Sunday, November 28, 2004

Government at work

A racket: Pass laws requiring the purchase of wind power, grant tax credits to the developers, create a secondary market for "green" credits, and choose your own company over others to take advantage of it all. That's what they just did in Ontario. The tightness of legislators and businessmen around the world suggests it is not uncommon.

To the editor, The New Republic

Some opponents of wind power may be initially NIMBY, as Gregg Easterbrook says they all remain ("Cape Hope," November 29), but once they examine the claims of the sales brochure they quickly deduce that utility-scale wind turbines should not be erected anywhere on the grid. As Easterbrook's article only echos the developer's own material in defending the Cape Wind facility proposed for Nantucket Sound, a response is warranted.

He repeats the claim that modern turbines don't kill many birds. Ongoing studies in Spain and Belgium, however, find that a single turbine kills an average 20-40 birds per year. A study at the Mountaineer facility in West Virginia is following up the finding that over 2000 bats were killed in just 2 months last fall. The blades of new turbines are indeed slower in terms of revolutions per minute, but they are so large (typically sweeping over an acre of air) that the speed at the tips is well over 125 mph.

His unqualified claim of "zero greenhouse gas emissions, zero air pollution, zero waste product" also is typical. The parts have to be manufactured and transported (using dirty energy), each foundation requires tons of cement (a major source of greenhouse gases), access roads typically have to be built or widened or strengthened, trees have to be cleared and vegetation kept down with herbicides, each turbine contains hundreds of gallons of oil which has to be periodically replaced, new high-voltage transmission lines have to be built, and the turbines themselves use power from the grid.

Typical, too, is Easterbrook's dismissal of aesthetic concerns. He admits that they are well over 300 feet high (over 400 feet in Cape Wind's case) and usually sited on prominent ridgelines and in open spaces. These are places any sensible person would be appalled to see industrial development. They are not just big (and include roads, transformers, and power lines), they add significant and disturbing noise to rural environments and must be lit with flashing lights day and night.

Easterbrook says all this is necessary to help resolve the problems caused by our thirst for power. He fails, however, to question the developer's claim of the project's potential contribution of an average 170 MW (which represents a whopping five one-thousandths of one percent of our energy use). That projection is based only on the generous formula from the wind industry, which says -- despite all evidence -- that the output of an off-shore turbine will be 40% of its rated capacity over a year. Existing facilities -- when they're working at all; it is still a very problematic technology -- produce at 20-30% (the figure is even lower on-shore). The wind data from Cape Wind's own measurement station in the Sound suggests that its output will be at the lower end of the range.

And because 20% is the average, two-thirds of the time output will be less than that. A lot of the time, such as the day I am writing this, the whole 24-square-mile installation wouldn't generate enough electricity to make up for its own consumption. It certainly wouldn't be replacing any more reliable source on the grid if Mr. Easterbrook wants the light to go on when he flicks that switch.

As the experience of, for example, Denmark (20% wind) and Germany (4% wind) shows us, large installations of wind turbines would not reduce our use of any existing source of power. This is not to dismiss the very real energy issues that Easterbrook has elsewhere written about. It is only to recognize that industrializing our land- and seascapes with wind towers (it would require hundreds of thousands to produce just a few percent of U.S. electricity needs) is a highly destructive (however profitable) folly.


Todays' Burlington Free Press contains two letters criticizing a recent editorial against putting utility-scale wind-generated power plants on Vermont's undeveloped and supposedly protected mountain ridges. One of them is the typical wind-at-all-costs jeremiad that is blind to the general rejection of putting these erections on the ridges. The other, hilariously, accuses the Free Press of bias. Of course, bias implies ignorance rather than informed opinion. Or it suggests an interest -- like Rob Roy Macgregor's in the letter already described -- in seeing something succeed or fail that has little to do with the facts of experience. The second letter is from "Thomas O. Gray," a citizen from Norwich. Though he neglects to mention the affiliation, he is former executive director and currently deputy executive director and director of communications of the American Wind Energy Association, the industry lobbying group. He is usually known by plain old "Tom." I suspect he is biased.


