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Saturday, June 20, 2009
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn Endorsed by 32BJ, Nadler and Working Families Party
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn interviewed by Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn
Brad Lander housing advocate is running for City Council in Brooklyn
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn and is supported by a wide range of people
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn and calling for checks on Bloomberg's education policy and more parental participation
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn and supports marriage equality
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn and wants to end the double taxing of freelancers
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn and is listening to the community to inform his platform
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn and is testifying against the Department of Buildings
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn fighting for affordable housing
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn endorsed by State Senator Daniel Squadron
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn Daily News update
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn supports superfund designation
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn critic of Atlantic Yards
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn New Yorkers Green Sustainable City
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn because we are threatened by out of control development
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn critic of Housing & Preservation Development plans for Queens West Luxury Housing
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn page on facebook
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn Gets United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 endorsement
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn Atlantic Yards
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn Director of Pratt Center for Community Development
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn
Brad Lander is running for City Council in Brooklyn
 


NYDN: Hasidic battle brews over state Senate primary

Monday, September 08, 2008
NYDN: Hasidic battle brews over state Senate primary

Elizabeth Benjamin

Sunday, September 7th 2008, 11:15 PM

A warring Brooklyn Hasidic sect is divided in a key Democratic state Senate primary that involves some of the city's most powerful political figures - and could affect the '09 mayoral race.

The Satmar faction led by Williamsburg-based Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum rebuffed an eleventh-hour plea by Mayor Bloomberg to support his candidate, political newcomer Daniel Squadron, in the 25th Senatorial District.

Zalman loyalists are backing Squadron's target, incumbent Sen. Martin Connor, who is championed by Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

The Zalman camp received a visit last week from Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey. He pleaded Squadron's case, but left without a deal, said a source close to Zalman's political adviser, Rabbi David Niederman. Mayoral spokesman Stu Loeser declined to comment.

Zalman supporters are gambling that the mayor's potential bid to change term limits and seek a third term will fizzle, said one Jewish political operative.

"Honestly, Bloomberg's disappearing, Vito's not," the operative said. "Who would you choose?"

The Zalman faction is still angry at the mayor after the city Health Department got involved in a ritual Hasidic circumcision procedure deemed risky to the child's health.

And it was infuriated when a nonprofit it supports, the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, lost $150,000 worth of City Council funding in the fiscal 2009 city budget.

Meanwhile, followers of Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum - who is based in Kiryas Joel in Orange County but has a presence in Williamsburg - are supporting Squadron.

That gives the Kiryas Joel faction an in not only with Bloomberg, but also with Squadron's powerful former boss, Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is backing his former aide.

"I have nothing bad to say about Marty Connor, but I think it's time for a change," said Rabbi Leib Glanz, a political adviser to Aron Teitelbaum.

Glanz insisted he had not been lobbied by Bloomberg to support Squadron, but Aron backers have seen their star rise at City Hall.

A new nonprofit they support, United Jewish Community Advocacy Relations and Enrichment, received Council cash for the first time this year to the tune of $205,000.

The Brooklyn Satmar community could prove crucial in tomorrow's primary. Its members vote in a bloc, and a few thousand votes could decide the race.

In 2006, Bloomberg personally appealed to the Kiryas Joel Satmars to back Republican Rep. Sue Kelly over her Democratic challenger, John Hall. The plea fell on deaf ears, and Hall ousted Kelly by a few thousand votes.

Both the Zalman and Aron factions have waged voter-registration drives in Brooklyn this year and claim to have signed up some 10,000 new Hasidic Democrats in recent weeks.

"This is a big test for the Hasidic vote," said the Jewish political operative of the Connor-Squadron primary. "If they can't bring it out this year, I wonder about their chances to be able to flex any muscle in the mayor's race."

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Big Stores in Odd Shapes Arriving in Brooklyn

Saturday, September 06, 2008
September 3, 2008

By SANA SIWOLOP

Squeezing a large urban retail center onto a small, oddly shaped building site is almost never easy in New York, and the task can become particularly daunting when a prominent national retailer decides to make the center a home for its largest store anywhere.

Such were the hurdles that had to be cleared at the 300,000-square-foot Triangle Junction in the Flatbush section of central Brooklyn.

Triangle Equities, a developer based in Whitestone, Queens, began working with New York City eight years ago to rejuvenate an anemic mix of mostly small retailers at Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues, one of Brooklyn’s busiest hubs.

At first, Triangle planned to create a large shopping center at the intersection, with Kmart as the anchor. After that company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2002, it scrambled to find another tenant. Last April, the center’s first store finally opened: a two-level Target, which at 225,000 square feet is the discount retailer’s largest ever.

Target, which is based in Minneapolis, occupies the top two levels of the three-story center, which last week received yet another national retailer on its ground floor: a 20,000-square-foot Circuit City.

According to Peter Botsaris of the Botsaris Realty Group in Manhattan, the leasing broker, tenants that have already signed on include a large David’s Bridal store; a Children’s Place; a Payless ShoeSource, which is owned by Collective Brands; and an Applebee’s restaurant, owned by IHOP. Two ground-floor spaces have yet to be leased, he said.

National retailers have already flocked to other parts of Brooklyn, including the part of lengthy Flatbush Avenue that passes through downtown Brooklyn. But local real estate brokers say that until about two years ago, when it became clear that Target was really going to open a large store at the point where Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues intersect with Avenue H, they were generally reluctant to enter this area. This was the case even though it had heavy foot traffic (partly because of nearby Brooklyn College), was home to one of the busiest subway stops in Brooklyn and also was a stopover for a half-dozen bus lines.

One of the biggest obstacles that Triangle Equities faced in creating the Junction was the site itself, which formerly had two parking lots, a car wash and an open portion of the Long Island Rail Road bordered by two bridge abutments.

Because a third of the Junction was to sit in air space over the railroad, structural engineers working for Triangle Equities first had to design a special platform that would serve as a base for a retail center. The company also needed to build a wide pedestrian sidewalk to seamlessly connect the center to two narrow bridge abutments on the north and south sides of the center.

Meanwhile, the project’s architect, the New York office of Cooper Carry, a group based in Atlanta, designed the center so that instead of looking like a very large single building — which local community groups strongly opposed — it would actually look like six smaller separate buildings, to more closely resemble other low-lying retail buildings in the area.

All this was not inexpensive. When Triangle Equities bought the site for the center from the New York City Economic Development Corporation in 2004, the project was expected to cost about $70 million. Costs are now expected to add up to about $150 million.

Target also had design challenges. The retailer had already shown that it was adept at building large, vertically oriented urban stores elsewhere, including at the Atlantic Terminal mall in downtown Brooklyn. But here the company had to take a standard rectangular-shaped store format and fit it onto a relatively small building site of irregular shape.

“It was like taking a rectangular-shaped peg and fitting it into a trapezoid-shaped hole,” said Ben Wauford, a principal at Cooper Carry’s New York office.

Mr. Wauford said that Cooper Carry skewed the layout of the floors slightly and then designed the rest of the building so Target could use leftover space for storage and a street-level entrance lobby. The company also gave the center many elevators — 12 in all — so the upper-level store could be easily reached from the street as well as from an adjacent 500-car covered garage.

“This was the most complex construction project that Target has ever taken on,” said Bridget Hammond, a spokeswoman for the company, which as of July had 1,648 stores.

She said her company decided to install an unusually large store at the Flatbush-Nostrand intersection because the area was so heavily trafficked.

Many of the retail properties around the intersection sit on relatively small lots, so it is not clear how many other large national retailers will be able to come to the area soon.

Real estate brokers agree that the asking rents for ground-floor retail space within a two-block radius of the intersection have doubled, or in some cases tripled, over the last two years, to about $100 a square foot annually.

Some established property owners in the area say they are already considering renovating their properties to make them more appealing to retailers looking for larger spaces.

One of those owners is Stanley Liker, who, along with a group of investors, has owned for 20 years a 20,000-square-foot building across the street from the Junction, a building that used to be the old College Theater. “This is an area that used to be completely dead,” Mr. Liker said last week.

For now, retail space in the area is tight. “It’s one of the tightest retail corridors in Brooklyn right now, and availability is scarce,” said Zach Mishaan, a senior managing director at the Winick Realty Group in Manhattan.

Timothy King, the founder of CPEX Real Estate in Brooklyn, says he thinks the combination of so-called destination retailers at Triangle Junction, as well as its very large parking garage — a rarity in Brooklyn — will be a strong draw for shoppers outside the immediate area.

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Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits

Friday, August 29, 2008
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August 27, 2008
The Energy Challenge

Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits

When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.

That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.

The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.

“We need an interstate transmission superhighway system,” said Suedeen G. Kelly, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

While the United States today gets barely 1 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, many experts are starting to think that figure could hit 20 percent.

Achieving that would require moving large amounts of power over long distances, from the windy, lightly populated plains in the middle of the country to the coasts where many people live. Builders are also contemplating immense solar-power stations in the nation’s deserts that would pose the same transmission problems.

The grid’s limitations are putting a damper on such projects already. Gabriel Alonso, chief development officer of Horizon Wind Energy, the company that operates Maple Ridge, said that in parts of Wyoming, a turbine could make 50 percent more electricity than the identical model built in New York or Texas.

“The windiest sites have not been built, because there is no way to move that electricity from there to the load centers,” he said.

The basic problem is that many transmission lines, and the connections between them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies would like to squeeze through them. The difficulty is most acute for long-distance transmission, but shows up at times even over distances of a few hundred miles.

Transmission lines carrying power away from the Maple Ridge farm, near Lowville, N.Y., have sometimes become so congested that the company’s only choice is to shut down — or pay fees for the privilege of continuing to pump power into the lines.

Politicians in Washington have long known about the grid’s limitations but have made scant headway in solving them. They are reluctant to trample the prerogatives of state governments, which have traditionally exercised authority over the grid and have little incentive to push improvements that would benefit neighboring states.

In Texas, T. Boone Pickens, the oilman building the world’s largest wind farm, plans to tackle the grid problem by using a right of way he is developing for water pipelines for a 250-mile transmission line from the Panhandle to the Dallas market. He has testified in Congress that Texas policy is especially favorable for such a project and that other wind developers cannot be expected to match his efforts.

“If you want to do it on a national scale, where the transmission line distances will be much longer, and utility regulations are different, Congress must act,” he said on Capitol Hill.

Enthusiasm for wind energy is running at fever pitch these days, with bold plans on the drawing boards, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s notion of dotting New York City with turbines. Companies are even reviving ideas of storing wind-generated energy using compressed air or spinning flywheels.

Yet experts say that without a solution to the grid problem, effective use of wind power on a wide scale is likely to remain a dream.

The power grid is balkanized, with about 200,000 miles of power lines divided among 500 owners. Big transmission upgrades often involve multiple companies, many state governments and numerous permits. Every addition to the grid provokes fights with property owners.

These barriers mean that electrical generation is growing four times faster than transmission, according to federal figures.

In a 2005 energy law, Congress gave the Energy Department the authority to step in to approve transmission if states refused to act. The department designated two areas, one in the Middle Atlantic States and one in the Southwest, as national priorities where it might do so; 14 United States senators then signed a letter saying the department was being too aggressive.

Energy Department leaders say that, however understandable the local concerns, they are getting in the way. “Modernizing the electric infrastructure is an urgent national problem, and one we all share,” said Kevin M. Kolevar, assistant secretary for electricity delivery and energy reliability, in a speech last year.

Unlike answers to many of the nation’s energy problems, improvements to the grid would require no new technology. An Energy Department plan to source 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind calls for a high-voltage backbone spanning the country that would be similar to 2,100 miles of lines already operated by a company called American Electric Power.

The cost would be high, $60 billion or more, but in theory could be spread across many years and tens of millions of electrical customers. However, in most states, rules used by public service commissions to evaluate transmission investments discourage multistate projects of this sort. In some states with low electric rates, elected officials fear that new lines will simply export their cheap power and drive rates up.

Without a clear way of recovering the costs and earning a profit, and with little leadership on the issue from the federal government, no company or organization has offered to fight the political battles necessary to get such a transmission backbone built.

Texas and California have recently made some progress in building transmission lines for wind power, but nationally, the problem seems likely to get worse. Today, New York State has about 1,500 megawatts of wind capacity. A megawatt is an instantaneous measure of power. A large Wal-Mart draws about one megawatt. The state is planning for an additional 8,000 megawatts of capacity.

But those turbines will need to go in remote, windy areas that are far off the beaten path, electrically speaking, and it is not clear enough transmission capacity will be developed. Save for two underwater connections to Long Island, New York State has not built a major new power line in 20 years.

A handful of states like California that have set aggressive goals for renewable energy are being forced to deal with the issue, since the goals cannot be met without additional power lines.

But Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and a former energy secretary under President Bill Clinton, contends that these piecemeal efforts are not enough to tap the nation’s potential for renewable energy.

Wind advocates say that just two of the windiest states, North Dakota and South Dakota, could in principle generate half the nation’s electricity from turbines. But the way the national grid is configured, half the country would have to move to the Dakotas in order to use the power.

“We still have a third-world grid,” Mr. Richardson said, repeating a comment he has made several times. “With the federal government not investing, not setting good regulatory mechanisms, and basically taking a back seat on everything except drilling and fossil fuels, the grid has not been modernized, especially for wind energy.”


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NPR: Stove Sales Hot

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stove Sales Hot

Listen Now [3 min 33 sec] add to playlist

All Things Considered, August 18, 2008 · As nearby factories are downsizing, Harman Stoves in Halifax, Pa., is adding more than 100 jobs to try and keep up with skyrocketing demand for its pellet stoves. The spike comes as homeowners want to make the switch from oil to heating with wood pellets.


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The Wind Farmers of East 11th Street

Sunday, August 03, 2008

August 3, 2008
East Village
By JOSH WEIL

FIVE years ago this month, the lights of the city that never sleeps winked out. It was the kind of situation that would have been tailor-made for a group of young architects who, in the 70s, took over a five-story tenement that didn’t rely on the city’s electrical grid. They lived at 519 East 11th Street, and they got their power from the wind.

On top of their building, one block north of Tompkins Square Park, stood the first roof-mounted urban windmill in the United States. More than just a tower and turbines, the windmill represented a first step toward urban energy self-sufficiency, toward freedom from electricity costs, and toward a loosening of the energy monopoly.

During the energy crisis in 1976, when a radical young architect named Travis Price first came to New York, this windmill was just a vision. Known as the Solar Cowboy, Mr. Price wore a straw cowboy hat and had a passion for renewable power.

“I was going to bring solar energy to the poor,” said Mr. Price, who is now a practicing architect in Washington. “And I was going to do it in an urban environment, during a recession, and that was going to be my flame.”

Instead, he found a city ravaged by another kind of fire. “A building an hour was being burned in New York,” he said. For a host of complicated reasons, among them rising energy costs, many landlords were abandoning their buildings or worse. Eventually, the city began to repossess the apartment houses and then sell them on favorable terms to neighborhood groups.

But Mr. Price, along with David Norris, a Yale architecture student who joined him in his cause, saw a problem: If the new owners simply reoccupied the abandoned buildings, the high energy costs and other factors would drive them out, too. So, along with an M.I.T. architecture student named Chip Tabor, they bought a share in a gutted tenement on East 11th Street and persuaded the neighborhood’s working-class, largely Puerto Rican community to help turn the building into a model for energy conservation. They installed extensive insulation and the first rooftop solar panels in Manhattan.

“I mean, what was the next step?” said Mr. Norris. “Put up a windmill.”

Finding and restoring an old farm turbine for the windmill was easy enough, but erecting the windmill, even after all the pieces were carried up to the roof, was another matter. “How do you lift this 30- or 40-foot tower straight up on the top of a narrow building,” Mr. Price said, “and not have it fall down and skewer someone? We had no budget for cranes, so we just got several cases of beer and went all down the street and said, ‘Let’s have a party.’ ”

Soon they had 40 people on the roof. “Everybody’s drinking,” Mr. Price said. “It’s a timing issue. You can’t get everyone up there unless there’s drink, but you can’t wait too long or they’re too drunk to work.”

With some pushing and tugging and lifting, the rooftop crowd soon set up the windmill. “It was absolutely harebrained and hair-raising,” Mr. Norris said. “It was in contravention of every known city regulation.”

But politicians soon flocked to 519 East 11th Street. “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report” filmed a show on its roof. Senator Ted Kennedy described the structure as “the little windmill that could.”

“We felt like a rock band,” Mr. Price recalled. “We were cooking.”

He would see people doing double-takes, he added. “And then they would suddenly see it spinning, and there would be this really delightful smile.”

SINCE storing energy produced by the windmill was difficult, the group wired it into the city’s power grid. Then, when the building was producing more electricity than it was using, the grid absorbed the overflow.

Wiring into the power grid was illegal by itself, but when the group demanded that the utility reimburse them for the overflow, Con Ed urged the New York State Energy Commission to force the group to disconnect from the grid.

Ramsey Clark, a former attorney general of the United States, came to the group’s aid. “There’d been practically no urban experience like it,” Mr. Clark said of the windmill hookup, adding that the utility was afraid of the precedent.

The group won the case. “The energy commission essentially said to Con Ed, ‘You’ve got to buy their power,’ ” Mr. Norris said. “That was huge.”

But the turbine never worked well enough to provide power for the entire building, which, by 1977 or so, was home to 25 or 30 people. Either wind speeds were too low to generate sufficient power or turbulence from gusts produced a deafening noise from the windmill and caused the building to shake. Moreover, during the major blackout in 1977, unable to get a charge from Con Ed, the windmill provided insufficient power.

Still, until 1985, when a blade was blown off during a hurricane, the windmill produced enough power to light communal areas and heat water. For the next two decades or so, its remnants jutted into the sky until, sometime in the last few years, the tower was dismantled.

Today, interest in urban wind is growing — plans are afoot to build a wind farm on Staten Island, for example — but if another blackout occurs this summer there will be no light glowing on East 11th Street. There will, however, probably be vendors hawking flashlights and batteries, a thought that reminds Mr. Price of the old days.

“I think of that hustle,” he said, “and think of us as the New Yorkers who hustled the wind.”


Link to Article Source

Interesting...

Sunday, July 13, 2008
Apparently, if you have the first few letters of a person's last name, you can figure out their gender and have a pretty good guess of their age. The Baby Name Visualizer shows all!

FYI- This has nothing to do with me naming babies. I found it via a political site talking about voter targeting.


Residents reap rewards for recycling

Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Like most of his neighbors in Cherry Hill, N.J., Jeffrey Arnowitz already was a dutiful recycler, separating cans and bottles from the scraps that belonged in the regular trash.

Starting last October, when those recyclables began earning credits he could cash in at the grocery store, Arnowitz says doing his part for the environment became even sweeter.

"We actually found ourselves searching for things to go recycle," says Arnowitz, a 33-year-old rabbi and married father of two. "We can buy our kids diapers and formula, things that we really need. … It's nice to be rewarded for doing good from time to time."

Cherry Hill, other municipalities and dozens of neighborhoods in nine states — Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia — are participating in a program that awards residents points based on how much they recycle.

Through RecycleBank, a New York-based company that has relationships with more than 400 businesses, residents can accumulate the points and redeem them for vouchers worth up to $400 a year at local businesses and national chain stores such as Ikea and Whole Foods, says Ron Gonen, the company's co-founder.

Emphasis on reusing

Though Americans recycled 82 million tons of trash in 2006, compared with 69 million in 2000, recycling rates are increasing at a slower rate than during the 1980s and '90s when many states and communities began mandating the practice, says Ed Skernolis, director of policy and programs for the National Recycling Coalition.

"It wasn't (at) the forefront of issues in the American public's eye for a long time," Skernolis says of the slowdown, adding that financially strapped communities also may not have upgraded the trucks and processing equipment necessary for recycling.

Incentive programs such as RecycleBank, however, along with increasing demand for recycled materials and escalating concerns about climate change, can refocus attention on reusing, he says.

"We think those forces are converging to create a positive climate for recycling," Skernolis says. In particular, "we're a big proponent of incentive programs because most have been demonstrated to have a powerful impact on participation rates in communities."

RecycleBank, launched in 2004, is an updated version of programs that make it financially beneficial to recycle. Some communities, for example, charge residents for the trash they throw out but little or nothing for recyclables they discard.

Expansion in the works

As a result of agreements between RecycleBank and trash haulers or municipalities, more than 130,000 households in the nine states currently participate in the rewards-for-recyling program.

Allied Waste Industries, one of the nation's largest solid waste haulers, also plans to take the program into communities in California, Minnesota and Texas over the next several months, says Dan Jameson, its vice president for government relations and municipal services.

Instead of separating glass from newspaper, homeowners can toss everything into a single bin that contains a radio frequency ID tag bearing their address and account information.

Specially equipped trucks that dump the containers scan the tag and wirelessly transmit the weight of the load to RecycleBank. With an average household generating 80 pounds of recyclables a month, residents can earn up to 5,400 points a year.

Residents can go online to see how many points they've earned. They can also see how many trees and gallons of oil their recycling efforts have saved. It's that glimpse of her own ecological footprint that makes Lea Arbely more excited about recycling.

"I actually look at that more," says Arbely, 41, an artist who participated in Cherry Hill's pilot effort. The reward points matter less, and she plans to donate them to her daughter's school.

"I think it's something that has to be done no matter what you get for it," she says of recycling.

Landfills last longer

Cherry Hill, a Philadelphia suburb that is home to 72,000 residents, pays a per-household fee for the program that adds up to roughly $400,000 a year, says mayoral spokesman Dan Keashen.

The cost is offset, however, by the amount of money saved by disposing less garbage in an incinerator or landfill, he says. The amount of recyclables picked up last week after the new recycling program went citywide jumped 155% from the same week last year, rising from 125 to 319 tons, Keashen says.

The town also gets a portion of the money earned when the recycled materials are sold on the commodities market. Officials hope to save roughly $2 million over the next five years, Keashen says.

"It's good for the environment," says Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt, who sees the recycling effort as a key part of the city's broader environmental efforts. "On top of that, it saves us money."



Link to Article Source

American Energy Policy, Asleep at the Spigot

Tuesday, July 08, 2008
NYTimes
July 6, 2008

Correction Appended

JUST three years ago, with oil trading at a seemingly frothy $66 a barrel, David J. O’Reilly made what many experts considered a risky bet. Outmaneuvering Chinese bidders and ignoring critics who said he overpaid, Mr. O’Reilly, the chief executive of Chevron, forked over $18 billion to buy Unocal, a giant whose riches date back to oil fields made famous in the film “There Will Be Blood.”

For Chevron, the deal proved to be a movie-worthy gusher, helping its profits to soar. And while he has warned about tightening energy supplies for years and looks prescient for buying Unocal, even Mr. O’Reilly says that he still can’t get his head around current oil prices, which closed above $145 a barrel on Thursday, a record.

“We can see how you can get to $100,” he says. “At $140, I just don’t know how to explain it. We’re surprised.”

For the rest of the country, the feeling is more like shock. As gasoline prices climb beyond $4 a gallon, Americans are rethinking what they drive and how and where they live. Entire industries are reeling — airlines and automakers most prominent among them — and gas prices have emerged as an important issue in the presidential campaign.

Ninety percent of Americans, meanwhile, expect the pain at the pump to pose a financial hardship in the next six months, according to a recent Associated Press-Yahoo News poll. Stocks now trade inversely to crude prices, and the Dow Jones industrials are in bear-market territory. Old icons have been written off, with Starbucks boasting nearly twice the market value of General Motors, which some on Wall Street say faces the possibility of bankruptcy.

Outside the thriving oil patch, it makes for a bleak economic picture. But it didn’t have to be this way.

Over the last 25 years, opportunities to head off the current crisis were ignored, missed or deliberately blocked, according to analysts, politicians and veterans of the oil and automobile industries. What’s more, for all the surprise at just how high oil prices have climbed, and fears for the future, this is one crisis we were warned about. Ever since the oil shortages of the 1970s, one report after another has cautioned against America’s oil addiction.

Even as politicians heatedly debate opening new regions to drilling, corralling energy speculators, or starting an Apollo-like effort to find renewable energy supplies, analysts say the real source of the problem is closer to home. In fact, it’s parked in our driveways.

Nearly 70 percent of the 21 million barrels of oil the United States consumes every day goes for transportation, with the bulk of that burned by individual drivers, according to the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan research group that advises Congress.

SO despite the fierce debate over what’s behind the recent spike in prices, no one differs on what’s really responsible for all that underlying demand here for black gold: the automobile, fueled not only by gasoline but also by Americans’ famous propensity for voracious consumption.

To be sure, the American appetite for crude oil is only one reason for the recent price surge. But the country’s dependence on imported oil has only kept growing in recent years, undermining the trade balance and putting an added strain on global supplies.

Although the road to $4 gasoline and increased oil dependence has been paved in places like Detroit, Houston and Riyadh, it runs through Washington as well, where policy makers have let the problem make lengthy pit stops.

“Much of what we’re seeing today could have been prevented or ameliorated had we chosen to act differently,” says Pete V. Domenici, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a 36-year veteran of the Senate. “It was a bipartisan failure to act.”

Mike Jackson, the chief executive of AutoNation, the country’s biggest automobile retailer, is even more blunt. “It was totally preventable,” he says, anger creeping into his affable car-salesman’s pitch.

The speed at which gas prices are climbing is forcing a seismic change in long-held American habits, from car-buying to commuting. Last week, Ford Motor reported that S.U.V. sales were down 55 percent from a year ago, while demand for its full-size F-series pickup, a gas guzzler that was the country’s best-selling vehicle for 26 consecutive years, is off 40 percent. The only Ford model to show a sales increase was the midsized Fusion. A Ford spokeswoman says the market shift is “totally unprecedented and faster than anything we’ve ever seen.”

If the latest rise in oil prices isn’t just another spike — like those of the 1970s and 1980s — but is instead a fundamental repricing of the commodity responsible for much of modern American life, the impact of that change will affect everyone from home builders and homeowners in exurbs to corporate leaders, landlords and commuters in cities.

Although Asian consumers have begun emulating America’s love affair with the automobile, with the commercial booms of China and India playing pivotal roles in increased oil demand, the largest energy appetite in the world is still found in the United States. Home to only 4 percent of the world’s population, the nation slurps up about a quarter of the planet’s oil — and Americans’ daily use is nearly twice the combined consumption of the Chinese and Indians, according to an annual energy survey published by BP, the British oil giant.

Indeed, low-priced gasoline has long been part of the American social contract, according to Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and Republican leader. While in office, Mr. Gingrich battled efforts to modulate demand through tools like increased gas taxes and tighter fuel standards, and he argues that voters won’t support such measures even now.

“They will work if you coerce the entire system and if you pretend the American people are Japanese and Europeans,” Mr. Gingrich says. “Our culture favors driving long distances in powerful vehicles and the car as a social expression.”

Perhaps, but on Capitol Hill, members of both parties now say they are furious with Detroit for fighting so hard, and for so long, against higher fuel-efficiency standards.

Though analysts say automakers who shoveled out highly profitable and highly inefficient road hogs like S.U.V.’s and pickups deserve much of the blame, they also criticize legislators who failed to provide an incentive for consumers to switch to fuel-sipping cars. Some politicians are quick to acknowledge the problem.

“We’ve got to fix it or our standard of living will change within a decade,” says Senator Domenici, who is retiring this year. “Oil was too damn cheap, it’s too high now and it’s going even higher. I hope I’m wrong, but the problem is, we can’t catch up soon enough.”

According to energy policy experts, it was in the late 1980s and early 1990s — during the administrations of President George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton — that things began to go wrong.

Before that point, the country reaped the benefits of the first fuel-economy standards, passed in 1975, known as corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE. Between 1974 and 1989, the efficiency of a typical car sold in the United States almost doubled, to 27.5 miles per gallon from 13.8.

