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TGIF Linkaround!

Gotta make the boss happy so let’s start with this replay of MEC President Chris Kolb on last week’s Focus on the Environment show on Eastern Michigan University’s WEMU radio. Kolb, with co-host Lisa Wozniak of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, talked about Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget, the Kalamazoo River oil spill cleanup and other issues.

Next let’s visit our neighbors down south…you know, the ones we grudgingly sharedone-third of our Big Ten men’s basketball championship with this year.

Don't try this at home

They’re wrestling overhow much unregulated water users should be able to siphon from Lake Erie and its tributaries. We defer to our friends at the Ohio Environmental Council who say the proposal is getting better, but isn’t good enough. Oh, and see you in the Big Dance, Buckeyes!

Down in Brooklyn, MI, home of Pumpkin Quest (!), people turned out for a discussion on the rewards and risks of a new and more intensive wave of fracking in Michigan. MEC’s James Clift was a panelist, though he didn’t make this radio station’s audio clip report that included State Rep. Mike Shirkey, who organized the forum.

Up north, MEC ally and member group Michigan Land Use Institute has this excellent story on Consumers Energy’s solar lottery. Twice as many people applied for the program as there were slots. We think we should let more people participate, and the 25×25 ballot issue will be the way to do it. Or, we could just throw our burgeoning renewable energy industry under the bus like State Rep. Ray Franz would do.

In weather news …… WHASSSUP Springtime??!! MEC has two beekeepers in the office, and their girls were happy with the mild winter. But the loss of ice cover on the Great Lakes – 79 percent over 38 years – is no small matter. Also, we may see more nasty insects this summer as a result. Hey, maybe Grist is right and a climate change conspiracy theorists make no %$#!!& sense.

Finally, in the “we can’t make this stuff up” category, here are two things MEC is not staking out a position on:  This lunatic with a wood stove heater in his Volvo, and these people who are fertilizing soybeans with urine.

Have a good weekend, and don’t forget to spring ahead!



Do Good, Have Fun!

Why is Michigan girl Allie Muchmore building a career here rather than in Chicago, Portland or Washington, D.C.? Our state’s tremendous natural resources, vibrant cities and sense of place have a lot to do with it. (photo courtesy Rod Sanford/Lansing State Journal)

 I’m a Michigan girl and I’m planning to keep it that way.

I could choose to move somewhere else. Lots of my friends have headed to Chicago, Washington, D.C. or other out-of-state destinations. I chose to stay, live and work in Michigan after graduating from college. Michigan has always had my heart, and now it has my dedication.


Have you seen one of those incredible sunsets over Lake Michigan you know you’ll never forget? Or dipped your toes into freezing Lake Superior or raced down the side of a sand dune so fast you didn’t think you’d ever stop? Tasted a perfectly ripe Michigan peach or a Michigan microbrew beer? Remember the perfect summer night by a bonfire where you laughed till you cried with friends and saw more shooting stars than you thought possible?

These are the experiences we Michiganders have in common—a sense of adventure, discovery and love for the outdoors. Read more

Linkaround: Lou Dobbs exposes us!

A compendium of the curious and interesting for a Friday afternoon:

Let’s get the serious stuff out of the way. First, a reminder that tree hugging and methamphetamine use don’t mix. Secondly, The Michigan Environmental Council has zero tolerance for turncoats who leak internal Lorax Strategy documents to Lou Dobbs so he can expose our secrets. Someone will pay.

If Dobbs’ revelation destroys environmental nonprofits, perhaps we can work for industry….for example, the Sierra Club is pitching this awesome job available by the oxymoronic Clean Coal Coalition! Or there’s the American Enterprise Institute, where they’re fond of pretty much just making stuff up.

Closer to home, we enjoyed this piece by Erin McDonough of MUCC on why legislators should keep their mitts off the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. Did you know McDonough grew up on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. And that it once was ruled by a self-proclaimed king?

For more on really bad ideas, we turn to Rep. Ray Franz who wants to repeal Michigan’s renewable energy standard according to subscription-only MIRS news service report.

Let’s see here. Renewable energy is cheaper than new coal; creates jobs at more than 200 Michigan companies; reduces the billions we spend annually on out-of-state fuels; lessens pollution and improves public health; and is diversifying our state’s manufacturing base. So, yeah, let’s jettison it. Rep. Franz, you’ll recall, also wants to ban all research on offshore wind in the Great Lakes. Fortunately, Michigan’s renewable energy industry has matured to the point where it now has a fledgling trade group to stick up for it.

Finally, here’s some video of Lake Superior surfers during the Leap Day blizzard!

Have a great weekend!


‘All of the above’

It is trendy these days to champion every imaginable energy resource under (and including) the sun. Who hasn’t heard a politician, pundit, so-called energy expert or even President Obama declare support for using all options at our disposal to solve the nation’s energy problems?

This frustrates me. The trouble, of course, is that money is limited.  Money you spend to build a new baseload power plant (with a life of more than 40 years) is not available to upgrade the grid or fund energy efficiency.  At the end of the day we need to decide:  how much money should we allocate to generating energy, upgrading the grid, and to energy efficiency?

Read more

DTW shuttle: Too convenient?