Animal Place, a sanctuary and educational organization, reports a study by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization finding that more than 50 billion animals (not counting fish and other aquatic animals) were killed for food in 2003. In the U.S., the slaughter of animals for food represents 98% of all animals killed, including by euthanasia in pounds and shelters, hunting, trapping and farming for fur, research, testing, etc. Worldwide, 46.5 billion chickens and turkeys are killed, 9.8 billion of them in the U.S., where they are specifically not covered by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

In all but the most extreme situations, this is a choice we make. We do not need to kill other animals to thrive ourselves. Yet we do. That is a morally indefensible choice. We ought to have the self-respect (or call it an eye for the karmic scales of justice) to expect better of ourselves.

Thought for the day

"[A] civilization with such a pervasively violent history, in the course of which it has acquired the highest estimation of its own decency and mildness, has developed a peculiar trick of mind, not to be called a divided nature, since the conviction of particular goodness always one way or another justifies or conceals or expedites really remarkable transgression."

-- Marilynne Robinson, Mother Country (1989)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Cape Wind output

Data from the Cape Wind measuring station in Nantucket Sound is available on line (click the title of this post), with the wind speed updated every 10 minutes (you have to "reload" the page yourself to update it). Right below the table of data is an estimate of what the complete 420-MW complex would have generated over the previous hour, and at the bottom of the page is a table of data from the previous 12 hours. As I write this, the generation figure is 16 MW-hours, or 3.8% of the plant's capacity, equivalent to 5% of the average electricity use on Cape Cod and the Islands. This falls rather short of the developers' claim that it will provide three-quarters of the Cape and Islands' electricity.

Note about wind speed and electricity generation: The wind turbine produces its rated capacity of electricity only within a specific range of wind speed. The 3.6-MW GE turbines that Cape Wind will use produce their rated capacity at 14 meters/second (m/s), or just over 31 miles/hour (mph). Below that, the output falls off exponentially, so that at about 9 m/s (20 mph) they will produce half, at about 7.5 m/s (17 mph) aquarter, and at about 6 m/s (13.5 mph) an eighth of their rating. Below 3.5 m/s (8 mph), the turbines produce nothing (yet continue to use power themselves). If the wind gusts above 27 m/s (60 mph), they shut down to avoid damage. (Data are from the GE brochure.)

(The Cape Wind data are in knots. 1 knot = 1.15 mph = 0.514 m/s. 1 m/s = 2.24 mph.)

Since I've started writing this, the previous hour's output would have dropped to 10 MW-hours, about 4.3% of the Cape and Islands' average need; the currect wind speed of 6 knots (6.9 mph, 3.1 m/s) is below the speed at which the turbines would start producing even a trickle of electricity. That is, the whole massive installation would be producing nothing right now. Check in often, and ask yourself whether the depredations of such a project are worth it.

Note about Cape Wind's claims: The developers say the complex will provide three-quarters of the electricity used on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket, which represents an average power need of 230 MW, 3/4 of which is 172.5 MW, which is 41% of the capacity planned for Cape Wind. This claim is not based on the actual measurements made in Nantucket sound nor on the experience of existing offshore wind facilities. It is based solely on the inflated generic assumptions of the American Wind Energy Association, which says that onshore wind turbines produce 30% of their capacity and offshore 40% (this figure is called their load factor). In fact, onshore wind turbines typically produce from well less than 20% up to 25% and offshore between 20% and 30%. It appears that Cape Wind's actual output would be at the low end, half of what the developer claims. And that's an average. Two-thirds of the time, it will be producing less than that. Often (like today) it will be producing close to nothing, not even enough to make up for its own electricity needs. So it will certainly not be replacing any more reliable power source on the grid.

Monday, November 22, 2004

No impact whatsoever

This is an old Vestas 1.5-MW model turbine going up at the Tjaereborg test site in western Denmark.

Watt a sight!

Developers decided in August to proceed with the [Crescent Ridge, Illinois] project despite a pending federal lawsuit alleging environmental irresponsibility, violation of migratory bird and endangered species acts and violation of numerous other state and federal laws. The plaintiff lost a similar state action earlier in the year.

