Its time to move on, the community has spoken: no biomass burning. I call on
Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P) to honor their commitment to
listen to the people and drop their plans to build one or more biomass
burning plants in Traverse City.
No need to wait until April; let us all get on with the work of
figuring out how to move forward with wood-fired power plants off the
At two forums held by TCL&P, several hundred people could hardly have
been more clear: they dont want any sort of biomass burning plants in
Traverse City and think the whole concept of stopping global warming
by burning wood ranges anywhere from suspect to tragically wrong.
Frankly, I was stunned.
Despite months of marketing and a dozen presentations where only
pro-biomass presenters were invited, and despite TCL&Ps forums
beginning with a pro-biomass presentation and many frustrated citizens
walking out, about 90% or more of the participants opposed biomass
I personally feel humbled by the depth of knowledge of our town. This
wasnt a not-in-my-backyard thing, though no one thinks more
smokestacks and diesel trucks here is a good idea. The very idea that
humanity could solve its energy or environmental problems by burning
trees just didnt make sense.
A very interesting point was made that a $30-to-$50 million bet on
burning technology when the political landscape changes, the wood
supply cant support it, or just that it turns out (correctly) to not
be so green after all, is risky business. Many believe that new
technologies are just around the corner.
TCL&P had to admit there is NO working model of wood-fired plant of
the type they are proposing (10 megawatt or larger combined wood and
heat gasification.) Traverse City would be home to experimental
technology that one biomass plant operator told me sounded very
The consensus seems go with natural gas (which is a local resource)
for now. Our community could achieve a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions
TODAY by turning to natural gas.
Personally I think everyone on TCL&P has worked hard to do the
right thing, but they were led down a garden path by a
renewable energy industry up-selling products, and a government too
willing to throw money at a problem whether or not it really makes
sense or even works.
Jeff Gibbs TC
Support for biomass
Anne Stantons article concerning Traverse City Light and Powers
proposed biomass gasification power plant left me wondering if the
opponents of the plant really understand what the power company is
proposing to do.
For example, TCL&P is proposing to harvest sustainably the wood they
use. If you Google sustainable forest management youll find the
following definition, accepted by the United Nations Food and
Agricultural Organization: The stewardship and use of forests and
forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their
biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their
potential to fulfill now and in the future, relevant ecological,
economic and social functions.
I would say that TCL&P is as concerned about the health and maintenance of
Michigans forests as any of the companys detractors.
When I read, Why commit to this big old biomass plant ...that may be
obsolete in 3 to 5 years? I felt the speaker hadnt done his
homework. First, the proposed plant would be much smaller than any of
the six wood burning facilities that now exist in Michigan. Second,
because it would first turn the wood into a gas that would then be
cleaned before being burned, it would create almost no air pollution;
the hot gases would spin an air turbine; the system, because it would
operate at a higher temperature than the conventional steam turbine,
would be more efficient; and TCL&P is proposing to use the waste heat
from the system, making the whole process even more efficient.
Obsolete? Hardly. Its closer to state of the art.
I teach the Principles of Renewable
Energy class at NMC. It appears to me that TCL&P has done a careful
job looking at
the options for a small, local, baseload
power plant that uses renewable energy and came up with an
environmentally satisfactory solution.
Conrad Heins, Ph.D. TC
Anne Stantons article on the pros and cons of biomass (and
alternatives) was among the best Ive seen. Balanced and unemotional,
it stated the possibilities, relative costs, and problems clearly.
Thanks for a great job.
Im a forester and have been a consultant specializing in intensively
managed energy plantations for over 20 years (long before biomass
became a household word). I know all of the arguments. Good work!
W.V. (Mac) McConnell
Need biomass task force
Regarding the biomass power plant issue: Underlying this is the lack
of proper understanding of the connection between plant life, soils,
wildlife, song birds, and the forest ecology and the effects of narrow
timber management goals.
The state needs a task force on biomass, with citizen and local
community representation, and no plant should be considered until the
task force has completed its study and inventory of forests from the
mentioned, and the effects that will or are
likely to occur.
I believe the Michigan Constitution,
Art 10, Sec., would require a thorough inventory of values associated
with public lands and forests, and the Michigan Environmental
Protection Act requires a consideration of effects and feasible and
prudent alternatives before a decision is made to commit any state
land or forests to supplying or being used to supply biomass plants.
Jim Olson TC
McManus & divorce
State Senator Michelle McManus, history buff and candidate for
Secretary of State, recently supported a return to the wild west with
a bill that would allow concealed weapons on our school campuses.