LARGELY as a result, oil consumption in 1990 totaled 16.9 million barrels per day, basically on a par with the 17 million barrels per day consumed in 1980, even as the economy grew substantially. Oil prices were in the middle of a long downward slide that would take them from well above $30 a barrel in 1980 to a low of just under $10 in late 1998 and early 1999, interrupted only by brief spike in 1990 after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

In 1990, Richard H. Bryan, a Nevada Democrat, teamed up in the Senate with Slade Gorton, Republican of Washington, and proposed lifting fuel standards again over the next decade, with a goal of 40 m.p.g. for cars. Amid furious opposition from Detroit, liberal Democrats from automaking states, like Carl Levin of Michigan, joined conservative Republicans like Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who died on Friday, to block new CAFE standards. “It was one of the most frustrating issues in my Senate career,” says Mr. Gorton, who left the Senate in 2001.

Dan Becker, then a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, still remembers his shock when he saw Mr. Levin and Mr. Helms, diametrically opposed on most issues, walk amiably together onto the Senate floor to cast their votes. “This wasn’t East-West, right-left, or North-South,” he says. “But had we passed that bill, we’d be using three million barrels less oil a day now.”

That amount may not sound like much, given total global consumption of 85 million barrels a day, but it’s more than OPEC’s spare capacity now.

Mr. Levin didn’t return calls for comment. But Representative John D. Dingell, the powerful Democrat from Detroit who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, argues — as he did more than a decade ago — that tightening CAFE standards unfairly penalizes domestic automakers while rewarding foreign rivals who make more small cars.

Mr. Dingell, who has defended the automakers fiercely during his 52 years on Capitol Hill, decided to support the stronger CAFE standards last year. But he does not apologize for his longtime stance. “The American auto industry has sold the cars people wanted,” he says. “You’re going to blame the auto industry for that or the American consumer? He likes it sitting in his driveway, he likes it big, he likes it safe.”

A much more effective approach would be to simply raise taxes on gasoline, Mr. Dingell says, because higher prices are the easiest way to change buying habits. Some Europeans agree with this, noting that policy changes engineered through taxation can alter consumer choices without impeding economic growth.

Consumers overseas might not like higher taxes on gasoline, but they’ve adapted, says Jeroen van der Veer, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, the European energy giant. “A society can work, can function and can grow even at higher fuel prices,” he says. “It’s a way of life — you get used to it.”

In Mr. van der Veer’s native Holland, for example, gasoline sells for more than $10 a gallon, with $5.57 of that going to taxes. Even in Britain, which has substantial North Sea production, gasoline sells for $8.71 a gallon.

A SUBSTANTIAL gas tax increase was considered during the administration of the first President Bush, recalls William K. Reilly, who ran the Environmental Protection Agency at the time. But it was whittled down in 1990 to just 5 cents after Mr. Gingrich and other conservatives in the Republican Party broke with the president.

“This was a stark lesson and people decided the gas tax was the third rail of public policy,” Mr. Reilly says.

Even as Congress idled when it came to tightening CAFE standards or substantially raising levies on gas, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 made offshore drilling yet another unpalatable option. “That caused a sea change and after that no one had any sympathy for the oil industry,” Mr. Becker says.

In 1990, three months before the effort to raise fuel-efficiency standards failed on Capitol Hill, President Bush issued an executive order making large swaths of the continental shelf off-limits to new exploration. That policy remains in effect today.

When Senators Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Frank H. Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, attempted to put together a grand bargain of opening up more of Alaska in exchange for raising auto efficiency in 1998, the two couldn’t persuade enough members of either party to go along.

“It was a no-action policy,” says Lee R. Raymond, the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, who has had a ringside seat for most of the energy policy debates of the last 25 years. “By the time there is panic, people need to realize this: There is no quick-fix on this. By the time you panic, it is way too late.”

Still, many analysts argue that increased drilling alone is no panacea. They note that many of the oil giants don’t drill in areas to which they already have access. Exxon, in particular, has been criticized as spending too much to buy back its own stock and not enough on exploration. Chris Welberry, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil, defends the company’s record, saying, “We are investing in our business at record levels — around $25 billion this year.”

In any event, added drilling is unlikely to generate sharply lower prices. A recent study by the federal government’s Energy Information Administration estimated that under the best-case scenario opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would reduce prices by $1.44 a barrel by 2027. Drilling in broader swaths off the continental United States wouldn’t affect prices until 2030.

On the taxation frontier, President Clinton did manage to get through a small tax increase on gasoline — 4.3 cents — in 1993, but with oil prices hovering between $10 and $20 a barrel for most of the 1990s, conservation ended up on the back burner.

Indeed, President Clinton did propose a broader tax on energy consumption in 1993, but it died quickly when Senate Democrats rebelled, much as House Republicans derailed President Bush’s gas tax in 1990. Still, environmentalists like Mr. Becker remain disappointed with Mr. Clinton for not doing more in his first term when oil prices were low and Detroit was enjoying a recovery in profits after the lean years of the early 1990s.

Congressional Republicans made matters worse in 1995, when they attached a rider to a huge appropriations bill forbidding the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from spending any money to raise fuel standards. That law, in effect until 2001, made any change in CAFE standards impossible, says Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who has pushed for better fuel efficiency.

As Paul Bledsoe, strategy director of the National Commission on Energy Policy, recalls it, “The 1990s were something of a lost decade for American fuel efficiency.” With oil prices low, consumers began snapping up pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, which were governed by less stringent fuel economy standards, thanks to a loophole in the original 1975 law. These carried higher sticker prices and profit margins, and both Detroit and foreign automakers were happy to oblige.

Although oil prices remained low through the 1990s, consumption patterns were taking an ominous turn. By 2000, daily demand reached 19.7 million barrels a day — nearly three million more than in 1990, a 17 percent jump in 10 years that wiped out much of the fuel savings that followed the energy crises of the 1970s.

Since then, global consumption has taken off, rising to 85.2 million barrels a day last year from 76.3 million in 2000.

In recent years, Mr. Reilly says that both the White House and Congress have passed up opportunities to call for higher gas taxes and fuel standards in the name of national security, especially after the Sept. 11 attacks. “We could have, but we didn’t,” says Mr. Reilly, who describes himself as a moderate Republican. “It’s part of a long pattern in which Democrats and Republicans have not wanted to wade into this issue.”

