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- April 26th, 2010
I hear that Martin Sexton and opening act Ryan Montbleau Band are
fantastic to catch live, but sadly I would have to leave town to capture
that experience. Not because they haven’t played in Traverse City, but
because I CAN’T HEAR THEM over the crowd. (Sorry for yelling.)
Apparently, people would rather see the band play than hear them.
Laboring through half of a sold-out show at the City Opera House, we
couldn’t even make out the words being sung over the idle chatter and
other people ‘shush-ing’ the chatterers. It was so frustrating that I
walked out four songs after the main act started. It was awful, and many
people shared this feeling.
I am passionate about live music and I see a lot of concerts, routinely
traveling as far as Cadillac, Ann Arbor, Detroit or Chicago to see them. I
spent every Friday night for three years as a volunteer DJ for WNMC,
playing local music and interviewing the musicians who travel far and wide
to entertain us. I follow the Northern Express every week and years ago I
even conducted a handful of interviews with visiting bands for
Out of all of these great places to see shows, downtown Traverse City is
building a reputation as “Worst Place to See a Concert.”
Area promoters have done a fantastic job of bringing world-class speakers,
comedians and performing artists to town. But in speaking with friends
about how awful last night’s experience was, apparently this rude practice
has become commonplace. Recent crowds have ruined the evening by speaking
over notables such as Ani DiFranco, Diane Rehm and the Comedy Festival
acts. What a waste. And these are not just the “young professionals” at
the more boisterous concerts; even older ladies talking through what is
obviously intended to be a listening event. Poor Tom Brokaw is in for it.
I can see how crowd noise plays into an outdoor festival or a bar band
where the music is heavily amplified, but not for a lone guitarist pouring
out his or her soul under a spot light, drowned out by crowd noise.
Regrettably, I would prefer to stay home, instead of witnessing the
spontaneity of live entertainment in the future.
Please -- keep quiet during the show, respect the artist and the rest of us!

Mike Dudek • via email

Tea Party bullies
I was fascinated to watch the health care debate on C-SPAN and to read the
actual bills online. You can find them at Just select the
section you want to read. Don’t be lazy, educate yourself.
I don’t think the Republican Tea Party ever read the bill, as demonstrated
by the comments of John Boehner, Chuck Grassley, Rush Limbaugh, and Glen
Beck. If people let Fox interpret everything for them, no wonder they are
misinformed and angry.
Last night I heard on TV 7&4 News that educators in Leelanau met to
discuss bullying and suicide. Tea Partiers are modeling the exact
bullying behavior that we don’t want our students to copy.
When kids see adults on TV shouting racial slurs, spitting on people,
depicting President Obama as a witch doctor, displaying their guns and
inciting violence to intimidate others with whom they disagree, what are
we teaching our children? Those against big government should return
their Social Security checks and Medicare cards. The national debt is
larger now because Bush hid spending for two wars in a separate budget.
Instead of complaining, create your own ideas to make a better America for
everyone, share those ideas and volunteer yourself.

Beverly Christensen • Cedar

Sweet Tea coverage
I’m a conservative somewhat to the right of Rush Limbaugh, so you
probably don’t consider me to be part of your usual demographic. And
when I saw that your latest issue had an article on the Tea Party
movement, I was skeptical about how fair the coverage might be.
Actually, I expected a liberal out-of-hand dismissal of the movement’s
concerns consistent with the national mainstream media’s approach.
I want to congratulate writer Noah Fowle for the outstanding job! Clearly
a lot of effort was put into this article. It was as balanced as anyone
could hope for, it didn’t mock the movement, and it was much more in-depth
than I expected from a weekly paper.
In my dreams, this would be the beginning of a trend. Noah Fowle could
teach a lot of “news” writers about the difference between news and
editorials, not just other Northern Express writers but also those at the
local daily paper. A job well done! Thank you!

Chris Holz • via email

Biomass & air pollution
As a physician residing and caring for patients in the Traverse City area,
I am deeply concerned about the potential health impact of a biomass plant
in our region.
Known gaseous byproducts of burning biomass fuels are carbon monoxide,
benzene, toluene and other known toxic and cancer causing chemicals. In
addition, the ash residue of biomass emissions has an adverse health
impact on human lungs and particularly those individuals with chronic lung
disease such as asthma or emphysema.
Let us learn from other societies who have implemented biomass energy and
what has resulted in the environment in those regions; for example, South
Asia. The “Asian Brown Cloud” is a layer of air pollution that extends
for miles in the sky that covers South Asia. The contents of this have
been studied and have been scientifically proven to have been largely a
result of biomass energy. A health study performed in 2002 indicated that
nearly 2 million people die each year in India alone due to the health
implications of this brown cloud.
We have already polluted our Great Lakes waters which has resulted in the
current fish consumption health advisory recommendation that pregnant
women and women of childbearing age not consume more than two fish meals
per month. This is due to the build-up of mercury and other biological
neurotoxins which are found in fish which become concentrated in fatty
tissue such as breast milk and the brains of infants.
Let us not contaminate the air we breathe in addition to the water that we
drink in this lovely region of our country. Let us learn from other
societies who have implemented biomass energy and make a smarter, cleaner
choice for renewable energy in this magical Northern Michigan community
that we are fortunate to live in.

