Saturday, May 05, 2007


Households Would Need New Bulbs

Households Would Need New Bulbs
To Meet Lighting-Efficiency Rule

May 5, 2007; Page A1

WASHINGTON -- Manufacturers and environmentalists are hammering out a nationwide energy-saving lighting standard that, if enacted by Congress, would effectively phase out the common household light bulb in about 10 years. That in turn could produce major cuts in the nation's electricity costs and greenhouse-gas emissions.

The new standard is expected to compel a huge shift by American consumers and businesses away from incandescent bulbs to more efficient -- but also more expensive -- fluorescent models, by requiring more light per energy unit than is yielded by most incandescents in use. The winner, at least in the near term, likely would be the compact fluorescent light bulb, or CFL.

Whatever rule is proposed by the groups would likely be incorporated into energy legislation passed last week by the Senate Energy Committee that the full chamber is set to debate by the end of the month, committee aides say. This bill, the Democrats' first major energy initiative since taking control of Congress in January, calls for new efficiency standards for appliances and motor vehicles and mandates the use of more alternative fuels, such as ethanol, by 2022.

[Fluorescent Bulb]

While the move could face resistance from some consumer groups and from low- and fixed-income constituencies, Energy Committee aides say there is bipartisan support in Congress for a new lighting standard.

"Congress should do all it can to encourage industry and consumer groups to work with government in setting standards for energy-efficient products, including light bulbs and new lighting technologies," said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat who is chairman of the panel.

Fluorescent bulbs have been around for years and are known to be more economical over the long run, but consumers have shown a clear preference for the softer and more easily adjusted glow of incandescent bulbs, which also carry a much cheaper sticker price. Now, there is push toward using regulation to force adoption of the more energy-efficient product.

The Senate panel estimates a shift from the standard tungsten filament incandescent bulb and other relatively inefficient forms of lighting would save $18 billion in electricity costs every year. Because 50% of the nation's electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, this would also reduce demand equivalent to that currently met by 80 coal-fired power plants. Burning coal releases pollutants including carbon dioxide, which scientists think is accelerating climate change, and mercury, which can damage the nervous systems of small children.

The move away from the current incandescent bulb, invented by Thomas Edison in 1879, would create at least an $8 billion market for more-efficient lighting, analysts say. There are four billion electric light sockets in the U.S., most of them in homes, and some would be filled with CFLs, which use 75% less energy and can last more than six times as long, according to industry estimates. Manufacturers expect over the next decade to provide consumers with other choices as well, since CFLs don't work as well in applications such as reading lamps.

"It's the right thing to do," says Randall B. Moorhead, vice president for the North American affiliate of Royal Phillips Electronics NV of the Netherlands. "But we're also hoping we'll make some money. It's not entirely altruistic."

The three biggest light-bulb makers, Philips, General Electric Co. and Osram Sylvania, a unit of Germany's Siemens AG, have more efficient lighting products in development. GE is the biggest seller of compact fluorescent lights in the U.S. In February, the Fairfield, Conn., company announced it would be introducing an incandescent bulb that will be comparably efficient to CFLs and would likely meet standards now being discussed. Manufacturers also are re-engineering light-emitting diodes that are currently too pricey for the consumer market but will likely fall in price over time.

One reason bulb makers are willing to negotiate a new federal standard is that a half-dozen states, led by California and Texas, are weighing bans on incandescent bulbs. Australia, Canada and the European Union are also considering phasing out such lights.

"If there are all these intrastate regulations, it will become tough as a skunk to get these things to work. It becomes very challenging to the retailer," says Richard Upton, president and chief executive of the American Lighting Association, which represents lamp makers and retail-lighting showrooms in the U.S. and Canada.

The talks on establishing a new nationwide standard include the bulb makers, the lighting association, the Alliance to Save Energy, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy and the Natural Resources Defense Council, among others. They have been under way since March, after Phillips declared that incandescent bulbs should be phased out within 10 years.

"I think we're half to two-thirds of the way there," says Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. He predicts the result will be a two-stage federal standard that will require bulbs that use 30% less electricity within five years and bulbs that are 75% more efficient within 10 years. The talks are also aimed at standards that would remove the least-efficient street lights and fluorescent lights that are used in offices.


The resulting sharp cut in electricity demand would be the quickest and most effective energy curb in this year's energy bills, says Bill Prindle, acting executive director for the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Noting that electricity consumption is scheduled to increase by 20% by 2020, Mr. Prindle says new "clean tech" energy forms such as alternate fuels and advanced wind power won't begin to reduce emissions until energy demand is cut. "We have to do both," he says.

