Friday, April 20, 2007

Debra J. Saunders: Green guv believes you can have it all

Schwarzenegger talks up a storm about global warming, but does little to conserve.

Published: April 20, 2007

When President Jimmy Carter wanted Americans to conserve energy in 1979, he set an example by wearing a sweater and turning down the White House thermostat. Today, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger boasts that he is a world leader in the fight against global warming -- but his advocacy shouldn't keep him from flying in private jets or driving a Hummer.

The gas-guzzling governator is on the cover of Newsweek. The Austrian Oak is now global warming's jolly green giant.

Last week at Georgetown University, Schwarzenegger explained how he was making environmentalism more attractive. The problem with enviros, he said, was that people thought they "were no fun" -- "like prohibitionists at a fraternity party."

Plan Arnold is to turn environmentalism from a phenomenon based on guilt to a successful movement "built on passion." Call it You-Can-Have-It-All Environmentalism.

Sure, the Republican governor told Georgetown students, enviros used to criticize (real) men like him for "powering my private airplanes. So it is too bad, of course, that we can't all live simple lives like the Buddhist monks in Tibet. But you know something. That's not going to happen."

Translation: Schwarzenegger can boast about signing a bill that calls for California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by the year 2020 -- but don't expect him to curb his own super-size emissions.

It was not that long ago that your average politicians did not want to be seen owning a few big SUVs while pushing for more stringent federal fuel-efficiency standards for American cars. They did not want to be branded as hypocrites.

Now Al Gore, who hyperconsumes energy in his Tennessee home, and Schwarzenegger, who is always jumping on a private jet after eco-friendly media events, can burn energy like the most flagrant energy hogs.

As long as they say they believe in global warming, they personally don't have to do much about global warming.

Spokesman Aaron McLear told me that the governor is looking into solar panels for his home and buys credits to offset his carbon footprint.

Schwarzenegger also converted one of his four Hummers to hydrogen power -- actually, GM converted the car and lets Schwarzenegger drive it when he wants -- and another to biodiesel.

"It's not the car," McLear explained, "it's the engine."

Also, Schwarzenegger does not drive much these days -- the California Highway Patrol drives him.

That's not enough. I do not expect Schwarzenegger to ride the bus. But he should not hype his GM-converted Hummer as "environmentally muscular." He should show some respect for fuel-efficient cars -- those we mere mortals can afford -- and try flying commercial.

Get out some, and meet a few real folk -- in first class.

Because, while Schwarzenegger boasted at Georgetown that California is "sending the world a message" on global warming, his behavior and his rhetoric send a different signal: Conserving energy is for girlie men.

I will receive many e-mails defending Schwarzenegger -- all along the lines that at least he believes in global warming. And he has signed bills to force other people to conserve in the future.

After all, no one really expects stars or rich people to sacrifice.

All the glitterati have to do is really believe in global warming, maybe ride in a hybrid to the Oscars -- and then their carbon trails (which are much larger than those of people who take the bus every day) won't stink.

It's laughable. Those who believe that global warming is caused by man -- I am agnostic on that score -- claim that they are on the side of Science. That's Science with a capital S.

Yet they applaud when a so-called leader on global warming speaks as if "environmentally muscular" technologies and carbon offsets can manufacture a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020. They have this odd belief that the key to fighting global warming is not by cutting energy use, but by believing in global warming.

They embrace wishful thinking -- and call it science.

Debra J. Saunders' column is distributed by Creators Syndicate.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bottineau Light-rail Transit

The wheels on the bus rapid transit (BRT) may not go round, depending on the results of a study requested by the Bottineau Boulevard Partnership.

At its March 23 meeting, the partnership decided to stop looking solely at BRT for Bottineau Boulevard (County Road 81), which is now being reconstructed.

A resolution was passed to take a look at light rail transit (LRT) and other alternatives for two years.

“I think we deserve the best new transportation alternative that’s available,” said Hennepin County District 1 Commissioner Mike Opat. “If that means we have to press the pause button and take a new look, then I think that’s what we should do.”

A number of changes have occurred, causing local officials, many of whom serve as partnership members, to look at the corridor differently.

