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One on stores leaving the doors open and cooling the outside

When Shops Keep Doors Agape, Think of Cold Air at $140 a Barrel
Not for the first time, Jo Gangemi felt anger well up as she passed a clothing store on Prince Street the other day. There this shop was, with its air-conditioning on high and its front doors wide open, the cold pouring wastefully, senselessly — outrageously — onto the sidewalk. Like so many other stores on blisteringly hot days.

Ms. Gangemi, a psychiatric nurse practitioner who lives in SoHo, walked in and asked the employees how they could justify this profligacy. She knew what the answer would be before it was offered.

“They always say, ‘It’s not up to me; it’s company policy,’ ” she said. So she called the company’s main office. There, she spoke with a woman who sounded both “sympathetic and somewhat condescending.”

“She said they had a ‘green team’ forming,” Ms. Gangemi said.

A green team. Who knows what that means. “Green” is corporate America’s favorite buzzword these days, as if its mere utterance is proof of goodness.

The reality in New York is that countless stores, in search of a marketing tool, throw vast amounts of energy to the wind by keeping their air-conditioners on and their doors open. “It’s to invite people to come in,” said a clerk at Hilfiger Denim, a clothing store on Broadway in SoHo.

To her credit, she looked embarrassed as she explained the tactic. Perhaps she already sensed what Eric A. Goldstein would have told her. “It’s about as wasteful an energy practice as one can imagine,” said Mr. Goldstein, a senior lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s like leaving the gasoline station pumps gushing fuel whether the vehicles are filling up or not.”

I first wrote about this gratuitous waste two years ago, when all energy costs were lower. The price of oil, for example, was about $70 a barrel then; we’re now not far from $140 a barrel. As New Yorkers saw once again last week, they have to hold their collective breath about Consolidated Edison’s reliability whenever temperatures soar. Anything can push the system over the edge, including all those open store doors.

And yet the waste goes on as if oil were cheap and inexhaustible.

Legislation sponsored by Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer of Manhattan would end this practice and fine violators $200 for each open door or window. Unless the law forces them, Ms. Brewer says, the stores will not do what common sense says is the right thing. Her bill has gone nowhere, however, in part because it lacks support from the Bloomberg administration, which despite its own ample “green” talk has shown scant interest in telling businesses what to do.

Instead, it prefers a voluntary approach, relying on what one administration official has called an “educational campaign.”

Either it needs to be a better teacher or a lot of businesses have learning disabilities. The open-door policy is thriving. A stroll through town on Saturday, when temperatures neared 90 degrees, made that clear.

Along 34th Street between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas, 15 stores flooded the sidewalk with their air-conditioning. On a three-block stretch of Broadway in SoHo, from Houston Street to Broome Street, the number was 29. Among the energy wasters were major retailers like Steve Madden, H & M, Foot Locker, Aerosoles, Lane Bryant, Ann Taylor Loft, Arden B., Aldo, Uniqlo, Esprit and Zara.

Paulette Callen, a writer who lives on the Upper West Side, says she had gone into stores to urge door closings. “I universally get a blank stare and a shrug,” she said. “They’re not going to change unless the city makes it an issue.”

IF he wished, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg could declare this to be not only an energy matter but also a health issue, similar to his campaigns against smoking and trans fats. If the power fails on a fiercely hot day, the death rate may well climb. Mr. Bloomberg’s own health department, in an information sheet on heat-related problems, notes that “heat waves kill more Americans than all other natural disasters combined.”

Peter Kaufman, a designer of data networks in Manhattan, has been moved to take action on his own, going into offending stores and closing the doors as he leaves. If enough people did that, he says, maybe the retailers would finally get the message. He certainly isn’t counting on City Hall to show leadership.

“It’s really going to come down to us ordinary New Yorkers,” Mr. Kaufman said.

“The mayor swings for the fences with stuff like congestion pricing,” he said, “but a series of solid singles can drive in runs, too.”

Booming, China Faults U.S. Policy on the Economy

Booming, China Faults U.S. Policy on the Economy
BEIJING — Not long ago, Chinese officials sat across conference tables from American officials and got an earful.

