Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sounding Off: Some questions on ‘going green’

Dear Editor:

I read with interest the many letters to the editor that Dumont residents as well as the candidates themselves have appeared in recent weeks.

While it appears straightforward to read the positions taken by the Kruger/Hakim/Dondero team — agree or not — I have been less than successful in reading the positions taken by the Caspare/Manna/Riquelme team.

While I agree that the incumbents have established a record and history in serving the town, if I may, I have some questions.

The pilot program for alternative fuels ("Alternative Fuels for Thought," Oct. 8) seems impressive and ambitious. However:
  • Regarding the biodiesel pilot for DPW diesel trucks, do Messrs. Manna and Riquelme, in their reserach, realize that the used cooking oil must be filtered, treated and stabilized before blending with diesel fuel, even then, at a maximum 20 percent concentration (B20) from established and reliable sources?
  • Does Mr. Riquelme, with his food management experience, overlook the fact that restaurants now consider their used oil a valuable commodity, worth about $2.50 per gallon just months ago? What is his plan to compensate restaurant owners if the borough is unable to pay for this oil? Does he realize that the grease cannot be stored for long, as oil going rancid renders it unusable, even as a fuel component?

In fact, the "Biodiesel Handling and Use Guidelines" prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy stresses, in part, that "...recycled greases that have not been converted to biodiesel are not biodiesel and should be avoided" due to engine damage at concentrations as low as 10 percent". While adventurous folks have received overwhelmingly positive press with their homebrew converted vehicles, the reality is that using waste fat to power a vehicle remains a hobbyist realm and risky business for municipalities unable or unwilling to add new maintenance tasks to already burdened staff workloads.

  • Regarding the propane pilot for DPW and police vehicles, do Messrs. Manna and Riquelme, in their research, reveal that setting up fueling infrastructure for propane is neither trivial nor cheap?

In "NJ Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Program" guidelines document, stresses, in part, that "Alternative fuels such as...compressed natural gas (CNG), propane...present different safety requirements than gas or diesel fuels. It is strongly recommended that any organization considering the use of alternative fuel vehicles have its vehicle maintenance and repair facilities evaluated to ensure that building systems, including lighting and HVAC, and existing operating procedures, are compatible with the use of gaseous or other fuels."

  • Is it a good idea to convert police vehicles, considering their use in security and life-safety, where even minor decreases in availability and reliability are not tolerated? Just ask our police force to see whether they agree on a tradeoff.
  • Regarding the program in general, have the conversion costs budgeted? Assuming Dumont receives the full rebate, where is the $3,000 per car difference coming from? How about the fueling facility, where only half the costs are rebated and capped at $50,000?
  • Could it be that Messrs. Manna and Riquelme put the cart before the horse? According to the project coordinator for New Jersey Alternative Fuel Rebate program, he seems unable to recall Dumont applying for any rebate programs. Current contracted fuel costs can be found at I find it difficult to find savings in biodiesel over diesel.

While it is laudable that Dumont is launching a green initiative, I challenge Messrs. Manna and Riquelme to scale back, share with adjacent municipalities or find a better way to "go green" without spending a lot of green, as what this pilot program seems to imply upon closer examination.

Switching gears, I am a bit dismayed to read that, in an earlier Sounding Off (Oct. 15, "Candidates cite positive changes"), Messrs. Caspare, Manna and Riquelme strongly object to their challengers’ call for making council meetings available on telecast, citing undisclosed cost and delay, defeating the purpose of such an idea. Could it be that the cost was undisclosed because there are none? There are a number of companies, in the spirit of Google, offering free services that allow live video streaming over the Internet without charge. For example, is cited in the March 31entry of the Dumont High School principal’s personal blog as a way to save money.

  • Have the current council contacted their site contractor Xquizit to see if recorded video streams can be made available as soon as an event ends?

This should be a trivial task to put on the borough Web site. Anything less from the contractor would be a sign of incompetence.


Kai Chen

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