energy

Economy
12:36 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Russian steelmaker gets US loan for Michigan plant

Making steel at the Severstal North America plant in Dearborn.
Severstal North America

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. Energy Department says it has loaned $730 million to the North American arm of one of Russia's largest steel companies to modernize its Detroit-area plant.

The government and Severstal North America on Wednesday officially announced plans to upgrade and expand facilities in Dearborn that make steel for the auto industry. They say the project will employ around 2,500 construction workers and create 260 factory jobs.

The money comes from a $25 billion low-interest loan program created in 2007 to help car companies retool older factories to build green cars.

Severstal bought the Dearborn factory in 2004.

Energy
12:08 pm
Wed June 29, 2011

Michigan approves power plant permit

DETROIT (AP) - State officials have approved a permit for a coal-burning power plant in northern Michigan.

The state Department of Environmental Quality is announcing the decision Wednesday.

The Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative Inc. now may proceed with its 600-megawatt, coal-fired steam electric power plant near Rogers City, about 210 miles north of Detroit.

Wolverine Power provides electricity to more than 220,000 customers

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Environment
12:18 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Power plants killing millions of Great Lakes fish every year

The Bay Shore Power Plant on Maumee Bay in Lake Erie. Lake Erie Waterkeeper Sandy Binh says this power plant is "probably the largest fish-killing plant in the Great Lakes."
screen grab from YouTube video sWestern Lake Erie Waterkeepers and Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund

Power plants around the region are responsible for killing hundreds of millions of fish each year, according to an investigative report from the Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune's environmental reporter, Michael Hawthorne, looked at thousands of pages of industry reports documenting fish kills obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Hawthorne reports that the reports "highlight a threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem that has largely gone unaddressed for years."

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Accolades
4:43 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

Michigan Radio's Environment Report wins national Edward R. Murrow award

Edward R. Murrow through the eyes of artist John Tebeau.
John Tebeau Artist/Illustrator

The Environment Report from Michigan Radio has been recognized for excellence in broadcast journalism by the Radio Television Digital News Association with a 2011 National Edward R. Murrow Award.

The Environment Report received the award for Best Audio News Documentary in the Radio: Large Market category for “Coal: Dirty Past, Hazy Future.

In the series, The Environment Report's Rebecca Williams, Mark Brush, Lester Graham and Shawn Allee take an in-depth look at the future of coal in this country and the true costs of our dependence on coal. The series explores the role that coal plays in our lives and in the lives of those who depend on coal mining for a living. “Coal: Dirty Past, Hazy Future” takes listeners on a journey from their light switch back to America’s coal fields, and takes a closer look at the technologies that promise to deliver coal into the new green economy.

The Environment Report was the only news organization in Michigan to receive a 2011 National Edward R. Murrow Award, and one of seven public radio stations nationwide. This award is the third national Murrow Award that The Environment Report has received. The news service also received a National Murrow Award in 2010 for the five-part series “Dioxin Delays” and in 2002 for a story about the reproductive decline of mallard ducks in the Great Lakes region.

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Energy
8:42 am
Tue May 17, 2011

Regulator: Fermi 2 nuclear plant operated safely

DTE Energy's Fermi 2 nuclear power station on the shores of Lake Erie in Monroe, Michigan.
nrc.gov

FRENCHTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant operated safely last year.

The Monroe Evening News reported Monday that a letter from a branch chief for the commission's reactor projects division says no inspections beyond ones that are routine and previously planned are scheduled for this year at the facility in southeastern Michigan's Monroe County.

The letter was to plant operator DTE Energy Co.

Each year, the federal regulatory agency reviews its inspections at plants during the calendar year and issues an assessment letter. The NRC says the plant met all operational standards in 2010 and is working to address some employee issues from recent years.

The 1,200-megawatt Fermi 2 plant began operating in 1988.

Energy
2:57 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Canadian company delays Great Lakes nuke shipment

Turbines in the Bruce A power station on the eastern shore of Lake Huron in Ontario.
user pencefn creative commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A Canadian power company is no longer seeking U.S. permission to ship 16 scrapped generators with radioactive contents across three of the Great Lakes, but says it
hasn't abandoned the plan.

Bruce Power Inc. withdrew an application this month for a transport license from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Canada's Nuclear Safety Commission had granted the company permission in February to ship the generators, but U.S. approval was also needed because the vessels would cross into U.S. territory.

