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‘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?

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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.

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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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