Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The "Global Cooling in the 70s: canard: Doubt is their product, facts be damned!



For the eleventy-seventh time in the last few years someone’s flung the “They Said There’d Be Global Cooling in the 1970s” argument against global warming climate science in my direction.
The Global Cooling argument goes: “How can we trust scientists who tell us the planet is warming, when only a few decades ago they said we were headed for an ice age?"

The problem is, it’s big fat hairy lie, built from a microscopic kernel of truth.

As  Wikipedia observes, “Global cooling was a conjecture during the 1970s of imminent cooling of the Earth's surface and atmosphere culminating in a period of extensive glaciation. This hypothesis had little support in the scientific community, but gained temporary popular attention due to a combination of a slight downward trend of temperatures from the 1940s to the early 1970s and press reports that did not accurately reflect the full scope of the scientific climate literature, i.e., a larger and faster-growing body of literature projecting future warming due to greenhouse gas emissions.” (italics mine)

But even high school freshmen know Wikipedia is not a reliable source, so we must look for more reliable information. 

Kernel of truth
To begin, there is a kernel of truth here. There were scientists who predicted a cooling planet and indeed the planet did cool between the 1940s and 1970s. Popular Time and Newseek magazine articles fueled the speculation. My friend remembers environmental activists or solar salespeople scaring his elementary school class with talk of an impending ice age. I too, remember the predictions from that era. 

My buddy seems to think my job entails scaling buildings to hang Greenpeace banners, chaining myself to bulldozers and scaring gradeschool kids with horrendous lies to keep grant money flowing. He’s not alone, environmentalist is a dirty word to many people, polls show. And many people don’t support natural resource protections because they don’t want to be affiliated with enviros. Or with Al Gore.  

Which is called shooting the messenger. And doesn’t alter the facts or science involved one iota.

 My friend also may have absorbed this caricature of environmentalists from news outlets and other venues that blur the lines between news and ideological warfare. He tells me he believes Fox News, for example, is truly fair and balanced. But, he may be jerking my chain. Hoping that it’s the latter, let’s get started:

116 years ago….
Global warming theory has deep roots. In 1898, Swedish scientist Avante August Arrhenuis predicted man-caused warming in scientific papers and discussions, but they were not taken seriously.
By the mid-1950s scientists were beginning to link increased human emissions of heat-trapping gases (primarily carbon dioxide) to a warming planet. 

 A 1953 story in Popular Mechanics reported on Johns Hopkins researchers’ work under the headline “Growing Blanket of CO2 Raises Earth’s Temperature.”

In 1958, the popular Bell Telephone Science Hour on television expounded on the warming planet as Dr. Frank Baxter told viewers “We are changing the world’s climate through the waste products of civilization.”

By 1965, President Lyndon Johnson was briefed on climate change by his scientific advisory committee, which issued a report warning that we are “unwittingly conducting a vast geophysical experiment.”

President Johnson told Congress in a special message in February of 1965 that, “this generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through...a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.”

Documents released only three years ago by the Richard Nixon Presidential Library also show that he was briefed on the issue in the late 1960s and global warming’s threat was discussed within his inner circle. His environmental aides urged him to pursue a global system of carbon dioxide measuring stations – decades before the public was aware of global warming science.

Global warming was even a character in the 1973 cult classic Soylent Green. Charlton Heston was not amused.

So by the 1970s, global warming theory was already well known in the scientific community and among some policy makers. The problem was, global temperatures had been flat or dropping since the 1940s.

Cooling explained
Scientists theorized, correctly, that smog and other pollutants from the unchecked smokestack pollution was essentially blocking sunlight and cooling the earth. With the advent of modern pollution controls – adopted not because of cooling but because of horrifying diseases in our communities and the fouling of our natural landscapes --  the cooling reversed in the 1970s, and began a steady rise that has continued since.

But in the 1970s data had led some scientists to predict a continuation of a cooling planet, and the media ran with it. A widely quoted 1971 paper from Dr. Steven Schneider predicted cooling and raised the specter of an Ice Age.  Schnider, before the 1970s were out, would admit that his calculations were wrong. 

The paper, and other calculations of the rate of cooling spawned a flurry of media articles in the 1970s. Those articles are dutifully catalogued here,  by helpful climate change skeptics.
My friend has read some of these stories, and apparently has a vivid recollection of the hippies telling his grade school classroom that we were headed for an ice age. He believes the propagandists who assert that  there was a worldwide consensus on global cooling among scientists of that era – mirroring the consensus  of today for global warming.