Laura Shea, MD • Brookside Family Medicine • TC

Biomass: no one in favor
Just read “Biodebate“ (4/12) by Anne Stanton. Excellent article, very
informative. Regarding the cost of biomass, we are currently paying 5.0
cents/kWh for coal power from contracts signed in the 1980s.
The way I read this, we will be paying the current rate for wood biomass
of 10.6 cents/kWh. That’s double what I am paying now.
It was brought out by Traverse City Light & Power that Finland and Sweden
have biomass plants and are doing well. Yet, what was brought out by
“Biodebate“ was that Scandinavia can no longer provide the wood from their
own forests, so they are purchasing wood from Canada.
I imagine Scandinavia had “strong sustainable forestry management plans
and practices to ensure that forestry ecology is strengthened while
ensuring a steady supply of fuel at prices that result in competitive
electric rates for their customers.” Didn’t work!
If you can remember back three to four years ago ethanol from corn was the
savior of fossil fuels. As it turned out, it was a poor plan at best.
Didn’t work!
As wind, solar and other potential energy sources are developed the costs
come down. Stay with coal until these are developed. Put a time limit.
America and Michigan can do it!
Biomass will do nothing but cause more harm and lost dollars down the road
at taxpayers‘ and electricity consumers‘ expense.
Of all of the people I have asked through out the Traverse City area, in
stores, on the street, at theaters etc. Not one person was in favor of
biomass. Not one!

Charles Baumann • via email

Bad direction for TCLP
Thank you for your excellent article on biomass. From watching the
coverage of the forums that TC Light & Power has held, it is pretty
apparent that they had already made up their mind to pursue biomass,
despite residents‘ concerns.
It is a money issue for them, not one concerning the best alternative for
the residents or the environment. However, I can only hope that if enough
concerned residents come forward to oppose this, perhaps it can be
stopped. I have to say that I am shocked, as many others are, that
Traverse City would allow this.
TC has always been progressive and environmentally concerned, but big
business and money usually trumps all. The biomass plant will benefit
only TCLP customers, but its impact on our forests and the air that we
breathe will affect the lives of the residents of the entire area.
We are remodeling our home and were looking forward to many years of
enjoyment, but now realize that we will have to sell and move. We do not
live in TC, but the air currents normally flow this way and I have a lung
condition. It will also break my heart to see the decline in our forests
from all the wood needed by the many biomass plants being built in
northwest Michigan. There are better alternatives.
I can only hope that people will rise up to oppose this and fight to keep
our area and environment as beautiful and pristine as it is today. I
commend you for your coverage and hope that you’ll continue to keep us
informed of upcoming news on the proposed TC biomass plant.

Martha Ruszkowski • via email

Biodisaster in Europe
Regarding biomass: 13,000 tons of wood chips are required to generate 1
megawatt of power for one year, or 35 tons of wood each day. The proposed
Mancelona plant will produce about 36 MW of power, which would consume
over 1,200 tons of wood each day.
According to Adam Sherman of the Biomass Energy Resource Center
(commissioned by TCLP to assess fuel supplies for their proposed plant),
although wood chips from scraps could be used, “whole tree harvesting is
more efficient.”
Government subsidies are paying up to 30% of the costs for building
biomass burners, hence the sudden drive to build as many new plants as
possible before these subsidies run out. It takes minutes to burn a tree,
but decades to grow a new one. This is not sustainable.
Biomass plants are widely used in Europe. Since European countries have
already cut down the overwhelming majority of their trees, they rely on
imported wood from Asia, South America, Canada and the U.S. to stoke their
biomass furnaces. Just one Swedish company, for example, imports 400,000
metric tons of trees from Florida every year. Nestle Corporation is
already bottling and exporting Michigan water. What is to stop
international corporations from exporting Michigan forests as well?
Northern Michigan was once blanketed in pine forests, with white pines
often reaching over 200 feet tall and over 5 feet in diameter. It took
loggers a mere 20 years, between 1870 - 1890, to cut most of those trees
down. Since that time, our population, energy and land needs have grown
exponentially. Burning our forests for fuel is a step back in time. We
need to do all we can to protect our forests which provide us with oxygen,
wildlife habitat, and make Michigan a unique and beautiful place to live
and visit.