BY 2001, oil prices were slowly creeping up, but few seemed to notice, perhaps because the march was slow and steady. By 2004, crude was at $37 a barrel and the next year it hit $50. With higher prices for oil, an increase in gas taxes was political poison, but Mr. Markey says support for new fuel standards was reawakening.

Nevertheless, his efforts to pass new fuel economy legislation in 2001, 2003, and 2005 went nowhere amid continued opposition by supporters of the auto industry on both sides of the aisle as well as many conservative Republicans. Although the United States had long ceased to be energy-independent — that era ended just after World War II — Mr. Markey says he believes the memory of plentiful domestic supplies created a different mind-set here than in Europe, where oil was generally scarce.

Other veterans of those battles cite lobbying by the domestic automakers as a main factor in the failure of Mr. Markey’s legislation. “The auto companies didn’t see the handwriting on the wall,” Mr. Schumer says. “The auto companies would go to people and say, ‘If you vote for CAFE standards, the auto plant in your district could shut down.’ They got the message.”

Representative Mike Castle, a Delaware Republican whose district includes plants owned by G.M. and Chrysler, adds that “nothing was ever said directly but it would go through the minds of members that Detroit might respond.”

“Sometimes, things don’t have to be said,” he added.

Susan M. Cischke, group vice president for sustainability, environment and safety engineering at Ford, says the recollections of Mr. Schumer and Mr. Castle are “way over the top — you don’t just pull up or put down auto plants.” Instead, she says, when lobbying on CAFE, “we talked with our friends and indicated what it did with jobs. You want support.”

Oil industry insiders say they remained on the sidelines during Congressional debates over CAFE standards, although legislators from oil states tended to vote against more rigorous rules.

In 2007, with oil at $82 and gas nearing $3, Congress finally approved the first big increase in fuel-efficiency standards in 32 years, requiring the fleet average to reach 35 m.p.g. by 2020. That will save one million barrels a day by 2020, but onetime CAFE opponents like Mr. Castle now say they wish that Congress had acted sooner. Since the 1980s, fuel efficiency has flatlined at 24 m.p.g., while vehicle weight has jumped more than 25 percent and horsepower has nearly doubled. In Europe, on the other hand, fuel efficiency currently stands at 44 m.p.g. and is slated to hit 48 m.p.g. by 2012.

“It’s a shame we’re doing this now instead of 10 or 20 years ago,” says Mr. Castle, who supported the legislation last year. “It was always my hope they would just do it without a mandate.” He adds that while he still opposes drilling in Alaska, “Republicans aren’t all wrong when they talk about increasing supplies of oil. There are opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Senator Domenici, the senior New Mexico Republican, agrees that it’s time to look at new supplies but is even more critical of Detroit. “They all said to us: ‘Don’t change CAFE. It’ll come when it’s supposed to.’ That’s baloney,” he said.

UNTIL last year’s vote, Mr. Domenici was an opponent of new fuel-efficiency standards, a stance he now regards as a mistake. “We were like everybody else,” he says. “We should have been more active on CAFE sooner.”

With Detroit again seeing profits collapse as sales of big cars plunge, Mr. Domenici says he is worried about the survival of the domestic automakers.

“They talked a good research game,” he says. “But let’s face it, little was being done. They are suffering the consequences and could go broke just like the airlines.”

What Congress didn’t or couldn’t do, the free market is now doing in the form of higher gas prices: forcing Americans into more fuel-efficient cars. Ms. Cischke of Ford says that in the last two months, “We have seen more of a shift in the market than in 20 years of CAFE. People are buying what they need.”

Unfortunately, the shift is happening too fast for a company of Ford’s size. That is among the reasons Wall Street expects Ford to lose more than $2 billion this year.

Congress, meanwhile, in its bid to explain the run-up in fuel prices, is examining the role of speculation and the increased flow of investor money into commodities. Most energy economists emphasize the fundamental issue of supply and demand, rather than market manipulation, but financial factors like the weak dollar are also exacerbating the situation. Stephen P. A. Brown, director of energy economics and microeconomic policy analysis at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, estimates that a little more than 20 percent of the price of oil today can be attributed to the dollar’s fall against the euro and other currencies.

Another financial factor behind the price rise that hasn’t been talked about much on Capitol Hill or elsewhere is reduced hedging by oil companies on futures markets, says Larry Goldstein, a longtime energy analyst. In the past, crude producers would offer buyers a portion of their energy output in future years in order to protect themselves if prices pulled back. But energy companies got burned as prices kept rising during the last two years and have since cut back on selling untapped production — forcing prices for energy futures even higher.

Now, the prospect of a perpetual climb in oil prices has become part of market psychology, which is notoriously hard to change. William H. Brown III, a former Wall Street energy analyst who now consults for hedge funds and financial institutions, says investors have become convinced that the White House and Congress are unlikely to do anything dramatic to bring down prices.

For example, a release of supplies from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve after disruptions in Nigeria or Venezuela might have persuaded the market that Washington was on the case and shaken some complacency out of the market. “I’ve been a little surprised at what has not been done or what has not been talked about to get a handle on the consumer situation,” Mr. Brown says.

Others say that although the push to blame market speculators rather than discuss economic realities is likely to intensify on Capitol Hill as the presidential election draws near, they believe that what the world is confronting is a momentous shift in energy supply and demand.

“Speculation and manipulation are two different things,” says Mr. O’Reilly of Chevron. “Most of where we are is because of fundamentals and concern about the future.”

Jad Mouawad contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 6, 2008
An article today in Sunday Business about missed opportunities to reduce America’s dependence on imported oil refers to a 1990 effort by Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, to block higher mileage requirements for vehicles and notes that Mr. Helms did not return calls seeking comment. The section went to press on Thursday, before Mr. Helms’s death Friday morning.