And that, with any honest assessment, is utter and unadulterated bullshit.

Utter bullshit
 Even the professional skeptics have dropped this line of argument, leaving it for lazy editorial writers, ideologues without ethics, and talk show hosts and their unfortunate lemmings who are content to parrot what they hear without critical inquiry.

The truth is that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists of the 1970s era believed the climate was warming, not cooling, and the data proves it.

The American Meteorlogical Society conducted exhaustive research of the scientific literature between 1965 and 1979. It found 71 studies on climate during that era. Seven supported global cooling theory, 20 were neutral, 44 supported global warming theory. So, even in the midst of the media furor over cooling theory, scientists by a more than 6-to-1 margin believed warming was likely.

That scientific view was also reflected in the Oval Office. The National Academy of Sciences reported to President Jimmy Carter in 1977 that rising CO2 levels are of concern; and again in 1979 the Society  warned that “If carbon dioxide levels continue to increase, the study group finds no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible.”

The “Global Cooling” era was short. Less than a decade. It was supported by a small faction of scientists, while the majority of their peers were already concluding that our planet was in for significant warming. 

By comparison, every major scientific organization in our nation has for some time supported the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s conclusions that the planet is warming dramatically due to manmade emissions.

 Here’s a list of more than 200 international science groups who ascribe to that theory. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree with it. The U.S. Military is planning for it, agricultural groups have already shifted their growing zone maps to reflect the changing climate, and insurance companies are incorporating climate predictions into their rates and modeling.
Global warming theory has roots more than a century old and was being talked about in the Oval Office since (almost) before I was born. Its predictions – a warming planet – have generally panned out. We’ve gone 345 months – 29 years – with monthly global temps above average

Conclusions?
The “Global Cooling” era of the 1970s was marked by a flurry of sensational and often inaccurate media accounts, prompted by a handful of studies and a small number of scientists’  assertions.  Even so, climate studies predicting warming outnumbered those supporting cooling by a 6 to 1 margin. Within a decade, it became clear that the cooling theory was wrong.

Global warming theory, by comparison, is more than 100 years old. It’s been discussed at the highest levels since at least the Lyndon Johnson administration. It is supported by almost all climate scientists, and every single one of the US’s 18 national science organizations. It’s supported by modern data showing 29 consecutive years of above average global temperatures.

But the public continues to be confused by slogans like “They were wrong about Global Cooling” in large part because of efforts to mislead by those with vested interests in the status quo.

It’s a repeat of the 60s, when public acceptance of the tobacco/cancer link lagged years behind the consensus in the scientific and medical communities. “Doubt is our product” bragged a tobacco PR flack at the time. The words of that exec could easily be applied to today’s climate debate:

 "Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' [linking smoking with disease] that exists in the mind of the general public. “

History, it seems, repeats itself.
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Detroit News scribe feels his friends' pain: Lakefront swells bothered by wind turbines!

The Detroit News’ Henry Payne asks how wind turbines are the symbol of the green movement before declaring them eyesores on the grounds that his friends don’t like to see them behind their lakefront homes.

His friends “cursed the farmers” who leased their land for wind development – because, hey, how dare these struggling farmers try to make ends meet at the expense of the backyard view of the swells with lakeshore real estate?

His lakefront buds wouldn’t have it so rough, opines Henry, if environmental wackos stopped trying to promote clean, cheap wind energy to replace centralized coal plants that “feed water vapor into the sky.”

Some thoughts for Henry:

1. In 2010, the state’s coal plants released 15.5 million tons of toxic pollutants, not including Henry’s water vapor. Those emissions contributed to mercury in Great Lakes fish, childhood asthma, heart disease and respiratory ailments to name a few. Every megawatt of coal power displaced by wind reduces those emissions.

2. Wind energy prices have dropped so low that our state’s major utilities have both virtually eliminated the renewable energy “surcharge” on residential ratepayer bills. At the same time, the conventional portion of our energy bills – which reflects our 60% reliance on expensive, out-of-state coal, is rising. Don’t take our word for it, read the state’s report.

3. More than 20,000 people are employed in the wind and solar supply chain in Michigan.

As for his lakefront friends’ inconvenience, Henry should feel welcome to share cocktails with Michiganders on the other side of the equation and relay their struggles as well. Perhaps he can visit Southwest Detroit to watch the sunset over the haze of emissions from coal power plants, an oil refinery, waste incinerator, steel mills and water treatment plant.

