Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Google Clean Energy Innovation Study: It's All About the Batteries

The fine folks at Google did an extensive study on "The Impact of Clean Energy Innovation" and came up with some very intriguing numbers...

The analysis assumes aggressive hypothetical cost breakthroughs (BT) in clean power generation, grid-storage, electric vehicle, and natural gas technologies and compares them to Business as Usual (BAU) scenarios modeled to 2030 and 2050. The model also compares innovation scenarios in combination with two clean
energy policy paths: 1) comprehensive federal incentives and mandates called
“Clean Policy” and 2) a power sector-only $30/metric ton price on CO2 called “$30/
ton Carbon Price.” Our modeling indicates that, when compared to BAU in 2030,
aggressive energy innovation alone could have enormous potential to simultaneously:

• Grow the US economy by over $155 billion in GDP/year ($244 billion with
Clean Policy)

• Create over 1.1 million new net jobs (1.9 million with Clean Policy)

• Save US consumers over $942/household/year ($995 with Clean Policy)

• Reduce US oil consumption by over 1.1 billion barrels/year

• Reduce US total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 13% (21% with
Clean Policy)

By 2050, innovation in the modeled technologies alone reduced GHG emissions
55% and 63% when combined with policy, while continuing positive economic and
job growth. This analysis indicates that aggressive clean energy innovation could
simultaneously help address the US’ major long-term economic, environmental,
and security goals.

Read deeper into the report, and we find that most of the benefits achieved by 2030 come from those (hopefully Michigan-made) advanced batteries. That's right, it's all about us - if we make the right decisions now.

The bulk of innovation’s benefits by 2030 were attributed to advances in battery technology, enabling adoption of EVs, PHEVs, and HEVs. Overall benefits from power breakthroughs were less than EVs by 2030 for two reasons. First, most consumers spend less on electricity than on gasoline, leading to less household savings from cheaper power. Second, due to the very low cost of coal in the US, clean power technology did not attain as large a cost advantage over fossil alternatives as was the case in the transportation sector with electric vehicles by 2030.


Breakthroughs in battery technology could push EVs over cost-performance tipping points, enabling mass adoption. In our model, rapid decreases in battery costs and increases in energy density by 2030 enabled the production of electric vehicles with 300 mile range and a total cost of ownership (TCO) lower than that of internal combustion vehicles. This led to EVs, Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) and PHEVs achieving 90% market share of new light duty vehicle sales in 2030, reducing oil consumption by 1.1 billion barrels per year — or more than Canada’s entire 2009 production.

You could see this happening, especially if we see some major advancement in battery technology, which is almost guaranteed given the time frame. We certainly are going to see more hybrids and increases in fuel economy for standard internal combustion engines no matter what happens. Add that to the other assumed innovations in renewable power, grid storage, and the use of natural gas (they also don't see coal going away anytime soon), and they have a very detailed model as to how they reached these numbers.

And if we listen to the knuckle-dragging Koch crowd, and ignore this "enormous potential"?

In our model, a mere five year delay in starting aggressive cost reduction curves could cost the economy an aggregate $2.3–3.2 trillion in unrealized GDP gains,1.2–1.4 million net jobs and 8-28 gigatons of potential avoided CO2 emissions by 2050 (Delay Breakthrough vs. All Tech Breakthrough and $30/ton Carbon + Breakthrough)

We've seen study after study after study showing the benefits of moving in this direction. The only thing stopping us is the doubt and misdirection being amplified in the media by those who have a huge stake in maintaining the status quo of Big Oil and Big War - and those folks are going to throw everything including the kitchen sink at the next election to win power back, which would be devastating to our "potential". Figure we already have a two-year delay in place as Congress sputters in obstruction mode - and we have no time to waste after that, as the rest of the world is already moving on.

I believe we will get there in the end regardless because the cost will reach parity probably sooner than we think - the question becomes whether or not the United States leads the way and sees the job creation, or whether we play catch-up.

Go read the whole report. Interesting stuff.

Update: And some proof on our role comes later in the day...

Industry experts today said Michigan has the opportunity of a lifetime to regain its throne as the automotive capital of the world through the electric vehicle industry.

Dan Galves, a member of Deutsche Bank’s Global Auto/Auto Parts equity research team, expects Michigan to account for 20 percent of all lithium-ion batteries made for the automotive industry by 2015.

“The U.S. has about 30 percent of that capacity and Michigan represents about two-thirds of that, so 20 percent of the world’s capacity of lithium ion batteries we think will be in Michigan,” he said today at a Detroit Economic Club meeting at the Renaissance Center in Detroit.

“This is not a burden to America,” said Galves, who expects the automotive battery industry to be a $14 billion market by 2015. “This is the biggest job opportunity, the biggest economic opportunity to reduce that trade deficient.”

'Nuff said.

Monday, June 27, 2011

By Request

1000 px here

Had a request for this one. I would have posted it eventually anyway, but I was thinking of doing a bit of burn and dodge (lighten and/or darken certain areas) on it to get some more definition to the trees and the ground cover. I will probably just pick another to try that trick on; I shot a good many like this walking around in the UP in the mornings, soaking in the sunrise.

I've been so locked in the realistic, photojournalism world that I rarely do anything to photos other than color correction and saturation, crop, and playing with the levels (overall light). Noise reduction on some of the inside stuff. Sharpen. Other than that, what you saw from me was the real deal.

Turns out that photojournalists are allowed to burn and dodge - and many did through the years as it is originally a darkroom technique - but only up to a limit. Oh. Maybe should have done more of that then. There are times I look at some of the early Rebel stuff now and just cringe. Definitely got better as I went along.

But when it comes to "art" pictures of landscapes and what have you, anything goes, and I need to get better at making those babies pop. There is nothing that can substitute for good, natural lighting and perfect weather, but less than great conditions can certainly be helped long with the tools of Photoshop. Takes time to get good at it, like anything else.

I'm glad that I have the extensive practice with the straight from the camera work though. Gives me that solid foundation to start from.

Daddy DeVos Makes an Endorsement for Senate

This blows my Dick DeVos prediction right out of the water.

Grand Rapids Republican Randy Hekman got a boost in his campaign for the U.S. Senate last week when Amway co-founder Richard DeVos and his wife, Helen, endorsed his bid for the nomination.

Hekman, one of just two Republicans to challenge incumbent Debbie Stabenow so far, said he hopes the billionaire’s endorsement will give his candidacy credibility in Republican circles that have been shy about climbing aboard anyone’s bandwagon.

Does this high-profile, big cash endorsement for an unknown mean Republicans are basically throwing in the towel when it comes to the mighty Stabenow? With nearly $5 million in cash on hand, Obama at the top of the ticket, and every big name in Republican circles saying "no" to the contest, DeVos pulling the trigger this early may indicate that the GOP might take a pass on this one and concentrate on House races instead. Hard to tell this early in the game though.

Cranky Jack Lessenberry takes a look at "Stabenow's Winning Ways" in this week's Dome. Give it a read. You wouldn't want to run against her either. She's been a good Senator for this state when you add up her various accomplishments, and she has a pretty broad appeal to that mythical "middle" - and that's a tough combination to beat.

What's Bouchard up to these days?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Polar Bear Goes to the Beach

From The 30th Annual Sand Sculpture contest at Grand Haven State Park Saturday.

Some green stories, in honor of seeing my first Volt-in-everyday-life yesterday:

  • Joe Nocera of the NYT writes a very nice, must-read op-ed on his experience with driving the Volt over Memorial Day weekend. "The Volt has made a believer out of me", he says, and it shows. Great column.

  • Carl Levin loves his Volt. Took a reporter for a ride around DC. "Watch this", as he floors it to show the power. He's going to challenge Lamar Alexander to a race with the Leaf. I'm not making this up.

  • Will you someday be able to get cash back for using your electric car battery for frequency regulation service to the grid? It's in the works, according to a vehicle-to-grid project from Dr. Willett Kempton at the University of Delaware. Check out this Forbes article for details. And BTW, Denmark is already paying their EV owners, so it's definitely doable once we engineer all electric cars to have the capability.

