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Re: E-M:/ FW: Go Green Power

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org

  Following up on Terry Link's comments on Leroy Harvey's original post 
  below, folks throughout the Greater Lansing area should speak up on this 
  proposal -- BWL is expanding its range aggressively -- it sounds as if 
  they have a large excess capacity at this time (or at least that is what 
  we hear over in Meridian Twp. where for a long time they have been trying 
  to get the Twp to allow them to expand the BWL service area into the Twp. 
  and they have now succeeded in that through the thoroughly despicable 425 
  Agreement on the Governor's Club).  Perhaps Leroy or others knowledgable 
  about this issue can tell us WHY they won't consider conservation (demand 
  side) as part of the strategy -- I would GLADLY support insulating poor 
  people's homes or buying energy efficient lighting fixtures for people as 
  a way to promote TRULY green energy!  
  In reading Leroy's original message, though, I am more than a little 
  concerned about some of the things that are being touted as "green 
  power".  Burning green wood (wood taken straight from the forests) to 
  make power is NOT an acceptable energy generation strategy to me at all.  
  This is a debate I have had with some of my friends in the energy 
  efficiency movement for a long time, and I really think we need to make 
  sure that we are all thinking about the full effect of energy producing 
  facilities on the environment before signing off on them!  
  In Michigan there have been plants that burn wood chips built in the 
  northern lower peninsula with the pretense that they would deal with 
  waste produced at a wood processing facility.  As a part of an integrated 
  wood processing facility in which the maximum use of the wood is made, 
  this MAY be a good idea, but in reality it has often ended up being a 
  really awful idea.  Here are some of the downsides:
  1) Whole tree removal from forestlands: One of the "innovations" in wood 
  processing over the years has been to use more and more of the tree in 
  various production activities, leading increasingly to the removal of 
  many parts of trees that previously remained on the ground for animal 
  cover, soil erosion prevention, and reinvestment of nutrients in the 
  soil.  We are woefully ignorant as a society about the ability of our 
  lands to produce infinite "crops" of trees, which is where a lot of our 
  tree or fiber growing activity is now invested.  While it may sound good 
  to "clean up" an area that has been slicked off through clearcutting, 
  nothing is further from replicating a natural disturbance than the wipe 
  it clean type of logging going on today.  What is considered "waste" to 
  be burned for electrical generation is in fact critical to assuring that 
  healthy forests can grow in the future on ground being tread by men in 
  machines snipping off all the trees and carting them away.  One other 
  side effect of technology has been to allow smaller and smaller trees to 
  be used in processing, and burning chips plays right into that.
  2) In some cases in Michigan the wood chip powered generators have 
  actually been built too large to survive just on the waste from wood 
  processing facilities.  While the price now is probably too high for this 
  to happen, there have been times when these facilities were buying wood 
  that COULD have been sold for other purposes -- in other words they were 
  competing with folks who would have turned the wood into oriented strand 
  board or paper so that they could burn it straight out of the woods.  The 
  scale of this type of facility MUST be in concert with the actual waste 
  produced --- it makes no sense to create demand for electrical generation 
  from a type of facility that may well result in more clearcutting in 
  order to meet that demand!!  Originally, these wood chip burning 
  faciltiies were intended to be integrated parts of an overall wood 
  processing facility -- the waste from the process would be burned right 
  on the property to fuel the operations of the facility, not to create 
  excess power for sale.  If there excess power for sale, my guess is they 
  are NOT doing a decent job of reducing wood wastes and utilizing the 
  energy produced.  
  3) Lastly, the deficit in green wood chips to burn has led to pressure to 
  burn building demolition wood in some of these facilities.  I don't know 
  that I need to say more about this other than that taking a facility 
  designed to burn green wood (ie straight from the forest) and putting 
  lead based paint residue through it is a REALLY bad idea environmentally.
     On the other biomass source, methane from manure, again I have many 
     reservations about this as long as Michigan has BY FAR the worst 
     regulations regarding confined animal feeding operations in the 
     nation, AND while our State Legislature is AT THIS MOMENT considering 
     throwing out entirely local controls over these facilities.  While I 
     think the use of this byproduct of animal agriculture for something 
     other than just pollution of the atmosphere is an very good idea, 
     again if there is a demand created for this byproduct when the 
     requisite protection for the environment is not in place, this should 
     not be supported!  Why make it more cost effective for people who are 
     destroying the water quality and quality of life of their neighbors to 
     expand their facilities?  It is CRITICAL that if something is 
     considered "green energy" the entire life cycle of that technology, 
     along with the regulatory framework in which it exists, MUST be 
     I am all for green energy, but I am not for "greenwashing" energy.  
     Can someone talk about why BWL is so aggressively seeking to expand 
     their service area now?  Why are they so overbuilt, and how will green 
     energy options actually fit into the total picture of their electrical 
     production now? 
     Anne Woiwode
The Lansing Board of Water and Light will consider their staff 
recommendations for green power on Tuesday, Nov. 23 at their main office in 
Lansing. Under consideration are 4 proposals: 1 wind, 2 biomass (a cow 
manure-methane and wood chip option) and natural gas-fuel cell option.
Among these options, wind is usually considered "greener." Biomass typically 
would come in 2nd (next to wind, solar, efficiency, and geothermal in some 
states). Natural gas technologies come in 3rd (cleaner than coal but dirtier 
than renewables and efficiency). Unfortunately, the greenest option, 
efficiency, is not in the running.

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