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Clearing the air: Is this Salt Lake man an example for the rest of us?


Michael Mielke looks over his Nissan Leaf at his home in Salt Lake City Monday, June 25, 2012. Mielke generates his own power through solar panels at his home.

Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-day series on Utah’s battle to reduce air pollution along the Wasatch Front and key areas of the state. Read the first part, “Clearing the air: That air you’re breathing may be slowly killing you.

SALT LAKE CITY — Like many men out there, Salt Lake resident Michael Mielke is so in love with his car he gave it name.

Lela.

“I am in love with Lela and I hate the dirty air.”

Mielke puts his money where his mouth is, and his mouth – his voice – is large in the fight against air pollution in Utah, taking on industry and government officials, including Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

“The air we breathe not just smells bad and tastes bad, it’s also lethal for people and costing us billions,” Mielke said, noting both health and economic studies citing the toll air pollution is taking in Utah. He bought a home at the top of 18th Avenue in Salt Lake City to escape trapped pollutants on the valley floor.

“I am above 70 to 80 percent of it; it rarely gets this high. But I try to avoid breathing it.” He also tries to avoid contributing to it.

Despite his advocacy, he looks inward to solve the problem of air pollution. He proudly boasts that his all-electric Nissan Leaf has zero emissions.

Before critics rush to say he plugs into electrical power generated by burning coal — he points out that he doesn’t.

Instead, he’s invested in 18 solar panels that are affixed to the roof of his home nestled against the foothills high in the Avenues of Salt Lake City.

Those panels generate 3,200 watts of power and provide the electricity to charge the Leaf he bought last November.
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