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Current Issue : Fall 2009

The Transformer: Turning Wind, Palm, and Sugar into Power

While Sobelsohn would turn every last building in New York City green if he could, Jon Mostel ’85 might have the entire town running on wind power. Mostel, who is a partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, has worked to bring alternative energy technology to life. His practice is focused on negotiating contracts and financing on behalf of clients building renewable energy projects including biodiesel, ethanol, wind, and Liquefied Natural Gas.

Over the past few years, he has worked on building wind farms in Texas, upstate New York, Pennsylvania, and on the New England coast. The benefits of wind power as compared to traditional coal-based power are tremendous. Wind power is the least expensive of all other forms of alternative energy. Beyond cost, it is a clean source of energy, producing zero carbon dioxide emissions. It is also a renewable energy in that it does not deplete our natural resources like coal or petroleum-based products.

Mostel has also worked with clients in Brazil to build ethanol plants creating energy from sugar cane. Ethanol-fueled vehicles produce lower carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions than traditional gasoline, reducing the carbon footprint significantly. He has also worked with clients in Houston area who have been converting palm oil and soybean oil into biodiesel fuel. Like wind power and ethanol, biodiesel fuels run cleaner than traditional gasoline. Biodiesel emits up to 100% less sulfur dioxide, a major component of acid rain, and 80-100% less carbon dioxide than traditional diesel. Most recently, Mostel has counseled clients developing merchant electric transmission projects that would reduce transmission constraints and congestion to deliver substantial economic and reliability benefits to the U.S. power grid.

Mostel began his career as a chemical engineer and spent 15 years working at Brooklyn Union Gas, rising to Director of Engineering. His passion for the law developed as he became more heavily involved in legal and regulatory matters at the company. He attended Brooklyn Law School at night and recalled that there were many professors who inspired him. “Professor Crea will always be dear to me,” he said. “But then so were Trager, Kuklin, Gora, Judge Brieant, Korman, and Fullerton, too. They all made an impression on me. I was interested in constitutional law, and energy law follows along those lines. It’s a Commerce Clause discipline that often involves issues of preemption, and the Supremacy Clause.”

While Mostel is passionate about alternative energy, he is realistic about the future of green power. “To quote Kermit the frog, ‘It’s not easy being green’,” he said. “I am fully supportive of green initiatives and green power and reducing carbon emissions (which are a byproduct of coal), but I am also privy to an inconvenient truth, and that is that green power is not nearby load centers and it’s very expensive to bring it here. This makes green power more expensive for consumers, and they don’t want to pay for it.”

Despite the expense of alternative fuels, Mostel remains their champion. He advocates changing our country’s energy policy to promote oil independence. “It may be politically unpalatable to impose a carbon tax, but it makes the most sense economically,” he said. “If you tax carbon, over time parties will find ways to use it more efficiently and that dependence is lost. It won’t be easy, but most things that are really worthwhile are not easy.”

Jon Mostel ’85 Jon Mostel ’85
Partner, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP
"To quote Kermit the frog, ‘It’s not easy being green.’ I am fully supportive of green initiatives and green power and reducing carbon emissions, but I am also privy to an inconvenient truth that green power is more expensive for consumers, and they don’t want to pay for it."