  • Bill Clinton: "It's the Green Jobs, Stupid". Or, at least that's part of the answer. His piece in Newsweek has more.

  • The mother of all ironies - guess who is getting into the solar business big time. Give up? The answer should be obvious. Yup, it's the Saudis. The world's leader in oil exports certainly has the sun and the money to invest, so they are going to pump $100 billion in clean energy in the next decade. Increased domestic consumption of energy is driving the demand, although the country hopes to export the electricity to neighboring countries - and perhaps globally. Ha ha.... ha. OEEC here we come.

  • Solar-power laptop? Samsung's got one. Affordable too. It's the first sun-powered laptop sold in the US.

  • A report from Ernst & Young (commissioned by the Solar Trade Association) predicts that, due to efficiencies and the price drop in materials, solar energy per watt will cost $1 by 2013, falling from $2 per watt as recently as 2009. We are at $1.50 right now. And the DOE just loaned 1366 Technologies of Massachusetts $150 million to invest in a "radical new way to make the silicon wafers" that will cut the price of a solar cell by 40%. Yes, we will get there. If the Saudis don't beat us to it.

  • Or Indiana, for that matter. Paul Egan of the DNews has been doing a great job on the follow-up on the story about solar company Fronius USA moving from Brighton to Indiana - and check out the answer from the folks at MEDC. Seems they did put an offer on the table. So, give them credit for trying, I guess.

  • Think Progress brings us some nifty charts on the levelized cost of electricity of renewables versus fossil resources, courtesy of the Institute for Local Self Reliance. "The takeaway? While renewables have higher upfront capital costs per MW of capacity, the actual cost of electricity over time is very competitive."

  • Sure wish President Obama would hurry up and get those solar panels on the White House so I don't have to read about it anymore. Yeah, yeah, I know, regulations. Good grief man, don't prove the Republicans right, k?

  • Enbridge has 450 people working on the Kalamazoo River oil spill clean-up; this phase is attacking submerged pools of oil. "Of the 240 surface cleanup sites identified, 151 had been completed". Good to know they are still at it.

    That's it for now, have a great week...
  • Look Before You Privatize

    Hearing a lot of chatter in this state lately about how we need to privatize government services under the guise of "best practices", the argument being put forth from the Republicans is that it will create competition and save taxpayer money.

    Unfortunately, as with all things Republican, the theory tends to produce just the opposite when it is put into practice in reality. The real world of privatization is happening right now down in Indiana, and it looks a little something like this:

    Cohoon's mother, now suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was one of thousands of Indiana residents who abruptly and erroneously lost their welfare, Medicaid or food stamp benefits after Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels privatized the state's public assistance program — the result of an efficiency plan that went awry from the very beginning, the state now admits.

    Though the $1.37-billion project proved disastrous for many of the state's poor, elderly and disabled, it was a financial bonanza for a handful of firms with ties to Daniels and his political allies, which landed state contracts worth millions.

    The disparate effects underscore the risks of handing control over public services to the private sector. Whether the approach will ultimately improve services and save money remains a matter of fierce debate in Indiana. But the state's experience shows that without adequate safeguards, privatization can compound the very problems it is designed to correct: bureaucratic burdens, perceptions of influence-peddling and a lack of competition.

    Need more? How about the privatization of the Indiana Toll Road...

    In two weeks, the cost of traveling the 157-mile length of the Indiana Toll Road will rise more than 2 percent, from $8.80 to an even $9, for those who pay the toll in cash. The fare will jump a full buck for truckers hauling semi-trailers, from $35.20 to $36.20.

    The July 1 toll hike may not seem so painful, until you consider that those tolls were about half of their soon-to-be rates only five years ago -- and that they hadn’t risen for two decades prior to that. Even harder to swallow for some drivers, truckers in particular, is the fact that their growing contributions go not to the State of Indiana but to overseas investors who've leased the toll road from the state.

    Prison services? Take a gander at Arizona:

    “There’s a perception that the private sector is always going to do it more efficiently and less costly,” said Russ Van Vleet, a former co-director of the University of Utah Criminal Justice Center. “But there really isn’t much out there that says that’s correct.”

    Such has been the case lately in Arizona. Despite a state law stipulating that private prisons must create “cost savings,” the state’s own data indicate that inmates in private prisons can cost as much as $1,600 more per year, while many cost about the same as they do in state-run prisons.

    These are just a few of the stories from the past six weeks or so. If you dig deeper, you can find many, many more. Privatization is simply the Republicans selling state services to their friends, who promptly turn around and either provide poor service, which ultimately increases taxpayer costs in other ways, or they simply just raise prices to consumers outright. It's a back-door tax increase to you either way.

    Just something to keep in mind if your Republican legislator comes home this summer and starts to tout the benefits of privatization. Then again, they probably won't be talking much with constituents - they will be too busy lining up those contracts. It's the "best practice" for Republicans who are looking to reward wealthy campaign donors and find yet another way to screw the little guy - and make us think we are getting a good deal at the same time.

    Update: Digby weighs in on this as well. Good. This needs to get into the national conversation. It's like robbery in perpetuity.

    Great Moments in History

    Wanted this up for posterity. Listen to the crowd after the roll call. Make sure you wait until the part where they cheer "USA! USA! USA!". It was a thing of beauty.

    Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    And if you watched the whole clip, this blurb from Alternet about Maddow brings a smile:

    Last night, Maddow broadcast for nearly an hour after her regularly scheduled time slot in order to cover the developments in Albany and eventual vote to legalize gay marriage in New York City. While thousands of people hooted, cried and sang outside the Stonewall Inn in the streets of Manhattan (here's the photo we snapped there just ten minutes after the vote was announced), Maddow solemnly delivered the news, breaking into a grin only when she reported on the comptroller's statement about the "positive economic impact" same-sex marriage will have on the New York economy. And will Maddow, openly gay, marry her longtime partner, Susan Mikula? "Maybe"!

    Maddow is probably just being coy here, but don't miss the bigger-picture, opened-can-of-worms when it comes to the new state of gay relationships in New York. Some straight folks might want to assume that everyone is going to rush out and get married, or that they are going to want a church wedding. Uh, no. While there will be those that want to do just that, there are others who are going to find their relationships put to a new test - and there is no doubt in my mind that the passage of this law is going to initially cause more than a few break-ups.

    You see, I've known a few gay people who don't want to be married, and were secretly relived that it wasn't allowed here in Michigan. Now, did they want overall equality? Yes, of course. Rah, rah, they would cheer. But when it came to their own personal situation, well, that's different.

    For example, one woman I knew came into a substantial inheritance, and was part-owner in the family business. At the time, she wasn't seriously committed to the relationship she was in - but her girlfriend sure was. Marriage would have been the next goal to the more committed partner, had it been allowed. One day, a comment was made during a discussion, off-hand and out of girlfriend's presence, and it went something like, "I'm glad she can't get a hold of my money". Sounds selfish, but it happens, just as it happens in straight relationships as well. Matter of fact, the more homophobic amongst us probably would be shocked at just how similar gay/straight relationships really are. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation, and everything to do with individual character. End of story.

    Things like that occur all the time, the only difference is, gay people were getting a built-in pass on taking full responsibility for the depth of commitment to their partners. They couldn't take the final leap, so they weren't ever faced with that adult choice. Now, in these states where marriage is allowed, when there is a hesitancy towards taking the next logical step in a relationship, then a partner will be more clear about where a relationship really stands. Overall that is a good thing, and ultimately it will build stronger relationships.

    No more excuses.

    And don't worry, eventually the more pious (and the Republicans) amongst us will probably start harassing the gay couples they know about, oh, "living in sin", or "having children out of wedlock", or "when are you going to settle down?", and all that usual pressure that straight couples face - because you know that's coming too. Then we can all have a good laugh about being careful about what you wish for.

