While Grand Traverse County and Traverse City have been mulling over whether to tear down two power-generating dams on the Boardman River, more forward-thinking (or should we say backward?) persons in other states are giving dams a second look as a way to generate clean electrical power.
Currently, a power company in Pennsylvania is sinking $350 million into revitalizing a decrepit old dam on the Susquehanna River. When it goes on line, the dam will generate power for 100,000 homes.
Meanwhile, upgrades are underway at 23 dams in Idaho, California, Kentucky and other states, according to an article in the Baltimore Sun.
And thats pollution-free power. Power that doesnt add anything to global warming and comes free of charge from the motion of water through a turbine.
The Sun notes that there are 79,000 dams in America. But only 2,400 dams have hydroelectric generators, producing just seven percent of our nations power. Adding turbines to more of our countrys dams could provide enough juice to power 27 million homes.
Closer to home, two power companies are currently seeking permits to generate electrical power on the dams on the Boardman River owned by GT County and Traverse City. The county is spending $1.4 million on a study to determine if the dams should be taken down.
Traverse City Light & Power stopped generating electricity at the dams in 2005, claiming the dams were too costly to maintain.
Yet, consider that there are plans to establish seven new coal-powered plants in Michigan and a new wood-burning plant in Kalkaska. Why are we pursuing these dirty technologies when Michigan is a state that is rich in rivers and wind resources?
Add to that the fact that the Sabin and Boardman dams are the bulwarks of two lovely ponds teeming with wildlife and it seems a no-brainer. Dam it all! Lets not pull the plug on our local dams until we reconsider this clean, renewable resource.
John McCains Contest
Give presidential candidate John McCain credit: hes thinking outside the box with his idea of awarding a $300 million prize to the person or team that comes up with a long-life battery to power the car of the future.
For that world-changing suggestion alone, perhaps he deserves to be president.
Considering the peril our planet faces from global warming, not to mention Americas plight of being dependent on foreign energy, the zero-emissions battery system McCain recommends is urgently needed.
Currently, its possible to create a plug-in car battery for around $5,000, according to a professor of science and engineering, quoted in MITs Technology Review. But it wouldnt take the average car very far: less than 40 miles on a charge.
What is needed is a dramatically improved battery -- one that might be created if there were, say, a prize of $300 million.
The prize isnt such a crazy idea: in the 18th century, the world was transformed by a similar contest. In 1714, the British government offered a prize of 20,000 pounds to the inventor who came up with the first reliable marine chronometer.
And what is that? The thing we now call a clock. Without a clock to refer to for navigational purposes, it was impossible for sailors to determine longitude with any accuracy. Without knowing one‘s longitude, it was impossible to explore and map the world.
It took more than 20 years to invent a reliable, spring-driven mechanical clock that could be used at sea. The prize was claimed by John Harrison -- a woodworker who enjoyed tinkering with wooden clocks -- in 1737.
One Man with an Idea
Speaking of changing the world, I‘d like to direct your attention to our GearBox feature on page 35 this week to highlight a gas-saving idea by local publisher Mark Bonter.
Bonter has come up with a simple booklet called The GasFactor which makes it easy to compute how much a car trip will cost around town.
The beauty of the booklet is that it makes you think about your driving habits and reconsider unnecessary trips -- knowledge is power. Check it out.
Recently, Rep. Dennis Kucinich spent five hours in the House of Representatives reading off a laundry list of reasons as to why President Bush and Vice President Cheney should be impeached for their disastrous reign of error.
Predictably, the idea has gone nowhere because the Democrats want a nice soft landing for this year‘s presidential election, and impeachment proceedings would only muddy the waters.
As an aside, if a Democratic administration had pulled all of the blunders and evil deeds that Bush and Cheney have been party to, the Republicans would have had them impeached years ago.
A more urgent matter in these times of high gas prices and record oil company profits might be investigating what kind of crooked deal Bush and Cheney made with the energy companies back in 2001.
To refresh your memory, after only two weeks in office, former oil company president George Bush created an Energy Task Force chaired by Dick Cheney, who also had ties to energy companies.
Cheney went on to hold top-secret meetings with the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries, the results of which have never been revealed, despite congressional investigations, lawsuits and grand jury subpoenas.
Did those secret meetings have anything to do with the war in Iraq, $4 gas, and Exxon‘s quarterly profit of $11.7 billion -- the highest in history? We deserve to know.