Daily Glean: Pioneer Press chronicles pain in the asphalt

The next materials-crisis frontier: asphalt. Prices for the high-grade stuff (yes, asphalt has grades) are up 40 percent, the PiPress’s Jennifer Bjorhus writes. A shortage has affected MnDOT’s push for high-quality paving, though it doesn’t sound like projects have been stopped; a lower grade has been offered. Flint Hills Resources had to (legally) break contracts because it couldn’t get a key raw material. Asphalt’s waste-oil base price has doubled in six months, and refiners have switched to more profitable products.

Fox9’s Tom Lyden looks at rude bus drivers. With the caveat the Metro Transit surveys show 90 percent satisfaction, Lyden homes in on the “other 10 percent” — diesel jockeys with, say, 100 or more complaints in six years. Onboard video is invaluable here, including a multiple f-bomb confrontation with a mom who, Lyden asserts, was right about her rights. (She later pled guilty to assaulting a police officer.) He notes that Metro Transit more often penalizes drivers who are late.

A big story for the local chattering class: Former Twin Cities Reader editor and current New York Timesman David Carr has a new tell-all about his coke-snorting, girlfriend-abusing and generally depraved Minneapolis days, and gets a lengthy warts-and-more-warts profile from the Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz. Expect a ton of local coverage any second now; excerpt here. (Disclaimer: I’m a bit player in “Night of the Gun” and was treated fairly, perhaps even generously.)

Four local food-conglomerate poohbahs gather in Stribland for an interesting, if one-sided, chat about their inflation-impacted industry. The leaders of Cargill, General Mills, Lund’s and CHS (formerly Cenex) decry foreign price controls as fertilizer costs soar; that will just reduce supply, they argue, even while acknowledging the globe is growing more calories than ever. Restricting free trade will also raise prices, they add. Ethanol subsidies are decried.

More food: General Mills’ Ken Powell says his firm forecast sustained inflation three years ago; Greg Page says fertilizer has become an outsized part of Cargill’s portfolio, but storing pricey grain mean cash flow is down even though earnings are up. (Cue world’s smallest violin.) CHS’ John Johnson says $50 oil and $2 corn ain’t comin’ back. On a slo-o-o-w news day, the piece should’ve been front page, but one wonders if industry watchdogs get a place at a subsequent roundtable.

Related: MPR’s Dan Gunderson offers a nice ground-level check-in with a Minnesota farmer he’s followed since February. The crop looks good, fertilizer and gas prices are killers, and who the heck knows when to sell the harvest?

Ouch: The two Minnesota stations that sold B-99 — 99 percent biodiesel — have stopped because prices would be about $5.70 a gallon. (One station’s regular diesel is still a whopping $4.84.) MPR’s Tom Weber says high corn prices have torpedoed soybean planting, raising soybean prices and thus soy-derived biodiesel. Uh-oh: One station owner says the stuff also gummed up his filters last winter. Minnesota mandates 2 percent biodiesel in all diesel fuel; that goes up to 5 percent next year. Mistake?

Sharing and Caring Hands’ Mary Jo Copeland has canceled her plans for a controversial “modern-day orphanage” in Eagan, the PiPress’ Frederick Melo reports. Copeland couldn’t raise the necessary $30 million for the Gift of Mary home, and this week, Eagan’s planning council will recommend re-zoning the land to agriculture. Melo notes the orphanage concept was rejected in Brooklyn Park and Chaska, and minority-group spokesfolk opposed it. A $5 million gift from Best Buy’s Richard Schulze was withdrawn, unmatched.

The Strib’s James Walsh profiles Minnesota’s new top federal judge, Michael Davis. Davis is the first black to lead the federal bench; the Clinton appointee is a veteran of Minneapolis’ Legal Rights Center (former home of Congressman Keith Ellison). He gets praise as a calm presence who somehow persuaded fellow jurists to once give up vacations to clear a court backlog. By the way: He’s also a veteran of the FISA court. The low-key Davis replaces the voluble James Rosenbaum.

A bunch of suburbs might upgrade streetlight technology and save energy by bypassing Xcel, the Strib’s Laurie Blake reports. The 31-city Suburban Rate Authority is using Eden Prairie as a template; that ‘burb has bids from four private firms to install and maintain the lights; Xcel’s bid isn’t in yet. Everyone must still get their power from Xcel, but things like LED streetlights might slice electricity bills, too. Brooklyn Park is “weeks away” from an LED test install.

A Strib op-ed columnist complains about Red Bull advertising cubes being placed on the Stone Arch bridge’s bike lanes, forcing cyclists to weave among pedestrians on the sidewalks. Next time, the Park Board should put cubes on, say, the parkway and see how drivers like it. After all, what’s good for one set of commuters ….

They raced ostriches and camels at Canterbury Park Sunday. (Not against each other, though maybe next year.) KARE 11 has the video; the Strib’s Tom Horgen has the dispatch.

Nort spews: Scott Baker threw a gem, but Twins batters did nothing and Minnesota lost 1-0 to Texas. They’re still a half-game back of the Whities. Some dude named R.W. Eaks won the 3M Championship for older male golfers.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 07/21/2008 - 09:34 am.

    Is Minnesota’s decision to increase the percentage of biodiesel sold at all diesel outlets statewide a mistake?

    In a word, NO!

    Doing nothing is the biggest mistake we could make. Anecdotal reports of filter problems aside, biodiesel has already been proven as a cleaner-burning and effective fuel in Minnesota in both summer and winter. The metro buses are running on a B20 (20% biodiesel) blend right now, within a few years ALL diesel sold in the state will be B20.

    What does that mean? A 16% reducution in particulate air pollution for diesel engines, and another step closer to a future less dependent on fossil fuels.

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