"It would take a pretty stupid bird to fly into one of these things," [Tim] Reder [site manager of the project for Eurus Energy America] said of the giant blades that look more like airplanes and are visible for miles on a clear day. "I'm not saying they don't have a legitimate concern, but if you weigh that bird against what we're doing to our environment ... our dependence on foreign oil."
The story also describes the dense fog in which the construction is taking place, one of the conditions the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) warns about as harmful to birds. Not only will the blades be concealed in fog, the tips will be slashing through the air at 144 mph. The blades of each tower sweeping 1.3 acres of air. And speaking of the "stupidity" of birds, why are lights required on these massive structures? Are airplane pilots also "stupid"?

In fact at least 20 birds per turbine are killed each year, according to studies in Spain and Belgium. The researchers consider that a "conservative" figure; the actual number is probably much larger. FWS has estimated the number to be 37. Not only birds but also bats are killed. At the Mountaineer aerogenerator complex in Tucker County, West Virginia (44 turbines), well over 2000 bats were killed over just 2 months last fall.

Although Mr. Reder betrays his contempt for nature by insisting that only "stupid" birds fly into the blades, and by going ahead with construction despite a federal lawsuit charging violation of environmental laws, he nonetheless trots out the pathetic defense that this industrial development will save even more birds. He knows that the public is eager to relieve their guilt about inordinate energy use and the consequent habitat loss, acid rain, asthma, etc. So he presents his 2,200-acre power plant as absolution for their sins.

Notably, he throws in "our dependence on foreign oil." That may well be a problem, but it is not one where wind power can hope to have an impact. Only 2.4% of our electricity is generated from oil (see earlier post). If wind power were actually able to make a significant contribution (which is by all evidence quite doubtful), it would displace three times more hydro- than oil-generated electricity.

Oil is used for transport and heating, folks, not electricity.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Saving the world, one journalist at a time

On July 31, Phillipines radio commentator Roger Mariano was murdered after promising to "expose a bombshell" during his next commentary. Mariano had been investigating the network of bribes and coercion behind a 25-MW wind-power facility in Iloco Norte, involving the governor, his friend and chairman of the wind company, the local utility, and the grants and loans that paid for it all from the Danish International Development Agency (the invisible hand of the free market at work!).

It hasn't gotten that bad in most places yet, but the British Wind Energy Association has displayed a list of prominent opponents under the threatening headline, "We know where you live," the home of Country Guardian's director has been broken into and ransacked in Wales, and a bomb threat was called in to disrupt a recent meeting in Australia.

Only overwhelming greed compels such actions. These people are not friends of the earth nor of the people and other animals who live on it.

The title of this post links to part 1 of this story. Click here for part 2.

Batman to the rescue!

At the recent Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Pittsburgh, chairman Don Hopey appeared in costume to introduce panelists for a discussion of "Celebrity, the Media and the Environment." The decal reads, "Save bats: Brake wind power development."

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Clean and green and free ...

This is a prototype 5-MW wind turbine and tower from Repower in Germany. It's designed for both land and sea. The tower is 295-394 feet (90-120 meters) high. Each blade extends another 207 feet (63 meters). That's a sweep area of over 3 acres. And we are expected to believe that such monsters will have no negative impact on its neighbors or the environment!

Hundreds of thousands of wind towers, you say?

A recent post casually states that it would take hundreds of thousands of wind towers to provide 5% of the electricity used in the U.S. Here are the figures that confirm that statement.

According to data from the Department of Energy, we used 38.401 quadrillion btu of electricity in 2002. That's equivalent to 11,254 terawatt-hours (TW-h). Five percent of that is 563 TW-h, or 562,711,000 megawatt-hours (MW-h).

Dividing that figure by 365 days and 24 hours shows that 5% represents an average power feed of 64,236 MW. (See the post of Oct. 21 for an explanation of power and energy units.)

The output of a well sited (for the purpose of collecting wind) aerogenerator is about 25% of its rated capacity. So to provide an average 64,236 MW would require 256,944 MW of installed capacity. Using the usual utility-size turbine of 1.5 MW, that would require 171,296 of them.

The lesson from Denmark, however, is that only about one sixth of the wind-generated power is actually used, because it so rarely corresponds with demand (David J. White, "Danish Wind: Too Good To Be True?," The Utilities Journal, July 2004). So for the U.S. to get 5% of its electricity from wind would require more than 1,000,000 turbine towers.