    Yes, this is the "USA!", and we're just going to have to find new and exciting ways to be judgmental of each other. That's progress, baby. Enjoy it. :-)

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Equal Rights and Justice

    Peter Tosh keeps running through my mind ...

    "But there will be no peace
    'til man gets equal rights and justice"

    33. 29. Republicans put it over the top. And New York joins the civilized world.

    Take that, 2004!

    For Scott. For Kristin. Six down, forty-four to go...

    Absolute Michigan's Festival Summer

    From the north country comes this great opportunity:

    TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN - All summer long, Absolute Michigan ( is giving away free tickets to 23+ Michigan festivals and events. With passes to everything from big festivals including Electric Forest, Common Ground and Maker Faire Detroit to more intimate events like Hiawatha and Dunegrass, Festival Summer is a showcase of the incredible diversity and range of events that Michigan offers.

    Absolute Michigan publisher Andrew McFarlane explains, “Absolute Michigan is dedicated to highlighting what’s working in Michigan, and there’s no question that one of Michigan’s strengths is the diversity and fun that our events offer. We’ve tried to make it really easy for folks to win - just sign up for our email list and we’ll tell you what’s up in the Great Lakes State every week and if you’re the next winner. It’s that easy!”

    “I think what Absolute Michigan is doing is great,” says Don Kermeen of the Porcupine Mountain Music Festival. “The U.P. has been hit as hard as anyone by Michigan’s economic troubles, but I think that music is a unifying and healthy thing that allows us to escape from life, relax and refresh so we can face our challenges.”

    In addition to giveaways all summer long, a number of the event partners are going the extra mile to provide one lucky winner with 2 tickets to these fantastic Michigan festivals!

    Thunder Over Michigan - July 23 & 24
    Maker Faire Detroit - July 30 & 31
    Paella In The Park - August 5
    Dunegrass Music Festival - August 5-7
    Farm Fest - August 11-14
    Traverse City Wine & Art Festival - August 20
    Hoxeyville Music Festival - August 19 & 20
    Traverse City Microbrew & Music Festival - August 26 & 27
    Porcupine Mountain Music Festival - August 26-28
    Crystal Mountain's Taste of Michigan - September 3
    Midwest Fest 2011 - September 28-October 1

    The winner will be announced on the Fourth of July. For all the details and to enter, visit:

    I would so love to get back up to the Porcupines and spend a week up there... maybe my friend Andy will front me an all-expenses paid trip for photos...


    It was worth a try. :-) Guess I'll have to go enter the contest...

    Snyder's Talk Talk

    Rick Snyder, May 11, 2011.

    “Today's not the right date yet,” Snyder told the business group of his unwillingness to do national media interviews on Michigan's “comeback.” Michigan must accomplish a good portion of its turn-around before it can toot its own horn, he suggested.

    “There is too much talk in this world … there is not the opportunity for Michigan to talk yet,” the governor said. “We have to first get our act together, get it done and then spread the Michigan message. My goal is to have Michigan viewed as the action state. We will get on the map (then).”

    Rick Snyder, June 23, 2011.

    “As you create those jobs, the very best thing you can do to help out, particularly for those in public service, is to talk about the jobs you’re creating,” Snyder said at Michigan State University

    “Even if it’s one job, be proud of it, talk about it. If you take 12,000 entities and you say one job, that’s a lot of jobs. And then you start saying it’s two jobs or three jobs” he said. “That is the backbone of the reinvention of Michigan.”

    Damn, that was quick. Someone alert the media that we have accomplished a "good portion" of our turn-around starting... now!

    This has to be some kind of record.

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Watching the Wheels


    Between Comcast and McDonald's (yeah, I know, mistakes were made), I'm having a Really Bad Corporate Day. And the rest of it has been quite the roller-coaster too. Something going on with the planets that I don't know about?

    So, I wanted to end it with a pretty picture here, and hope for better things for tomorrow...

    Michigan Solar Firm Moves HQ to Indiana, Plans Over 500 New Jobs

    Hey, I thought that our new business tax code was going to keep jobs here. It was supposed to be all lollipops and ponies and rainbows and no one would ever want to leave and everyone was going to move here and we didn't NEED those incentives anymore, remember?

    In the case of solar company Fronius USA, located in Brighton since 2002, it looks like the tax credits that Indiana offered were too good to pass up. From the IndyStar (and a hat tip to Sven):

    Electronics company Fronius USA will move its headquarters from Michigan to Portage, Ind., where it also will open a 400,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.

    The state will assist the move with up to $4.25 million in tax credits, based on the company's plan to create 512 jobs in Portage by 2016. Fronius also will get property tax abatement, Indiana Economic Development Corp. said today.

    The Austria-based, family owned company plans to spend $26.6 million to lease and equip the Portage manufacturing plant to produce welding technology and photovoltaic inverters for the solar power industry. The Portage site will open next summer.

    Wonder if some enterprising reporter is going to ask MEDC about this, see if they made a counter-offer to keep them here. Wonder if the Michigan media will even report it. My God, if this had happened under Granholm's watch, we never would have heard the end of it. And you know it.

    That's another 500 jobs lost under the Snyder plan. We can add those to the thousands of movie industry jobs already lost, and the thousands of education/public worker jobs that are currently being cut due to this budget. Who knows how many we have lost to other states because we have indicated that we are pulling back on incentives.

    Anyone want to take a stab at adding all this up?

    Sad thing is, it was all so predictable.

    UPDATE: Ladies and gentlemen, meet the great Paul Egan of the DNews. The highlights of a very good story on this move:

    The announced move of a solar technology company's U.S. headquarters from Brighton to Indiana has intensified criticism of Gov. Rick Snyder's decision to wean Michigan off tax incentives to attract and retain manufacturers.


    Officials who speak for Snyder and the MEDC had no immediate comment on the Fronius announcement.


    Fronius is registered in Michigan as Fronius USA LLC, meaning that like most other businesses in Michigan it would not be subject to the new corporate profits tax or any Michigan business tax, starting next year.

    Indiana's corporate tax rate of 8.5 percent is slated to drop to 6.5 percent by 2015.

    The Indiana news release said the Fronius announcement "comes on the heels" of two other announced moves from Michigan to Indiana.

    "Earlier this month, Spartan Motors, Inc. announced its plans to relocate parts of its operations to Wakarusa from Michigan, creating up to 60 jobs by the second half of 2012," the release said.

    "In May, Molded Foam, LLC announced its acquisition of a Michigan firm and intentions to relocate operations to Indiana, creating up to 45 jobs in Elkhart County by 2014."

    And although a tax expert in the piece mentions the tax incentives, lower wages, and a "less unionized work force" as the reason companies may leave Michigan - keep in mind Indiana is not a right-to-work state. So don't even try that argument.

    And BTW, the AP also wrote a short piece on this which was also picked up by the Freep, so it did get out there. MDP, care to chime in?

    Kick the Tires Next Time

    Here's a shocker, via a tweet from Progress Michigan:

    The first poll conducted after Michigan legislators finished the state budget shows 61 percent of Michigan voters say they are less likely to vote for legislative Republicans in 2012 because of controversial decisions to cut funding for public schools at the expense of tax breaks for some corporations, according to a recent poll commissioned by Lambert, Edwards & Associates and the Perricone Group.

    The poll, conducted by Denno Research late last week, says only 25 percent of voters are more likely to vote for GOP legislators, while 36 percent said they were much less likely to vote for a Republican candidate that cast a vote against public schools, said former Speaker of the House Chuck Perricone, CEO of the Perricone Group.

    “We’re seeing significant buyer’s remorse on the part of voters who elected Republicans into office,” said Chuck Perricone, CEO of the Perricone Group. “While certainly there is time to right the ship before the 2012 elections, GOP leaders should take these results seriously – cutting public schools across the state is accompanied with consequences at the local level.”

    This comes from 600 registered, "likely" voters. State-based Lambert, Edwards & Associates is breaking into the polling business here in Michigan; nice to see some new blood, especially if they are consistent. Not thrilled with the way they phrase this next approval question, but here you go:

    The poll also included barometers on most of the state’s political leaders. Participants were asked to rank Gov. Rick Snyder’s job performance – 28 percent gave the governor high marks, 31 percent gave him a medium rating, while 30 percent gave him a low rating. Undecideds came in at almost 12 percent.