GE's Earl Jones, senior counsel for the company's consumer and industrial business, says the goal is to agree on efficiency standards that reduce greenhouse gases and cut energy consumption, but also "satisfy basic consumer interest in the quality of light in their home and at work."

"The winners will be the manufacturers whose technology can deliver the highest lumens without compromising quality of light," Mr. Jones said. A lumen is a measure of light.

Shifting to compact fluorescent light bulbs will be more expensive for homeowners at the outset. Incandescent bulbs can be bought as cheaply as 25 cents, but compact fluorescent bulbs can cost between $2 and $3. However, because the more-expensive bulbs use much less electricity and last far longer, they can pay for themselves in as little as six months, depending on usage, says Jeff Harris, vice president for the Alliance to Save Energy, a coalition of business, government, environmental and consumer leaders that advocates efficiency policies that minimize costs to society and consumers. In addition, the prices of compact fluorescents are falling. But it isn't known whether CFLs will be more economical or efficient than future technologies.

There are other drawbacks that have limited the more efficient bulb's market penetration. Aside from lighting quality, compact fluorescent bulbs include a tiny amount of mercury that would require their disposal through recycling programs. According to Mr. Moorhead of Philips, CFLs only fill an estimated 6% of American sockets.

GE and Osram, in weighing the details of a new standard, need to ensure that they have enough time to retrofit their incandescent-light factories to make more energy-efficient lights. Philips doesn't have any incandescent factories in the U.S. CFLs, which are much more labor intensive, are mostly manufactured in China.

Source: Wall Street Journal


Climate Economics

Climate Economics

Fight Over Who Pays for Emission Curbs
May 5, 2007; Page A4

A new United Nations report is the latest sign that the global-warming debate is moving beyond science to hardball economics, dividing nations and industries in a scramble over how the cleanup bill will be divided -- and how big it will be.

Amid mounting political and public pressure to curb global-warming emissions, companies and governments are reaching general consensus on what technologies need to be deployed and how much it could cost. Now a battle is heating up over the details.

The News: A new U.N. report says the world can curb global-warming emissions over the next several decades without significantly crimping global economic growth.

The Background: The report was issued by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international panel of scientists.

Outlook: A clean-up would reduce global economic output 3% below the level it would otherwise reach in 2030.

The report issued Friday by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international panel of scientists, says the world can meaningfully curb global-warming emissions over the next several decades without significantly crimping global economic growth. But that would require sweeping changes to the global energy system -- and the cost would hit some sectors much harder than others.

"There's not a win-win here," says Ray Kopp, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future, a Washington-based think tank studying global-warming policy. "Somebody gets hammered and somebody doesn't."

The U.N. report says reducing greenhouse-gas emissions enough to avoid the worst consequences of global warming could reduce projected global economic output in 2030 by as much as 3% below the level it would otherwise reach that year. Whether that is a significant economic drag is a matter of dispute.

Bush administration officials argue a 3% reduction in the global economy in 2030 would be too severe. It is "something that we probably want to avoid," James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said Friday. He said the effects could fall unevenly across the economy, causing some factories to move abroad and particularly hurting lower-income Americans. He said the administration supports emission-reduction measures it believes can be made at lower cost.

Officials who led the U.N. report played down the cost. "It's not an order of magnitude that cripples the economy," said Bert Metz, a Dutch researcher and co-chairman of the report.

Jonathan Pershing, director of the climate and energy program at the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based environmental think tank, said the potential cost to the economy "suggests you want to be pretty careful" in designing the emission-reduction system. "But if you do this right, it's not going to break the bank."

Reducing emissions to the levels studied in the U.N. report would cost between $20 and $100 for every ton of carbon dioxide, the main global-warming gas, that is kept out of the atmosphere, the report says. That is the price companies would have to pay either to curb their own emissions enough to comply with a cap or to buy emission "credits" on a trading market that pay someone else to do the cleanup.

Prices are approaching those levels already in parts of the world where emission caps are in place. In Europe, which in 2005 imposed a carbon cap on itself, a credit allowing the bearer to emit a ton of CO2 next year is trading today at about $25.

The rise in prices envisioned in the U.N. report is broadly in line with what many are predicting by 2030. Consultant McKinsey & Co. estimated in a January study that greenhouse-gas cuts approximately as stringent as those surveyed in the U.N. study would cost as much as $40 a ton of avoided CO2.

