Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day 2011

Have you hugged your planet today?

Happy Earth Day to you all - a few stories from around the state and the country...

  • The City Council in Ann Arbor is looking to wind energy to help them reach a goal of 30% renewable use by 2015. The Council this week "directed staff to conduct an evaluation of options to purchase long-term, fixed-rate renewable electricity from wind turbines constructed in Michigan." Not only do they want to save the environment, they want to employ Michigan workers to do it. That's the attitude we need.

  • Our friends at Uni-Solar have announced they will be opening a manufacturing facility in LaSalle, Ontario that will employ 80 people. Why Ontario? Because they have the policy, and they are expected to create 70,000 jobs and close their coal plants by 2014 because of it. "United Solar will manufacture its proprietary thin-film solar laminates in the facility specifically for sale in the Ontario market. The Ontario-made product is an important component in complying with the domestic content requirement of the Ontario Power Authority's feed-in-tariff program." Hmmm. Maybe we should do something like that. Oh wait...

  • Unfortunately for us, Consumers Energy has put a freeze on enrollment in its pilot feed-in program, leaving solar manufacturers, city leaders, environmental groups and others to send many letters and hold many meetings to get the company and politicians to reconsider this short-sighted action on the popular program.

    “We thought that if we put together a pilot program and worked with a smaller number of customers so that if, in the future, it was required,” said Dave Ronk, the Consumers engineer responsible for resource planning, “we would have already learned how to do it efficiently and effectively.”

    If it "was required" being the operative words there - and we elected the Republicans. Shame on us. Can we afford to wait until 2014? Or will all the jobs be somewhere else by then? Go read the MLUI story about Consumers - it's a good one.

  • Someone is out there pushing for the jobs and policy, and I sure am happy to see her smiling again - even if it is for the Little Rock, Arkansas TV audience. Governor Granholm kicked-off a nationwide tour for the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Clean Energy Program yesterday, and will be visiting states across the country this year to drum up support for a nationwide energy policy. Can't think of a better person to lead the charge, and I'm starting to think we need to build this revolution from the ground up - the overwhelming support is already out here. Can we get Congress to listen?

  • Paging Dr. Chu. Dr. Chu, to the courtesy phone, please. Someone needs to go kick the US Department of Energy in the ass when it comes to these guaranteed loans for domestic renewable energy manufacturers. Sunvia Inc. was all set to open a facility in Saginaw to make solar panels, but plans have been put on hold because the feds are taking their sweet time reviewing applications. Haven't heard anything lately about the Wixom project at the old Ford plant either - as of last summer, they were still waiting for word on their loans as well. C'mon people. Every day that goes by is a day we lose in the race for these jobs. These companies can't wait around forever.

  • Nissan has made a race-car version of the Leaf. Weighing 40% less than the regular consumer version, it can go from 0 to 62 mph in 6.85 seconds, and has a top speed of 93 mph. That will last you twenty minutes, so, short races for now. But someday...

  • Hydrogen fuel cell cars may see research funding for commercialization cut by Congress, which will put that technology on the back-burner for now. Honda makes a model called the FCX Clarity that can get 240 miles on a tank of hydrogen fuel, but even though that fuel is 60% cleaner than a regular combustion engine - it's produced from natural gas, and the technology is still very expensive. And again, you would have a infrastructure refueling problem to think about. So, goodbye to that, for the near-future anyway.

  • And about that natural gas. Fracking. Bad. Toxic. Big spill of drilling chemicals in Pennsylvania this week escaped containment, traveled through farm land, and headed for the streams. And it turns out that even the companies that use this stuff don't know what's in it. So, no. Let's rethink this idea, OK?

  • Earth Day freebies! From Starbucks to the U.S. National Parks, check out this list of participants for some goodies.

    Here's to hoping for continued progress on this Earth Day 2011. Go plant a tree. Or write your Congresscritter. And take care of your own space, because every little bit helps.