“With BRT you can be more specific about how you move people around; with LRT you’re really moving people over greater distances,” Crystal Mayor ReNae Bowman said.

Opat said when looking at BRT lines around the country, there is no clear definition of what BRT means. In some cities, BRT lines are included within normal traffic, as opposed to the buses having their own lanes, he said.

On a trip to Los Angeles to review their BRT system, where there is no separate lane for the buses, it took 90 minutes to go 15 miles, Opat said.

“That’s not ‘rapid’ to me,” he said.

In comparison, “light rail is on its own right of way, faster, cleaner, more aesthetically pleasing, quieter,” Opat said.

The proposed Target Corporation campus is another factor to consider when looking at the option of LRT, said Brooklyn Park Mayor Steve Lampi.

The Target campus would require moving 20,000 to 30,000 employees in and out of Brooklyn Park every day, Lampi said, adding that LRT has the ability to move more people.

Development and redevelopment are other goals of the partnership, Lampi said.

“Development along the LRT line is significantly greater than along a BRT line,” Lampi said.

The Hiawatha Line, which connects downtown Minneapolis, the VA Medical Center, Fort Snelling, Minneapolis International Airport and the Mall of America, has also caused a lot of attention to be turn to LRT.

“It has been so successful and the ridership far exceeds what they thought it would be,” said Robbinsdale Mayor Mike Holtz.

Since 2000, the partnership has been working on “promoting commuting solutions” and “strategic redevelopment supported by transit,” according to their website,

$20M from the Legislature

In 2002, $20 million was bonded by the Legislature to help fund “a complete stand-alone busway” along Bottineau Boulevard, said partnership counsel Louis Smith.

“We need to ask … our legislators to help us earmark some of that money to help us with the alternative analysis,” Opat said.

The partnership has suggested the Legislature dedicate $1 million in funding for an alternative analysis.

Because the bonds were not made available until 2005, the Legislature extended the bonding authorization until 2010, Smith said, “but it’s specifically for the busway purposes.”

The $20 million would be available for other uses, “only if the Legislature does something further to change that authorization,” Smith said.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

High gas pump prices no longer deter U.S. drivers

By Clifford Krauss March 29, 2007

HOUSTON: Prices at the gasoline pump are rising again, much as they do every spring as oil traders bid up the price of crude ahead of possible summertime shortages. Possibilities for more conflict in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East are adding to the surge.

But there is something new this time, energy experts say, in how drivers are reacting - or, more accurately, not reacting, even as the price of gasoline has climbed during the past two months to a national average of more than $2.60 a gallon. Europeans have long forked out more than double what Americans pay. But per gallon costs topping $3 a gallon, or 79 cents per liter, in many parts of the United States, particularly along the Pacific coast, is rare for the U.S. consumer.

In the late 1970s, OPEC oil shocks and gas lines persuaded most Americans to sacrifice some of their pleasure trips and drives to the mall, ease up on the accelerator, and switch to the bus or train.

But as Americans enter the sixth year of rising oil and gasoline prices, their shift in driving habits this time has gone through a much less dramatic change. What's more, in recent weeks, gas consumption is going up, not down, and drivers are changing their daily driving habits only slightly.

"I don't think about gas prices at all," said Michael Machat, 48, a lawyer in West Los Angeles, where gasoline prices are among the highest in the country.

As he filled up his BMW with super unleaded at $3.39 a gallon this week, he added, "I guess maybe if it was $10 a gallon, I'd think about it."

A recent study co-authored by Christopher Knittel, an economics professor at the University of California at Davis, showed that every time gasoline prices went up 20 percent between November 1975 and November 1980, consumers changed their driving behavior by cutting their gas consumption by 6 percent per capita nationwide.

However, between March 2001 and March 2006, drivers reduced consumption just 1 percent when prices rose 20 percent.

Prices swung up and down seasonally during both periods, but Knittel said the two periods were comparable because regular gasoline prices increased in both periods by about 66 percent to $2.50 from $1.50 in real terms, set at 2000 dollars.

While more and more consumers around the country are buying smaller, more efficient cars and fewer SUVs, that trend is unfolding a lot more slowly these days than 30 years ago.

