vital to our long-term economic and national security. The United States will not turn a blind eye to the tactics of countries like China and Russia, which steal technology, coerce companies into handing over intellectual property, undercut free and fair markets, and surreptitiously divert emerging civilian technologies to build up their militaries.

When asked about the White House’s national strategy, Bruno acknowledged the country’s innovation chain is now susceptible to foreign interference in a way it never has been before.

“At least one of our adversaries has figured out, why spy when you can buy?” he remarked.

China’s ability to absorb U.S. technology and innovation is something which will demand significant attention, according to Bruno.

“There are a lot of elements to that innovation chain, and most of them are actually pretty open,” he concluded. “As a Chinese company, you can come and buy key elements of the supply chain where technologies reside. You can sponsor members of your intelligence community, or your armed forces, to go to America and receive the best STEM education on the planet and bring all of that home. You can even invest to influence companies through venture capital and even do that through shell companies so that your presence, influence and access is not as obvious. All of that is right now an open door to both of our adversaries.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia