Daily Archives: March 2, 2013

Boehner: No Reason To Block Keystone XL Pipeline | Bedford Corners Homes

WASHINGTON (AP) – A new State Department report is the latest evidence that the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada should be approved, supporters say.

The draft report, issued Friday, finds there would be no significant environmental impact to most resources along the proposed route from western Canada to refineries in Texas. The report also said other options to get the oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries are worse for climate change.

The new report “again makes clear there is no reason for this critical pipeline to be blocked one more day,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. After four years of what he called “needless delays,” Boehner said it is time for President Barack Obama “to stand up for middle-class jobs and energy security and approve the Keystone pipeline.”

Environmentalists see the State Department report in a vastly different light.

They say it was inadequate and failed to account for climate risks posed by the pipeline. The report also is based on a false premise, opponents say — namely, that tar sands in western Canada will be developed for oil production regardless of whether the Keystone XL pipeline is approved.

“Americans are already suffering from the consequences of global warming, from more powerful storms like Hurricane Sandy to drought conditions currently devastating the Midwest and Southwest,” said Daniel Gatti of the group Environment America. Production of oil from Canadian tar sands could add as much as 240 billion metric tons of global warming pollution to the atmosphere, Gatti said, a potential catastrophe that would hasten the arrival of the worst effects of global warming.

Gatti and other opponents said development of the vast tar sands is far from certain, despite assurances by the project’s supporters.

“Tar sands can be stopped, and we are stopping it,” Gatti said, citing a rally in Washington last month attended by an estimated 35,000 people. Project opponents also have blocked construction in Texas and Oklahoma and have been arrested outside the White House gate.

The pipeline plan has become a flashpoint in the U.S. debate over climate change. Republicans and business and labor groups have urged the Obama administration to approve the project as a source of jobs and a step toward North American energy independence. Environmental groups have been pressuring the president to reject the pipeline, saying it would carry “dirty oil” that contributes to global warming. They also worry about a spill.

The State Department review stopped short of recommending approval of the project, but it gave the Obama administration political cover if it chooses to endorse the pipeline in the face of opposition from many Democrats and environmental groups. State Department approval of the 1,700-mile pipeline is needed because it crosses a U.S. border.

The lengthy report says Canadian tar sands are likely to be developed, regardless of whether the U.S. approves the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil through Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

The report acknowledges that development of tar sands in Alberta would create greenhouse gases but makes clear that other methods of transporting the oil — including rail, trucks and barges — also pose a risk to the environment.

The State Department analysis for the first time evaluated two options using rail: shipping the oil on trains to existing pipelines or to oil tankers. The report shows that those other methods would release more greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming than the pipeline. The Keystone XL pipeline, according to the report, would release annually the same amount of global warming pollution as 626,000 passenger cars.

A scenario that would move the oil on trains to mostly existing pipelines would release 8 percent more greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide than Keystone XL. That scenario would not require State Department approval because any new pipelines would not cross the U.S border.

Another alternative that relies mostly on rail to move the oil to the Canadian west coast, where it would be loaded onto oil tankers to the U.S. Gulf Coast, would result in 17 percent more greenhouse gas emissions, the report said.

In both alternatives, the oil would be shipped in rail cars as bitumen, a thick, tar-like substance, rather than as a liquid.

The State Department was required to conduct a new environmental analysis after the pipeline’s operator, Calgary-based TransCanada, changed the project’s route though Nebraska. The Obama administration blocked the project last year because of concerns that the original route would have jeopardized environmentally sensitive land in the Sand Hills region.

The administration later approved a southern section of the pipeline, from Cushing, Okla., to the Texas coast, as part of what Obama has called an “all of the above” energy policy that embraces a wide range of sources, from oil and gas to renewables such as wind and solar.

The draft report issued Friday begins a 45-day comment period, after which the State Department will issue a final environmental report before Secretary of State John Kerry makes a recommendation about whether the pipeline is in the national interest.

Kerry has promised a “fair and transparent” review of the plan and said he hopes to decide on the project in the “near term.” Most observers do not expect a decision until summer at the earliest.

Canadian Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver said Friday that Canada will respect the U.S. review process and noted the importance of the pipeline to the Canadian economy.

Obama’s initial rejection of the pipeline last year went over badly in Canada, which relies on the United States for 97 percent of its energy exports.


Associated Press writers Rob Gillies in Toronto and Dina Cappiello in Washington contributed to this report.


Follow Matthew Daly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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 Boehner: No Reason To Block Keystone XL Pipeline

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Reading between the lines on housing price boom | Cross River Homes

The current nationwide boom in housing prices illustrates some important investment fundamentals that have little to do with housing. For one thing, a basic commodity that undergoes a price collapse will exhibit a “snapback” in values with a speed that will take most experts by surprise. It wasn’t that long ago when experts were predicting a “second round” of foreclosures that would “dwarf” the original collapse back in 2008. Apparently, that isn’t going to happen.

A recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek offers statistics on the recent housing boom in major U.S. markets. Year-over-year median housing prices have increased by 28 percent in San Francisco, 34 percent in Phoenix and 18 percent in Los Angeles.

This Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, photo, shows an exterior view of a home sold in Palo Alto, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma) (Paul Sakuma)

The number is 6.6 percent for the entire country, but that includes areas that did not experience the boom before the bust.

