Thursday, April 26, 2012

Keep Eclectablog Eclectablogging

The world of Eclectablog is having a quarterly fundraiser so that they can keep eclectablogging and lolgopping.

Show them some love.

Their readership has grown like crazy into the tens of thousands / hundreds of thousands. If you're not a reader, you ought be. If you're not a contributor, you ought be that, too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Poll: Political Divide on Renewable Energy is a Total Myth

Heads up to our representatives: A new poll show's there's no victory to be had in being anti-renewable energy. Sure, sure...some organizations out there have an interest in creating some purely fabricated, false appearance that renewable energy is a hot button partisan political if there are herds of conservative voters out there willing to storm the polling booths to defend the good name of Coal.

But that's not even close to true. Not even close. By and large, Americans of all political stripes support a transition to clean, renewable energy: solar, wind, etc.

There is no political divide on renewable energy, according to an ORC International survey conducted by the Civil Society Institute.

A new poll conducted by ORC International for the non-partisan Civil Society Institute finds that 77% of Americans support — including 65% of Republicans surveyed — believe “the U.S. needs to be a clean energy technology leader and it should invest in the research and domestic manufacturing of wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies.

The poll found that Americans support subsidies for renewable energy over fossil energy 3 to 1. When asked about having to choose between only subsidizing clean energy or fossil energy, 38% of respondents said they’d choose renewables, while 13% would choose fossils.


Our reps need to stick that in their pipe and smoke it. Just one more instance of how DC insiders are miserably out of step with what Americans actually want as our reps listen to the echo-money chamber of the DC bubble.

Some of the poll findings below:

Conducted March 22-25, 2012, the new ORC International survey of 1,019 Americans shows that:
About two out of three Americans (66 percent) - including 58 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of Independents, and 75 percent of Democrats -- agree that the term "'clean energy standard' should not be used to describe any energy plan that involves nuclear energy, coal-fired power, and natural gas that comes from hydraulic fracturing, also known as 'fracking'."
Even with high gasoline prices today, 85 percent of Americans - including 76 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of Independents, and 91 percent of Democrats -- agree with the statement "energy development should be balanced with health and environmental concerns" versus just 13 percent who think "health and environmental concerns should not block energy development."
More than two out of three (68 percent) think it is "a bad idea for the nation to 'put on hold' progress towards cleaner energy sources during the current economic difficulty."
About three out of four Americans (73 percent) agree that "federal spending on energy should focus on developing the energy sources of tomorrow, such as wind and solar, and not the energy sources of yesterday, such as nuclear power." Fewer than one in four (22 percent) say that "federal spending on energy should focus on existing energy sources, such as nuclear, and not emerging energy sources, such as wind and solar."
More than two out of three Americans (68 percent) - including 60 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, and 74 percent of Democrats -- think that America's "new energy future" should be guided by the "precautionary principle," which would work very much like the Hippocratic oath does for doctors: "The precautionary principle would advocate a conservative approach to the use of technologies that may put public health at risk and create irreversible environmental harm. If there is not enough scientific evidence showing that it is safe, precaution should guide decisions in those cases."
Eight out of 10 Americans agree that "water shortages and the availability of clean drinking water are real concerns. America should put the emphasis on first developing new energy sources that require less water and result in lower water pollution. "Only 15 percent of Americans think that "America should proceed first with developing energy sources even if they may have significant water pollution and water shortage downsides."
Two thirds of Americans (67 percent) think that "political leaders should help to steer the U.S. to greater use of cleaner energy sources - such as increased efficiency, wind and solar - that result in fewer environmental and health damages." Under a third of Americans (30 percent) think that "political leaders should stay out of the energy markets and let private enterprise have a free hand in picking energy sources and setting prices."
More than eight out of 10 Americans (82 percent) - including 78 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of Independents, and 85 percent of Democrats -- agree with the following statement: 'Whether they are referred to as 'subsidies,' 'tax incentives' or 'loan guarantees,' the use of taxpayer dollars for energy projects are long-term investments. However, government incentives for energy must benefit public health and economic well-being. Clear guidelines are needed to direct public energy investments by shifting more of the risk from taxpayers and ratepayers and more to the companies involved.'"
About three out of four Americans (75 percent) - including 58 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Independents, and 86 percent of Democrats -- think that "Congress and state public utility commissions that regulate electric utilities should put more emphasis on renewable energy and increased energy efficiency รข€¦ and less emphasis on major investments in new nuclear, coal and natural gas plants."
Despite high gas prices, less than one in five Americans (16 percent) think that "the energy price paid by consumers is the only factor that makes any difference. Production damages, such as from mining, environmental impacts such as pollution, health harms, and other costs associated with energy should be considered less important factors." By contrast, 81 percent of Americans believe that "the price paid by consumers is only part of the cost of energy. We have to look at the whole picture -- including environmental and health damages -- when we talk about what a particular source of energy costs America."
Nearly six in 10 Americans (56 percent) are now aware of the natural gas drilling process commonly referred to as "fracking." Fewer than three in 10 Americans (28 percent) are "not aware at all" of this extraction process.
Eight out of 10 Americans (81 percent) who are aware of fracking say that they are concerned - including nearly half (47 percent) who are "very concerned" - about the impact of fracking on water quality.
About nine out of 10 Americans (89 percent) agree that "U.S. energy planning and decision making must be made with full knowledge and understanding about the availability of water regionally and locally, and the impact this water use from specific energy choices has on their economies, including agricultural production."
Four out five Americans (80 percent) - including 78 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Independents, and 82 percent of Democrats -- oppose the use by utilities in some states of advance billing - known as "Construction Work in Progress" - to pay for the construction of new nuclear and other power plants. Only 13 percent agree that "ratepayers should pay for electricity they use, and construction of nuclear reactors and other power plants that may come on line in the future."
Eight out of 10 Americans think U.S. taxpayers and ratepayers should not "finance the construction of new nuclear power reactors in the United States through tens of billions of dollars in proposed new federal loan guarantees." Three out of four Americans (76 percent) would support "a shift of federal loan-guarantee support for energy away from nuclear reactors and towards clean, renewable energy, such as wind and solar."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Michigan's New Tax Policy a "Leap of Faith"