Existing complexes use 30-60 acres per MW capacity (the more space they have the better they work). Getting 5% of our electricity from wind would therefore require installations covering at least 72,000 and possibly (ideally) more than 144,000 square miles. That's almost the size of the entire state of Montana.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Windfarms drive down property values

Its currently a sellers market and if windfarms make it a buyers market, all the better. I'm for home buyers, the young and the poor first. I'm not against home owners, but feel the pendulum desparately needs to swing the other way for a change. So you're right when you say as a home owner that you're a winner, but don't you feel its time you gave everyone else a chance too?
That's from Andy Parnell, spokesman for Greenpeace on their Yes2Wind web site. He's responding to the recent survey in the U.K. showing that industrial wind installations do indeed lower property values. The British Wind Energy Association says that opposition is to blame, that if everyone just stopped thinking for themselves and let the BWEA tell them what's good for them ("that drone pounding through your house is the sound of global warming being reversed!") prices would in fact go up as people rush to live near these sacred icons.

Mr. Parnell admirably doesn't shift the blame like that. He says it's all part of the service, just one more miraculous benefit of wind power -- making country housing more affordable!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The 0.05% solution

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, less than 2.4% of our electricity is generated by burning oil. Yet it is common for the wind-power salesmen to insist that their product will make us less dependent on foreign oil. The amount of our oil consumption that goes towards generating electricity is also less than 2.4%, or less than 1% of our total energy use.

Let's say they get their way and 5% of our electricity is generated by a few hundred thousand giant windmills. That would theoretically replace (if we ignore the typical 2% annual growth in consumption) 5% of our current sources of electricity, 2.4% of which is oil. So at best it would reduce oil's share to just under 2.3%. It would similarly reduce our total use of oil -- only some of which is imported from troublesome regions such as the Middle East -- by 0.1%. It would reduce oil's share of our energy consumption by 0.05%.

Now the salesmen would say that every little bit helps, thinking we will overlook that billions of dollars spent to install hundreds of thousands of giant windmills blighting our every landscape must ultimately be a rather embarrassing way to help a very "little bit." They would also forget their original plea about foreign oil and talk about domestic coal instead.

Coal-burning plants are continually developing to be more efficient and cleaner. But the prospect of significant amounts of wind power on the grid requires keeping on the older dirtier plants -- and even building new ones -- because only they are able to respond quickly enough to the unpredictable fluctuations of wind-generated power to keep the grid supply steady. That is, large-scale wind thwarts cleaner coal.

Coal mining is a dreadful business, and the more we can move away from it the better (it is the source of over 50% of our electricity), but wind power does not move us away from it and in fact perpetuates the worst use of it.

So they move on to the fluctuations of natural gas prices, as if a few percentage points of wind power in the grid (should it ever actually get that far) would have any effect on another market altogether (only a quarter of our natural gas use is for electricity.)

So they point to the dangers of nuclear power. Denmark, which has shunned nuclear power and claims that 20% of their electricity comes from wind (in fact, it's more like 3% -- the rest is exported because it's produced when demand is already being met), now has to buy nuclear-generated power from its neighbors because their faith in wind leaves them in need so often (when there is demand, the wind is rarely blowing in proportion). In other words, wind power won't replace any nuclear power here, either, and may well make us more dependent on it.

Sad to say, wind power won't replace or even reduce any more dependable source of electricity. The only way to reduce fossil and nuclear fuel use is to reduce consumption -- not just of electricity but also the energy for heating and transport. Efficiency and conservation will take us a long way towards solving our energy problems. The depredations of the wind industry won't even point us in the right direction.

Data source: Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy. Figures are for the year 2002, in quadrillion btu:
total energy: 97.644
total electricity: 38.177
total oil: 38.401
oil used for electricity: 0.908
     (2.38% of total electricity, 0.93% of total energy)
5% less oil used for electricity: 0.863
     (2.26% of total electricity, 0.88% of total energy)

A Seashore Fight to Harness the Wind

An article in today's New York Times looks at the offshore Cape Wind project proposed off Cape Cod in Massachusetts (see previous post).
And several environmental organizations have found themselves in the unaccustomed position of praising the Corps of Engineers, which many have criticized in the past as being too quick to approve development projects.

"At first, obviously, it was pretty frightening because of their history," said Kert Davies, United States research director for Greenpeace, which favors the project. But he added, "I think the effort was very solid, and they were under a lot of scrutiny."
Apparently Mr. Davies is serious. The Corps of Engineers has eagerly approved this development, consistent with its Greenpeace-criticized record. But now Greenpeace also supports this 24-square-mile industrial complex, so the Corps has done a "solid" job.

