Friday, July 30, 2004

"Collaboration"

"In collaborations, all affected stakeholders come together to attempt to reach consensus-based decisions regarding the appropriate location and development of proposed wind facilities. The strength of a collaborative process comes from its flexible, inclusive, voluntary, and participant-driven nature. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of collaborative decision-making is that locals can gain more control over wind-siting decisions. Wind developers also can benefit from collaboration as the process helps to inform local communities on the real benefits and costs of wind projects, rather than on speculative, sometimes incorrect concerns about lowered property values and ruined views."

--Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), "Guidebook for New England Inland Wind Power Siting," June 2003
The approach described in the CLF paper is summed up on page 6:
"For the process to be seen as fair ..."
Not "for the process to be fair" -- only to be "seen" as fair!

In the whole paper, it is assumed that opposition based on the fact that wind turbines don't do what they are claimed to do is "misinformed," so the purpose of the "collaboration" is to give the developer one more chance to do their "objective" PowerPoint show and then leave any remaining opposition right out of the discussion. It is not about whether the developers ought to be sent packing, but only about giving the people the feeling that they are helping to guide the project. It is only between the developers and people not yet ready to believe that the whole thing is a sham and a con and so can be pacified by a symbolic gesture or two (and plain old money!).

Bravo to the Glebe Mountain Group in Londonderry (Vermont) for rejecting this game.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Convention talk

There was a lot of talk at the Democratic convention last night about opportunity and the American dream. It was notable that each speaker presented him- or herself as the example of what is possible: fleeing the honest hard-working lives of their parents to rise to positions of power and affluence.

John Edwards talked about his "two" Americas, but then emphasized how his aspirations beyond mill work should be the model for all and that people who follow his path should be rewarded. Looks like there's three Americas, Johnnie: those at the top, like yourself, those who aspire that way and ought to be humored for it, and the people you write off as losers for not fleeing a life of honest toil.

So there's the problem with this presentation of "the American dream." It's not about making life better and more fulfilling however one might live. It's only about striving. Edwards is right that striving has gotten harder. But why is there such a desperate need to "better" one's situation? This ethic of striving necessarily discounts those who don't strive. The consequence is that we are justified in ignoring their plight because it is their fault they are poor, so we are justified in keeping them poor. After all, such a caste system makes it easier for the strivers.

John Edwards' plan for helping the middle class does nothing towards making all labor dignified, or at least enabling of a decent life. A mill worker is as important to society as a trial lawyer, a cotton picker as important as a senator, a mother as important as an entrepreneur, an artist as important as a policeman. In one America, every person would enjoy the fruits of our shared life, not just those who earn it according to the arbitrary criteria of our "leaders."

We can not all rise like John Edwards did. Most people have to stay "behind" to make things and clean up for him. By definition, in a competitive society, only a few can "win" -- the vast majority are losers. But that's what makes winning so gratifying, and why we hear nothing from the "winners" that would actually improve life for most people, such as single-payer health care or allowing unions to organize again.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