    President Obama scored slightly higher in the poll, with 38 percent giving the president high ratings, 27 percent giving him a medium grade, and 33 percent giving him a low ranking. Undecideds were small – with only 1.3 percent choosing not to answer the question.

    U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow did better than both Obama and Snyder, with 34 percent giving the Democrat high ratings, 28 percent ranking her performance as medium, but only 22 percent gives her a low mark. 37 percent of respondents were unsure of Stabenow’s overall performance.

    All this changes by next year of course, but it gives the Dems some indication of what to shoot for. Let's see if they use it.

    Divorce Michigan Style

    Welcome to Michigan, where we have a government by the businesses, for the businesses, and all the laws will favor the business owners - even if that means leaving a partner in marriage destitute should divorce enter the picture. Check out this next bit of legislation that has been put on the fast-track in Lansing, written by and for some of the biggest money in the state, and where the first quick hearing on the bills didn't give the opposition any time to present a case. Sound familiar?

    Under current Michigan law, any appreciation in the value of one spouse's business is treated as marital property if it occurs during the marriage, and each partner is entitled to half if the marriage breaks up. If a spouse's $1-million business grows into a $50-million business over the course of a 25-year marriage, for example, the divorcing partner would be entitled to half the $49-million increase.

    But two bills introduced last month by state Rep. John Walsh, R-Livonia, would tip the scales in favor of the working spouse, making it harder for the stay-at-home partner to claim a share in the family business and limiting a judge's discretion to award business assets to her or him.

    Diana Raimi, a veteran divorce lawyer and property law expert assigned to analyze the legislation for the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said she was amazed when lobbyists described the initiative as an effort to codify and clarify Michigan's marital property laws.

    "It reads like a special-interest, targeted remedy for one person trying to head off a particular set of difficulties in court," Raimi said Wednesday afternoon. Together, she added, the bills proposed by Walsh "amount to the most anti-family piece of legislation I've seen in my 33 years of practice."

    While the knife can cut both ways, and the number of women business owners in Michigan has been growing, they still are a minority in the upper ranks and lag behind men when it comes to owning businesses that make over a million a year. If this was written for one person, it sounds like someone is trying to force the wife to stay, or severely punish her if she goes. This is definitely a law that favors the wealthy who look at life in terms of their "property"; whether that be the money or the family, it usually doesn't matter. People who crave power enough go to lengths like this rarely discern between the two.

    It's usually all about control. And in the classic style of those who need that control (and what is rapidly becoming the standard Republican fall-back position for everything that has happened lately), if you don't like it, you're the problem here. You just don't want "change".

    Richard McClellan, a veteran elections law lawyer best known for work on behalf of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and his political ties to former Gov. John Engler, said Wednesday that he encouraged Walsh to introduce the bills earlier this year after being approached by "a group of lawyers and others" whom he declined to identify.

    "I represent nobody who is getting a divorce," McClellan said. But he hedged when I asked him whether the legislation he's lobbying for was designed to enhance the legal position of a specific party or parties.

    "Obviously, either the lawyer or their clients have an interest in getting the law changed," McClellan said.

    "But I think it's good public policy," he added. He said that most of the opposition to the bill had come from what he called "missionaries for the family who don't want any change."

    This will get another hearing, and family lawyers have hopes that it can be stopped, but the track record so far this year has been to ignore the opposition and serve the few at the expense of the many. Hard to see how this would be any different, but you never know. This may cross the line with a lot of legislators.

    Walsh promises that all the interested parties will get a chance to be heard -- and most of those I spoke to Wednesday said they expected the legislation to wither under closer scrutiny.

    "This may benefit some wealthy litigants, and somebody has paid a lot of people a lot of money to get it done," said Denise Alexander, the immediate past president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Michigan chapter. "But it's a lot of money spent on something that would negatively impact families in every legislator's district.

    "It's amazing," she added, "that that some people think they can buy legislation and get away with it."

    We don't call it "buying legislation" - we call it "relentless positive action". Didn't you get the memo?

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    And Here Come the Lawyers...

    Made the New York Times this morning. Oh yeah.

    More than two dozen residents of Michigan filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against top officials in the state contending that a new law broadly expanding the powers of emergency managers in the most financially troubled cities violates Michigan’s Constitution.

    The lawsuit, filed in Ingham County Circuit Court, contends that the law approved by Michigan lawmakers this year improperly allows the state to place new costs on municipalities without paying for them and, in essence, bars local residents from picking their own elected representatives.

    I was wondering exactly what they would sue over. Thought for sure that it would take a specific action, such as breaking the contract for dispatchers in Pontiac, to bring this to court. The cost aspect is an interesting angle. More will be revealed and chewed over as the specific language comes out.

    Leaders of labor unions, in particular, were outraged by the provision because it allows such state-appointed emergency managers to, in some cases, undo provisions of the contracts that towns and cities had already agreed to. Some appeared for rallies in opposition in Lansing this spring. But others had broader complaints; how, they asked, could a state-assigned official simply step into the role of an elected local leader and do whatever he or she wished?

    “What you’re saying is that an emergency manager now controls all, including the right to enact or repeal local ordinances,” said John Philo, the legal director of the Sugar Law Center in Detroit, one of several groups, including the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, that is representing the plaintiffs in the suit. “What you’re saying is that one individual now without any sort of legislative process gets to enact a law.”

    EFM's already had incredible power to do as they wished with the finances. These new powers do seem to cross the line - but that is going to be for the courts to decide. Good luck people. A petition drive to place on overturn of the law on the 2012 ballot has started as well, and, given the low threshold of signatures needed, the guess is the voters will weigh in on this eventually, too.

    Still the question remains - what are you going to do with the cities and/or school districts that find themselves in this kind of trouble? Let them go bankrupt, and drag down the rest of the state, who ultimately pays the financial price in bad credit ratings? Send the cops and fire fighters home? Close the schools? Make everyone work for free? Not pay your vendors? There are no easy answers to this dilemma, and the problem certainly has been brewing for a long, long time now.

    Granted, repeatedly slashing their funding hasn't helped a bit - and that should be a focus of this as well. Stay tuned...

    UPDATE: From the Freep, a bit of clarity. Or not.

    Goodman said, among other things, the emergency manager law violates constitutional separation of powers by allowing the governor's office to exercise powers granted to the Legislature. He said it also defies home rule in local communities.

    So did the old one. Again, details, details...



    Experimenting with close-ups through the net - except for a slight rotation, this is straight out of the camera. Not easy to catch the ball zoomed in like this, but it was fun to try.

    This is Hernan Perez of the Whitecaps, who is currently leading the Midwest League in hits. Played in the All-Star Game last night. And bang, just like that, season is half over.

    Time, she sure do fly...

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    US House Republicans Want to Slash Clean Energy and Efficiency Programs by 40 Percent

    To hell with what the American people want, right? House Republicans in Congress have their own agenda, and it doesn't include serving the desires of an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the public, or keeping this country competitive on the global stage when it comes to energy policy. No, we won't be having any of that for the foreseeable future.

    Even though Republicans have vowed an "all-of-the-above" approach to America's energy future, Democrats are accusing them of clinging to a narrow, antiquated, hydrocarbon-heavy past.

    Members of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition are furious about a 2012 energy and water appropriations bill that they claim shortchanges President Obama's efforts at innovation and competition in favor of an addiction to oil, coal and natural gas.

    The bill passed out of committee on a Republican majority 26-20 vote, and will hit the floor after the 4th of July. Here is what it would do:

    On the energy front, this version of the bill snips $1.9 billion from the White House request for investments in energy efficiency research, renewables such as solar, wind and geothermal, fuel-conserving vehicles, weatherization, biomass and other programs. That's more than 40 percent below current funding levels.