Both the U.N. and McKinsey studies assume the world attacks global-warming emissions in the most economically efficient way. For instance, the U.N. study assumes the cuts come from across geographic regions and economic sectors, spreading the costs broadly. If that doesn't happen, the costs would rise. Currently, the world's two biggest global-warming emitters, the U.S. and China, haven't accepted emission caps.

Another question is what sectors of the economy cough up the bulk of the emission cuts. Like most studies, the U.N. report says that improving the energy efficiency of buildings and cars can produce significant emission cuts while actually saving money. That is because the extra initial investment in, say, home insulation or a more fuel-efficient auto engine can more than pay for itself in lower electricity bills or fewer trips to the gas pump.

But that assumes consumers will be willing to wait many years to recoup the extra up-front costs. In reality, many consumers don't keep their houses or cars that long. So the government also would have to dangle incentives to consumers or mandate that car makers lift mileage.

"A carbon price that gets a lot to happen in other sectors of the economy does not make much happen in transport," explains Robert Socolow, a professor at Princeton University focusing on climate change. He says a carbon cap that imposes a $30-a-ton price for CO2 emissions raises the retail price of a gallon of gasoline by about 30 cents -- not enough to prod many people to go out and buy a more-efficient car.

In Europe, the carbon cap has fallen on utilities and manufacturers, largely because targeting a relatively small number of large power plants and factories is easier than targeting millions of cars and trucks. In the U.S., many heavy-emitting companies now say they think a federal emissions cap is all but inevitable. That is why utilities are lobbying particularly hard to shape the details of any cap.

One is Duke Energy Corp., based in Charlotte, N.C. James Rogers, Duke's chief executive, said in an interview earlier this year that the company already has "made a lot of investment decisions in recognition of the fact that we're going to live in a carbon-constrained world." But he said it remains far from clear how high the cost of avoiding each ton of CO2 emissions will climb. For planning purposes, he said, over the life of potential power plants, "I've used $7.50 to $30" a ton.

Write to Jeffrey Ball at

Thursday, May 03, 2007


As Its Population Declines, Youngstown Thinks Small

As Its Population Declines,
Youngstown Thinks Small

Rather Than Trying
To Grow, Ohio City
Plans More Open Space
May 3, 2007; Page A1

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Hanging next to city planner Bill D'Avignon's desk is a giant map of this city, divided into neighborhoods. One is Oak Hill, a gritty enclave just south of downtown. The neighborhood, once densely populated, has lost 60% of its population in recent decades and is dotted with abandoned buildings and empty lots.

Faced with the devastation of Oak Hill and other depressed pockets of the city, Youngstown is trying an unusual approach: Allow such areas to keep emptying out and, in some cases, become almost rural. Unused streets and alleys eventually could be torn up and planted over, the city says. Abandoned buildings could be razed, leading to the creation of larger home lots with plenty of green space, and new parks.

[go to map]1

Youngstown, a former steel-producing hub, has been losing residents for years as a result of the closing of most of its steel mills. But rather than struggle to regain its former glory or population, it has adopted an economic-development plan that boils down to controlled shrinkage. By accepting the inevitable, the city says it can reduce its housing stock, infrastructure and services accordingly.

The plan is still in its early stages. As a first step, Mr. D'Avignon and other city planners have divided Youngstown into 127 neighborhoods, and labeled them as stable, transitional or weak. Now they're working on a customized plan for each one, noting which corners need street signs, which sidewalks need to be repaired and which buildings need to be demolished. The goal is to craft plans for about 30 neighborhoods a year.

Another goal is to wipe away the most obvious blight. The city estimates it will take about four years to bulldoze the biggest eyesores, including about 1,000 abandoned homes and several hundred old stores, schools and other structures.

"The vision is still evolving, but the ultimate result will be to create more open space where there used to be part of the city," says Mr. D'Avignon.

Talk like that would be considered blasphemy in most cities, where officials are taught to promote growth and development and fight against population decline. Accepting that a city is going to shrink goes against conventional wisdom that a bigger city means more jobs, more taxpayers, more revenue, better education, and better services -- in essence, a higher standard of living.

Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams3 explains the strategy behind the plan to scale down the town.

"It's un-American. It seems like you're doing something wrong if you're not growing," says Hunter Morrison, director of the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at Youngstown State University, who worked with the city to come up with its strategy. But he says the idea is "not really about growth or shrinkage, it's about managing change."