It was a very different era back then, when Congress was willing to enact tougher gasoline standards and when then-President Jimmy Carter called on the country "to live thriftily" and "find ways to adjust and to make our society more efficient."

According to Aaron Brady, an expert on gasoline refining and consumption at the Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consulting firm, "One would think that with prices up over the last few years, people would drive less but that's not the case.

"Demand is up over the last year."

The Department of Energy reported Wednesday that gasoline demand for transportation during the past four weeks has averaged 9.2 million barrels a day, or 1.6 percent higher than during the same time span last year, when prices were a bit lower.

The rising use by consumers and businesses is putting further pressure on prices.

On top of that, U.S. commercial crude oil inventories fell by 0.9 million barrels in the week ending March 23, compared to the previous week. Spring is also the season when refineries retool their plants, producing slightly less gasoline.

Economists say the reasons for the increasing demand for gasoline and the muted reaction among drivers are based on many factors, which have enormous policy implications as the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress attempt to find ways to stem climate change and oil imports, which now supply about 60 percent of U.S. needs.

Experts note that people are driving longer distances to work because of suburban sprawl, the improvements in mass transit have fallen behind over the years, and the practice of driving to malls and ferrying kids around has become part of the U.S. lifestyle.

Some observers suggest that with more dual-income families, high gas prices mean less to many families than they once did, and the proliferation of credit cards has eased the immediate pain of consumers at the pump.

"Our preferences have changed over the years and we are much more willing to continue our driving habits in the face of price increases," said Knittel, who was studying driver response to gas prices increases.

"Unlike the 1970s when people did drive less, data shows people now are not taking the extra step to conserve."

Interviews with a sampling of drivers around the country show they are less than alarmed by the new run-up in prices, even if they aren't happy about it. And they still suspect Big Oil is fleecing them. Not surprisingly, higher-income drivers are particularly unruffled, but middle-income drivers also seem fairly tranquil.

Veronica Burgos, a 39-year-old bookkeeper, says she is not about to give up her aging, gas-guzzling Navy blue Ford Explorer to commute to work and shuttle her children around, even though gasoline prices in the Los Angeles area where she lives are now "ridiculous."

"With this SUV, you really feel it, but I have two kids so I need it," she said. "In reality my husband would probably rather that I don't drive the SUV so much but I still do and I drive quite a bit. With work and two kids and all their activities, especially on the weekend, we're more comfortable in the SUV.

"So what are you going to do?"

Across the country, prices of gasoline have been shooting up relentlessly for the past two months, with the Energy Department reporting earlier this week that the average retail price for regular

unleaded hitting $2.60 a gallon, the highest rate since last September and 11 cents higher than a year ago. According to AAA, the average national price hit $2.62 on Thursday, up from $2.37 just a month ago.

With crude oil prices rising in recent days after the Iranian detention of British military personnel last week, some experts say that retail gasoline prices may go up another 10 or 15 cents a gallon in the next couple of weeks before settling down. At just over $64 a barrel on Wednesday, crude oil has gone up about $6 in just the last week, and retail gasoline prices tend to follow not long after.

"The market rally in gasoline is like the Oscars," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, an independent trade publication. "It gets moved up every year."

The immediate seasonal cause for the rise in gasoline prices is the annual slowdown in March in refineries, as they undergo retooling to switch from winter to summer oil blends. But this year, that has been accentuated by a flurry of recent refinery accidents, escalating political tensions involving Iran, and greater speculation by traders.

"The prices for unleaded gasoline are way overblown for this time of year," said Michael Rose, director of the energy trading desk at Angus Jackson in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "The traders are just going along with a theory that we are going to have a gasoline shortage in the summer."

Most experts expect prices to ease sometime in April, as refineries resume full operation, before rising again during the traditional summer driving season.

But many are wondering why the demand for gasoline is going up this March, a month not usually known for heavy driving.

"Is it because the economy is stronger or because people are going back to their old driving habits?" Charles Drevna, executive vice president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, asked.