Meanwhile, someone making a 20 percent down payment on a house that rises by 20 percent in value has just doubled their money — at least on paper. More common have been 300 percent returns on equity. This explains why private equity firms have purchased more than 16,000 homes that they are now renting or selling for a profit.

A rebound in prices this soon after the housing collapse is driven by a low inventory of homes for sale. This, in turn, has been caused by a four-legged stool of influences. First, foreclosed homes went on the market quickly in many places, and investors with cash bought them to rent


out, which reduced supply of available homes for sale.

Next, underwater homeowners or people with time to wait for the “snapback” are reluctant to put their homes on the market, which further reduced supply.

Then, for all practical purposes, there have been no new homes built for the past five years.

And finally, mortgage interest rates are at an all-time historical low, which allows buyers to spend more on a home — if they can find one for sale.

Obviously, this combination of factors is fueling the rise in prices we have seen recently. New home construction has traditionally led economies out of recessions, because it employs so many people all across the country. Also, the peripheral sales related to new homes includes appliances, furniture and more profit for companies like Home Depot.

Who would have guessed that Pulte Homes, one of the nation’s largest builders, would be the best-performing stock in the S&P 500 Index last year?

Not many saw this coming. Most of the people I know in the housing industry were saying a year ago that foreclosures would continue to dampen the market and that it would take several more years before that bad influence had run its course. What this shows us is the extent to which several influences, as previously mentioned, all combine to create a positive sea change. It is impossible to predict the net effect of these variables, which is why we shouldn’t bother to try.

What’s easy for many of us to forget is that housing is first and foremost a place to live. Setting aside the obsession that a home might be worth more than we paid for it someday, anyone could argue that if we just broke even we would be ahead of the game. The net after-tax cost of mortgage interest and property taxes is probably equal to what we otherwise would have paid in rent.

Meanwhile, we have had a place to live and a forced savings program to the extent that we paid off some of the mortgage principal. That’s probably all we should expect of a house.

Looking back a hundred years, long-term home prices have only increased in value by about 3 percent per year — about the same as inflation. Thanks to the gyrations of recent years, home prices have reverted to that 3 percent norm.

For those who still claim that their house has always been their best investment, it may come as a surprise to learn that the Dow Jones industrial average, with re-invested dividends, has handily beaten home prices over the past 40 years. It remains to be seen whether we’ll be experiencing “déjà vu all over again,” but if home prices continue to rise, it will create opportunities for older owners to bail out and diversify.

This will leave younger folks with a window of opportunity to gain a piece of the action.

Stephen J. Butler is CEO of Pension Dynamics. Contact him at 925-956-0506 or sbutler@pensiondynamics.com.

China Tightens Mortgage Rules as Home Prices Keep Rising | Katonah Realtor

China called for higher down payments and interest rates for second-home mortgages in cities with “excessively fast” price gains and ordered stricter enforcement of taxes on sales as authorities step up a three- year campaign to cool the property market.

The People’s Bank of China’s regional branches may implement the measures in accordance with the price-control targets of local governments, the State Council, or Cabinet, said in a statement on its website yesterday. Cities facing “relatively large” pressure from rising house prices must further tighten home-purchase limits, according to the statement.

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) — Jim Chanos, founder and president at Kynikos Associates Ltd., and Stephen Roach, a senior lecturer at Yale University and former non-executive chairman for Morgan Stanley Asia, talk about China’s economy. Chanos also discusses U.S. tax policy, the European economy and Herbalife Ltd.’s business model. They speak with Trish Regan and Adam Johnson on Bloomberg Television’s “Street Smart.” (Source: Bloomberg)

China’s new-home prices rose for a ninth straight month in February, SouFun Holdings Ltd. (SFUN) said yesterday, 10 days after outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao told local authorities to “decisively” curb property speculation and ordered cities with rapid price gains to limit home purchases. Li Keqiang, No.2 in the Communist Party hierarchy, is set to replace Wen during legislative meetings that start March 5.

“This is a final effort by Premier Wen to put a stamp on the direction of policy before he leaves office and the message is clear: there should be no relaxation of property market controls,” Mark Williams, an economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in London, said by e-mail. “This is a sensible policy. Even allowing for the construction slowdown of last year, the real estate sector remains on an unsustainable path.”

Property controls “are still in a crucial period and expectations of further gains in housing prices are increasing,” the State Council said.

Government role in mortgage market | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Can the American mortgage market ever function again without Uncle Sam guaranteeing that lenders will be repaid?

“For the foreseeable future, there is simply not enough capacity on the balance sheets of U.S. banks to allow a reliance on depository institutions as the sole source of liquidity for the mortgage market,” stated a report on the American housing market this week, issued by a group that was filled with members of the housing establishment.

Auction.com launches research division | Mt Kisco Real Estate

Online real estate marketplace, Auction.com, is expanding its brand by launching Auction.com Research, a new division providing continuous data and analysis throughout various real estate sectors.

Auction.com Research will gather experienced economists and industry researchers, who have built solid track records of accurate research and forecasts, to create a broad range of information.

“We all benefit from a healthy real estate marketplace,” said Monte Koch, Auction.com co-CEO. “Making Auction.com Research’s findings publicly accessible will facilitate smart growth and sound business practices that support ongoing market recovery.”

Led by Peter Muoio, founder of the research and consulting firm Maximus Advisors, the division will release regular reports and forecasts related to single- and multi-family housing, retail, office, hospitality and industrial real estate.

The first report released by Auction.com Research, a single-family market report, can be found here.