Controversial Approach

The approach is controversial. Encouraging and accepting the hollowing out of neighborhoods will, by default and design, hit Youngstown's poor and minority residents the hardest. About 45% of Youngstown's residents are black, another 5% Hispanic, and the blight is heavily concentrated in minority neighborhoods, which are slated for the biggest makeovers.

"You always have to ask yourself: 'What areas are going to be abandoned?'" says John Russo, who teaches labor and working-class studies at Youngstown State. "And most of those are the African-American parts of the city."

Youngstown has promised not to force anyone to move, which has helped allay some fears in minority neighborhoods.

Others think the idea could be a hard sell. "You have to be skeptical, because it's really hard to do something like this," says Frank Popper, a Rutgers University land-use planner who studies regions with population declines. "The one thing you always run up against is that Americans don't want to be told about decline."

The Oak Hill neighborhood in Youngstown, Ohio

Youngstown, which has lost half its population since the 1950s, says it needs a radically different approach to halt decay. It's pointless to try to revive certain neighborhoods, the city's leaders argue, since the exodus of residents often makes those areas unpleasant and dangerous places to live, leading to further decline.

"The concept of trying to grow out of economic malaise is just not realistic for us," says Mayor Jay Williams, 35 years old. One of his first official acts after being elected in 2005 was to apply surplus money to demolition in the city.

Although Youngstown is one of the first cities to openly embrace this philosophy, the idea of planning to get smaller is gaining consideration around the world. Earlier this year, the University of California, Berkeley, held a symposium called "The Future of Shrinking Cities" that attracted 100 people from five continents.

In parts of eastern Germany, the government has earmarked some $3.4 billion for tearing down communist-era prefabricated apartment blocks and replacing them with green space, partly in response to an exodus of residents to the West.

European cities are more experienced with the phenomenon of shrinking urban centers, having endured centuries of war and famine that caused many of the region's great cities to fluctuate in size over time.

A Berlin-based "Shrinking Cities" project, partly funded by the German government, compiles research about urban-population loss. The group says that during the 1990s more than a quarter of the world's large cities saw population declines, mostly in industrial regions such as eastern Germany and the U.S. heartland, but also in Japan, Russia, and China, where people are moving from remote cities to booming coastal centers.

[Jay Williams]

"The issue is most visible in cities that are concentrated in a single industry, like steel," says Philipp Oswalt, an architect who heads the German project. Indeed, a similar pattern is now being repeated in a host of other Midwestern cities, including smaller ones such as Muncie, Ind., and Flint, Mich., which have seen huge shutdowns of auto-related plants and subsequent population declines.

Population loss can manifest itself in unexpected places and for a variety of reasons, says Mr. Oswalt. Paris, for instance, has a vibrant center, but is surrounded by rings of industrial suburbs where, in some cases, population is falling. New Orleans was radically downsized in a matter of hours by a hurricane and floods.

The German group has put together a traveling art exhibit on the topic, with works from more than 200 artists in 12 countries. One film profiles a suburban family moving the remains of a loved one from a city cemetery to a nearby township. A painting depicts a neighborhood scene where little remains but a utility pole surrounded by children's toys. The exhibit recently opened in Cleveland after a run in Detroit, two cities grappling with population declines.

Few cities have adopted a plan like Youngstown's. The city is a classic "hole in the donut" community -- increasingly empty in the middle, but with growing suburbs.

In 1950, Youngstown's population stood at 168,000. The steel industry was booming and city leaders envisioned Youngstown growing to a quarter of a million people by the end of the century. New neighborhoods were laid out on the fringes of the city in anticipation of growth.

A Tailspin

But by the 1980s, the steel industry had gone into a tailspin as producers faced an influx of lower-priced, foreign-made steel. Today, only a single large steel mill is left and the city's population has wilted to about 80,000. Most of the mills have been torn down.

Like other Midwest cities, Youngstown tried to find other big employers to replace steel. City officials lured both a state "supermax" prison and a for-profit prison. Other efforts, including redeveloping about 450 acres of former steel-mill sites into industrial parks, have been successful, but not the job-creating dynamos that steel was.

[Youngstown, Ohio]
A neighborhood on the north side of Youngstown, Ohio

Youngstown is bisected by the Mahoning River, a meandering waterway once lined with the mills. The city has made some headway in recent years, sprucing up downtown buildings, while Youngstown State -- located not far from downtown -- has invested in new buildings and landscaping. But population continued to decline and abandoned buildings blighted entire city blocks. Property- and income-tax revenue fell, and delinquencies rose.