Henry can explain to them how another smokestack in their 'hood is a small price to pay to ensure his friends' fragile sensibilities aren't offended.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How it came that I took a faceful of skunk juice


Skunked!

Perhaps this is the impetus for the resurrection of Mitten State. All I know, sitting in this stinking living room with these stinking dogs and a face full of skunk spray, is that I have to write this down.

Rudy, the 11-year-old mutt and Milo, the young 14 pound Yorkie mix were five houses from home at the end of a two mile walk. We’d already run the gauntlet…keeping Milo’s leash secure at all the trouble points – where Grand River traffic flies past perilously close to the sidewalk; where the big German Shepherd rushes the sidewalk; where Milo wants to charge the gate where two Golden Retrievers live. It was autopilot the last few hundred yards to home.

Lost in thought – a topic I can’t retrieve – I was surprised when the leash tore out of my hand.

“MILO! MILO!”

Damn! A cat. He’s going to kill the neighbor’s cat. Can’t let that happen.

I can be quick. I play tennis. And Milo had now made contact with the “cat” underneath a bush and out of sight. It was about the same distance from the middle of the baseline to a well-placed shot in the corner. I can get there.

But it wasn’t the tennis court, and my pivot to the right was awkard and staggering. As I lunged toward the bush I fell forward, grabbing for Milo’s leash with my free hand. My other hand death-gripped Rudy’s leash – I wasn’t about to let him join the attack – and he was dragged with me toward the bush.

I missed Milo’s leash, but arrested my fall by landing on my knees, falling forward on my free forearm. I looked up.

Skunk!

No. Cat!

The mind plays funny tricks. In retrospect, there were four fully-formed thoughts that raced through my head in the next millisecond. The last three were barfed forth by some primitive part of my anscestoral brain as a defense mechanism against a truth too ugly to confront.

  1. Skunk!
  2. No, it can not be a skunk. (Because my face is only a foot, maybe two, from it. So, no. Therefore it can not be a skunk)
  3. It is a cat. A cat that looks uncannily like a skunk. How unusual!
  4. I do not smell skunk. If it were a skunk, it would have sprayed me. It is definitely not a skunk. Definitely. A cat that looks like a skunk! Striking.

I saw the stream coming. Point blank. In my eyes. Up my nostrils. In my mouth.

What happened next is spot-on with anything I’ve read about people who’ve been teargassed or pepper sprayed at close range. Throw in a couple cop cars, drop 30 pounds, and I could’ve been a flailing, Tasered, meth addict subdued on an episode of Cops.

I shot upright and staggered into the neighbor’s driveway. My face felt on fire. My eyes tightly shut, tears streaming, snot flailing out my nostrils, drool lolling out my mouth. I dropped to my knees and vomited.

How long was I paralyzed on my knees, cursing, drooling and snotting? A minute? Three? 30 seconds that felt like five minutes?

I still had a hammer grip on Rudy’s leash, but Milo?

The scrappy little bastard showed up in our lives this summer. Ragged and burr-covered. Nothing but an old-fashioned clear flea collar to testify that someone had once tried to own him. Heroic efforts to locate an owner failed. And he defaulted to us.

His proclivity for bolting joyously through an open gate and disappearing on racous adventures gave some clue to his vagrant nature. Now he was on the loose. In the dark. With a skunk. And I was helpless.

MILO! MILO!

What to do. Call Karen.

I unlimbered the iPhone from my pocket. I was doing something proactive and it felt good. A first step toward taking control. Call for backup! Cool in a crisis! Wait. I can’t open my eyes. I kneeled, stupefied for some inderminate amount of time. Would I be able to see in another minute? Wait it out? Or will it be an hour? Should I try and feel my way to the neighbor’s door and knock? (“Hi. I’ve been sprayed in the face by a skunk. Can you take my phone and dial “Karen?” This is my dog, Rudy. Say hi to the nice people Rudy. Do you see my other dog? Can I use your restroom? Just kidding!”

All the while, my face burned. Each breath sucked nature’s original nerve agent through my inflamed nostrils. Teary saline gushed down my cheeks.

A little panic, crept in. Raw jabbing at the outskirts of racing thoughts. Will I need to go to the hospital for this? Could it be serious? I’ll Google it on my phone! Wait, what? No. Can’t use my phone, right.

