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- April 12th, 2010
Ecological rape
I hope everyone read Henry Ramsby’s letter (“The coming biomassacre”
4/5/10). I am in total agreement. As a former naturalist and science
educator I am incredulous as to the “logic” behind this proposed
wood-burning gasification plant. Doesn’t anyone in any position of
power “get it” that stripping northwest Michigan of its trees has the
potential for a horrific snowball effect on the local ecosystem?
Logging will expose unstable dunal-glacial moraine soils beneath the
forest. As these ancient dune soils are exposed to wind and weather,
greater erosion, blowouts and devastation will result. And the
proposed method of logging out an area and replanting will not replace
delicate species of flora and fauna that have taken hundreds of years
to establish (in climax forestland).
And what of the eco-tourism that has long been a mainstay of the
economy of Northern Michigan? Since I was a child roaming the hills
behind my childhood home in Traverse City, to the summer vacations I
now spend up there with family and friends, it has been the forests
and the lakes that are the draw to come home. This proposal is
tantamount to ecological rape.
Adding insult to injury, the power plant promoters are false in saying
that wood ash is “non-toxic.” Early settlers used wood ash to create
lye (as any fourth grader studying history knows) to make soap. Water
+ wood ash = high pH caustic lye. So, just how are they planning to
sequester thousands of tons of wood-ash byproduct from this plant?
Leaked into the water system caustic, high-pH leachate would devastate
area watersheds, altering the pH of ground water and creating a
disaster for aquatic life.
Besides the horrible initial impact to wildlife (loss of habitat and
species, forced migration of species across roadways to seek new
homes...), this will also affect the mental well-being of those living
in and around logged areas (demoralization and depression at seeing
huge swaths of treeless land where forests once stood). And it would
likely decrease already depressed property values as well.
Who wants to live near areas stripped bare of trees and laid waste to? A few
scrawny seedlings doesn’t make up for a
climax forest. I hope the citizens rally to the defense of area
forests and stop this plant. Burn trash if you will, but don’t burn

Rolinda D. LeMay, M.Ed.
Toledo, Ohio (Traverse City native)

(Please note, TCL&P‘s proposed biomass plant would follow sustainable
forest guidelines established by the
DNR, with no plans for clearcutting.
See this issue‘s “BioDebate“ article. -- ed.)

Burning trees
In a recent Anne Stanton article about biomass and burning of trees
for electricity, the claim was made once again by supporters that
burning trees is carbon neutral.
According to this theory a tree rotting on the ground emits the same
amount of carbon into the atmosphere as burning it. On its face this
statement may sound reasonable, but it is actually just scientific
Here is why. When you do any sort of scientific comparison you must
make sure that all the mitigating factors are equal. For example you
would not want to compare burning a 10-inch, 200-foot tree with a
2-inch sapling laying on the ground. That would not be fair. Yet in
this analysis, supporters of biomass have ignored one of the most
basic and important variables of all: time. It may take only 10
minutes to burn and inject all the carbon of a tree into the
atmosphere, but laying on the ground rotting could take 70 to 80
years to accomplish the same thing.
When you ignore time as a factor the conclusions you come up with are
wrong. For example, what if you wanted to see if keeping milk in the
refrigerator is better than leaving it on the counter? In both cases
the milk goes bad and cannot be used. Granted, it takes longer to
spoil in the fridge, but if time is not a factor then we can conclude
the fridge is useless. Or which is more corrosive, sulfuric acid or
water? Take a bucket of each, put a piece of steel sheet metal in each
one and wait. The sheet metal in the water will rust and corrode to
nothing, the same as in the acid. So is there no difference between
sulfuric acid and water? I can even say things like exploding an
atomic bomb will not put any more radiation into the atmosphere than
would happen normally. If you ignore time then that’s a true
Another problem with this theory is that biomass supporters are
comparing apples to oranges. They are not planning to burn dead trees
laying on the forest floor. They want to cut and burn living trees.