Check out this pitiful example of how to cut off your nose to spite your face.

Lansing airport officials, abetted by community leaders and elected officials, scuttled a plan to improve Michigan Flyer bus service to Detroit Metropolitan Airport. They falsely believed that if it is too convenient, it might take passengers away from Lansing.  The truth is, bus service to Detroit Metro has been successful because it provides a needed service for folks going there anyway. Lansing residents, in comments taken as part of a regional visioning process, want the service.

We pointed much of this out to decision makers in an analysis that is available Page 40 of this PDF. But none of that mattered. Nor, apparently, did it matter that the Flyer service takes cars off the road – reducing congestion, lessening pollution, reducing fuel consumption and saving Michiganders’ money.

Until our leaders truly understand that we sink and swim together we will not thrive. Blocking convenient options for Detroit-bound Lansingites is not an economic strategy. It is short-sighted. And an example of why Michigan’s oft-parochial worldview tends to keep us from moving forward together.



Turning crusaders to milksops

Renewable energy sure takes a beating from free marketers like Heritage Foundation policy analyst Ben Lieberman, who said in November saying  wind power  is “a bubble which bursts as soon as the government subsidies end.”

In Michigan, bashing clean energy’s alleged dependence on subsidies is a staple for conservative activists including the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Detroit News’ editorial board, and WRJ’s Frank Beckmann. Subsidies for clean energy make them apoplectic ( the NY Times’ 21st most looked up word!)

So why do they turn from raging champions of the free market to milksops  when the topic turns to the huge and ongoing subsidies for fossil fuels? We’ve asked the question repeatedly, including at a Mackinac Center gathering in 2010, but have yet to receive a coherent answer.

Now, President Obama has outlined a plan to eliminate $39 billion in fossil fuel tax breaks over the course of the next decade. Consistency would dictate that the Heritage Foundation and its Michigan sidekicks promptly and loudly denounce these market-distorting tax handouts and support the President’s plan to eliminate them.

Don’t hold your breath.



Thursday Linkaround

Can a gun rack fit in a Chevy Volt? Yes it can!

On this date in 1945 U.S. Marines raised the now-famous flag on Iwo Jima, and in 1985 Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight infamously threw a chair across the court during a tirade. That has nothing to do with Michigan’s environment, but it’s a classic.  Today’s Linkaround, however, does connect to topics of interest for Michiganders and expats.

  • First, the International Joint Commission believes that micromanaging levels in Lake Ontario to keep them from fluctuating is bad for the environment, particularly coastal wetlands.  Marinas, shoreline property owners and others aren’t keen on letting nature have more of her way with lake levels.  The IJC you may recall, is former MEC President Lana Pollack’s new gig.
  • What a pleasant discovery in photographer Ed Wargin’s Fresh Coast Project with its terrific Great Lakes images.  On film – not digital – no less!
  • Canadian media are reporting that there is a surprising show of interest by the province of Ontario for a nuclear waste dump on their shore of Lake Huron.  That, you may recall from geography class, is across the lake from our shore of Lake Huron.
  • Speaking of Lake Huron, did you know that it and Lake Michigan are hydrologically the same thing?  And if you are fascinated by the lakes’ bottoms, this weekend’s Great Lakes Shipwreck Festival in Ann Arbor might be your thing.
  • If you read Tuesday’s Michigan Distilled post, you already know about this.  But here’s more from the Energy Innovation Business Council on how renewable energy is an economic driver in Michigan.
  • Finally, Newt Gingrich has taken a cue from the Chevy Volt bashers at the Detroit News’ editorial page.  He complained that you can’t put a gun rack in Volt. False, as this guy proves beyond a doubt.


Mine tax: Investment in Michigan’s rural future

A new mining era is dawning in the Upper Peninsula. At least five big operations are getting underway or entering the permitting process, and maybe half a dozen more are busily exploring and testing the waters for future mines.

The Michigan Environmental Council opposed the first of these mines – London-based Rio Tinto’s Eagle Project in the Yellow Dog Watershed near Big Bay. We believe state regulators have not been rigorous in enforcing the state’s mining laws that were developed specifically to protect Michigan’s waters and public health from this particular type of mining.

We will continue to watchdog each new permit. However it’s clear that these operations —environmentally risky as they are—are going forward. They enjoy strong support from Governor Snyder, Northern Michigan lawmakers and state agency staff.

Read more


Since the ideal height of Michigan trees has been adequately covered by Mitt Romney, we tree huggers are moving on to a different topic.

Harken back to 2008 when opponents of Michigan’s first renewable energy standard warned darkly that it would make our rates skyrocket and our electricity grid unreliable. We thought that was hysterical bullroar. And the latest report from the Michigan Public Service Commission confirms those suspicions.

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Hello & Welcome!

Welcome to Michigan Distilled, the Michigan Environmental Council’s latest vehicle to bring ideas, analysis, news, and a bit of fun to the public discourse.

Yeah, we know, another blog.  And to boot, one whose title evokes images of backwoods stills churning out rotgut moonshine.

But it’s not that definition of distilled we’re talking about, at least for the most part. We’re talking about the definition that says: “to separate or extract the essential elements or essence of…”

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