The Americans scolded the Chinese on mismanaging their economy, from state subsidies to foreign investment regulations to the valuation of their currency. Your economic system, the Americans strongly implied, should look a lot more like ours.

But in recent weeks, the fingers have been wagging in the other direction. Senior Chinese officials are publicly and loudly rebuking the Americans on their handling of the economy and defending their own more assertive style of regulation.

Chinese officials seem to be galled by the apparent hypocrisy of Americans telling them what to do while the American economy is at best stagnant. China, on the other hand, has maintained its feverish growth.

Some officials are promoting a Chinese style of economic management that they suggest serves developing countries better than the American model, in much the same way they argue that they are in no hurry to copy American-style multiparty democracy.

In the last six weeks alone, a senior banking regulator blamed Washington’s “warped conception” of market regulation for the subprime mortgage crisis that is rattling the world economy; the Chinese envoy to the World Trade Organization called on the United States to halt the dollar’s unchecked depreciation before the slide further worsens soaring oil and food prices; and Chinese agencies denounced a federal committee charged with vetting foreign investments in the United States, saying the Americans were showing “hostility” and a “discriminatory attitude,” not least toward the Chinese.

All this reflects a brash new sense of self-confidence on the part of the Chinese. China seems to feel unusually bold before the Summer Olympics, seen here as a curtain raiser for the nation’s ascent to pre-eminence in the world. The devastating earthquake last month helped by turning world sympathy toward China and dampening criticism of its handling of Tibet.

The Chinese attitude is no doubt bolstered by the lame-duck status of the Bush administration and by the fact that the United States is widely seen as having squandered its political and military leadership during the war in Iraq, which China opposed. Likewise, Chinese officials and state news media have suggested that the relatively quick mobilization of the Chinese Army during the recent earthquake in Sichuan Province contrasts favorably with the Bush administration’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina.

The aggressive stand comes at an inopportune moment for the White House. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and other cabinet members are to meet with Chinese officials in Annapolis, Md., on Tuesday in the latest round of semiannual economic talks. The Americans have a laundry list of complaints, among them that the Chinese use regulations to favor domestic companies over foreign rivals and that Beijing does too little to police the theft of copyrights and patents held by Western companies.

The United States is also pressing China to address concerns about the safety of food and drugs it exports.

But China has its own list of grievances, topped by management of the dollar and restrictions on foreign investment in the United States. And the Americans could find themselves with little negotiating leverage.

“U.S. credibility and the credibility of U.S. financial markets is zero everywhere in the world,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, a professor of economics at Columbia University who has sharply criticized the Bush administration and praised China’s economic management in the past. “Anybody looking at this from the outside says, ‘There’s been a lot of hot air coming out of the U.S., so why should we listen to these guys when they didn’t know how to manage risk?’ ”

Here in China, economic observers are noting that the Chinese posture toward the Americans has decidedly shifted.

“This time, the Chinese side is trying to change its attitude to be more active, to be more aggressive, to balance the two sides,” said Song Hongbing, author of “The Currency War,” a best-selling if conspiratorial book on the American economy. “They just started to change their attitude for the future.”

Chinese officials are expressing their disdain in forums around the world. Last month, Liu Mingkang, the chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, delivered a lecture at the British Museum in London in which he blamed the American government for the subprime mortgage crisis that came close to freezing Western debt markets and required extensive intervention by the Federal Reserve. The turmoil, he said, was “counteracting the course of global civilization.”

“Does moneymaking or doing business justify the regulators in ignoring their duty for prudential supervision and their job of preventing misbehavior?” he said.

One of Mr. Liu’s colleagues, Liao Min, told the newspaper The Financial Times in late May that the “Western consensus on the relation between the market and the government should be reviewed.”

“In practice, they tend to overestimate the power of the market and overlook the regulatory role of the government, and this warped conception is at the root of the subprime crisis,” said Mr. Liao, director general of the commission.

China is grappling with its share of economic problems, including high inflation. But it has reasons to feel optimistic.