A note about Luddism

The Luddites, like the saboteurs in France, rebelled against the industrialization of their livelihood, against the transformation of their work from home-based artisans to centralized factories, against the loss of their independence and the loss of their villages to the demands of fickle capitalism.
Lessons from the Luddites
[from "Setting Limits on Technology", by Kirkpatrick Sale, The Nation, June 5, 1995 -- available at the Free Range Activism Website]
  1. Technologies are never neutral, and some are hurtful.
  2. Industrialism is always a cataclysmic process, destroying the past, roiling the present, making the future uncertain.
  3. "Only a people serving an apprenticeship to nature can be trusted with machines" (Herbert Read).
  4. The nation-state is synergistically intertwined with industrialism and will always come to its aid and defense, making revolt futile and reform ineffectual. [The U.K., in response to the Luddites, made machine breaking a capital offense and at one time had more troops protecting Midland weaving factories than fighting Napoleon.]
  5. Resistance to the industrial system, based on moral principles and rooted in moral revulsion, is, however, not only possible but necessary.
  6. Resistance to industrialism must force the viability of industrial society into public consciousness and debate. The costs and consequences of technologies must be laid out as clearly and as fully as possible. Who are the winners? What will be lost? Will this invention concentrate or disperse power?
  7. Resistance to industrialism must be embedded in analysis that is morally informed, carefully articulated, and widely shared. Globalism must be opposed by localism. Industrial capitalism must be opposed by an ecologically sustainable economy. The logic of exploitation must be opposed by the humane.
The depredations of commercial wind power are analogous to the Highland clearances of small farmers in Scotland, the enclosure of common land for private profit, and the further centralization of economy which the Luddites fought against. To be Luddite is not to be against technology. It is to examine what is behind the introduction of a technology and to consider what will be lost against any possible benefit. Large-scale wind power takes away much and gives nothing. It is yet another encroachment meant to increase our dependence on large industry. It diminishes our lives and makes us less free.

The case is similar against genetically engineered food crops. In France, those who pull up those crops are appropriately called saboteurs.

Why the Dems Deserve Nader

"The Democratic administration carries the ball for Wall Street's foreign policy. And the Republican party carries the ball for Wall Street's domestic policy. Of course the roles are sometimes interchangeable." (Adam Lapin, The Third Party, 1948)

'One useful way of estimating how little separates the Democratic and Republican parties, and particularly their presidential nominees, is to tot up the issues on which there is tacit agreement either as a matter of principle or with an expedient nod-and-wink that these are not matters suitable to be discussed in any public forum, beyond pro forma sloganeering: the role of the Federal Reserve, trade policy, economic redistribution, the role and budget of the CIA and other intelligence agencies (almost all military), nuclear disarmament, allocation of military procurement, reduction of the military budget, the roles and policies of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and kindred multilateral agencies, crime, punishment and the prison explosion, the war on drugs, corporate welfare, energy policy, forest policy, the destruction of small farmers and ranchers, Israel, the corruption of the political system.

'In the face of this conspiracy of silence, the more third party challenges the better. Nader is doing his duty.'

--Alexander Cockburn
(click the title of this post for the full series of articles)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Same Old

The New Republic offers a report from the Democratic convention in Boston, but for some reason the writer pretends it is May Day in Cuba and Fidel Castro is the speaker:
Castro does eventually wrap up, and the crowd spills into the streets. As I watch people packing onto rickety old buses, I am struck by how much the May Day routine typifies today's Cuba: conditions everyone complains about, politics falling on tired ears, police infiltrating everything, and, of course, the same enduring legend keeping it all in one piece. I won't be surprised if Castro begins next year's May Day speech with the same slow sentence. The Cubans will wave their paper flags and go home to sleep off the hearty dose of politics so they can get back to getting by.
You can tell it's really the U.S. she's talking about, because unlike Cubans we have to struggle without job or retirement security, dependable health insurance, free higher education, etc.

Wind's ability to raise CO2 emissions

An interesting paper by Robert J Bass and Peter Wilmot of the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Loughborough University (U.K.), has been brought to my attention. It shows that wind turbines supplying the grid may actually increase CO2 emissions. The latter part of the paper is reproduced below, with emphasis added.
[C]arbon dioxide liberated per GW generated continuously for one year (8760 hours) from different fossil fuels is:

Fuel type         CO2 tonnes/year

Direct Coal fired 10.8 m tonnes/year
Direct Oil fired 6.75m tonnes/year
Gas (open cycle) 4.5 m tonnes/year
Gas (CCGT) 2.85m tonnes/year
Wind turbine Nil

The new wind generators will come on stream during the next five years and may be expected to generate power for twenty-five to forty years. During this time the early years of the make-up power will come from the existing fossil fuel power plants. Many of these units, however, are already half way through their working lives and will have to be replaced during the next five to fifteen years.

