Bested by Iowa

Minnesota has lost some steam -- or at least a ranking -- in its wind power prowess. The state had been the third-largest producer of wind energy in the country, but because of recent additions by Iowa, Minnesota has dropped to fourth, according to a report from the American Wind Energy Association. Texas and California remain the top wind states.

The United States added 1,389 megawatts of wind capacity during the July-September quarter. The group expects total growth of 7,500 megawatts for the year, enough electricity to power 2.2 million homes. Last year, the country added 5,249 megawatts.

Minnesota had no new projects come online during the third quarter while Iowa added 19.1 megawatts. That brought Iowa's total to 1,394 megawatts, just ahead of Minnesota's 1,377.

Minnesota isn't going to regain third place anytime soon: It has 350 megawatts of wind power under construction, but Iowa has enough wind farms being built to more than double its capacity -- nearly 1,500 megawatts under construction, the group reports.


Check's in the tank

It's almost like a surprise stimulus check: Gas prices have fallen so fast that the nation has found itself with an extra $125 billion to spend. But don't expect the freed-up cash to pump much life into the economy.

Filling up for less than $2.50 a gallon in some places hasn't done much to boost confidence -- not when disappearing jobs, sagging home prices and the financial meltdown are everyday worries. For many, saving $20 or $30 on a tank of gas doesn't amount to much of a silver lining, even as federal lawmakers debate whether to send a second round of stimulus checks to lift the economy.

"We already have the equivalent of an invisible stimulus package going if [oil] prices bottom out in the $75 to $80 range," said Lawrence Goldstein, director of the Energy Policy Research Foundation, which studies energy economics and calculated the $125 billion figure.

Crude oil dropped as low as $65.90 a barrel this week, the lowest trading level in 16 months, before closing above $67 Thursday. OPEC is expected to cut crude production later this week.