electric

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan could deregulate the electricity market, allowing people to choose where they buy electricity.

In downtown Frankenmuth there are two very popular restaurants: the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn and right across the street, Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth. Both are famous for their chicken dinners. And the owners are cousins -- both of them are Zehnders.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Many biologists, politicians, and other say the threat of Asian carp getting into the Great Lakes is cause for concern. The silver carp are especially a nuisance. Those are the ones that can jump as high as 10-feet out of the water. They flop onto boats, and can cause injuries to fishermen.

The Environment Report has been taking a closer look at the effects these fish could have on our rivers and lakes, in the series -- Asian Carp & the Great Lakes.

Rebecca Williams and I took a trip to Eagle Marsh, Indiana. The wetland preserve is located on the southwest border of Fort Wayne. There, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources built what is nearly a 1,200 foot long, 8 foot high chain link fence, designed to block potential advancement of Asian carp toward the Great Lakes.

Here's a video of our trip, plus footage of Asian carp in action, and interviews with experts.

Photo by Rebecca Williams

Asian carp have been making their way up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers toward the Great Lakes for decades. Bighead and silver carp are the species people are the most concerned about.

Government officials are trying to keep the carp out of Lake Michigan. One of the main methods they’re using is electrical shock. There’s a man-made canal near Chicago that connects the Mississippi River system with Lake Michigan. And on that canal is a system of three underwater electric barriers built by the Army Corps of Engineers.

I recently had a chance to visit the electric barriers. You can’t see the actual barriers, because the electrodes are underwater. But the Army Corps invited me into the control room of Barrier 2B. It looks about like you’d guess – lots of computers and gauges. There are a couple large mounted Asian carp on the shelves.

Chuck Shea is a project manager with the Army Corps.

He says the barriers repel fish by emitting very rapid electric pulses into the water... which, if you’re a fish, is not a whole lot of fun.

“The idea is, as a fish swims in, the further it goes it’s getting a bigger and bigger shock and it realizes going forward is bad, it’s uncomfortable, and it turns around and goes out of its own free will and heads back downstream.”

The electric bill for this barrier runs between $40,000 and $60,000 a month.

Jeffrey Simms Photography / Flickr

Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin says he will introduce legislation next week in Congress to create electric vehicle charging stations on Capitol Hill.

As the Associated Press reports, "Levin says establishing the charging stations at no cost to the federal government would help encourage electric cars in the Capitol complex... Levin has said he plans to buy a Chevrolet Volt, General Motors' rechargeable electric car."

Earlier this week, Michigan's other Democratic Senator, Debbie Stabenow, said she planned to introduce legislation that would change government incentives for buying electric cars.

Currently, the incentive for buying an electric vehicle comes when you file your taxes in the form of a tax credit. Stabenow's legislation, the Charging America Forward Act, would give consumers a rebate of up to $7,500 at the time of purchase.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reported on Stabenow's plan earlier this week:

Currently, cars that qualify for the full rebate include the Chevy Volt, the Nissan Leaf, and the Tesla Roadster. Coda and Wheego also make an electric vehicle that qualifies for the credit. Ford, Fiat and Toyota plan to launch electric plug-in cars within the next year.

Stabenow’s legislation would also commit the federal government to spend two billion dollars to help companies that make advanced lithium ion batteries for vehicles. That’s on top of the two billion dollars the federal government has already spent to help the new industry. 

The Congresswoman admits the legislation is being proposed during a tough budget year, but, she said, "I think that strategic investments in innovation like battery innovation and manufacturing equals jobs – and so I’m hopeful that this will be a priority."

Michigan received the lion’s share of the last round of federal grants for advanced battery development– more than one billion dollars.  Michigan now has more advanced battery companies than any other state.

(Sarah Hulett, Michigan Radio)

If you walk into a gas station or a party store in the city of Detroit, you might see a flyer taped up, advertising "help with gas and lights."

But the phone number probably won’t connect to a charity program or aid organization. More likely, it’ll put you in touch with a fixer who will help you steal electricity or natural gas.

Trying to shut the problem down is a team of investigators from DTE Energy. Every day of the work week, they embark on what seems like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.