The Kincardine, Ontario-based company seeks to send the generators to Sweden for recycling. Environmentalists and other critics say transporting the school bus-sized devices on the Great
Lakes would be risky.

The company says it's delaying the shipment to allow further talks with opponents, including native tribes.

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Auto/Economy
2:02 pm
Fri April 22, 2011

Stabenow says manufacturing and agriculture will revitalize Michigan economy

Stabenow says Michigan can still benefit from the auto industry
Office of Senator Stabenow

Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow says the future of the Michigan economy depends on a strong auto and manufacturing base, as well as agriculture:

“You can’t have an economy in this country unless you make things and grow things. And the fundamental part in making things really is the auto industry and manufacturing. ”

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Environment
12:01 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Understanding the new "nutrition facts" for lightbulbs

The new label on lightbulbs
Image courtesy of the DOE

If you’ve ever been lost in the lightbulb aisle... things are getting a little easier. There’s a new label the federal government is requiring on lightbulb packages. It's modeled after the Nutrition Facts label on food.

But the label still needs some deciphering. Greenovation dot tv’s Matt Grocoff knows a thing or two about lightbulbs. I met up with Matt so he could show me how to read the new labels.

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Auto/Economy
2:20 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

Another gas price hike coming?

Another increase in store at Michigan pumps?
user Orin Zebest Flickr

Gas prices in Michigan are expected to go higher, according to an online service that shares information on fuel prices. GasBuddy.com collects data on gasoline prices all across Michigan and the rest of the country.  The company says average gas prices in Michigan are about to jump up  to between $4.05 and $4.15 a gallon.

This from an e-mail sent out by Gasbuddy.com:

We're at increasing odds for a price hike. Oil prices have continued to rally this week, meaning it may be price hike time. With the rise in wholesale costs already being passed on to stations, odds are this hike will occur any time in the next 48 hours.

Patrick DeHaan, the senior petroleum analyst with Gas Buddy, says several factors, including refineries switching to summer blends of gasoline,  are behind rising gas prices. 

“Unfortunately, until these refineries get going and finish their maintenance and boost production…we will continue to see supply dwindle and that will continue to impact prices.”  

DeHaan predicts Michigan gasoline prices will continue to edge higher between now and Memorial Day.

The White House says speculators on Wall Street are driving oil prices up. President Obama made some remarks on speculation in Virginia accoring to UPI:

U.S. President Barack Obama, in a speech in Virginia, said it's not a lack of supply that is driving oil prices up on the commodity markets.

"The problem is, is that oil is sold on these world markets, and speculators and people make various bets, and they say, you know what, we think that maybe there's a 20 percent chance that something might happen in the Middle East that might disrupt oil supply, so we're going to bet that oil is going to go up real high," he said. "And that spikes up prices significantly."

In the article, Bart Chilton, a member of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, says speculation makes up part of the price at the pump, "there is a Wall Street premium on gas prices today. Every time folks fill up their tanks, they can expect that several dollars are due to speculation."

Speculation was a big driver of the skyrocketing oil prices back in 2009.

Coal
12:07 pm
Sat April 9, 2011

Questions remain a year after West Virginia mine explosion

One year ago tonight, mine rescuers discovered the remains of the last four missing coal miners deep inside Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.

There had been hope that the four had made it to refuge chambers and were still alive. Optimistic rescuers carried four sets of breathing apparatus with them, hoping they would be used to bring the miners safely to the surface. The bodies of 25 other miners were found four days earlier.

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News Roundup
8:22 am
Fri March 18, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

President Obama orders review of U.S. Nuclear Power Plants

In light of the unfolding crisis at the crippled nuclear reactors in Japan, U.S. officials say they will review the safety of the 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S.  There are four nuclear reactors operating in Michigan (Fermi 2, Palisades, and D.C. Cook Unit 1 and Unit 2).

From the Associated Press:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will conduct a "comprehensive review" of the safety of all U.S. nuclear plants following what U.S. officials are calling the dangerous and complicated situation at Japan's damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors.

President Barack Obama took the rare step and called upon the independent commission to conduct the review.

"When we see a crisis like the one in Japan, we have a responsibility to learn from this event and to draw from those lessons to ensure the safety and security of our people," Obama said Thursday.

The nuclear industry agreed a review is a good idea. Anthony Pietrangelo of the Nuclear Energy Institute said they will look at the events that unfolded in Japan and "we will learn from them, we will get that operating experience, we will apply it and try to make our units even safer than they are today."