    It sets us back to 2005, at a time when the rest of the world is increasing investment in this area. But wait! That's not all! We get to increase funding for the fossil crowd, and take away money from research, too!

    In addition, the legislation increases funding for DOE's Fossil Energy Office by $32 million while decreasing designated dollars for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) by $80 million. Energy Department Secretary Steven Chu modeled ARPA-E after a similar program at the Department of Defense to support breakthroughs by clean energy entrepreneurs.

    It's a big, complicated bill that funds the DOE, and other agencies such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers. Go read the entire story for the breakdown on the numbers. President Obama had requested a significant jump in funding for energy programs, and of course the Republicans are essentially saying "no" to that, and making cuts that will put us (further) behind in this race.

    Krugman's words from right before the last election haunt me:

    This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.

    Which makes 2012 all the more important.

    Chances are this bill as written will not make it through the Senate, but you know that we won't be getting what we really need for funding, either. Hope we can get enough to get us through for now, and hope that the Democrats are smart enough to make this an issue next year.

    Amongst other things. Seems there are so many to choose from lately.

    Open Wide

    Gongwer tweeted this moves to the House floor today. Vacation calls, you know.

    New congressional districts, which include wildly meandering districts in southeast Michigan, were approved this morning by the House Redistricting committee.

    Despite repeated calls from citizens to slow down the process at the hearing, the committee approved the map by a 6-3 vote. All the Republicans on the committee voted for the map while Democrats opposed it.

    Michigan is losing a seat in Congress because of population declines in the state. As a result, the map throws U.S. Reps. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township and Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, in the same district. It also gives U.S. Reps, John Conyers, D-Detroit and Thad McCotter, R-Livonia, strangely shaped districts that traverse county and city borders in southeast Michigan.

    Like the budget, citizen protests have been dismissed, and bipartisan input is never a consideration. But we knew that was coming.

    The map, especially the southeast Michigan districts, were called “garbage,” “grotesque,” and “strange” by residents and groups testifying before the committee.

    But committee Republicans, who controlled the process because of their majorities in the state House and Senate, the governor’s office and the Supreme Court defended the maps as being the best way to maintain the two Voting Rights Act districts while adhering to standards of compactness, contiguous communities and equal populations.

    I'd like to welcome Battle Creek to the 3rd - it's a great city, and I've always had a pleasant time on my visits there. Hope you enjoy your stay.

    I'm reading rumors that the Teapublicans are pitching a fit over Amash being "targeted" for removal by this map, which to me sounds like total nonsense because he has the DeVos money behind him. No way the Chamber purposely pisses off the big bucks. If anything, it might dissuade Schauer from a run up here. But I believe the district can lean blue, provided you can get both cities out to vote, and 2012 with Obama at the top of the ticket will be a good test on that theory.

    Opponents have thirty days to challenge this in court after the bills are approved. Will they? Good question. I hear people making noises, so we will see.

    Summer Breeze

    Happy Solstice.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Meet the Campaus

    The Campaus

    That's Louis on the right, the wife Sophie on the left with the broken headstone.

    I've been on this history kick lately, so I was thrilled when I got in to see St. Andrew's Cemetery on Memorial Day. St. Andrew's is Grand Rapids first Catholic cemetery, established in 1852 at what was then the edge of town, and now is definitely what you would call inner-city. It was fenced off in the 1970s due to repeated vandalism (which obviously still is a problem), and usually the place is locked up tight and accessible by appointment only, but that Monday found it wide open - and I finally saw where all the French-Canadian, Irish, and the other Catholic early settlers are buried.

    Louis Campau founded both Saginaw and Grand Rapids. From Wiki:

    Louis Campau (August 11, 1791 – April 13, 1871) was an important figure in the early settlement of two important Michigan cities.

    He established the first trading post at what is today Saginaw, Michigan, as early as 1815. He also fought in the War of 1812 and played a key role in negotiating the Treaty of Saginaw in 1819. This Treaty was made between Gen. Lewis Cass and Native American tribes of the Great Lakes region (principally the Ojibwe, but also the Ottawa and Potawatomi) of Michigan. Native Americans ceded a large tract of land (more than six million acres (24,000 km²), or 24,000 km²) in the central portion of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

    In 1826, Campau moved South and established a trading post in what is today Grand Rapids, Michigan. Although he was not the first permanent white settler (that distinction falls to a Baptist minister named Isaac McCoy who arrived in 1825), Campau became perhaps the most important settler of Grand Rapids when, in 1831, he bought what is now the entire downtown business district of that city from the federal government for $90. He is considered the "father" of the town.

    A bunch of the Campau family moved here, brothers and others are buried at St. Andrew's too. 1832 is when Campau laid out streets and boundaries, and Grand Rapids could officially be called something other than the trading post that it had been for years. 1834 was the first election, where a total of nine votes were cast, which should give you an indication of the size of the place at the time. By 1836 there were an estimated 500-1000 people drifting in and out of here, transient land speculators and others moving through (for a comparison, Detroit had nearly 7,000 people by then). A treaty signed in 1836 made the land grab final, and by January 1837 Michigan was officially a state - and the lumber rush in Kent County was on.

    St. Andrew's was opened during the height of great anti-Catholic/anti-immigration sentiment elsewhere in America. Apparently there were squabbles here in Grand Rapids about it as well, the "first" settler Issac McCoy was not so fond of the Catholics, battles over booze and the Native Americans, etc. and so on. Fulton Street, the oldest cemetery in town, had reserved 1/3 of its space for those of the Catholic faith. With the city rapidly growing though, another space was needed - and that's where the Campaus came to rest.

    Michigan history is not something I know a lot about, but I think I'd like to learn more. Now that gas is coming down, maybe I can do some shoots and share a bit of this hobby from time to time here...

    Out of Gas

    Surprising. After the huge rush on leases last year, many thought that northern Michigan would be dotted with natural gas wells, fracking away and raking in the big bucks.

    Turns out, not so much.

    A run on Michigan's underground stores of natural gas, which once seemed a sure thing, may not be coming anytime soon — or at all.

    Just a year ago, Michigan appeared to be on the verge of a new era in natural gas exploration — one that would mean new investment and jobs in rural areas in dire need of both.

    Early returns from a test well near Lake City indicated that the Collingwood Shale — a reserve of underground natural gas that runs across the upper third of the Lower Peninsula — could be a productive source of the fuel. And a May 2010 auction of oil and gas rights on state land produced a whopping $178.4 million, mostly from companies looking to a profitable future.

    What happened? The market happened.

    Dropping natural gas prices have been a major hurdle for the industry, with 2011 kicking off at $4.08 per cubic thousand feet — down from the $5.14 that began 2010. Declining performance from early test wells also has had companies waiting for more evidence.

    "The industry is trying to see what they can really get from Collingwood," said Hal Fitch, head of the Geological Survey Division at Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality. "The first two test wells that were drilled have not been real promising so far."

    While this DNews article goes on to focus on new regulations surrounding fracking, the real reason for the diminished exuberance pops up again pretty quick - and it all comes down to profit. If they thought they would make the money, you know they would find a way around the regulations. They aren't that restrictive. No, this is all about going for the gold, and right now that means liquids.

    "Low natural gas prices certainly weigh as a factor in determining whether the plat is economic or not," said Doug Hock, a company spokesman, in a written response to questions. "With oil and natural gas liquids commanding significant energy price premium over natural gas, we've sharpened our focus on oil- and natural gas-liquids production."

    This is probably just a bump in the road. As soon as the price on natural climbs again, they will make a bigger effort to get it out of the ground. At that point, the enviros better be ready to challenge the current techniques involved with fracking. Flaming water does not make for a Pure Michigan. If they can find a way to obtain the gas without the use of massive amounts of water and toxic chemicals, then by all means, go for it. But until then...

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    More Michigan Art


    At the Reeds Lake Art Festival, handmade Michigan tiles. Seems to be a popular theme this year. How very cool.

    Some stories that were on my computer...