Furthermore, the current Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) units are not well suited to follow the demand load changes on the network as the boiler/steam turbine units respond slowly to major load swings. And when the transient output from the wind turbines is added to the fluctuating nature of customer demands, the picture of the network supply requirements becomes even more unpredictable.

The potential consequences of wind power

If a 1GW wind farm generates power to the grid during all the periods when wind is sufficiently powerful, it might be expected to deliver approximately 2,630 GWh per year. However, this would cause a shortfall against a 1GW base load demand (i.e. 8760 GWh) over the same period of approximately 6,100 GWh and this has to be generated by fossil fuels.

The consequences are summarised in the table below:

Annual tonnage of CO2 emitted

Wind turbine + CCGT station 2.0 m tonnes
Wind turbine + Open cycle station 3.15m tonnes
Wind turbine + Oil fired station 4.75m tonnes
Wind turbine + Coal fired station 7.5 m tonnes

The data demonstrates that at best a wind turbine farm of 1GW installed capacity would save approximately 0.85m tonnes of carbon dioxide annually if it displaced an efficient CCGT plant. By the year 2010 a number of the current CCGT stations will be more than twenty years old and approaching the de-commissioning phase. If the financial incentives are inadequate (as is the current position) and the base load market is not available to help defray capital and fixed operating costs, they will not be replaced. The technology of any such new plants will also need to have been developed to handle the transient nature to the demand after the wind farms have produced their volatile output. The supply of natural gas will need to be reliable and economically priced but by this time it will be imported from politically less stable sources.

If the gas fired units are not available, the supply would have to come from either oil or coal fired plant (or even new open cycle gas fired plants). This would cause carbon dioxide emissions to increase above their current best levels.

In the case of oil fired back-up, the increase is some 1.9 m tonnes greater than the current position would be where the whole load is supplied by a gas fired CCGT plant. If the comparison is made with a coal fired plant supplying the make-up, the increase in carbon dioxide would be 4.6m tonnes annually.

And these figures will be eight times greater if the wind turbine installed capacity reaches the government’s target of 8GW.

It is worth noting that the government is committed to reducing the carbon dioxide emissions by 26.5m tonnes annually by 2010. A significant proportion of this reduction is planned to be delivered by wind turbines. This analysis suggests that the current ‘Dash For Wind’ could actually make the situation worse.
Another article sent to me describes the same scenario in the U.S. It is by Richard Stevens and appeared in "Energy Pulse." It unfortunately devolves into a defense of nuclear radiation, but here is the interesting part, with emphasis added.
Operating a fossil fuel fired power plant in the cyclic mode, instead of operating at a constant power, has two very detrimental effects. First of all, cycling makes the power plant much less efficient. It must consume more fossil fuel to produce the same electrical output. Second, cycling produces thermal stresses that over time will cause material failures that will force the power plant to shut down to make repairs.

The failures produced by cycling is one of the reasons that has influenced most power plant operators to choose a power plant design that is relatively inefficient when they need to operate the plant in the cyclic mode. A simple combustion turbine is typically 40% efficient. A combined cycle power plant that includes a combustion turbine, a heat recovery steam generator, and a steam turbine, is typically 58% efficient. However, the combustion turbine is less likely to fail due to the thermal stresses induced by cycling.

The other major reason that a power plant operator would choose the inefficient combustion turbine over the efficient combined cycle is that the combustion turbine costs less to install. The power plant operator must operate his combined cycle generator longer than the combustion turbine to recover his investment. If he is forced to shut down or reduce power to make room on the electrical grid for a wind generator, he may never recover his investment.