And in another example of the decline of journalism, the Times echos the idea that this in an "environmental" project:
The 4,000-page draft gives new support to environmental groups that praise the project as a safe, nonpolluting and desperately needed alternative to fossil fuel power plants. But opponents challenge the report, the process that produced it and the idea of building the turbine array in the first place.
There is no mention that many environmental groups (see SafeWind and Save Our Sound for some of them) and environmentalist individuals oppose the project. A vegetarian isn't vegetarian if he or she eats chicken occasionally. And an environmentalist should no longer be called such when he or she supports the work of developers.

[See the next post for how ridiculous the claim is that such projects will reduce fossil fuel burning.]

Don't fence me in!

Today's New York Times includes a photo from the Army Corps of Engineers' "Environmental Impact Statement" (which uses data provided primarily by the developer) showing what the proposed Cape Wind project (130 420-ft towers) between Cape Cod and Nantucket will look like: a barbed-wire fence. So much for the open sea, the expansiveness that draws us to it.

See Wind Stop for similar pictures from other locations. Wind Stop also emphasizes the 10-story oil-filled transformer that will be part of the complex.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Wise words

Via Information Clearing House . . .

A Cherokee elder was teaching his grandchildren. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf is full of fear, anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, and lies. The other wolf is full of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, generosity, and compassion. This fight is going on inside me and inside each of you and in every other person, too."

They thought about it for a moment, and one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?" The old Cherokee replied, "The one I feed."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Animal rights protests barred

A giant new building for conducting experiments on animals at Oxford University has been on hold since the contractor withdrew because of protests. But should a new contractor be found, the building is already protected by an injunction against protesters coming within 50 yards of it.

The judge, a Mr. Grigson, said the injunction did not prevent anyone from expressing his views: "What it does restrict is to whom and where he expresses those views." That is, you are free to express your views as long as they don't bother anyone.

The attorney for the university, Tim Lawson-Cruttenden, said the injunction was a win for liberal democracy: "I'm pleased that we're beginning to maintain the right not to be unlawfully harassed in a liberal democracy." That is, if we find protests troubling we can declare them to be illegal, and the liberal principles that depend so much on animal research may continue without the harassment of opposed opinion.

The vice-chancellor of Oxford, John Hood, admitted that the vast majority of protesters had acted within the law: "By obtaining this injunction the University of Oxford is not seeking to stifle the views of those groups and individuals with whom we disagree." Only, as Mr. Justice Grigson made clear, to restrict it, whether it was legal before or not.

The "liberal" principle at work here is that researchers should be able to look out their windows and not be reminded that their work is cruel and meaningless, that people who would harass those noble academics by expressing opposition must be labelled as terrorists or the whole house of cards risks collapse.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Cape Wind and the bats

The Army Corps of Engineers has released its 4,000-page report on the impacts of the 24-square-mile 130-tower Cape Wind facility proposed for Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod. Unsurprisingly, they think it'll be fine. For example, although migrating red bats traverse Nantucket Sound, they have determined that there is only "limited collision risk for migratory bats." Meanwhile, study continues at the 44-tower Backbone Mountain facility in West Virginia because a preliminary study last year found that over 400 bats were killed in a mere 2 months. FPL Energy's own in-house environmentalist says that the number was probably more like 2,000 since searches for carcasses were done only weekly, giving scavengers plenty of time to find them first.

He is also curious about what attracts bats to wind turbines, which many people have noticed. Is it the insects attracted by the lights, subaural vibrations, curiosity, or something else? Bat Conservation International has reported bats being killed by turbines where bats were never known to fly before.

If this one issue is an example, it is obvious that the Cape Wind report is deeply flawed if not downright disingenuous.