Gradually, I was able to crack open an eye, then two. Milo. He was right there. Bewildered. Maybe frightened. And he’d stuck by.

I grabbed his leash. Dialed Karen.
Having just emerged from a long, hot shower before bed, she answered.

Hi there!

I’m having a crisis. We all got skunked. I’ll be there in a minute.

Our screaming match, the first in more than a year I would guess, was inevitable in retrospect.

When I stumbled into our yard, shutting the gate behind and began stripping off collars and clothing, things were on the upswing. Ninety seconds earlier I was blind, helpless, vomiting man with a missing dog and the possibility of an emergency room visit. Now I had secured both dogs, regained vision, alerted reinforcements, and the worst-case-scenario – hospitalization – seemed remote.

For Karen, that trajectory was different.  She was a few minutes away from a warm bed, a book, and drifting off to sleep after a long Monday. Ninety seconds later, her husband was drooling and staggering about the driveway, her terrified dogs were cowering, she was rushing to put clothes on the hideous scent of skunk had already begun wafting into the house.

She assembled our armaments. And, for the love of God. Write this down.

--- Fresh hydrogen peroxide
--- Baking soda
--- Dawn dishwashing detergent

Nothing removes skunk odor. This comes closest. We know this from experience. But never one like this.

I watched, still crying and drooling, outside. She held her phone up. Jesus! She’s trying to find the exact recipe. Just dump the shit in a bowl! I barged in … a move that will cost me in June when I’m working in the hot, damp kitchen.

It says a half a cup of soda.
 I don’t think it matters.

It says to apply it as soon as possible.
Damnit, that’s what I’m trying to do.

It says to rinse your eyes with water.
\Seriously, I can barely keep them open without running water over them. Oh damn that hurts. What bullshit web site did you read that on?)

It stinks. Yeah, I am aware of that….BECAUSE IT SHOT UP MY NOSTRILS!

 “GO TO THE STORE AND GET MORE PEROXIDE!”
“WHAT DO YOU THINK I’m DOING?!

WELL THAT”S WHY I HAD THE DOGS BACK ON THE LEASHES!!!
WELL HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO HAVE KNOWN THAT?!!!

She left. And she reminded me this morning that she did not use the F word during the exchange.

I poured the bubbling mixture over the terrified dogs in the garage. Milo shook Fear? Cold? Crummy time of year to be bathing dogs outdoors.

I rubbed the peroxide mix into my face. My hair. Up my nostrils. Shit was real now.
Leashing the dogs back up, I literally dragged them down to flights of stairs and into the tiny, standup shower stall. Barely enough room for a person, much less this miserable collection of stinking beasts.

I rinsed off the peroxide as best I could. And we sat. Shivering. While Karen checked out of the grocery store. “Have a good night,” the clerk beamed. Probably not.

*****

Milo and I slept downstairs. Rudy, who we unwisely determined “wasn’t that bad” slept in our bedroom with Karen. Every hour she awoke to open or close windows.

I’ve taken a “skunk day” off work. Milo’s at the groomer. Karen’s at work where she reports red, itchy, watery eyes; respiratory irritation; headache and nausea. And her coworkers say she smells. They’re probably imagining it. I’m fine, save for red eyes and 4 hours sleep.

The house, for all I know, is a stinking hellhole. But all I can smell is the occasional rank smell on me, my dogs, or, especially, the nifty new down coat Karen found me last fall. Best coat I ever owned, toxic beyond salvation. Also destined for waste disposal:

--- Michigan State sweatshirt (this can’t be a good Tournament omen)
--- Workout pants
--- Iphone cover
--- Leashes, collars, harness
--- Socks (shoes?)

Mom laughed hysterically. The way she only does when I’ve been utterly humiliated.

“You know, Mr.  McDuffie (our late friend who was curator of reptiles at the Cincinnati Zoo) used to get skunked all the time. He said the odor would go away in a week (hey, that’s actually not that bad!… count on Mom for looking at the sunny side!)

“….but that then months later on some warm, humid day no one at church would sit next to him it would come back so bad!”

 I love that woman!

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Want Michigan businesses to be competitive? Don't play 'Lucy yanks the football on Charlie Brown' with energy efficiency program


Dear Gov. Snyder and Michigan legislators:

You’ve been consistent in saying that making Michigan’s business climate more competitive is your top goal. 