Consequently, there are very compelling technical and financial reasons to choose a simple combustion turbine that is only 40% efficient if the power plant is forced to cycle because of the operation of a wind generator on the same electrical grid. Using the 26.0% wind capacity factor from California in 2000, one can calculate the amount of fossil fuel required to operate a combustion turbine for 74.0% of the time in order to replace the missing power from the wind generator, and compare it to the amount of fossil fuel required to operate a 58% efficient combined cycle power plant 100% of the time. The more efficient combined cycle can now be used since it does not have to vary its output to accommodate the wind generator. The result is that the combination of wind generator and combustion turbine uses 7.2% more fossil fuel than the combined cycle. That’s right. The introduction of the wind generator causes more fossil fuel to be burned not less. That means more pollution, not less. That means more carbon dioxide emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere, not less. That means more dependence on imported fossil fuels, not less.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Danish Wind: Too Good To Be True?

[The following excerpts are from an article in The Utilities Journal (published by Oxford Economic Research Associates), July 2004, by David J. White, written in response to "The Danish Wind Power Experience," by Steffen Nielsen, in the May issue. The article was provided by Country Guardian.]

"Key facts omitted

"Denmark has installed 3,100 MW of wind turbine capacity to date, which is in theory capable of generating 20% of the country’s electricity demand. Of that capacity, 2,374 MW is located in western Denmark (Jutland and Funen). The statistic is misleading because it implies that 20% of Denmark’s power is supplied continuously from its wind capacity, but the figure appears to be a promotional statistic rather than a factual representation of the supply pattern.

"Jutland has cable connections to Norway, Sweden and Germany with a capacity of 2,750 MW. In other words, it has the means of exporting all of its wind production. The 2003 annual report of Eltra, the western Denmark transmission company, suggests an export figure of 84% of total wind production to these countries in 2003, with figures that ramped up rapidly over previous years as Denmark found that it could not absorb wind output into the domestic system. ...

"Reuters reports for 2003 present annual load factors of just 19% for Denmark and 18.7% for Germany [Reuters Power News, March 24th 2004]. An even more recent article cites the results of a study covering the German wind system for 1998–2003 [Reuters Power News, June 1st 2004]. If the annual average load factor is back-calculated over the five-year period, it is only 14.7%. ...

"Impact on CO2 reduction

"There is no CO2 saving in Danish exchange with Norway and Sweden because wind power only displaces CO2-free generated power. When the power is consumed in Denmark itself, fluctuations in wind output have to be managed by the operation of fossil-fired capacity below optimum efficiency in order to stabilise the grid (ie, spinning reserve). Elsam, the Jutland power generator, stated as recently as May 27th at a meeting of the Danish Wind Energy Association with the Danish government that increasing wind power does not decrease CO2 emissions. Ireland has drawn similar conclusions based on its experience that the rate of change of wind speed can drop faster than the rate at which fossil-fuelled capacity can be started up. Hence spinning reserve is essential, although it leads to a minimal CO2 saving on the system [data available on www.esb.ei]. Innogy made the same observation about the operation of the UK system [observation made in a paper presented by D. Tolley, Innogy, to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, January 2003].

"The result is that, while wind-generated power itself is CO2-free, the saving to the whole power system is not proportional to the amount of fossil-fuelled power that it displaces. The operation of fossil-fired capacity as spinning reserve emits more CO2/kWh than if the use of that plant were optimised, thus offsetting much of the benefit of wind."

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Merits of Cape Wind project

This letter (click the title of this post) in response to my earlier letter comes straight from the wind industry's sales brochure: Compare the (generously estimated) total annual output to the consumption of a small region (75% of the Cape's needs!). Equate that output with the carbon emissions of the dirtiest coal plant to claim what it is replacing. And ignore the intermittency of that output, which makes it useless for meeting actual minute-by-minute demand and either ensures that the dirtiest coal plant (because it is most easily switched quickly on and off) must be relied on even more than before or requires the large interstate grid to absorb the effect of its erratic peaks and dips, negating most of its supposed contribution.