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Solution, or Mess? A Milk Jug for a Green Earth

Monday, July 07, 2008
NYTimes
June 30, 2008
By STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM

Correction Appended

NORTH CANTON, Ohio — A simple change to the design of the gallon milk jug, adopted by Wal-Mart and Costco, seems made for the times. The jugs are cheaper to ship and better for the environment, the milk is fresher when it arrives in stores, and it costs less.

What’s not to like? Plenty, as it turns out.

The jugs have no real spout, and their unorthodox shape makes consumers feel like novices at the simple task of pouring a glass of milk.

“I hate it,” said Lisa DeHoff, a cafe owner shopping in a Sam’s Club here.

“It spills everywhere,” said Amy Wise, a homemaker.

“It’s very hard for kids to pour,” said Lee Morris, who was shopping for her grandchildren.

But retailers are undeterred by the prospect of upended bowls of Cheerios. The new jugs have many advantages from their point of view, and Sam’s Club intends to roll them out broadly, making them more prevalent.

The redesign of the gallon milk jug, experts say, is an example of the changes likely to play out in the American economy over the next two decades. In an era of soaring global demand and higher costs for energy and materials, virtually every aspect of the economy needs to be re-examined, they say, and many products must be redesigned for greater efficiency.

“This is a key strategy as a path forward,” said Anne Johnson, the director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a project of the nonprofit group GreenBlue. “Re-examining, ‘What are the materials we are using? How are we using them? And where do they go ultimately?’ ”

Wal-Mart Stores is already moving down this path. But if the milk jug is any indication, some of the changes will take getting used to on the part of consumers. Many spill milk when first using the new jugs.

“When we brought in the new milk, we were asking for feedback,” said Heather Mayo, vice president for merchandising at Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart. “And they’re saying, ‘Why’s it in a square jug? Why’s it different? I want the same milk. What happened to my old milk?’ ”

Mary Tilton tried to educate the public a few days ago as she stood at a Sam’s Club in North Canton, about 50 miles south of Cleveland, luring shoppers with chocolate chip cookies and milk as she showed them how to pour from the new jugs.

“Just tilt it slowly and pour slowly,” Ms. Tilton said to passing customers as she talked about the jugs’ environmental benefits and cost savings. Instead of picking up the jug, as most people tend to do, she kept it on a table and gently tipped it toward a cup.

Mike Compston, who owns a dairy in Yerington, Nev., described the pouring technique in a telephone interview as a “rock-and-pour instead of a lift-and-tip.”

Demonstrations are but one of several ways Sam’s Club is advocating the containers. Signs in the aisle laud their cost savings and “better fridge fit.”

And some customers have become converts.

“With the new refrigerators with the shelf in the door, these fit nice,” said April Buchanan, who was shopping at the Sam’s Club here. Others, even those who rue the day their tried-and-true jugs were replaced, praised the lower cost, from $2.18 to $2.58 a gallon. Sam’s Club said that was a savings of 10 to 20 cents a gallon compared with old jugs.

The new jug marks a sharp break with the way dairies and grocers have traditionally produced and stocked milk.

Early one recent morning, the creators and producers of the new tall rectangular jugs donned goggles and white coats to walk the noisy, chilly production lines at Superior Dairy in Canton, Ohio. It was founded in 1922 by a man who was forced to abandon the brandy business during Prohibition. Five generations of the founder’s family, the Soehnlens, have worked there.

Today, they bottle and ship two different ways. The old way is inefficient and labor-intensive, according to members of the family. The other day, a worker named Dennis Sickafoose was using a long hook to drag plastic crates loaded with jugs of milk onto a conveyor belt.

The crates are necessary because the shape of old-fashioned milk jugs prohibits stacking them atop one another. The crates take up a lot of room, they are unwieldy to move, and extra space must be left in delivery trucks to take empty ones back from stores to the dairy.

They also can be filthy. “Birds roost on them,” said Dan Soehnlen, president of Superior Dairy, which spun off a unit called Creative Edge to design and license new packaging of many kinds. He spoke while standing in pools of the soapy run-off from milk crates that had just been washed. About 100,000 gallons of water a day are used at his dairy clean the crates, Mr. Soehnlen said.

But with the new jugs, the milk crates are gone. Instead, a machine stacks the jugs, with cardboard sheets between layers. Then the entire pallet, four layers high, is shrink-wrapped and moved with a forklift.

The company estimates this kind of shipping has cut labor by half and water use by 60 to 70 percent. More gallons fit on a truck and in Sam’s Club coolers, and no empty crates need to be picked up, reducing trips to each Sam’s Club store to two a week, from five — a big fuel savings. Also, Sam’s Club can now store 224 gallons of milk in its coolers, in the same space that used to hold 80.

The whole operation is so much more efficient that milk coming out of a cow in the morning winds up at a Sam’s Club store by that afternoon, compared with several hours later or the next morning by the old method. “That’s our idea of fresh milk,” Greg Soehnlen, a vice president at Creative Edge, said.

Sam’s Club started using the boxy jugs in November, and they are now in 189 stores scattered around the country. They will appear soon in more Sam’s Club stores and perhaps in Wal-Marts.

The question now is whether customers will go along.

As Ms. Tilton gave her in-store demonstration the other day at the Sam’s Club here, customers stood around her, munching cookies and sipping milk. “Would you like to take some home today?” she asked.

A shopper named Jodi Kauffman gave the alien jugs a sidelong glance.

“Maybe,” she said.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 2, 2008
A chart on Monday with the continuation of a front-page article about a new milk jug design adopted by Wal-Mart and Costco used an incorrect unit of measure. The new containers store 4.5 gallons of milk in a cubic foot — not a square foot. The chart has been corrected.


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