Michigan’s energy efficiency program provides businesses with an affordable way to cut overhead expenses. It meets energy needs at a cost that is 90 percent lower than one of the most talked about alternatives, a coal power plant. It is also significantly less costly than wind farms or other clean energy sources.

So, the notice below is not the sort of thing you want to read if you are a business hoping to quality for efficiency programs.

The Consumers Energy Business Solutions electric incentive program is fully subscribed and has been closed. Electric incentive applications received on or after August 1, 2011 will be placed on a waitlist and filled on a first-in basis subject to the availability of funds.

Nor is this:

DTE Energy Star rebates 91% paid as of August 1. (in other words, about to run out of money…parenthesis and links, mine)

In April, your Michigan Public Service Commission boasted that efficiency programs were ”bigger and better.” But if they're unavailable the remainder of 2011, that seems a hollow boast.

Please adjust this program – that was created in 2008 with a bipartisan vote of the Michigan House and Senate – so that the utilities don’t get to slam the door partway through the year on businesses and homeowners trying to save energy and money.
 

Thank you,

Mitten State

Hat tip to Frank Zaski for digging up the highlighted statements from the utilities’ web sites.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What Nolan Finley really means


No links in this post. Just some plain English translations of Nolan Finley's
recent column spreading unfounded terror among the citizenry.......

EPA raises risk of blackouts  As an opinion columnist, I do not need a source or any data or attribution for this statement, unlike the poor schlubs in the newsroom who are required to substantiate statements they make in their stories. Can you imagine?!

NOLAN FINLEY
An especially stormy summer gives us a taste of what life would be like if the electric umbilical cord attached to the side of our homes were to run dry.
Prepare to panic

Silent air conditioners and refrigerators full of spoiling food is the shared experience in countless neighborhoods hit by weather related power outages.

Saved by the backup
A generous generating reserve in the state kept the power interruptions fewer than they might have been. Despite an unrelenting heat wave, no blackouts occurred because of shortages in electricity supplies, says Steve Kurmas, president and chief operating officer of Detroit Edison, a DTE Energy subsidiary. The utilities did their jobs. I’m about to use their talking points to string together this column.

DTE has a production capacity that exceeds normal demand by 26 percent, and is more than twice the standard 12 percent reserve, Kurmas says. That's largely because the recession wiped out so many customers in this region. So when demand peaks, DTE can ramp up production to cover the load, even on hottest days. Customers are paying to maintain capacity they don’t need, but on a handful of days a year, the utility is able to fire up the oldest, least efficient, most expensive and dirtiest coal plants to meet demand. It may well be less expensive to buy that  energy from the electric grid, but exploring that would collapse the premise of the column.

EPA energy killers You thought I was going to use "job killers" again, didn't you!
That's the situation today. Four years from now, who knows?
Between now and then, DTE will have to shutter 10 coal-burning units, reducing capacity by 20 percent to meet new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal plants. Updating the plants to comply with the new EPA standards in the three-year period allowed would be massively expensive. So DTE will take them off line. Anybody with brainwave activity would question my contention that the utility will shut down 10 coal plants in 36 months, but I'm counting on no one applying critical thinking here.

That will reduce reserves to 6 percent and leave the system vulnerable to blackouts on scorching hot days like the ones we've had this month. Now you may panic.  I remain calm because I know full well the huge lobbying power of the coal industry will easily tie the whole thing up in court for a decade.
Kurmas says DTE has no intention of allowing reserve capacity to drop so low. The utility also is not panicking because they know this too. The company is taking time to assess the regulations, and to get some clarifications from the EPA. Michiganders are going to be funding a new team of utility company lobbyists and lawyers to castrate this idea. If there's a change in the White House next year, it will likely mean a new regulatory ballgame. We all know a new administration will mean more delays, if not a complete about face. Utility lobbyists can outlast any president.

But the plan now is to replace the coal burners with plants that operate on natural gas. That's cleaner power, but costlier. I am pointedly ignoring mountains of credible evidence that energy efficiency programs have vast potential to meet energy needs at a fraction of the cost of gas, nuclear, coal, windmills, solar, etc. Instead, I will pretend natural gas plants are our only option. I'm also not going to mention the conclusions of our state's Public Service Commission, which foresees no need for a new coal plant for more than a decade.