Monday, July 19, 2004

To the Black Caucus

Donna Warren, who ran for Lieutenant Government of California for the Green Party in 2002, criticizes the Congressional Black Caucus for going along with the racist Democratic agenda and telling Ralph Nader to withdraw from the race.
'What are you afraid of? That Nader and Camejo may "mess up your little party" because they advocate for Black Americans and you don't.'

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Vote for Nader

Click the title of this post for an excellent article in The Nation by Barbara Ehrenreich in support of Ralph Nader for President. It's from 2000 but every word (substituting "Kerry" for "Gore") still applies today.

It's over, Barbara

Barbara Ehrenreich was apparently required to get a lobotomy before taking over Thomas Friedman's space in the New York Times while he pens another Pulitzer prize winner. Today's column is a witless diatribe against Ralph Nader for not giving up his ideals as she has.

She shows a surprising superficiality in her politics, saying she supported Nader in 2000 because she thought Bush was a harmless buffoon. She, like many others, calls that Nader's first run; many of us, however, remember voting for him in 1996. She also, again like many others, has adopted the presumption that Nader can only be a "spoiler," that he "steals" votes from the "legitimate" candidate.

She says Nader has compromised himself in his efforts to get on the ballot in some states. Does she criticize the sham of democracy when so many diverse barriers prevent a prominent candidate from appearing on the ballot? Does she criticize the electoral system that counts votes in small states as more than those in large states? The winner-takes-all system that effectively causes half of the voters to not be represented in their government? Nader is a veteran campaigner and a national political figure. She should be defending his right to be on every ballot automatically. If she believes in democracy, she should be crying out for proportional representation.

Instead, she defends the status quo of the corporatist party system. She says that Sharpton, Dean, Moseley-Braun, and Kucinich show that Nader's issues have been taken up by Democrats, forgetting to mention how Kucinich was forced last week to bow to the Democrats' pro–Israeli apartheid and pro–bloated military budget platform. Kerry is her candidate, and he has no plans for an Iraq pull-out, universal health care, workers' rights, progressive taxes, restoration of civil liberties, etc. There's abortion rights, of course -- except that Kerry is less supportive of reproductive rights than Clinton and Reno were, and during that fabled administration real access to abortion declined precipitously. A Democratic Senate approved Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court. Democrats had voted unanimously to confirm Antonin Scalia. More recently, Democrats, including Kerry and Edwards, supported Bush's tax cuts, the "Patriot" Act, the perverse "No Child Left Behind" education laws, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. They are active contributors to the massive corporate tax give-aways currently working through our houses of government. Ehrenreich nonetheless insists that Kucinich is a force in the party and coyly states that only if he doesn't get the nomination will she have to consider an alternative.

Cute, Barbara. You can't admit that you are actively opposing what you have in the past pretended to stand for and are now campaigning for the imperialist plutocrat John Kerry to replace the imperialist plutocrat George Bush. There is good reason to worry about another four years of Bush, particularly since there is no real opposition to his policies from the Democrats (including Kerry). But you sound like an idiot arguing that voting Democrat is anything more than a temporary necessity. It is not Ralph Nader who has lost his moorings, but you.

Friday, July 16, 2004

A chill wind

Peter Simple wrote in the 16 July "End column" of the Daily Telegraph (registration required) about the U.K. plan to 'cover the most attractive parts of the country still remaining with hundreds, if not thousands, of huge, ugly, noisy wind turbines.

'This vile scheme is supported by an unholy alliance of environmentalists and entrepreneurs of the new wind power industry. The motive of the wind industrialists is the same as with any other industry: to make money. As for the environmentalists, they believe that "clean, renewable energy" from wind power will help to diminish "global warming" from conventional methods of electric power generation on which the progress of the economy depends.

'So all our treasured landscapes and our holy and historic places must be sacrificed for the sake of the economy. What is the economy? It is the endless manufacture of more and more objects, some useful but most unnecessary and the proliferation of agencies like television on which they depend, agencies of mental and moral corruption.