Anne Zukowski • Charlevoix

Biomass enablers
The conversation on TCLP’s initiative to build a biomass plant needs to be
broadened to include the implications this will have on our cultural
psychology. It seems that science is the last word on everything these
days. Since the Cartesian revolution, it has become the end all, best way
of knowing. But isn’t there something more to this matter than whether or
not the numbers add up?
When deciding whether or not to cut down one of our most precious living
resources to meet an energy quota, let me ask, where does the energy quota
come from? Wasn’t there a time when we got by with no power plants, no
industrial coal energy facilities, and just used less energy?
The most important point of the recent biomass article was that megawatts
should be the pressing initiative for our community. So then what is it
about our cultural psychology that can’t see that using the best,
renewable, sustainable, green, gadgets to continue to meet our “needs” may
not be as much of an answer as evaluating our “needs.”
When a child is being spoiled and beginning to develop behavior that is
unacceptable, a parent can either respond by limiting the indulgence and
creating a positive dialogue to correct the behavior, or the parent can
continue to spoil the child. By doing the latter, the parent enables the
child to continue misbehaving. In some ways, the premise for the TCLP
biomass plant, “that we must continue to meet the previous year’s energy
needs,” is enabling an unsustainable demand for energy consumption. At
this point in time, we have to understand that “need” in a capitalist
model, does not fit into an ecological model with limited resources.

Joe Warner • TC

Put forests first
Suppose we approach biomass from a “forests first“ perspective. First,
let‘s realize that our forests have already been vastly damaged and
degraded by a century of abuse and neglect.
We must see the forest as our commonwealth and that our health is
inextricably linked to the health of the forest. We have the
responsibility and the ability to reverse the damage. Through careful
stewardship, we can be healers of the damage to our forests.
Periodically “combing“ through the forest, culling, thinning, limbing and
selective harvesting will yield large amounts of biomass and the forest
will over time be more valuable with better timber.
Can we expect this careful extraction from the industrial producers
contracted by TCLP? It‘s not going to happen! When the cost per kilowatt
hour is the bottom line, our forests, soil, air and habitat will be
degraded and the disengaged consumer will fund it.

Richard Allen • Leland

Biomass law needed
Biocide? Picture your favorite forest getting a 5 to 10 acre clear-cut
every day 365 days a year and that’s for just one power plant out of
several planned in Northern Michigan.
It’s like the gold rush for the power companies: tax dollars help pay to
build the plants and the state gives them our forest to burn for next to
nothing. But don’t expect a lower electricity bill.
Your federal tax dollars are given to the World Bank to pay third world
countries not to cut their forests. Michigan may qualify soon, but even
third world countries don’t burn their forests to make electricity.
I noticed TCLP included private land in their estimate of available wood.
A future eminent domain plan perhaps? What’s more important, a few selfish
private landowners or electricity for the rest of us?
On a more positive note, in a few years biomess is going to make Traverse
City‘s ruined sewerage plant look absolutely brilliant.
150 years ago men with axes and cross-cut saws only took 40 years to turn
Michigan into a stump land and we had 10 times the trees then.
We need a statewide law to stop this environmental suicide now.

Mark Richardson • Benzonia

A dam shame
Sometimes people are just a bit full of themselves
I saw a story that the Conservation Resource Alliance based in Traverse
City had received $625,000 grant through “Sustain Our Great Lakes” to help
the upper Manistee River by removing or bypassing 12 dams. It said that
the CRA has initiated a major fundraising campaign to support this
I have had some dealings with the CRA. They have been involved in a dam
removal and creek redirection project in Manton for some time. Manton
wants to retain the pond developed 100 years ago by a grist mill dam. The
DNRE and the CRA want to redirect the creek.
Recently, the CRA worked on Wheeler Creek in Sherman, Michigan and it
looks lousy. If that is what they intend to do with Manton Creek they need
not bother.
It’s too bad that the CRA can’t find a way to help Manton restore its
historic Mill Pond, a body of water that several generations once swam in
and have cherished for over 100 years. Senator Debbie Stabenaw sings their
praises, but after seeing what they did to Wheeler Creek I myself cannot.
Their goals are lofty and it seems, to me, so is their opinion of
themselves. I wonder if any of the $625,000 will find its way to Manton.

Michael H. MacCready • Manton

Editing errors were reponsible for two inaccurate statements in last
week‘s Express: The Tea Party held a small rally in Cheboygan, not
Charlevoix. Also, Rep. Bart Stupak lives in Escanaba, not Iron Mountain.

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