Exit polls underscore Democratic loss

In 2000, exit polls showed that 11% of Democrats voted for Bush and 8% of Republicans voted for Gore. Considering the error that must be allowed for by the sampling, the figures nonetheless suggest that as the Democrats move right they lose more votes than they gain. If the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) -- who have dominated the party since Bill Clinton's election -- wants to establish themselves as the moderate wing of the Republican party, the only way they'll succeed is by joining the Republican party itself, not by destroying their own party. There are a lot of Republicans already who support abortion rights, so when a pro-business voter is presented by the "New" Democrats with what is essentially the Republican platform, they will of course take a look at the real thing instead. And when a one-time union worker whose pension has been looted sees no major candidate seriously addressing his concerns, at least the Republicans -- having obviously studied how fascists succeed -- know how to redirect his resentment.

The exit polls this time still show that 11% of Democrats voted for Bush. And only 6% of Republicans -- fewer than voted for Gore -- voted for Kerry.

And may I ask how the "progressive" supporters of John Kerry, such as Move On, Michael Moore, the big unions, et al., think they will push the Democrats left again? They attached no conditions to their support, didn't insist that Kerry take a single progressive stand during the campaign. Imagine them telling the DLC to let some light in now. Ha! the Dems will think. You support us no matter what we do, you spineless grovelers, stop smelling up our tastefully appointed offices and get back to "getting out the vote."
The great are great only because we are on our knees. -- Max Stirner

Monday, November 08, 2004

Democrats! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

Bob Herbert ("Voting Without the Facts, New York Times, Nov. 8) points out that what is currently being called "values" in reference to some of the Bush vote should more accurately be called "ignorance."
"You have to be careful when you toss the word values around. All values are not created equal. Some Democrats are casting covetous eyes on voters whose values, in many cases, are frankly repellent. Does it make sense for the progressive elements in our society to undermine their own deeply held beliefs in tolerance, fairness and justice in an effort to embrace those who deliberately seek to divide?"
And Alexander Cockburn ("Don't Say We Didn't Warn You," Counterpunch, Nov. 6/7) has some words about Kerry's supporters who spent $20 million to stop Nader (instead of, say, helping some of the Senate races they lost) and never held Kerry to even the mildest progressive principle (letting him, for example, boast of his principled opposition to the Vietnam quagmire 30 years ago even as today he supports the Iraq quagmire).

What the Democrats ought to learn from this debacle is that trying to not be Democrats doesn't work. Only a charming liar like Bill Clinton can pull it off. As Bob Herbert and Eileen McNamara (see yesterday's post) point out, the Democrats need to be Democrats again, advocating the ideals of social progress: economic equality and justice, labor, guaranteed health care (as it is in almost every other country in the world, rich or poor), protecting citizens against corporate might, protecting minorities from the tyranny of the majority, etc. In short, they need to adopt Ralph Nader's platform.

But they won't. Democrats have been running from their core beliefs for years. That's why they hate Nader. He represents what they once might have been -- a party of principle. They will continue their painful slide into obscurity by urging a further move towards accommodating the ignorance and hatred that are hailed these days as values and faith. They will further narrow their "liberalism" to yet fewer and ever more meaningless culture-war icons and effectively let the robber barons run us all into oblivion. Our esteemed Democratic reresentatives, after all, retire to comfy jobs in board rooms just as Republicans do.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

George Bush thanks America

End-of-empire decadence

Today's New York Times was full of evidence that we are in the end times (as if George Bush wasn't proof enough already), from the buffoon of a market researcher with his ridiculous mansion and fleet of ugly expensive cars and dopey suits through the entire special "Living" magazine, with its parade of photos of dead animals, their hacked-up body parts presented as "appetizing." The thing today (expanding from September's popularity of Nobu's black cod with miso) is black food. One is reminded of the words of the chef in Peter Greenaway's movie The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover:
People like to remind themselves of death. Eating black food is like consuming death. Like saying: "Death, I'm eating you."

Inoffensive, ineffective

Eileen McNamara hits the nail on the head in her column in today's Boston Globe. Some excerpts:
Instead of drawing a distinction between the parties, Democrats insist on blurring the differences in a wrongheaded search for some squishy center. A concerted effort to offend no one ends up inspiring no one, either.

Democrats lose because they are unwilling to embrace the principles of their own party. Poverty is a moral issue, too. So is the right to basic medical care, a job, decent housing, safe streets, and a clean environment. If Kerry had projected half the passion about those issues that Bush did about abortion and homosexuality, this race might have been about big ideas, instead of a protracted series of skirmishes in a culture war that Democrats cannot win.