'From the sight of wind turbines which, if their supporters have their way, will be inescapable everywhere, we shall be forced to learn the lesson that material convenience and comfort are everything, that our society is based on nothing but gross materialism, and that the few remaining places where people eccentric enough to value natural beauty, quietness and solitude can still experience such things will be spared only under official control, in "national parks" or "areas of outstanding natural beauty", which are merely permitted parts of the industrial system, dependent on the "tourist industry", itself an important part of the economy.

'Thus everything without exception will be organised for the sake of industrial progress as an end in itself, in a world where there is no other end. Wherever we look, in case we have momentarily forgotten, wind turbines will remind us that we are helpless slaves of the industrial system, with no refuge anywhere except in an imaginary "countryside". The real countryside will have been industrialised.

'What shall we do when the wind turbines are everywhere on cliffs and hilltops and the attitude of mind they signify have become compulsory? What kind of a desolate country will be left for us to live in?'

Monday, July 12, 2004

Waiting for Cape Wind

[To the Editor, Boston Globe]

The editorial of July 11, calling for Governor Romney to support the Cape Wind project, concisely describes the urgent need to solve current energy issues. It fails to show, however, how the Cape Wind project would be part of that solution.

It is estimated that the 24-square-mile project of 420-ft-high towers will produce about 2.5% of Massachusetts' electricity. But because their output responds to the wind rather than actual consumer demand, much of it would not be needed and would have to be absorbed by the larger New England grid. Even when demand is high, more steady sources will already be providing the electricity, so again, should the wind happen to blow in the ideal range of speed, its output would not be needed.

Such a dubious contribution is not worth the cost nor the environmental destruction.

The wind on Lewis

[To the Editor, New York Times Travel -- published July 25]

Susan Allen Toth describes both the relentless wind and the consuming silence on the Hebrides island of Lewis ("A Remote, Ancient Isle," July 11). Renewable energy developers also have noted the wind and are threatening the island's serenity with a proposed 45-square-mile wind "farm" using the largest turbines and towers currently available.

The British and Scottish governments fully support the project, which will be the biggest in the world and will provide at most only 0.5% of the U.K.'s electricity. A 400-mile undersea power cable is being planned to connect the Hebrides to the north coast of Wales, so this is likely but the first in a long series of such projects for the western isles.

Lewis as described by Toth may not be around much longer.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Climate Stewardship Act

The Climate Stewardship Act (S.139), sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), failed in the U.S. Senate on October 30, 2003, by a vote of 43-55. The sponsors have committed to fighting to bring the bill back up for a vote in 2004 and as many times as needed until it passes. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.) and John Olver (D-Mass.) on March 30, 2004.

The legislation would cap producers of 85% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions at 2000 levels, starting in 2010. And it would set up a market for trading emissions allowances.

The Climate Network lists 10 reasons to support the legislation, but all of them are statements of the problem and statements of support rather than evidence that the legislation would help to solve anything. I comment on a couple . . .
4) a) Coalitions of major U.S. corporations, including Maytag, Honeywell, Trane, GE Wind Energy, American Gas Association, and others who manufacture cleaner technologies, support the Act’s market-based emissions trading system. The system encourages innovation and will help U.S. industry be a leader in the $20 trillion global market for energy technologies over the next 20 years.
A "carbon trading" system does not reduce carbon emissions. It simply allows carbon producers to buy "indulgences." The "green" producers are not reducing emissions but in fact supporting them. The artificial market creates a new source of profits for energy producers as well as a justification for raising prices without actually having to take any measures for the public good.
9) Farmers & Ranchers Support the Act -- The National Farmers Union supports the Act, which creates a new source of income for farmers through a carbon “sequestration” market that rewards environmentally beneficial farming, ranching, and forestry. The Act includes additional incentives for biofuels and wind power. Farms and ranches are exempt from emissions control requirements under the Act.
So farms and ranches will be at the forefront of carbon reduction but are exempt from emission controls. Forgive me, but that doesn't make sense. It is in keeping, however, with the idea that the scheme is not about reducing carbon so much as creating a way for polluters to continue polluting and to make more profits doing so.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

