Renewable Standard & Bee Palooza

  • Michigan State University's first Bee Palooza was held at the Horticultural Gardens on campus. (Photo by Logan Chadde/Michigan Radio)

A Michigan coalition wants to increase the state’s renewable energy standard. Emily Fox reports not everyone is on board:

Michigan already has a renewable energy standard on the books. 10 % of the energy utility companies provide has to come from renewable sources by 2015. But the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs Coalition wants to bump that number up to 25% by the year 2025. The group is gathering signatures for a ballot proposal to create an amendment to the state constitution.

Stephen Transeth is with a group that is trying to defeat the so called 25-by-25 ballot proposal. He says he supports the current standard but does not think the new proposal is appropriate to put in
the state constitution.

"When you put a proposal like this into the constitution, you are effectively limiting your options in the future, the way we generate and use electricity in the next five, 10, 20 years from now, is going
to look so much different than today."

But the organizers behind 25-by-25 say utilities are already ahead of schedule to meet the current standard and it’s been cheaper than expected.

Mark Pischea is with the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs Coalition. He says Michigan companies are already sending wind turbine parts to places like Spain and China.

"Michigan has the opportunity to again be the hub to export products made in Michigan to the world, just like what we did 100 years ago with the automobile."

330,000 signatures are needed to put the proposal on the ballot in November.

For the Environment Report, I’m Emily Fox.


This is the Environment Report.

Honeybees are responsible for pollinating about one of every three bites of food we eat.

Rufus Isaacs is an entomology professor at Michigan State University. He studies pollination of berry crops.

"Honeybees are, if we’re talking about commercial agriculture, they’re the most important pollinator. We have tens of thousands of those bees that come into Michigan every spring and they do the lion’s share of the work to get our cherry crop, our blueberry crop, our apple crop, our pickling cucumber crop pollinated."

But since 2006, beekeepers have been reporting major honeybee losses. That’s because of something called Colony Collapse Disorder.

Honeybees are not native to Michigan, but there are 400 native bee species in the state. Isaacs says these native bees also pollinate crops and wild flowers.  But he says the overall health of native bee populations is unclear.

"To be honest, we don't really know anything about long-term trends in their populations because there hasn't been any careful monitoring of them over the years."

A few days ago, Isaacs and others in MSU’s entomology department put on an event called Bee Palooza.

The bee experts say human development is threatening the habitats that native bees use. So they wanted to show people how to build homes for native bees in their backyards.

Emily May is a graduate student at MSU. She’s standing next to a structure that’s shaped like a house. It’s made out of logs, bamboo and pieces of wood with a lot of holes in them. May calls it a bee hotel.

"It's really easy to make a bee hotel. You can just basically take a piece of old wood and drill some holes into it around 6 millimeters in diameter, and pretty much if you put it out there, the bees will come."

May says in winter, you should put your bee hotel in the refrigerator so it doesn’t freeze. In the spring, you can put it back outside along with a fresh piece of wood.

If you’re worried about getting stung, the experts at Bee Palooza promise that native bees are docile. They won’t hurt you.

It’s not too late in the year to start a bee hotel, and you can also plant blue, purple and yellow flowers to attract native bees.

This story was reported and written by Suzanne Jacobs.

That’s the Environment Report for today. I’m Rebecca Williams.