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June 17th, 2013:

Craft beer bills now officially the law

Whatever you think of the vetoes or the special session action, this is unequivocally good news.

Happy hour started Friday afternoon for Texas brewers.

Gov. Rick Perry signed five bills representing the most comprehensive overhaul in two decades of how beer is packaged and sold across the state.

Thus, effective immediately, shipping breweries such as Houston’s Saint Arnold can sell a set amount of beer directly to customers, although they must consume it on-site.

And brewpubs like San Antonio’s Freetail can package and sell some of their products for distribution in other retail outlets. The latter change gives Texas restaurants that make their own beer the same ability to sell off-site as many out-of-state brewpubs.

“This is a great moment for craft brewers in Texas,” Saint Arnold founder Brock Wagner said. “It’s the first real reform we’ve seen in beer law, for craft brewers, since the brewpub bill.” He referred to the 1993 legislation that authorized licensed restaurants to make and sell beer for sale on-site.

The Texas Craft Brewers Guild hailed the signings as a “progressive step forward in making Texas the epicenter of craft beer development and growth” and predicted the law changes will mean not just more beer on store shelves but also “more jobs for Texans, increased tourism and greater tax revenue for the state.”

In Houston, the law allowing on-site consumption at shipping breweries would have the biggest immediate potential impact. Saint Arnold, for example, plans to begin offering “special and limited edition brews” for sale during its weekday and Saturday tours.

The basic tour at Saint Arnold’s won’t change – they’re not going to fool around with something that’s been such a success for them. Saint Arnold may start adding other events at which beer will be sold. I suspect there will be a lot of experimenting, and that’s just fine. The brewers and the brewpubs have been given a lot of new latitude, and it will take them awhile to figure out how best to take advantage of it for themselves.

Saint Arnold is the biggest player in the microbrewery space around here, but there are plenty of others now. One of them is Karbach, which hasn’t decided yet what it will do now that it can sell beer on premise. Karbach has been growing like gangbusters lately, so the new freedom they’ve been given comes at a great time for them.

Karbach Brewing Co., one of the nation’s fastest-growing craft breweries, has signed a distribution deal that will significantly expand its availability in stores, bars and restaurants from Beaumont to Galveston to Victoria.

In a separate deal, the Houston brewery also will begin selling beer in San Antonio next month, co-founder Ken Goodman said Wednesday.

To meet the anticipated demand, Karbach is completing a major expansion of its northwest Houston plant that will give it capacity to produce and sell up to 40,000 barrels annually, up from 15,000 barrels.

Karbach, which began sales in August 2011, produced more than 8,000 barrels in 2012, well ahead of internal forecasts. Goodman said he expects to sell 18,000 to 20,000 barrels this year.

That will include new sales in 17 counties across Southeast Texas through a distribution arrangement announced Wednesday with Del Papa Distributing Co.

Karbach had been delivering some beers on its own in a limited area, but the Del Papa deal will put year-round and special-release beers in a wider variety of stores and bars.

According to some research done by The New Yorker, based on newly released 2012 data gathered by the Brewers Association, Karbach was the second-fastest growing brewery in the country from 2011 to 2012, with sales increasing by a phenomenal 1112% over that year. You have to start at a pretty low level to grow tenfold, but still, that’s impressive. Overall, craft brewery production increased by 14% in the state, though the total volume of over 770,000 barrels is still peanuts compared to what an Anheuser Busch produces in a year. One reason why there’s been such growth is because there’s plenty of room for it. Texas is only 41st in the country in craft breweries per capita. A whole lot more of these places could open before the market even approaches saturation.

One more thing:

The brewers guild released new figures Friday showing that craft beer production in Texas was up 42 percent last year compared with 2011. It estimated the industry’s economic impact in the state was $737 million in 2012.

“Texas craft beer now accounts for an estimated 0.98 percent of all beer consumed in Texas, but it employs 59.7 percent of the people who work in breweries in the state,” it said.

The new figures don’t appear on the Texas Craft Brewers Guild website just yet, though you can still see last year’s study, which put the impact at $608 million. You can be sure that number will be even bigger next year.

City seeks One Bin For All RFQs

Calling all vendors.

The city of Houston took a step forward on its “One Bin for All” project this week.

The project would allow residents to discard trash and recyclables in one bin to be sorted at a new $100 million facility, which would be built and run by a private firm.

On June 12, the city issued a request for qualification, looking for firms to provide residential municipal solid waste and recyclables processing, and named Deputy Director Don Pagel as the new program manager for the project.

The city will hold a pre-proposal conference on June 27, and RFQ submissions are due Aug. 22. Click here to download the RFQ.

See here for my previous blogging on One Bin For All, and here for the city’s press release. Of interest is this Houston Politics post about the budget hearing for the Solid Waste department.

City Council this Wednesday will vote on whether to spend $2.5 million to purchase 11,408 trash carts and 34,560 recycling carts for the Solid Waste Management Department, the latter a part of the city’s planned expansion of curbside single-stream recycling service.