A note about "NIMBYism"

NIMBY stands for "not in my back yard" and typically refers to the supporters of such social services as half-way houses or utilities such as cell-phone towers and recycling centers as long as they are in other people's neighborhoods. Though it is a common accusation, it does not apply to most opponents of wind facilities. Many of the most vocal were indeed inspired by the threat to local ridges; concern for one's environment is normally considered as admirable. Rather than roll over to the plans of multinational consortia to industrialize the high wild places that characterize the area, it was their duty to learn more about such facilities; making oneself informed also is normally considered positively. They learned about large-scale wind's ineffectual contribution and significant negative impacts, leading them to oppose such projects not just in their own back yards but everywhere. Facts sometimes overcome wishful thinking and propaganda, which is why Mr. Dewey (earlier post) prefers to argue aesthetics (insisting that he is the most qualified judge) and to spout greeting-card pabulum.

Wind turbines = Nazi flag

Strange but true, Keith Dewey, the founder of Fair Wind Vermont, which opposes opposition to industrial wind plants, wrote an essay arguing that the Nazi flag is considered to be ugly because of "intellectual" associations (which presumably is good, though he isn't quite clear on the point), and that for the same reason industrial wind plants are opposed as ugly (which judgement, he says, is bad). He neglects to say why it's good to think the Nazi flag is ugly even though it isn't (he says) and why it's bad to think industrial wind plants are ugly even though they aren't, either (he says). Since he asserts that both are not ugly, perhaps he believes both judgements to be bad, since they aren't purely aesthetic (by the criteria of his architecturally trained eye).

Because he undercuts his own argument for the pure beauty of wind towers by asserting that they symbolize responsible and progressive stewardship of the planet, which is why (intellectually) they are beautiful. So unless he really believes that the Nazi flag ought to be admired because it is well designed, then we must also apply only intellectual criteria to judging wind turbines. Opponents have concluded from their research that wind turbines are ugly because they are harmful and of no value . . . click on any of the wind links in the sidebar to read the many reasons industrial wind plants are a sham. If we are right to see the Nazi flag as ugly — because of what it symbolizes — then we are also right in seeing industrial wind plants as ugly.

In his attempt to belittle opponents of industrial wind, Dewey obviously didn't think this through. That's hardly surprising, though: Proponents of large-scale wind invariably operate on the most superficial level of salesmen and meretricious consultants. Their words are not derived but are designed to distract from actual thought.

[Dewey's article appeared in the April 2004 newsletter of the Vermont chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The newsletter has been removed from the AIA-VT web site but is available here.]

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

New movie of America

'But the most stirring sequence is the penultimate scene, in which a young man on the eve of his surrender to Wal-Mart, bids farewell to his mother:

'"Tom Snode: Maybe it's like Ashcroft says. A fellow ain't got privacy of his own, -- maybe just a little peace in the big privatization, the one big secret energy company that belongs to a few deserving souls, then --

'Ma: Then what?

'Tom Snode: We'll be all around in the dark -- we'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look -- wherever there's a fight in Iraq, so wealthy people can eat, we'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, we'll be the guy. We'll be there in the way Cheney yells when he's mad. We'll be there in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know budget cuts are ready, and when some people are cheatin' the tax structure the rest of us support, and livin' in the second houses they built on untaxed profits, we'll be th-- oh wait, we're still waitin' on the invite to that one."

'The movie closes with a charming montage of sun-dappled wheat fields, nuclear families watching a fireworks display, the farmer in the dell, the happiest girl in the whole USA, a butcher, a baker, a fundamentalist policymaker, a basket of kittens, and workers in hardhats enjoying a wholesome chuckle over a blueprint. A news crawl at the bottom of the screen reminds viewers to report any suspicious voter registration and to expect terrorist attacks as they exit through the central mall.'