GM Halts Production at truck plant after parts shortage from Japan

Tremors are being felt in the auto industry after the Japanese earthquake.

From the Associated Press:

A shortage of parts from Japan will force General Motors Co. to halt production at its pickup plant in Shreveport, La., next week, the company said Thursday.

It's the first time a U.S.-based automaker will stop production in North America over parts shortages caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Toyota Motor Co. and Subaru have already slowed North American production to conserve parts that they normally import from that nation.

Reuters reported earlier this week that some automakers in Europe might be affected as well.

Tough night for MSU at NCAA Tourney

The Michigan State men's basketball team lost last night to UCLA in the NCAA Tournament 78-76.

The Spartans pulled close at the end of the game after trailing by as many as 23 points in the second half.

The Lansing State Journal:

"We got off to such a bad start," a red-eyed Izzo said afterward. "And yet I'm so proud of these guys. They've been knocked down so many times this year."

Down two with the ball, MSU senior guard Kalin Lucas was called for traveling with 0.2 of a second left on the clock, erasing a late chance at a halfcourt shot to win it.

After struggling through his worst offensive night in several weeks, Lucas got MSU within three points with a free throw and 42.2 seconds left. Lucas missed the second free throw that would have cut it to two.

The men's basketball teams at the University of Michigan and Oakland University play today.

Environment
11:43 am
Thu March 3, 2011

The do-it-yourself snow and ice test

Matt Grocoff says icicles are pretty, but they are also a bad sign that your roof could be suffering water damage, drip by drip.
Photo by Matt Grocoff

In the winter... there’s a quick and easy way to find out where your house is leaking energy... just by looking at your roof a day or two after a good snow. Greenovation.tv’s Matt Grocoff invited me along on what he calls a drive-by energy audit.

Here's what to look for:

  1. Icicles are pretty... but they're a sign that your attic needs more insulation. Heat from your house is escaping and melting the snow.
  2. If you have ice clogging your gutter, it can cause damage to the gutter... and ice can get underneath your roof shingles and damage your roof.
  3. You can use a roof rake to clear snow from your roof... but it's just a short-term fix. A better solution is to check out the non-profit group Michigan Saves to find a qualified contractor, who can come out and perform an energy audit and find your home's leaks and advise you on how to fix them so you can save energy and money.
What's Working
12:51 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

Helping communities save money and the environment

the yes man / flickr

We continue our What’s Working series today with guest Sarna Salzman. She’s the Executive Director of SEEDS, or Seeking Ecology Education and Design Solutions.

SEEDS is a non-profit based in Traverse City that acts as an energy consultant for local businesses and municipalities. In addition, SEEDS hosts the northwestern Michigan branch of Youth Corps, which gets kids involved in projects such as cleaning up parks, organizing gardens, and spreading awareness about environmental issues. Last but not least, SEEDS works with local school districts to develop after-school programs aimed at ecological awareness.

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Coal plants
3:05 pm
Fri February 11, 2011

State issues permit for Holland to expand coal-fired-power plant

Holland is considering replacing one of the units at the James DeYoung power plant.
Holland BPW

The state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment initially denied the air quality permit. That’s because former Governor Jennifer Granholm said the state must consider whether or not a community really needs more power before issuing a permit. An Ottawa County judge ruled that’s not a good enough reason to deny the permit and ordered the DNRE to review the permit application by this Sunday.

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Auto/Economy
2:31 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Congressman Upton: power grid not ready for electric vehicles

Is the grid ready for electirc vehicles?
user citizenofthedeep Flickr

Michigan Congressman Fred Upton met with the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce this morning during its "Legislative Connection Series" (tickets for the event went for $25 to $50).

The Kalamazoo Gazette reported that Upton talked about the future of energy in the country.

According to the report, Upton said gas prices might hit $4 a gallon by Memorial Day because of political instability and a moratorium on new off-shore drilling.

Higher gas prices, said Upton, will lead to more people buying up plug-in hybrid electric and fully electric cars. Something Upton feels the power grid is not ready for. From the article:

"We're going to need 30 to 40 percent more electricity by the end of the next decade, and we're not prepared," said Upton, Republican of St. Joseph.

Upton said he favors the development of more nuclear power plants and is going to look into why it takes so long to build a nuclear power plant in this country.