There had been signs that the high price of oil was beginning to have an impact on consumption. The International Energy Agency reported that oil consumption in its 30 member countries, including the United States, had declined 0.6 percent last year, the first drop in more than two decades.

Sales in sport utility vehicles peaked in 2002, and have fallen since then. Meanwhile sales of small cars rose 5.3 percent last year. But Knittel said that he found little change in the average fuel efficiencies of vehicles driven by motorists in the past five years.

"Our preliminary analysis is showing vehicle choice is less sensitive to gas prices today than compared with the 1970s," he said. "We might be buying fewer SUVs, but a lot of the shifting is to cars that are not appreciably more fuel efficient, such as minivans."

Lisa Munoz contributed reporting from Los Angeles, Nate Schweber from Westchester County, New York, and Micheline Maynard from Detroit.

American demographics

This table lists some major demographic groupings in the United States. Race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and other factors are factors in personal and group identity. This table is unusual in that it presents a merged list of these factors. This more accurately reflects actual American society, in which most people belong to more than one group. All individuals can be classified into multiple groupings below. This list is not comprehensive. Please write to suggest additional groups.

( My note - I think this list is inaccurate. But being part of the "outliers" in our society, perhaps I am biased to this viewpoint that my numbers aren't quite so small. Though, I think the "vegetarian" and "vegan" numbers are close to accurate. But we have 16M more people and our culture is diversifiying faster than any time in our history )

GroupNumberPercent of
U.S. population
Total 1 284,800,000 100.0 %
English-at-home speakers 6 245,497,600 86.2 %
Christian 2217,872,00076.5 %
White 1 211,460,626 75.1 %
Protestant 18 150,944,000 53 %
Female 1 145,532,800 51.1 %
Male 1 139,267,200 48.9 %
"born-again" or "evangelical" 9 125,312,000 44 %
Republican 8 90,950,000 33 %
Democrat 8 85,440,000 31 %
Catholic 269,776,00024.5 %
Non-English speakers 6 38,087,127 13.8 %
Nonreligious 2 37,593,600 13.2 %
Hispanic/Latino 1 35,305,818 12.5 %
Black 1 34,658,190 12.3 %
Baptist 18 34,176,000 12 %
Evangelical (theologically) 16 22,049,360 8.0 %
Methodist 2 19,366,400 6.8 %
Spanish speakers 6 20,744,986 7.5 %
Southern Baptist 3 15,800,000 5.6 %
Lutheran 2 13,100,800 4.6 %
vegetarian 19 12,000,000 4.2 %
Asian 1 10,242,998 3.6 %
United Methodist Church 20 8,251,042 2.9 %
Presbyterian 2 7,689,600 2.7 %
Multiracial 1 6,826,228 2.4 %
Pentecostal 2 5,980,800 2.1 %
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) 15 5,503,192 1.93 %
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 3, 20 5,038,066 1.8 %
Episcopalian 2 4,841,600 1.7 %
GLBT (gay, lesbian or bisexual)5 4,300,000 1.51 %
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 3, 20 3,595,259 1.3 %
Judaism 2, 21 3,702,400 1.3 %
Eastern Orthodox 9 2,756,170 1 %
Assemblies of God 11 2,575,000 0.93 %
Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod 3, 20 2,512,714 0.9 %
Native American 1 2,475,956 0.9 %
Buddhist 13 2,400,000 0.87 %
Episcopal Church 20 2,333,628 0.82 %
French speakers 6 2,308,795 0.8 %
gay men5 2,000,000 0.70 %
Non-denominational 11 2,000,000 0.7 %
prison population 2,000,000 0.7 %
German speakers 6 1,851,418 0.7 %
Megachurch attendance 14 1,800,000 0.64 %
Jehovah's Witnesses 2 1,708,800 0.6 %
Chinese speakers 6 1,578,099 0.6 %
Italian speakers 6 1,565,165 0.6 %
Mennonite Church USA 11 1,525,000 0.55 %
Churches of Christ (non-instrumental / Corsicana, TX) 20 1,500,000 0.53 %
American Baptist Church in the U.S.A. 20 1,484,291 0.52 %
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church 20 1,430,795 0.50 %
Muslim 2 1,424,000 0.5 %
agnostic 2 1,424,000 0.5 %
bisexual5 1,400,000 0.49 %
United Church of Christ 20 1,330,985 0.47 %
Baptist Bible Fellowship International 20 1,200,000 0.42 %
atheists 2, 10 1,139,200 0.4 %
Tagolog speakers 6 1,008,542 0.4 %
Independent Christian Church, Churches of Christ
(instrumental / Joplin, MO) 20
1,071,616 0.39 %
Hindu 13 1,000,000 0.36 %
Church of God (Cleveland, TN) 20 944,857 0.33 %
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 11 910,000 0.33 %
lesbians5 900,000 0.32 %
Polish speakers 6 865,298 0.3 %
Unitarian Universalist 2 854,400 0.3 %
Seventh-day Adventists 11 809,000 0.29 %
Neo-pagan (incl. Wiccans) 12 768,400 0.28 %
Korean speakers 6 749,278 0.3 %
Church of the Nazarene 11 608,000 0.2 %
Vietnamese speakers 6 606,463 0.2 %
vegans 22 591,468 0.2 %
Portuguese speakers 6 515,017 0.2 %
Japanese speakers 6 511,485 0.2 %
Pacific Islander 1 398,835 0.1 %
Reformed Church in America (RCA) 11 304,000 0.11 %
Libertarian party members 7 200,000 0.07 %
Baha'i 11 142,000 0.05 %
Native American Religionist 2 103,000 0.04 %