-- Joyce McGreevy, Salon

Monday, July 05, 2004

Nuclear conspiracy?

The usually clear-headed Windpower Monthly (click title) finds the coincidence of the British nuclear industry pushing its wares at the same time of an "unprecedented number of misinformed attacks on wind's ability to provide cheap, safe and reliable supplies of green power" to be suggestive of conspiracy. The editor, Lyn Harrison (click here), even calls it a "hate campaign."

There's a more obvious reason for widespread and increasingly coordinated opposition: the unprecedented number of applications for large facilities in so many parts of the U.K. Windpower Monthly may find the opposition "misinformed," but while wind may indeed be able to provide a certain amount of electricity, only massive numbers of giant turbines can make a significant source on the grid. Even then, it does not displace other sources which must be kept on to make up for wind's variability and to respond to actual demand. Opposition to such a destructive and dubious scheme is quite informed.

The industry fear of conspiracy and prejudice suggests an inability to show that industrial-scale wind provides real benefits to justify its high costs (aesthetic, environmental, etc.). The fading enthusiasm as people -- and their politicians -- become better informed is evident in the editorial's description of the industry's on-going struggles:
"France's new market framework is a disaster; Australia is refusing to extend its green power mandate; Europe is not meeting its targets for renewables; U.S. wind development is at a standstill; amendments to wind laws in Germany and Spain are bad news; Britain is not delivering new wind megawatts fast enough -- and U.K. wind is being subjected to what looks like a media hate campaign to boot."
If the U.K. wants to make more of its electricity generation emission-free, it is not surprising that the nuclear industry takes advantage of that stated goal to remind people that nuclear power fits the bill (one need only overlook its many problems, such as dangerous waste, leakage, contamination of water, and potential for large-scale disaster). Despite its very serious drawbacks, it has proved able to provide the very large amount of power necessary to keep a consumerist society going.

In France, nuclear plants produce over 75% of its electricity. In another article, Windpower Monthly discusses France's failure to jump on the wind bandwagon as another anti-wind conspiracy, suggesting that the government doesn't support their industry. The fact is don't really need a new low-CO2 source, particularly one whose contribution would be so unhelpful yet whose physical and aesthetic impact would be so large.

It is revealing that the wind industry feels threatened by having to share the stage with other electricity sources. They don't seem to like being compared to generators that actually meet the needs of the grid.

Simple conservation measures would reduce more CO2 than any amount of industrial wind turbines could. They would affect all energy use, not just that used for electricity. Meanwhile, the international group Iter is ready to start building a fusion reactor, though they can't agree on a site.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

There is no substitute for conservation

"This no-free-lunch rule applies to all energy alternatives. For example, while ethanol brewed from cost-effective crops can replace gasoline in the short-term, it still releases CO2. Solar and wind power are emission-free, but face their own downsides. One is power density. While a chunk of coal packs lots of energy into a small volume, wind and solar are rather dispersed. Thus, where a coal-fired power plant capable of powering a small city takes up only a few hundred acres, a wind-farm of the same capacity would require hundreds of square miles. Ditto for solar."

So says Paul Roberts towards the end of a clear-headed article about energy in today's Boston Globe (click the title of this post, which is the last heading of his piece).

A couple of points concerning the excerpt above. Corn or hemp or other plant-derived gasoline substitutes do indeed release CO2 when burned, but while the crops are growing they absorb CO2 and are therefore considered emission-neutral. And a wind-powered facility of the same capacity as the coal-fired plant in his example would in fact have to be almost 4 times as large as he says, to make up for the intermittency of its energy source, the wind. You would still need the coal-fired plant as well, operating very inefficiently, to compensate for the highly variable wind-plant output and respond to actual customer need (to which wind facilities are happily oblivious).

Independence Day

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government."