“Our goal is to create a stronger economic environment,” [Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell] said. “Sometimes in tax reform you have to take a leap of faith that we’re all going to benefit. We’re trying to create a better environment so that we can compete.”
Leap of Faith. Yes. Republican senator Dave Hildebrand just referred to a new Republican economic policy to slash city revenue as a "leap of faith". "Leap of Faith." Exact words. And so that's it. Michigan Republican's economic policy comes down to a roll of the dice. A silent prayer as the roulette ball bounces around. Close your eyes and jump off the edge and hope for the best. "Leap of faith."
The tax is set to be phased out beginning in 2016 and Grand Rapids stands to lose more than $3 million annually once it is gone. Kent County would lose about $4.7 million, figures show. The more heavily industrialized a municipality is, the greater the loss.
"Leap of faith" -- Hey...MAYBE the cities and citizens, already crushed by Republican tax hikes on the Middle class at the expense of schools, roads, and public safety will do better with another 20% cut to their city revenue? Maybe! Some cities will get hit worse than others...

"Leap of faith." This is the Republican tax policy at work. There's no other thinking behind it than a blind walk across I96, folks. Best of luck, Michigan.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ever More Creative Ways to Kick Industrial Cities to the Ground

So. This map:


That map shows some sample cities around the state, while the circles show the percentage of revenue the labeled city gets from a tax called the Personal Property Tax.

Allegan, for example, gets 30% of its tax from the personal property tax.

What's the personal property tax? It's basically a tax on the STUFF and EQUIPMENT a business owns. For example, my wife has some display cases in her store, so she has to pay a small tax on having display cases in her store. Yes. True. But in terms of meaningful business expenses it mostly applies to manufacturing companies that have lots and lots and lost of large equipment.

So one can imagine that the cities that get the most money from this tax are mostly Industrial centers. And if that's what you think, then you would be correct. This is a huge source of revenue for working class, industrial cities.

Conversely it's a very small source of revenue for the more affluent, less industrial cities like the Grosse Pointes or the Blooomfield Hills areas.

But for some middle class industrial towns, it can make up as much as 57% of the city's revenue.

So of course...Michigan's Republican legislature is currently discussing getting rid of this tax. But don't worry! They're going to replace it with some other type of tax....but not all of it. Just 81% of it. Or that's the word so far. So instead of losing millions and millions and millions of dollars in revenue, the hard-hit industrial cities will merely be losing millions in revenue.


