Editorial: Mackinac Island Ferry Fiasco by admin

How do you know you are really getting to the northern tip of the "mitt"?  For me it is when I start to see a ton of billboards for Mackinac ferry service, of which there are three (Arnold, Shepler's, and Star Lines).  To get filled in on the full story to date I would suggest starting with this Mlive article.  The short of it is the city counsel is considering purchasing docks currently owned by Arnold Transit, which would effectively put the city in the drivers seat when negotiating with the ferry companies. The "positive" effects trumpeted by the city flexing their muscle with the purchase of the docks would be to lower ticket prices.  The three companies were asked, in public, to get together to try and figure out a way to lower ticket prices (something they refused to do!).  Imagine if the order of events were reversed.  All three companies did meet in private to discuss ticket prices, and then were asked in public about these meetings.  Public sentiment certainly would not be on their side.

Another point worth making, what is a "low" enough ticket price?  Is lower $.01? or $20 lower?  If the city counsel believes it can control ferry ticket pricing, then perhaps they are wasting their time.  They should really be focusing on controlling the prices of milk, bread, gas, and housing.  Ferry rides should be the least of their concerns.

If all of this seems absurd, that is because it is.  Humility is the answer here.  It takes about 10 seconds of humility to realize there is little hope of a few local government officials fully understanding how the ferry business operates.  Do they know the annual cost of operations, insurance costs, fuel costs, advertising costs, crew costs, peak travel times, how many ferry companies there should be, and how much tickets should be? No, and rightly so, why should they.

When thousands of people travel to Mackinac Island every year, they almost magically can get a ferry ride.  They do not have to wait in long lines, buy tickets weeks in advance, look hopelessly for parking near the ferry, worry about the safety of the boat they are on, or worry about getting back.  With the swipe of a credit card they can "magically" be on their way towards a vacation destination.

Here is a copy of our letter to the mayor and city counsel.  If you enjoy any of these ferry operators, we hope you will show your support to them as well.

Ethanol Decision Looms? by admin

BoatUS was kind enough to drop us this email today:

Dear BoatU.S. Member,

We need your help. If you believe in "science first," now is the time to urge President Obama to require the federal EPA to understand the effects of higher blends of ethanol before allowing it into our country's gasoline supply.

Time is critical. Last year, a record number of boaters asked EPA to test marine engines before allowing up to 15% (E15) ethanol in gasoline. This testing has not been completed. Now, in late September or early October, EPA is getting ready to announce their decision. We expect they will allow E15 for some engines and not others. This will create different fuels with different availability, prices, and a lot of consumer confusion.

BoatU.S. appreciates and embraces the need to diversify our country's fuel and energy sources. However, we are concerned that EPA may put the "cart before the horse" by granting increased ethanol before we know what it will do in our marine engines. Many boaters, having suffered through the last ethanol transition, agree that we should learn from this recent history, and completely understand what the new fuel will do before approving its use in boats. It may turn out to be harmless, but what if it's not? Shouldn't we wait for the facts before making the decision?

Please help today. Click here and let President Obama know your concerns about ethanol and ask him to get the science first, before giving EPA the approval for more ethanol in your gasoline.

Our thoughts?  We wash and wax boats, we know a lot about that.  We do not know a lot about ethanol and how it will interact with marine engines.  Anecdotal evidence we hear suggests it is a bad idea due to how ethanol interacts with various materials used in the marine industry.  Our best guess is President Obama is less likely to know the answer to more/less ethanol than we,or other more knowledgeable people within the industry, do.  With companies (like Mochi!), coming out with "greener" technology and a variety of solutions, why not let the industry answer the question rather than guessing at what the right answer is?

Enbridge Oil Spill near Marshall Michigan by admin

An oil spill released 19,500 barrels (or over 800,000 gallons, or about 10% of the oil the pipe routinely carries in a single day) into the Kalamazoo River.

By late Monday, the downstream edge of the spill had reached Ft. Custer State Recreation Area, between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. Crews were using booms, skimmers and other devices to keep the oil from reaching Morrow Lake, an impoundment of the river east of Kalamazoo.


The Kalamazoo River drains into Lake Michigan about 60 miles west of the spill. State officials warned the public to stay away from the river and not to use river water for livestock or crops.  (HT: Free Press)

Governor Granholm, to put the crisis into perspective, made a comparison: "We do not want to see a repeat of what happened in the Gulf."

To be fair to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it was dumping (depending on who you ask) about twice as much oil into the water each day, and did so for well over a month. So while 800,000 gallons is not trivial, making a comparison to the Gulf might be a bit of a stretch.

Whether Enbridge is doing "enough" is up for debate (they consider it "overkill"), at the very least they are being open about what they are doing:

Booms were set up Tuesday morning in four locations along the Kalamazoo River from Talmadge Creek to Historic Bridge Park in Emmett Township. About 200 people, 21 boats, about 8 miles of boom and 30 oil-siphoning trucks were on the scene, said Enbridge Executive Vice President Steve Wuori. (HT: Battle Creek Enquirer)