Watch your wallets
Kurmas says to expect electricity bills to soar by 25 to 35 percent. Panic, I tell you! I need not provide any source for this claim, because you can trust the man from the utility company. For residential customers, that'll leave less money to spend on other goods and services, further closing the damper on the economy.
For power-intensive businesses, such as manufacturers, it will mean higher operating costs that will have to be offset either by raising prices or trimming workers. Manufacturers can lower their costs with energy efficiency upgrades, but you'll have to read that elsewhere. We're against that because dope-smoking hippie environmentalists are for it.
The consequences of the coal mandate will be huge. And yet such a momentous change was pushed through by regulatory fiat, without a vote by our elected representatives.
President Barack Obama has proven wholly inept at putting Americans back to work. But as an economy killer, he is without equal. I stray from the topic here to take a generalized, gratuitous shot at the President, who by most accounts is moderately liberal but by the Detroit News’s standards is a raving, communist devil.
The EPA's move to turn the occasional summertime power outage into a daily threat is just the latest example.
(313) 222-2064
Nolan Finley is editorial page editor of The News. Read more of his recent columns and read his blog at detnews.com/finley. Also watch him at 7:30 p.m. Fridays on “Am I Right?” on Detroit Public TV, Channel 56.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Catching up: Michigan River News; North America's awesome-ist marathon river race and some guy who treaded water 17 hours in Huron

Geez. Looks like we've got some catching up to do!

In June, the Michigan Environmental Council released a report showing that the state’s oldest coal-fired power plants cost $1.5 billion annually in health care costs and damages – the equivalent of $500 annually for a  family. We pay for that in our health care premiums and copays. It is not reflected in our electricity rates, nor is it ever cited by clean energy opponents when they compare the costs of various energy sources. But it should be. Dirty air costs us, new reports increasingly show.


The Mackinac Center is still clinging to the status quo though, prompting this response from some really smart and handsome dude.

If you’re a fan of Michigan’s rivers (and who’s not?) check out the news Michigan River News web site co-founded by my MEC colleague Andrew McGlashen. The coolest river news lately is a Circuit Court ruling that a dam must be fully removed from the Pigeon River, after numerous fish kills. Thanks to our friends at Trout Unlimited’s Michigan chapter for fighting for the ecosystem.

The RiverNews guys will be at the awesome AuSable River Canoe Marathon this weekend. It’s the longest nonstop canoe race in North America, and been part of our pure Michigan summers for 64 years.

Finally, this guy is my hero for the day, 17 hours without a life jacket in Lake Huron, “I have people that depend on me,” he said.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Alamo? Not so much, but bike sharing service in San Antonio was the real thing (and maybe coming to a Michigan city near you?)

This woman does not come with the bike
Our trip to San Antonio would have been much, much different if not for their outstanding new Bcycle service, which allows people to check out bicycles and drop them off at numerous points throughout the city.

We rented cycles three days, pedaling ourselves to the point of heatstroke checking out places like the botanical gardens, the many tremendous Tex-Mex restaurants and the meandering Mission Bike Trail that follows the San Antonio River.

And of course we joined thousands of sweating, sloppy tourists ogling The Alamo, where an IMAX movie and lots of other "educational" materials explained the mission's historic and inspirational role in Americans stealing Texas from the Mexicans  standing up for freedom against the tyranny of Santa Anna.

But the cycles were the most pleasant surprise of the trip, allowing us to tour the city in a way we never otherwise would have been able to.

You just insert your credit card and select a bike from the rack. When you’re done, you find another rack (an easy Smart Phone app will locate them for you, but there were plenty of signs in the city too) and slide the bike in an empty slot, where it locks tight until the next user arrives

$10 per bike per day, plus fairly nominal charges for the time you use (the first half hour of every use is free).

My friend and colleague and Lansing City Council candidate  Rory Neuner is among a group trying to bring Bcycle to Lansing. I’ve heard several other Michigan cities are considering such programs, but I don’t know which for sure.

It’ll take some work in Michigan’s cities, which still are designed primarily for cars and NOT for pedestrians or cyclists. But that is changing and Bcycle might help that momentum. Bike lanes, curb cuts, great signage and the Riverwalk all helped make San Antonio’s work.

Honestly, I don’t know if we contributed any more cash to San Antonio’s economy than we would have if the Bcycle rentals weren’t available. But the whole Bcycle experience makes it far more likely that we will return one day. And we can recommend a trip to that town far more enthusiastically than we otherwise would have.

Linked to Michigan’s already outsanding trail networks, bicycle sharing programs in certain areas could be a great, low-impact way to market a region's best cultural, recreational and retail opportunities to visitors.

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