Glass vs. Cardboard

   I recently complained to the makers of my soymilk that
I wanted them to use more environmentally friendly products.
It now makes me want to get a Soyabella to make my own!!

This is their response:


Dear Kevin,

I have to say it makes me very happy to know that people are actually
thinking about these issues. Most people don't come near to considering
the details of their consumption and, as they say, the devil IS in the
details. So be patient while I bombard you with details!

In choosing our packaging, we apply a Life Cycle Analysis/Assessment
(LCA). You might have heard the expression "cradle to grave" analysis.
It's all the same thing. The goal is to examine and measure every step
of the packaging process. Besides being a tool for manufacturers to
evaluate their processes, it can be a valuable tool for consumer to make
informed choices. LCA introduces the idea that recycling is not enough.
LCA follows the manufacture of a products from extraction of raw
material, through the manufacturing process, including energy and water
used, through its use and then through its disposal. Gaseous, liquid or
solid residues are all evaluated since all have a different impact on
the environment.

Apply this to glass bottles. Material must be mined, and heat generated
and water used to form the bottle. Waste is generated from this process.
You now have a bottle that is relatively heavy, relatively bulky and
breakable, requiring extra sturdy (more weight) cases to protect the
package. Shipping these empty bottles requires more space and hence more
fossil fuel and even more fuel is needed to ship the filled bottle. Of
course, the final product must be shipped in refrigerated trucks, adding
to the fuel and energy needed. Although the bottle's average re-use is
about five times, plenty of hot water and sterilization agents are
needed to cleanse it for the next use. Finally, when it's recycled, it's
easily turned back into glass and can even be used as a food grade
package again.

Organic Valley milk cartons ARE recyclable, but only in certain places.
You'll have to call your trash/recycling company and ask them if they
take the cartons. They might ask what they're made of and you can tell
them it's virgin, long-fibered paperboard sandwiched in micro-thin
Number 1 polyethelene. We use plastic polymer (#2, High Density
Polyethylene, HDPE) for our gallon-sized milk jugs. It is translucent
and has decent barrier properties (you have to keep the light away from
the milk). It's also tough but light and well suited for milk products
with a shorter shelf life. It is, however, a petroleum byproduct and has
waste problems.

Now that you're screaming STOP, STOP, too much information, I'll just
add that we're always searching for the best material to use in our
packaging, always testing new stuff, reconfiguring old stuff...anything
to lighten the footprint. Nevertheless I will make our packaging folks
in Research and Development aware of your plea, because they track all
suggestions assiduosly. If you have any further questions, or need
clarification on something, please let me know and I'll do my best to


Kimberly Kafka
Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative
Consumer Relations ext 3367
kimberly.kafka at
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