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Hard choices on fuel and food


With all due respect to Joe Regan ("Animal vs. vegetable," Back Talk, Jan. 16), this sounds like what Voltaire was considering when he said that "The perfect is the enemy of the good." As a vegan, I find confined animal feeding operations reprehensible. As a planetary citizen, I find petroleum reprehensible as well.

Poultry farmers have been getting paid for poultry fat for years; this is not a new revenue stream created by biodiesel demand. Poultry fat gets fed to cattle, swine and poultry, and turned into cosmetics, among other uses.

Small-scale biodiesel producers, who are offering an alternative to petroleum, are trying to stay commercially viable by using the feedstocks that are most cost-effective; these usually end up being ones that are found closest to home.

Firms like Piedmont Biofuels have two clear choices today—use feedstocks that are financially sustainable, or cease operations and send their customers back to petroleum diesel. As you may be aware, biodiesel plants are shuttering their doors nationwide today due to the costs of canola, soy, poultry fat, tallow and waste vegetable oil.

I understand that Piedmont Biofuels is actively seeking to grow its collection of locally available waste cooking oil. Any generators of waste cooking oil should give them a call to sign up for their free collection service.

I certainly agree that biodiesel made from waste vegetable oil is a superior product, and I look forward to the day when companies like Piedmont Biofuels can get all of their feedstocks from local restaurants. I also understand that every bite of the organic soy-based tempeh and tofu that I sustain myself with came from large soy farms that unintentionally killed many animals (insects, rodents and mammals, through tilling and distribution).

It's not always easy to know where to draw the line.

Bob Armantrout

Study Raleigh's infill

In the article "Taming Raleigh's teardown trend" (Dec. 26, by Bob Geary), there was mention that the total number of infill projects inside the Beltline was about 600 or so since 2002. I think it would be interesting for the city to send out a survey to each of those infill projects as well as the homes on either side.

The survey could ask the new owners if they had consulted with their new neighbors about what they were going to build, and what kind of reception they received.

Neighbors would also be asked for their perceptions of the new house. Anonymity would have to be guaranteed.

This would show if there really was a major problem with infill. Are the complaints broad or are they generated by only a few situations? If the complaints are generated by fewer than 10 projects out of the total 600 or so, is there really a need to do anything?

I would like to suggest another idea for the short- and near-term that might help in solving the infill issue. How about creating a commission that would meet twice monthly to review and comment on infill projects? It would be made up of architects, builders and neighborhood residents. The members would comment and take a non-binding vote on scale, setbacks, design, etc.

This would be a good way to accomplish at least three objectives. First, it would give this issue a higher public profile and thereby a greater and more sustained level of discussion. Second, the peer review and the pressure it may bring on a project might help it become better for the neighborhood. Finally, this group could generate ideas that could be useful in crafting a reasonable set of regulations if surveys show a definite need for some type of action.

Bob Mulder

New Bern battle

Your article on property rights ("License to squeal," Opinion, by Bob Burtman, Jan. 9) reminded me of what is happening where I live in New Bern.

The Sheraton Hotel here has been sold to the Soleil group in Raleigh and they are planning to turn it into a condo-hotel. The most interesting part is there are docks in front of the hotel and they now want to sell those boat slips. The last 30-foot strip of property next to the water belongs to the city, so the hotel doesn't really have the riparian rights to that water, much less to sell it to others. But our city government seems very willing to give away those rights or stick its head in the sand rather than admit their oversight.

A local group has formed to try to stop this: newbernaware.org. The local newspaper has run a couple small articles (interestingly, the section for online comments for these articles keeps getting deleted).

Someone at the Indy might want to check into this, and thanks for your work. I read the Independent whenever I can and have friends in Raleigh send me copies.

Buck Loy
New Bern

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