  • Dave Alexander of the Muskegon Chronicle brings us up to date with two stories on the progress of advanced battery company Fortu PowerCell; construction will begin this fall, and hiring is supposed to take place in early 2012. The company has been quiet on exactly what kind of battery manufacturing they will be doing, citing reasons of competition, but the "plant will produce chemicals for the battery modules, and workers will assemble them here for a variety of uses including transportation, alternative energy and electric power grid storage applications". Diversity is a good thing.

  • Shipwreck diving is big in the Great Lakes, and Michigan ranks among the top 10 states in the number of certified divers according to Doug Bell, owner of Traverse City’s Scuba North. Literally hundreds of wrecks can be found fairly close to shore in Michigan's 13 underwater perserves; go read this story for a map on where they are located.

  • Last year, they paddled the length of the Grand River. This year, it's the Muskegon River. Man, that must be fun. Read the link for a report on the difference between the two.

  • If the rivers aren't your thing, how about a walk around Lake Michigan? I would love to do all of it.

  • The EPA has announced an official Great Lakes Week scheduled for this October, with a meeting set with US and Canadian officials for working on the issues outlined in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Good to see this hasn't been forgotten in all the... um, budget festivities that have gone on lately.

  • The kids at NMU are going to use renewable energy to power their laptops. Good thing, since it seems that everyone's tuition is going up around 7% this year. Imagine that. (Don't think Northern has announced anything yet though)

  • Over 1,100 solar jobs will be created in an old GM stamping plant in... oh wait, that's in Ohio. Seems Kasich is just kicking Snyder's ass when it comes to this stuff. And hey, if Snyder drags the bond agencies here to see how great the auto industry is progressing, does that mean we can thank President Obama for a better bond rating?

    Food for thought.
  • Happy Father's Day!

    Lake of the Clouds. Check out the 1000 px version.

    Enough time goes by, and there are ways that divorce can become a good thing. I am lucky enough to have not one, but two, father figures in my life at this time - and both have provided me immeasurable support through both the good times and the bad.

    For my working class hero IBEW step-dad John, out on the road and always remembering to call on my birthday and other special days, a very heartfelt thank you for all the "manly man" help you have sent my way. Lately it's been about the cars, either fixing them up or bringing them back from Minnesota. :-) I really don't know where I would be without all your kindness through the years, and I am forever grateful for having you in my life.

    And for my Dad - the emotional support you have provided to me cannot be overstated. These past couple of years have been tough as you know; even though I was very blessed to be doing what I was doing, for the most part I was alone out here. The times I got a call that said "hey, great post", well, it got to the point where that really meant the world to me. It really did. Still does, actually. Thank you for being there for me to talk to - to discuss events, sound out ideas, or just to listen to my fears. I couldn't have made it through without you.

    Both you guys have been so good to me. Thank you so very, very much.

    With all my heart - have a very Happy Father's Day!

    Saturday, June 18, 2011


    If I could pick one concert from my life that I could go back and see again, it would probably be Springsteen at the Silverdome in '84. I will never forget going up to the upper level and looking down at thousands of people on that floor, pumping their fists and singing "Born in the USA" - it was an amazing sight. And I've been hooked on the band ever since.

    Rest in peace Big Man. Thank you for all the great music.



    Rebuked, I tell you!

    Just thought I'd show you how those hippies at the Grand Rapids Press are handling the redistricting story. Our local Dems are none too happy about the new borderlines, heck, I can't even tell if I'm in the 75th or the 76th because they have apparently carved the Eastown all up into little pieces. I figure I'll find out as soon as the Republicans get done shoving this down our throats, which should be in the next week or so.

    Interesting to pick up Battle Creek for the 3rd. I'm wondering if a certain someone wants to come on up here and get acquainted with our fine city... he certainly would be a much better fit than the libertarian non-voting teapublican we have now. Dude does not represent the city's interests at all.

    Wanna see the maps? Here ya go:

    Proposed Michigan House
    Proposed Michigan Senate
    Proposed Michigan Congressional

    Plains Milky Way

    Plains Milky Way from Randy Halverson on Vimeo.

    Another beautiful Milky Way time-lapse video, this one from the Great Plains. Click the arrows to the right of the "HD" for the full-screen.

    During the month of May, I shot Milky Way time-lapse in central South Dakota, when I had the time, and the weather cooperated. The biggest challenge was cloudy nights and the wind. There were very few nights, when I could shoot, that were perfectly clear, and often the wind was blowing 25mph +. That made it hard to get the shots I wanted. I kept most of the shots low to the ground, so the wind wouldn't catch the setup and cause camera shake, or blow it over. I used a Stage Zero Dolly on the dolly shots and a "Milapse" mount on the panning ones.

    Canon 60D, with Sigma, Tamron and Tonika lenses, 1600 ISO.

    I have got to get out of the city one of these nights.

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Tabloid Television

    Jobs? Medicare? Important issues? The cable news shock jocks aren't interested. Watch this amazing, but not at all surprising, clip and see.

    Sorry Nancy. Thanks for trying.

    U.S. Solar Installations Rose 66% in the First Quarter

    Nothing like a twitchy Congress to get people moving.

    In the first quarter of 2011, the United States installed 252 megawatts (MW) of grid-connected photovoltaics (PV) or 66 percent year-over-year growth over Q1 2010 installations. Two major factors drove this growth: falling solar energy equipment costs and a rush to take advantage of the Section 1603 Treasury program that was expected to expire in 2010 (the program was eventually extended through the end of 2011).

    All three PV market sectors (residential, commercial and utility) continued to grow, with commercial installations showing the strongest gains.

    Unfortunately that growth is very uneven, with only a few states accounting for the bulk of the installations. Michigan wasn't one of them.

    Geographically, the market was concentrated in a few key states. In Q1 2010, the top seven states comprised 82 percent of total installations, but that figure grew to 88 percent in Q1 2011, implying that established, leading markets gained an even larger share. The pace of installations grew more than 50 percent in 11 of the 21 states analyzed in the report.

    The top seven? California led the way, followed by New Jersey with the strongest growth based on large commercial installations driven by a hot SREC market (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates, a RPS carve-out that provides a market to help finance projects. Jersey's market price on these certificates has been very high, but is expected to cool down by the end of this year), the rest are Arizona, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New York and Massachusetts. Note the northern states near the top - proof solar is not concentrated in the Sun Belt. All of these states have a strong renewable portfolio standard requirement; California, New York and Colorado want 30% or over by 2020.

    The US is expected to double its global market share in 2011 as incentives in Europe dry up and manufacturers turn their eye to the domestic market.

    Domestic PV module production in Q1 2011 amounted to 348 MW, a 31 percent increase over Q1 2010.

    “With analysts predicting the U.S. to become the world’s largest solar market within the next few years, manufacturers are increasing looking to the U.S. to site their facilities,” said Tom Kimbis, SEIA Vice-President of Strategy and External Affairs. “They are finding significant value in manufacturing close to their expected source of demand. This strong demand continues to make solar one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and a source of thousands of good jobs from manufacturing and installation to engineering and sales”

    It was also recently announced that solar jobs in the US have surpassed steel production jobs. That comes with a caveat though: This figure is the total combined solar jobs, including such things as installation and sales, where the steel figure is production alone. Add in the ancillary steel jobs and that number jumps to 160,000. But still...

    With roughly 93,500 direct and indirect jobs, the American solar industry now employs about 9,200 more workers than the U.S. steel production sector, according to 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics. The American steel industry has historically been a symbol of the country’s industrial might and economic prosperity. But today, the solar industry has the potential to overtake that image as we build a new, clean-energy economy.

    I'm not hearing any news about any "relentless positive action" when it comes to increasing Michigan's share of this job-creating potential, but it's good to see the rest of the country moving in this direction.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Yale Survey: 91% of Americans Say Developing Sources of Clean Energy Should Be A Priority

    Check out the numbers in this new Yale survey on public support for various climate and energy policies. Listed below are the highlights; the whole study has some very nice charts, and comparisons going back to November of 2008 on some of the questions.