Solid Waste Department spokeswoman Sandra Jackson said the department plans to release the list of neighborhoods where the recycling carts will go after City Council approves the purchase.

Today, 26 percent of Houston homes have 18-gallon green tubs that take newspapers, magazines, cans, cardboard and plastic, and 28 percent have single-stream, which are larger, have wheels, and which accept glass in addition to those other items. About 46 percent of homes have no curbside recycling.

The $7.8 million expansion plan, which Mayor Annise Parker touted last month in announcing her proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, would expand single-stream service to about 55 percent of the city’s households (adding 35,000 in July and 70,000 in October), making some type of curbside recycling available to about 63 percent of homes, department Director Harry Hayes said.

As a result, Hayes said he expects the citywide recycling rate to increase from roughly 19 percent now to about 23 percent after the expansion. (By comparison, he said, the goal of waste diverted from landfills as part of the still-in-development One Bin For All proposal would be 55 percent in the first year and, eventually, 75 percent).

The black trash cans on the agenda tomorrow would replace broken and lost ones, as well as serve new customers and give some customers extra bins — for a price. Hayes expects to bring in $1.3 million in the coming fiscal year from selling residents extra trash cans, and another $480,000 from selling bins to businesses.

Those were just two details gleaned from Hayes’ budget presentation this morning, the latest in City Council’s two-week budget hearing process. (See below for details from the Houston Public Library budget presentation.)

Hayes proposes a $70.6 million budget, up from $69.4 million this year. In addition to expanding curbside recycling (Hayes said he hopes to expand single-stream service citywide in the next 2.5 fiscal years), his budget also calls for expanding or remodeling some neighborhood recycling centers in early 2014.

Landfill fees are projected at $13.5 million; as recently as fiscal year 2008, they were $23.6 million.

That was from last week. I was beginning to wonder what had happened with that, since surely Council had voted on it by now, but I wasn’t seeing any news about it. However, on Friday I got this press release from the city that made the official announcement about that first expansion of automated curbside recycling to 35,000 more households. Click over to see if your neighborhood is getting it in July if you haven’t gotten it already, or if you have to wait till October.

On a side note, the debate about how effective the One Bin solution will be continues. City Sustainability Director Laura Spanjian and Texas Campaign for the Environment Houston program director Tyson Sowell each contributed an op-ed to Waste & Recycling News with their perspective. They have been going back and forth on this since the One Bin plan was announced, including here, so you should read what they have to say there to keep up with the discussion.

Tesla will be back

This story was from earlier in June.

Texas’ state legislature failed to vote on a bill backed by Musk’s Tesla Motors (TSLA) that would have loosened the state’s restriction on dealerships owned by automakers. The legislature concluded its most recent session last week, and won’t be back until January 2015.

Tesla has tangled with dealership associations in a number of states in its effort to sell its Model S electric sedan directly to consumers rather than using franchised car dealers. Musk testified before lawmakers in Texas on the issue earlier this year.

[…]

Speaking at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting Tuesday, Musk cited polling data from various states to argue that consumers overwhelmingly favor allowing direct sales.

“Clearly, if democracy was working properly and the legislators were implementing the will of the people, something else would be happening, and there would not be legislation trying to artificially restrict direct sales,” Musk said.

“Right now, the autodealers’ association — they’re crowing about the fact that they were able to defeat us in Texas and that they’re making so much progress in North Carolina and stopping us in Virginia,” he added. “I think it’s outrageous.”

See here and here for some background, and this earlier story for more. I’ve compared what Tesla is trying to do to what the craft brewers finally managed to do, and if Elon Musk is as smart as he seems to be, he’ll figure out a way to mimic their tactics. In both cases, the argument in favor of loosening the archaic restrictions is basically self-evident, it’s mostly a matter of getting the public on your side, and educating the legislators, all of whom would favor the changes if they truly understood the concept of a “free market”. It’s a process and not a straight line, and you shouldn’t expect to win without a fight, but I do believe it’s inevitable. It may take awhile, but in the end I believe Tesla will prevail.

Remember, drowning doesn’t look like drowning

I’ve posted about this before, but as summer is now upon us, it seems like a good time to go over it again. Former Coast Guard rescue swimmer Mario Vittone’s iconic article about how to recognize the signs of drowning has been reprinted in Slate, and you need to read it again if you haven’t already read it.

The Instinctive Drowning Response—so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death in children, ages 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents)—of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In some of those drownings, the adult will actually watch the child do it, having no idea it is happening. Drowning does not look like drowning—Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene magazine, described the Instinctive Drowning Response like this:

  1. “Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.
  2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
  4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
  5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.”

This doesn’t mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble—they are experiencing aquatic distress. Not always present before the Instinctive Drowning Response, aquatic distress doesn’t last long—but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc.

Go read the whole thing, and then watch the video. See also this clip from the Today show. Now let’s be careful out there.