John Teesdale • Charlevoix

Muir‘s wisdom
John Muir said, “God has cared for these trees, saved them from
drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But
he cannot save them from fools.”
I believe only fools would build biomass plants.
Randy Bond • Beulah

A mother‘s love
I just had the chance to read the amazing article that you wrote
regarding the untimely death of Dan Pagel. The sad thing is that I
don’t think several of the people that attended Dan’s funeral will
ever understand the true impact this has had on many people.
Dan was a good friend to my son in junior high. My son has spent the
last several years in and out of jail, thanks to weed and being in the
Grand Traverse County system. Many people say that weed is not an
addictive drug. I can say that it may not be physically addicting, but
people will do what it takes to get it and smoke it without caring
about the consequences.
When my husband and I discovered what was going on with our son, we
did all that we knew to help him. We were the parents that my son’s
many friends wanted to hang out with. We were younger than most
parents, and the kids thought we were cool. That was until we found
out what several of them were into. I put my foot down hard and spared
no words to any of them as to how I felt.
One of the hardest things I ever did as a mom was have my son arrested
in February of 2007 for bringing pot into my house again. By this
point all the friends that he thought he would have forever had
When my son went to jail for the first time, we took one of his really
good friends with us, hoping that having him seeing our son in that
situation would help him to realize that, yes, even pot can get you
behind bars! It didn’t work, and last I knew the kid is still
smoking as much as ever.
I was very angry at Dan. I had a deep hate for him. For the longest
time I blamed him for what happened to my son. I had the chance to see
him when he worked at Target, and I made the decision to go to his
check out line. I spoke to him, and learned that he was looking
forward to going to college and trying to get is life back in order. I
had known Dan since he was about 14 when he started snowboarding with
my son.
I truly feel that we can blame society all we want for what is
happening to our kids, but as a mom who has been to hell and back
several times, it is important for parents to get involved. When my
son got in trouble all the kids that were his friends disappeared, and
the parents that my husband and I had gotten to know so well
disappeared too. They marked my son as a bad kid and said to stay away
from him. Little did they know that their kid was doing the same thing
or even worse. No parent ever wants to hear that.
On the night that my son told me that Dan had died from an overdose,
my heart sank. I cried tears for a young man that I had so much hate
for. There isn’t a day that I don’t think of him. I pray and pray that
something good comes out of this, and all the friends that are on his
Facebook page and attended his funeral stop and realize that it can
happen to them.
About a week after Dan’s death my son and I were talking about what he
had heard about Dan’s struggle over the last few years. My son looked
at me and said “thank you!” I looked back at him and said, “for what?”
He replied: “If you would not have gotten involved and got me away
from the people that I thought were going to be my friends forever and
would do anything for me, I could have ended up like Dan.”
Wow... that made me stop and think for the first time about all that
my family has been through. There are days (still) that we count the
minutes, even the seconds, never knowing what could happen. My son
actually realized that losing those so-called friends because mom
bitched about them and the drugs was because I loved him!

Name withheld

Health reform: no thanks
This letter is in response to the article by Stephen Tuttle, “The
Healthcare Victory” (4/5/10).
It is apparent as to which side of the aisle you favor. I don’t
oppose your politics; that’s a personal choice. What I do take issue
with is the statement: “Maybe the anger is more personal.” You’re
right, it’s more personal, but it has nothing to do with the color of
his (President Obama’s) skin, so don’t play the race card.
As a journalist you have a responsibility to report all the facts.
Many of the people in America fear the Health Care Bill because of the
5,400 earmarks, pork, bribes, giveaways or whatever you want to call
it. I saw no mention of this in your article. Very few people believe
this bill is going to save the American people money or improve our
healthcare. What we do believe is this bill will bankrupt our nation.
Only time will tell. I fear for my children, my grandchildren and our
You also praised Nancy Pelosi as an extraordinary woman. What
politician in their right mind would suggest Congress pass a bill
without knowing what’s in the bill? (Pass the bill and you will be
surprised what’s in it.)
You wrote: “She is not especially articulate or charismatic. She too
often appears to be in some kind of West Coast fog.” Finally, I found
something we can agree on.

Richard Rzemien • Cheboygan

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