    For 2011, 1,010 adults surveyed this spring said...

  • 71 percent of Americans say global warming should be a very high (13%), high (27%), or medium (31%) priority for the president and Congress, including 50 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Independents, and 88 percent of Democrats.

  • 91 percent of Americans say developing sources of clean energy should be a very high (32%), high (35%), or medium (24%) priority for the president and Congress, including 85 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Independents, and 97 percent of Democrats.

  • Majorities of Americans want more action to address global warming from corporations (65%), citizens themselves (63%), the U.S. Congress (57%), President Obama (54%), as well as their own state and local officials.

  • Despite ongoing concerns about the economy, 67 percent of Americans say the U.S. should undertake a large (29%) or medium-scale effort (38%) to reduce global warming, even if it has large or moderate economic costs.

  • 82 percent of Americans (including 76% of Republicans, 74% of Independents, and 94% of Democrats) say that protecting the environment either improves economic growth and provides new jobs (56%), or has no effect (26%). Only 18 percent say environmental protection reduces economic growth and costs jobs.

  • Large majorities (including Republicans, Independents and Democrats) say it is important for their own community to take steps to protect the following from global warming: public health (81%), the water supply (80%), agriculture (79%), wildlife (77%), and forests (76%).

  • 84 percent of Americans support funding more research into renewable energy sources, including 81 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of Independents, and 90 percent of Democrats.

  • 68 percent of Americans support requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from renewable energy sources, even if it costs the average household an extra $100 a year, including 58 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Independents, and 82 percent of Democrats.

  • 66 percent support expanding offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, up 4 points since June of 2010.

  • 47 percent support building more nuclear power plants, down 6 points since June of 2010. Only 33 percent support building a nuclear power plant in their own local area.

  • Majorities support local policies, including installing bike lanes on city streets (77%), more public transportation (80%), requiring all new homes to be more energy efficient (71%), and changing zoning to promote mixed development (57%), decrease sprawl (56%), and more energy efficient apartments instead of single family homes (52%).

  • Does this scream "winning issue", or what? Protection of the environment, a 20% renewable requirement, the funding for research - all enjoy strong bipartisan support. And you don't have to be afraid of the global warming skeptics either.

    Get on it Democrats. Don't let the Koch-funded monster-shouters control the direction of this argument. Apparently the American people already know better.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    True North

    The cinematography in this one is absolutely beautiful. What great shots.

    Fun fact: "Pure Michigan" was not the original name of the campaign.

    People say the Pure Michigan advertising campaign has stirred their memories and imaginations, and even kept them listening to the ads in their cars after they have reached their driving destination, just as the campaign was designed to do, according to its creator, the McCann Erickson agency.

    But the Pure Michigan slogan almost did not happen, Mark Canavan told The St. Ignace News Friday, May 7. He is the group creative director with McCann Erickson of Birmingham, the agency that created the state's ads.

    The original campaign slogan was “Find Your True North.”

    It was really well received when tested, said Mr. Canavan, but George Zimmerman, vicepresident of Travel Michigan, and his staff thought it sparked images of Michigan that were a little too much north of the 45th parallel.

    “We said it's the best line ever, we can never improve on it,” recalls Mr. Canavan. “Well, they were right and we were wrong.”

    The McCann staff started over after meeting with Travel Michigan, and for two days they came up with new ideas. Many included references to waves and water.

    “We sat in a room and somebody said it [Pure Michigan], somebody wrote it down, and somebody thought about it,” said Mr. Canavan. “We reflected on the water we have, which is really the basis for Pure Michigan.”

    And the rest is history...

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Michigan Map Buttons and Other Things...

    Michigan map buttons. Big at the Artists Market.

    Looking for redistricting maps? That wasn't the intention of this post, but since teh Google is picking it up because I used the words "Michigan Map", here they are:

    Proposed Michigan House
    Proposed Michigan Senate
    Proposed Michigan Congressional

    Good stories from the past week or so. Some local, some national, some international... and then back to energy, as always.

  • Kathy Barks Hoffman lays out the GOP war on Michigan's public workers, and provides a summary of the details here. Add up the damage: "Even though the governor's not saying Michigan should be a right-to-work state, essentially when you combine these bills with the emergency manager legislation that passed, you don't need to be a right-to-work state because they've taken away so many collective bargaining rights." Not to mention the demonization that will keep the best and the brightest from considering public service. This Kos/NBC story tells on how this is happening all over the country - go read.

  • John Lindstrom writes the must-read column of the year about Michigan's budget troubles during the deep recession in the early 80's. Homeless sleeping in the Capitol galleries. I did not remember that. Makes the Mike and Andy show seem tame. (OK, not really, but it is an eye-opener. Anyone got the story on what happened in the Depression?)

  • Paul Krugman has been on a roll concerning the GOP plan for eliminating Medicare. Start here, and read back. Total smackdowns, all great.

  • Inside GM's "War Room" after the earthquake in Japan. Scarier than you thought.

  • More GM news: The Volt is now being offered in all 50 states. Lowered the price too. And GM's venture capital group is investing $6 million in Proterra's electric buses, already being tested in California. These babies can recharge in 10 minutes - important for next-generation battery development.

  • Then again, Volvo is working on a wireless charger for cars - and the hope is that someday the inductive technology can be integrated into the roadways. That would be cool.

  • GVSU just completed a study on off-shore wind turbines, looking at visibility and sound, and found "no evidence that they harm or help the local tourism industry". Some people stay away, some people come to see them. Wash. Next up, wind tests on the lake.

  • Look out, here comes South Korea into the renewable energy business. Currently at 1.2 percent of the market now, they are shooting for 18 percent by 2030, and hope to create 1.5 million jobs. And here we are, getting ready to sign one of those nifty free trade agreements with them... * sigh *.

  • China is (supposedly) ending its subsidies for its turbine manufacturers, considered a victory for US trade - but go read the Guardian story on how in the span of six short years, they went from 90% imported wind equipment, to 90% Chinese-made wind equipment for domestic needs. They feel they don't need subsidies anymore. Key lede: "The United States claimed victory this week in a trade dispute with China over wind industry subsidies, but its manufacturers' and unions' celebrations will be short-lived unless Washington matches Beijing's commitment to renewable energy." Yup.

  • And on that note, the New York Times reports that the "U.S. Is Falling Behind in the Business of Green". Tough story to read. Thank your gridlocked Congress for this - and pray we get it right in 2012. I hope it won't be too late.

    That's all for now...
  • Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Sign of the Times


    Sign on the window at Yesterdog. Must be they are having problems with someone being too aggressive.

    For some reason, the first thing I thought was that maybe we should post this sign in the hallways at the Capitol. Lansing, Washington, either one, probably both.

    Would the lobbyists take the hint? ;-)

    After the Fire


    "You gotta think of a context".

    Kindel did that for me, brought back some vivid memories that were startling in the force of their emotion. Good ones, too. The smile. Laughter. How we loved to laugh. When it was good, it was really good. Working on that beautiful art, pieces that we knew would last beyond ourselves. Listening to the radio on a cold, dark winter morning after first punching that clock, or sweating in the heat of the third floor in mid-summer, when we propped open those windows and adjusted the fans so they wouldn't blow away the gold leaf and powders...

    And the sandwiches. Sitting on the cement ledge outside for lunch, eating those sandwiches that were made out of concern for my well-being, for our well-being. Always tried to take care of me in that way, when I had a tendency to be lazy about things like that. When I took that shot of those old window boxes, it hit me. 15 years, and I've never been attracted to anyone else.

    I find that more curious than sad, actually.

    I went back twice. Once the day after, where I ran into three different former employees that were there for the same reason I was; to look in wonderment, and a bit of mourning, at a building that held so many memories for so many lives. Individual histories that spanned the decades. I also went back on Memorial Day for the blue sky, and the knowledge that the area would be deserted on a holiday and I could reflect in quiet...