In 1999, city officials decided they had to come up with a new master plan. The task was assigned to Mr. Williams, then a city planner and now mayor.

"We came up with a simple concept," he says. "This will be a smaller city, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing."

He doesn't mean physically smaller. Youngstown will never reduce its overall footprint, he says, because political boundaries are too deeply ingrained. Lopping off neighborhoods would likely prompt litigation from residents who don't want to lose city services. Meanwhile, neighboring suburbs aren't that interested in annexing Youngstown's problems.

'Clean and Green'

But within the city, which sprawls out over 35 square miles, there are sizable areas that can be shifted to other uses, Mr. Williams says. He envisions large blocks of green space throughout the city. The theme of the master plan is to make Youngstown "clean and green," he says.

The mayor has sharply increased the city's annual budget for demolition -- to $1.5 million this year from $320,000 in 2005. Youngstown is filled with properties that have been essentially abandoned by owners who failed to keep up tax payments. The city places liens on the properties it clears, to cover the cost of demolition, and recently shifted to a policy of trying to negotiate with owners to gain control over such parcels. These blurred ownership lines are one of the reasons the city expects it will take years to reshape many neighborhoods. "At this stage, we're focused on clearing decades of blight that had built up," says the mayor.

Tearing things down is relatively easy and is done by many cities. Much tougher is figuring out creative ways to use vacant land and getting residents to accept a new vision for what it means for their city to prosper.

With this in mind, Youngstown in late 2005 asked a group of urban planners to come up with design ideas, focusing on the Oak Hill neighborhood. Planners canvassed the neighborhood, asking residents what they would like to see. The answers surprised them.

Many city planners, for instance, favor creating dense developments. But many Oak Hill residents told them something very different.

"They said that the one thing they liked was that their area was becoming less dense -- that there was more space between them and their neighbors," says Terry Schwartz, an urban planner from Kent State. They weren't eager to see new housing built either, since many long-time residents fear new units are almost certain to be low-income housing.

Joseph Jennings, a 74-year-old retired steelworker, has lived in Oak Hill since he came to Youngstown in the 1950s from West Virginia to work in the mills. He says he likes the idea of reshaping his neighborhood so it's less crowded. "It'd help hold up the value of the property and make people more willing to invest," he says. "It's a good thing to spread things out -- that's the way people like to live nowadays anyway."

He built his house nearly 30 years ago, buying a double lot so he would have room for a two-car garage. He notes there are a number of empty lots on his street today.

Norma Stefanik, an urban designer who lives in one of Youngstown's most desirable neighborhoods, on the city's north side, says more attention should be paid to basics -- such as using existing building codes to pressure landowners to do a better job of maintaining their properties. "A lot could be done just by going after the people who are letting their properties decline," she says.

Rufus Hudson, an African-American councilman who represents Youngstown's largely minority east side, knows the areas slated for emptying out are mostly occupied by minorities. But he says the city can't continue to serve an infrastructure built for a much more densely populated city. "Our population has fallen steadily," he says, "but we still have 535 miles of roads that have to be kept paved and plowed."

The forces of demographics are doing much of the clearing for the city. Mr. Hudson estimates that within a decade, about 10% of the residential streets in his district will be empty enough to allow them to be closed.

The city has told residents that it will stop investing resources to redevelop certain areas. City officials say there are many places where streets could ultimately be dug up, street lights taken down, and sidewalks removed in order to create green spaces where there were once densely settled blocks.

While it doesn't have specifics yet, the city says it expects certain vacant land to be turned into parks or community gardens. Another idea, already taking place to a limited extent, is to take empty parcels on blighted streets and sell them for small amounts to remaining residents -- so homeowners who have decided to stay would be allowed to expand their yards or even rebuild their houses to spread out over more than one lot.

The day-to-day task of planning for a smaller Youngstown is handled by Mr. D'Avignon, director of the city's Community Development Agency, who works out of an office in a converted post-office building downtown. "We have to break the downward cycle," he says, noting that many people in Youngstown's stable neighborhoods are hesitant to invest in their homes, because they worry that the blight will eventually engulf them. "There's a mindset in Youngstown that says, 'It's coming my way, the blight is moving this way.' We have to put a stop to that."

Write to Timothy Aeppel at

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