Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse, KPLU’s and N3’s Regional Correspondent, roves the Northwest to report on broad themes and telling details. His topics run the gamut from business to the environment and human interest. Home base is in Olympia, a legacy of a previously held state government beat from 1991-2003. Although he grew up in Seattle, Tom's radio career began by chance in Minnesota at Carleton College’s student radio station. Tom's memorable moment in public radio: "I am indebted to many people for tips and tutelage, but certainly some of the bluntest -- at times unprintable -- guidance came from NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg. I interned at NPR in 1989 and was privileged to keep Nina's chair warm at the U-S Supreme Court or at the high-octane Iran-Contra trial of Oliver North, wherever she wasn't at the time. Heady stuff for a tenderfoot reporter."

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NPR Story
9:58 am
Thu June 6, 2013

Low Cost Leases Electrify Plug-In Car Sales On West Coast

Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Originally published on Thu June 6, 2013 3:17 pm

A couple of years ago, Democratic politicians at the state and national levels set heady goals for battery powered cars. For example, in his 2011 State of the Union speech, President Obama said, "With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015."

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northwest fish
12:01 pm
Sat June 1, 2013

Farmed trout go vegetarian (sort of), but what about the taste?

Alternative feeds resulted in slightly different colors and textures in trout fillets.
Tom Banse

The search is on for a cost-effective alternative fish food in the form of pellets. A key ingredient in commercial feed is other fish caught in the wild. Northwest trout farmers and some salmon growers recognize the practice is unsustainable.

But trout are carnivores; they can't just become vegetarians, or can they? Washington State University recently held a taste test to see if seafood consumers can tell any difference.

Put to the test: Difference in taste?

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green design
10:33 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Super-energy efficient homes built to inspire more stringent codes

A NEEA "Next Step Home" pilot home in Seattle's Columbia City neighborhood.
Tom Banse

The homes of the future will come with remarkably low heating bills. At least that's the hope of a Portland-based nonprofit group showcasing 13 super-energy efficient homes in four Northwest states. The question is: can you afford to buy one of these houses?

The model homes are scattered among many of the big cities in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The houses don't look unusual from the outside. But all have been designed to use at least 30 percent less energy.

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small business in the digital age
11:32 am
Sun May 19, 2013

Should the state OK equity crowdfunding?

Throwboy founder Roberto Hoyos is seen at work on his sewing machine.

Crowdfunding websites have grown rapidly as a way to raise money for creative ventures—everything from movies to scientific research, to clever inventions. You might have heard of Kickstarter, Indiegogo or Rockethub. It would be just a small leap to use those same platforms to sell shares in a startup. That's illegal right now, but maybe not for long.

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electric vehicles
12:01 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Nissan electric car sales booming in Washington state

In this photo taken May 26, 2011, show a Nissan Leaf charging in Portland, Ore.

The automaker Nissan says sales of its fully-electric Leaf compact surpassed all other Nissan models at dealers in the Seattle and Portland areas this spring. The announcement Wednesday runs counter to the prevailing wisdom that adoption of plug-in cars has been sluggish.

At Nissan USA headquarters, director of electric vehicle marketing and sales Erik Gottfried says he's scrambling to ship enough Leafs to meet demand in the Pacific Northwest. The car maker juiced its plug-in sales by slashing the sticker price and offering low-cost leases. Gottfried says that was made possible by opening a domestic production line in Tennessee.

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protecting songbird
9:30 am
Tue May 14, 2013

Can this rare songbird be lured away from risky neighborhoods?

A streaked horned lark is seen in this photo.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A songbird called the streaked horned lark has a curious propensity for risky neighborhoods. That's not a good quality for a bird proposed for listing as a threatened species. Its preferred hangouts include airports, Army training fields, and dredge spoil dumping sites along the lower Columbia River. A two-state experiment seeks to find out if these rare larks can be enticed to safer habitats.

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Boeing & U.S. Air Force
9:43 am
Tue May 7, 2013

Air Force says new air refueling tanker program on track

U.S. Air Force graphic by Corey Parrish Caption: Artist's rendition of a KC-46A tanker refueling a stealth bomber.

Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane is planning a public memorial service for three of its airmen killed in a mid-air explosion over central Asia.

The cause of the air refueling tanker accident last Friday remains under investigation, but the crash renews attention on a Boeing Company contract to replace the Air Force's aging tanker fleet.

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protecting honey bees
4:29 pm
Tue April 30, 2013

Wash. state pressed to save honey bees by restricting pesticides

Beekeeper Mark Emrich checks his hives near Rochester, Wash.
Tom Banse

This is the time of year when local farmers count on bees and other insects to pollinate orchards and vegetable and berry fields. The change in the seasons is not the only thing creating a buzz in the world of beekeeping.

This week, the European Commission put a moratorium on the use of three popular pesticides judged to pose high risk to bees.

Beekeepers have started to push Washington State's Department of Agriculture to go in that direction, too. And that could have an effect on what's available at your local garden center.

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algae in lakes
5:21 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

Lake managers get new tool to combat algae

Nothing spoils a summer swim in your favorite lake like an algae bloom. These become more common as the weather warms up.  A lake in Federal Way is serving as a proving ground for a possible new tool to combat toxic blooms.

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FAA Furloughs
12:01 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

Alaska Air CEO calls FAA furloughs 'unfathomable'

Gordon Werner Flickr

The head of Alaska Airlines has choice words for the air traffic controller furloughs that started Sunday.

Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden on Thursday called the travel impact of automatic federal budget cuts "unfathomable."

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U.S.-Canada border
4:03 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

U.S. border agents to work on Canadian soil for pilot project

A CBP UH-60 Blackhawk flies over the northern border in Washington State near Canada.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The federal government announced a pilot project Wednesday to pre-inspect some trucks before they cross into the U.S. from Canada.

The proposed project will have U.S. officers working on Canadian soil. The ultimate goal is to reduce congestion and wait times at busy border crossings.

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New White Pages Policy
4:07 pm
Tue April 16, 2013

Wash. hangs up on mandatory delivery of White Pages

File image
Life On 45 Flickr

Utility regulators on Tuesday ordered an end to the automatic delivery of White Pages phone books to Washington households.  

For decades, Western states commonly required their local phone companies to deliver a phone book to each landline customer. But telecom companies contend most consumers no longer want a printed copy of the White Pages dropped on their doorsteps.

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sequester
5:00 am
Tue April 9, 2013

Some Northwest cities explore ways to keep airport control towers open

Control towers at 13 small to medium sized airports across the Northwest are slated for closure by mid-June.
Beth Redfield Northwest News Network

Some Northwest cities and counties are exploring whether to use local or private money to keep their airport control towers open. By mid-June, the federal government plans to close the control towers at 13 small to medium sized airports across the region.

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Arts
6:00 am
Sun March 17, 2013

Laura the Luthier kept Gibson strumming during WWII

This 1944 staff portrait piqued author John Thomas' curiosity.

During World War II, a popular song called "Rosie the Riveter" turned female assembly workers into icons.  Women filled in at places like the Boeing airplane factory in Seattle and the Kaiser shipyards in Portland while the men went off to war. 

But one famous guitar company allegedly tried to hide the fact that it was using female replacements to keep making its musical instruments. Now, seven decades later, a Portland guitarist is helping tell that story.

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sequester
5:30 am
Fri March 15, 2013

Sequester suspends tuition assistance for troops

Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Originally published on Thu March 14, 2013 3:13 pm

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - The Defense Department has suspended a workplace benefit cherished by many soldiers, airmen and Coast Guardsmen. The agency has put tuition assistance on indefinite hold because of the automatic federal budget cuts known as the "sequester."

The paychecks of active duty military are exempt from the across-the-board federal budget cuts. But some of their fringe benefits are not, as we're now finding out.

At Joint Base Lewis-McChord, I Corps Command Sergeant Major John Troxell says the suspension of tuition assistance stings.

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