    It would have been 100 years old next year. Probably not many people want to look at pictures of a burned-out building, but if you do you can find them here. I didn't put a lot up there, just a few that caught my eye right offhand. I don't see how the building survives after this. They couldn't sell it in the first place, and it's doubtful someone will want to put the floors and roof back in half the building now, or fix the water damage in the other half.

    Maybe I'll go watch them tear it down if I get the chance.

    Or maybe the memories are enough.

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    Old Mackinac Point Light


    I've still got a bunch of tourista shots from last year that I never published - here is one of them. Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse is part of Michilimackinac State Park, located right next to the bridge. According to Wiki, as far back as 1838 it was recommended that a lighthouse be put in the area to help guide ships through the straits. Nothing was done until 1854, when they put a lighthouse three miles to the west, and that didn't work as intended. Note the years that went by until the original idea was revisited...

    In 1889, the United States Lighthouse Board realized that Mackinaw Point was a better location. Their first inclination was to put a fog signal there, but when asking Congress for funding, they requested funding for both a fog signal and a first class lighthouse. Congress chose to accept their recommendation, but only voted the funding for a steam-powered fog-signal. The fog signal was built in 1890. The signal proved to be exceptionally necessary for navigation in the often fog-choked Straits of Mackinac; during one exceptionally humid fortnight, the Old Mackinac Point signal personnel reported burning 52 cords of stovewood in order to keep steam up for the foghorn.

    The lighthouse "grew out of the fog station." In March 1891, Congress finally authorized the funding for a light station and the board acted quickly. Bidding was difficult, but in 1892, "on a foundation of ashlar limestone, the tower and attached keeper’s dwelling were both constructed of Cream City brick, trimmed with Indiana Limestone. The double-walled cylindrical tower was laid with an outside diameter of 13 feet 4 inches (4.06 m), and as each course was added, rose to a height of 45 feet (14 m), surmounted by a circular iron gallery and an 8-foot-8-inch (2.64 m) diameter watch room, which was in turn capped by a prefabricated octagonal iron lantern." The lens is a fourth order Fresnel Lens.

    Deactivated with the completion of the bridge in 1957, three years later it became part of the park grounds. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Chamber of Commerce Takes Lead Role in Michigan Redistricting

    It had already been reported by the DNews that the CoC was consulted on the new maps...

    U.S. Reps. Gary Peters and Sander Levin would end up in the same congressional district under a redistricting map Republicans are reviewing that was obtained by The Detroit News.

    The draft plan, in the works for weeks, also would boost GOP majorities in a number of districts, making it easier for Republicans to hold onto their seats. It was reviewed this week by a group of state GOP lawmakers, representatives from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Attorney General's office, two sources with knowledge of the meeting told The News. The sources requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak about the redistricting efforts.

    ... but Gongwer found out that it is the Chamber calling the shots here.

    Robert LaBrant, the general counsel for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, has the lead role in crafting the new maps for Michigan's 14 U.S. House districts, Gongwer News Service has learned.

    LaBrant, considered one of the foremost experts on election, campaign finance and redistricting laws in the state, is working with Jeff Timmer, a Republican political consultant with the Lansing-based Sterling Corporation, in designing the maps, a source told Gongwer News Service. LaBrant also is a key figure in the Chamber's backing of conservative candidates.

    Hey, they bought the government, they should make sure they get to keep it, right?

    Elections have consequences, and 2010 has had consequences that are going to hurt for a long, long time.

    Ford Triples Electrics

    Jumping in the electric/hybrid market in a big way.

    Ford Motor Co. plans to triple electric vehicle production by 2013 and will make its C-max model hybrid-only, the automaker said Thursday.

    Ford has shelved its earlier plan to bring a seven-passenger C-max to the U.S. market from Europe. The Dearborn automaker said it wants to focus on the five-passenger C-max hybrids instead. The C-max will be available as a two-mode hybrid, as well as a plug-in hybrid.

    It will be the only Ford that isn't also available in a gasoline version.

    In all, Ford will build 100,000 hybrid and electric vehicles by 2013, up from 35,000 a year today. The current offering includes hybrid versions of the Ford Escape SUV vehicle and the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans.

    "The way we're executing our electric vehicles is a little different than other companies," said Jim Farley, Ford's vice president of marketing, speaking at the company's Van Dyke Transmission plant in Sterling Heights.

    "We're not electrifying a certain vehicle and making a science project for a few people. We're electrifying our core (models)."

    And that is the difference with Ford - the ability to offer the same model with different powertrains. Will be interesting to see how that will play out with dealer stock (going to keep all versions on hand?) and sales numbers in the long run. Best thing is that they are going to build them right here in Michigan; this will bring 220 more jobs, 170 for battery assembly in Rawsonville alone.

    Thursday, June 09, 2011

    Get A Passport

    In Case You Forgot
    We even label the Great Lakes so you know which large body of water you are staring at.

    So glad to hear that the Michigan Recreation Passport for the state parks has gotten off to such a great start. They recently passed 1 million in sales, and the participation rate is exceeding the percentage they needed to hit to bring in more money than the old system provided.

    Michigan residents are increasingly supporting the program, according to data from the Secretary of State office, which tracks participation. State park officials are looking for a 12-month average of 24 percent to 25 percent participation this first year.

    Seventeen percent participation is needed to break even and replace the $10.7 million that was collected under the old motor vehicle sticker system.

    “We just got April numbers,” said Ron Olson, Michigan’s state parks chief with the Department of Natural Resources. “They were 23.8 percent in April, up from 22.5 percent the previous month. Every month (the number) has gotten better gradually. Our goal is 30 percent in 2012.”

    The $10 passport allows you free entrance to 98 state parks and recreation areas and free use of 74 state boat launches. It's much cheaper than the old $24 a year rate, and beats the $6 a day rate if you only use it twice in a year.

    I got mine, even though these high gas prices are keeping me from gallivanting around the state like I used to. I'll probably make it up to Muskegon at some point though, and for sure I'll get out to Grand Haven again - and now I won't have to worry about finding parking on the street. That will make it worth it right there.

    Get one. Help out our parks.

    Other good parks news - the DNR will keep the 23 parks that were slated for closure this year open through October, although no one has identified where the money is going to come from to run them. If they aren't going to worry about it we probably shouldn't either, but make a note that this was another one of those things that the R's insisted on cutting, and then changed their minds after they were in power.

    Good idea to keep track of that stuff, don't you think?

    Michigan House Republican Introduces Bill to Restrict "Morning After" Pill

    Thought I'd wait and see if the press picked up on this, but since they went with the pit bull ban instead, I guess I'd better throw it out there.

    From the GOP lawmaker who brought you the "let's tax the prisoners" legislation, comes this piece of garbage designed to limit choice for women and perhaps catch some campaign $$ from the RtL crowd at the same time:

    2011 House Bill 4688: Restrict “morning after” pill

    Introduced by Rep. Anthony Forlini (R) on May 26, 2011, to prohibit sale of the “morning after” pill in the same manner as other prescription or non-prescription drugs. Instead, the drug could only be administered by a physician subject to similar disclosure and informed consent regulations as apply to regular abortions, and only after an actual physical exam, not a video exam or internet interview.

    As far as I know, as it stands now anyone over 17 can get the morning after pill from any regular pharmacy. This legislation would make it extremely difficult is not impossible to get the drug in a timely manner, rendering its use pretty much out of the question since time is of the essence in this situation. Not many people have the ability to get a doctor's appointment at the drop of a hat, some don't even have a regular doctor at all, and we don't even have to mention the added out-of-pocket cost or the hit on your insurance, do we?

    The "less government" Republicans in our legislature have introduced a bunch of odious anti-choice legislation this year; so far stealing your money has taken priority over the right-wing social wedge issues though. But now that they have some time on their hands, look out...

    UPDATE 6/13: Add this one to the pile:

    House Bill 4715: Restrict late term abortions to neonatal facilities
    Introduced by Rep. Thomas Hooker (R) on June 7, 2011, to ban abortions after the fetus has completed 19 weeks of gestation except in a hospital that has a neonatal unit.

    Chip, chip, chip...