I'm not going to lie and say I love this tax. I'm not even going to lie and say it's entirely bad our State is going to get rid of it. The bad thing about the tax's HORRIBLE for start up companies who aren't even profitable yet. But you're still pulling most of the taxation from 'em right out of the gate for owning equipment. It's a big deterrent to the very folks we want here. The new folks. The small folks.

So I'm in favor of scrapping the tax. So...Republicans: Good job. Kill that tax. Here's a pat on the back.

Now let's not be assholes about it.

Cuz getting rid of the tax without a FULL replacement targets...TARGETS the cities and people that have already been knocked to the ground and kicked repeatedly for a decade. It sucks funding from cities already on the bring of collapse. It sucks funding from cities that are already closing schools and cutting police forces and watching their roads crumble.

There are perfectly reasonable ways to get rid of the Personal Property Tax, and there are Asshole ways to get rid of the Personal Property Tax. Let's do the reasonable ones. Just this one time.

Monday, April 16, 2012

West Michigan Fruit Production Devastated by Bizarre Weather

In November 2009 I wrote a diary titled the Fragile Climate of Fruit Growing Perfection. In in I talked about West Michigan's ideal microclimate for fruit production and how fragile those perfect conditions are. Well...this year we're seeing a catastrophic collapse in West Michigan's fruit production due to weeks of record breaking high temperatures in late February to mid March combined with a winter without a prolonged hard frost.

Sure sure...everybody knows Michigan and manufacturing. Michigan and cars. Michigan and the factory, machinist thing. Yadda yadda. That's there.

But the Michigan I know is also the Michigan among the top fruit producing regions in American. Michigan, a major producer of tart cherries, blueberrries, apples, juice grapes, pears, peaches, plums, strawberries, raspberries, asparagus, the leading producer of black beans and second largest producer of dried beans. West Michigan is peppered with city and street names like Fruitport, Fruitland Township, Fruitvale road, Orchard View...

The Farmer's market overflows with an amazing variety of local, seasonal produce and my wife has a cherry jam to die for that includes no fewer than seven varieties of local cherries.

But this year, all along the West Michigan coastline, the strange weather this year has devestated the crops....

We didn't have a prolonged hard frost this winter. It was warm. Very little ice or snow....ALL. WINTER. LONG.


Because of the warm winter the blueberries didn't go into a period of dormancy. That means that many areas are likely to have very unproductive blueberries this year.

But because of the record breaking March weather, many of the fruit crops bloomed early....

....too early.

And are now getting killed by hard frosts.

Juice Grapes:

Frost wipes out juice grapes in southwest Michigan
A devastating frost has wiped out grapes grown for juice in southwestern Michigan.

John Jasper, a surveyor for Welch’s Foods, tells Channel 57 that he went through hundreds of acres before even finding a live bud. He estimates more than 10,000 acres were destroyed Thursday, mostly in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.

Jasper says Welch’s gets approximately 17% of its grapes from southwestern Michigan. He says the company could be forced to change recipes for some products.

"The apple crop at Kercher's Sunrise Orchards in Goshen was also heavily damaged, the owner told us Sunday."

Tart Cherries:

NW Michigan Cherry Crop Takes Hit After Record-Busting March; 50-70% Of Fruit Lost In Hard Freeze

A hard freeze has wiped out a big portion of the cherry crop in Northwest Michigan this spring. The area produces more than half the state’s cherries that end up in desserts, juice and as dried fruit.


Asparagus came up early, far before the migrant workers who usually pick it start to show up. Farmers are scrambling to find locals willing to pick asparagus....but you'll notice I'm sitting here blogging instead of traveling 40 miles to the north to pick asparagus.

Strawberry farmers, apricot farmers, apple and peach farmers....everybody is getting hit.

Mark Longstroth, a fruit educator at the Michigan State University Extension, said half an hour at 28 degrees around bloom time will cause damage and half an hour at 25 degrees could take 90 percent of the crop

Fruit production is a major economic driver in West Michigan, and was one of the few stable and even growing spots during the decade long Michigan recession. This year the entire region and fruit growing industry is getting hit hard.

Michigan's fruit growers are going to need some Federal relief to make it through to the next year.

This is our food supply, folks.