Some economists say it has improved its state-owned banking system by writing off bad debt and overhauling management even as it rejected American pressure to privatize banks and allow unfettered competition in the financial sector. Its financial system is more tightly regulated and less dynamic than the American one, but also more stable, Chinese economists argue.

On currency management, China has been under heavy pressure to raise the value of the renminbi, which foreign critics say is maintained at an artificially low level to make Chinese exports less expensive. So far, China has managed to walk a tightrope. It has allowed the renminbi to increase in value against the dollar in tiny increments, for a total of 20 percent since 2005, a less dramatic change than the Bush administration and Congress demanded.

The gradual approach has allowed the export sector to adjust while preventing a currency shock that might derail growth.

Meanwhile, the Americans allowed the dollar to plunge in value. That angered the Chinese, which keeps most of its $1.76 trillion in foreign reserves in dollars. Chinese officials have accused the Americans of mismanaging the dollar at a time when Washington is still pressing China to appreciate the renminbi to narrow the trade deficit.

This month, the Chinese envoy to the World Trade Organization said in Geneva that the United States had failed to safeguard the value of its currency, worsening the pain for people around the world who pay high oil and food prices in dollars.

The envoy, Sun Zhenyu, also said the United States was engaging in protectionism by imposing unfair duties on Chinese goods and subsidizing American products.

Also this month, several Chinese institutions submitted sharp critiques to the Treasury Department of proposed new regulations relating to foreign investment in the United States. Some of the remarks were scathing.

“The regulations still include some sections and procedures which reflect the enshrouded protectionism, an obvious contradiction to the spirit of free competition the U.S. has championed since long time ago,” wrote the China Securities Regulatory Commission.

The commission said the proposed regulations reflected a “self-evident hostility” and “discriminatory attitude” to certain types of foreign investments and “will ultimately hurt enthusiasm of foreign investment in the U.S.”

China was particularly stung in 2005 by opposition in Congress to a bid by its third largest national oil company to buy the Unocal Corporation, an American oil company, for $18.5 billion.

Mr. Paulson, the Treasury secretary, said Monday that he agreed that there had been a “general trend” of China’s becoming increasingly vocal in its criticism of American policies, but that this was not a cause for concern.

“We’ve had a relationship where both sides have been pretty frank privately and pretty frank publicly,” Mr. Paulson said in a telephone interview in Washington. He said China’s criticism of American policies grew out of its rise as an economic power, with greater voice in global discussions on trade, currency and the flow of capital.

Nicholas R. Lardy, a China expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, said in an interview that “the Chinese are reacting adversely, and I think with some justification.”

He added, though, that he interpreted China’s recent aggression more as a reaction to specific events or policies involving the American economy than as a result of a new surge in national confidence.

If that is the case, China might be able to avoid the pitfall of hubris. Japan attacked the American government’s economic management in the 1980s, only to find itself tumbling into recession and stagnation ever since. Some economic experts here warn that China’s economy could soon feel the full brunt of the downturn in the world economy, and that the American economy, in the long run, could stay on top.

“The U.S. has always considered its economy powerful and is reluctant to listen to other countries,” said Lin Jiang, the head of the economics department at the China Youth College for Political Sciences in Beijing. “Of course China now is more confident than before and Chinese people are more proud of China’s economy, but we can’t be blind. It’s still hard to challenge the U.S.”

Date: 2008-06-17 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Most places around here don't leave doors open, luckily. Even grocery stores, which in other cities I've been in often have giant openings that stay open day and night, even have closing doors here. You really can't fight 108 degrees in any way if you leave the door open!

Date: 2008-06-18 02:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hey Conuly, have you seen this?

The NYT is gonna sure you for a million dollars any day now! ::eyeroll::

Date: 2008-06-17 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Most places around here don't leave doors open, luckily. Even grocery stores, which in other cities I've been in often have giant openings that stay open day and night, even have closing doors here. You really can't fight 108 degrees in any way if you leave the door open!

Date: 2008-06-18 02:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hey Conuly, have you seen this?

The NYT is gonna sure you for a million dollars any day now! ::eyeroll::


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