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Environment
1:54 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Energy efficiency makeovers for Michigan neighborhoods

A house set up with a blower door test. Energy auditors use this device to find out where the leaks are in your home.
Photo by Flickr user Brandon Stafford

Many homeowners just can’t afford the upfront investment to make their homes more energy efficient. And many programs meant to defray some of that cost haven’t gotten much traction with consumers.

But Sarah Cwiek reports the federal government’s “BetterBuildings” program is trying to change that. It’s just now getting off the ground in Michigan with money from the 2009 stimulus package.

Sarah visited Chris Matus at his Ferndale home on the day he was getting an energy audit from Well Home's Kent Trobaugh.

The guys set up something called a blower door test to find out where the leaks were in Matus' home.  Then they roamed the house with an infrared camera.  The screen shows a landscape of blurred colors: gold is heat, purple is cold. Matus says the whole exercise reminds him of a certain movie from the 1980s.

“It feels like we’re Ghostbusting.”

Matus is getting about a thousand dollars worth of work done on his house today. But it only costs him 50. That’s because he’s taking advantage of the U.S. Department of Energy’s stimulus-funded BetterBuildings program. Michigan got 30-million dollars—the second-biggest chunk of any state.

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Energy
4:26 pm
Fri January 7, 2011

Holland city and Michigan officials to discuss coal plant expansion outside of court

James De Young coal plant near Lake Macatawa in Holland.
Holland BPW

The state is challenging a lower court’s ruling that would’ve allowed Holland to expand a coal-fired power plant. But  its unclear whether or not state officials will follow through on the legal battle.

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Politics
2:34 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

Did Fred Upton move right to secure committee chairmanship?

Fred Upton represents Michigan's 6th Congressional District
flickr - republican conference

The new Congress gets started today in Washington D.C. and Michigan's 6th District Representative, Fred Upton, will chair a congressional committee with broad powers.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce oversees a wide range of issues:

  • energy
  • telecommunications
  • consumer protection
  • food and drug safety
  • public health
  • air quality and environmental health
  • interstate and foreign commerce

Fred Upton is kicking off his chairmanship by targeting the EPA's goal to limit carbon emissions that have lead to global warming.

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Auto/Economy
2:59 pm
Wed December 29, 2010

Energy credit brings businesses last-minute flurry

The tax credit can be applied to projects including insulation.
Ryan McFarland Flickr

Michigan businesses that make and install residential furnaces, windows and other energy-related products are getting a burst of last-minute jobs before the year ends.


Tony Ianni is a sales manager for WeatherGard, which installs windows, roofs and insulation – all of which qualify for a federal tax credit for energy efficiency:



"It’s definitely been a big push, everybody’s calling and the first question out of their mouths is, 'Can we still get the tax credit?'” 


Ianni says informing customers about the credit has been a big push for his industry. "Of course all your last-minute people are coming through now, trying to get everything done," he said. 


The tax credit also applies to hot water heaters, furnaces and stoves that burn wood or pellets. It’s good for 30 percent of the cost of the project, up to 15-hundred dollars.

Environment
10:56 am
Thu December 23, 2010

A House of Straw

Joe and Shelly Trumpey with their two daughters, Autumn and Evelyn, in front of the strawbale home they built themselves.
Photo by Steve Charles

Step aside, Three Little Pigs. 

Strawbale buildings have come a long way from the flimsy huts a wolf could blow down.  The Trumpey family in Grass Lake, Michigan, built their 2,000 square foot home from straw, clay, field stones all sourced locally - and timber salvaged from trees killed by the emerald ash borer. 

They're living off the grid - everything they do: washing laundry, firing up the sawmill, watching TV -  is powered by their solar panels (with a small backup generator for those cloudy weeks in the winter).

Joe Trumpey says fire is a considerable risk before you seal up the straw walls with adobe. 

“When you’re building the building all the open straw is a huge fire hazard at that point so we were really careful not to have any smokers around and no open fires. Once it’s coated with mud the fire proofing is really in place.”

You can hear Joe and Shelly talk about the experience of building with straw.

The stats:

  • 1500 bales of straw
  • the 18-inch thick walls are insulated with the straw, plastered on either side with adobe mud - giving the Trumpeys 2-3 times the insulation value of a conventional home
  • 50 tons of field stones, dug from their own farmland
  • 7 years of planning, 2.5 years in the making
  • Cost: about $75 per square foot - but the family did 99% of the labor themselves

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