Now she brings forth yet another anachronistic morsel of legislative
nostalgia --- a return to the happy days of fault-based divorce laws.
Yes, dear husbands and wives, to get a divorce you would have to
either physically abuse each other, have an affair, or have sex with
livestock or a dead body. Now we dont want to hear any complaining
boys and girls, its not like you wont enjoy a variety of choices in
the pursuit of your personal freedom.
However, the ACLU may find a couple of disturbing inequities in the
proposed law. First, it stands to reason that farmers and undertakers
would have an unfair statistical edge in the divorce game. Perhaps the
good Senator could offer some of those much-lauded Republican tax
credits to those that breed sheep for use by the general population
and to those that agree to donate their bodies upon death... just
thinking outside the box, so to speak.
Amy Kerr Hardin Acme
Why we need health care
The Presidents Health Reform Initiative is certainly an issue which he
is not going to let go of. The goal of universal health care is
laudable. I trust that not even the coldest heart would wish upon
another United States citizen incapacitation, chronic pain or even
death because they could not afford to get the care they need.
Through luck, persistence, education, family background and forward
thinking I have had health care for my family and myself since 1978.
My first two children, however, were born while we were students and
had no insurance. Within the first three years of marriage, my wife
and I accumulated nearly $4,000 in debt. It took a long time to clear
that. Fortunately, by the birth of our third child, through
collective bargaining, my employer provided us with health insurance.
A fourth child and many years later, the benefits of our health care
program substantially improved the quality of our lives. For this I
am forever grateful. As I have aged, this access has proved
invaluable through hip replacements, arterial surgery and regular
access to my family physician.
Many of my friends however, do not have such coverage and for this
they suffer, both financially and in terms of their health. These are
all good, moral people who pay their taxes too.
In a country where doctors are educated in public universities, where
medical procedures and pharmaceuticals are already regulated by the
government; where hospitals and insurance buildings have lobbies lined
with imported marble; where their CEOs travel in private planes and
maintain lavish homes and offshore bank accounts, it is an abomination
that every citizen does not have access to the best health care
Ask yourself what you and your family would do without theirs?
Bill Brown Maple City
Pass the health care bill
With the infighting in Congress over the health care bill, what is
coming out of the Republican Party from Washington is unbelievable.
The health care bill might not be the best but it is a start in
helping millions who dont have coverage. And who are all these
Americans the Republicans are referring to that dont want this bill?
Talking with people I know, they all want some kind of cost reduction
and fair treatment and coverage from their insurance company. Only
the drug and insurance companies would be miffed for coming under
regulations that would benefit the citizens and cut into their
Republicans sit on every committee in Congress and now they want a do
over on this important bill for the people?
As Americans, we need to hold all politicians accountable and after
this last display of childishness from the Republicans, we need to
vote them out and put as many independents as we can find to break up
the frat boy, major party thinking that has evolved in Washington.
James C. Williams Kalkaska
Rising health premiums
Are the uninsured subsidizing the health insurance industry? I had
Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance but now cant afford it after
the premium increased 40%.
As shown on my explanation of benefits, when I had insurance, the
service provider accepted payment from BC/BS for up to 60% less than I
pay now without health insurance. Why? Do other insurance companies
get the same sweet deal?
Randy Bartling TC
Donate your refund
This year, I encourage Michigan residents to check off for the
United Way Fund on your Michigan tax return. Form 4642 on the 2009
income tax return allows taxpayers to donate all or part of their tax
refund, or to increase their tax payment, to donate to the United Way
Fund. The Fund provides food, clothing and shelter for Michigans low
to moderate income families.
Funds donated will be returned to the local United Way based on the
taxpayers zip code. In our area, Char-Em United Way will receive all
tax donations from Charlevoix and Emmet Counties and will reinvest
them to provide basic needs for our neighbors.
Given todays economic conditions and high unemployment in Northern
Michigan, more families are at risk than ever before and the need for
assistance has never been greater. The Michigan Legislature has
created a quick and easy way to donate resources that help ease the
burden for many Michigan families. This year, please be sure to
check off for the United Way Fund.
Barb Perreault, Treasurer,
Char-Em United Way
In an article that ran in late January, Northern Express wrote about
Shirley Vinson, her desire to regain parental rights to her infant
son, and the complexities involved. In a recent trial in Grand
Traverse Countys Family Court, Vinsons parental rights were