Kerry kept telling voters that the Bush tax cuts went to the wealthiest Americans. Why didn't he talk about the fundamental economic reality of the last two decades, the growing gap between the haves and have nots? Why no outrage about the fact that the top 1 percent earns more than the bottom 40 percent in the United States, the widest income gap since 1929? A stump speech reference to the ''two Americas" does not constitute a campaign against economic injustice.

Republicans have been winning big by changing the subject from the economic challenges facing Americans to the emotional issues that exploit their fear that the nation has lost its moral compass.

Instead of framing the fight to end joblessness at home or to engage in diplomacy abroad as the moral imperatives that they are, Kerry attempted a pale imitation of the president's personal piety.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

What's the Matter with Kansas?

Here's a good letter from the November 3rd Wichita Eagle:
Thomas Frank's book "What's the Matter With Kansas?" describes the neocolonial-style situation in Garden City, where huge, out-of-state agribusinesses have exploited the land and cheap labor to create meatpacking and food-processing combines that have simultaneously despoiled the natural environment and created a mess of poverty and ruined infrastructure. That part of Kansas becomes a warren of trailer parks and tacky apartment buildings, while the profits drain to capitalist enterprises far away.

Now The Eagle editorial board thinks Kansas is "losing out" on wind farming in the beautiful, irreplaceable Flint Hills ("Wind: Kansas is losing out," Oct. 11 Opinion). For a relatively small amount of cash paid to some local communities, and a windfall for a few local landowners, the editorial board seems hopeful that the Flint Hills can be colonized by an out-of-state energy company that will despoil the hills -- our spiritual treasure -- and pipe the massive profits to outsiders. Perhaps the editorial board would also like to reconsider the pig farm colonization of north-central Kansas.

What's the matter with Kansas? For one thing, The Wichita Eagle.

Gaylord Dold

Friday, November 05, 2004

Response to "Wind Power Seen As Win For All"

To the Editor, Plattsburgh Press-Republican:

Charles Hinckley [managing director of Noble Environmental Power] responded (Oct. 31) to Calvin Luther Martin and Nina Pierpont's Oct. 18 editorial about some of the negative aspects of industrial wind towers by simply ignoring their evidence. He says wind power is good because the state is aggressively supporting it. On the same day that Hinckley's piece appeared in the Press-Republican, an article in the New York Times described MTBE contamination of the state's water, an earlier "aggressive" effort to clean up the air that turned out to be horribly short sighted.

Wind-power projects do not even slightly clean up the air or reduce the use of fossil fuels. Their contribution of electricity is intermittent and unpredictable, requiring the continued (inefficient) use of conventional generation to cover for it. Most pollution and fuel use is due to heating and transport.

Hinckley dismisses the ever-growing testimony from neighbors of wind farms around the world about the noise. He presents instead the sales material from his industry's lobbyist. Five days before his piece appeared, an Enxco manager defending plans for a 120-turbine facility in Kittitas County, Washington, said that noise would not be a problem 78% of the time. That is, by his own admission, noise would be a problem 22% of the time -- an average 5-1/4 hours of each day. In their unquestioning enthusiasm for wind, Oregon rewrote their regulations to allow facilities to add what was previously considered too much noise in rural locations. Concerning Vermont's Searsburg facility (whose towers are less than two thirds the size of modern ones), another Enxco manager has written about the special situation in winter: "When there is heavy rime ice buildup on the blades and the machines are running you instinctually want to stay away. ... They roar and sound scary." (That ice eventually gets flung off in massive thick sheets.)

In Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, a farmer who leased his land for wind towers had to buy his neighbors' properties because of the problems (not just noise but also flicker and the lights at night). Wisconsin Public Service, operator of another 14 turbines in Kewaunee County, offered to buy six neighboring properties because of complaints; two neighbors sued instead.

To pretend that this does not affect property values, Hinckley considers only the property on which the wind towers are erected, dismissing the effect of a giant power plant on neighboring properties. It does not enhance the rural landscape. It drastically industrializes it. That may be seen as an improvement by those profiting from it, but it most certainly diminishes any special value the region had before.

Hinckley also says it is "inconceivable" that giant turbines, each of its blades well over 100 feet long and weighing more than 10 tons, their tips chopping through the air at over 100 mph, send vibrations down the tower and into the ground. Again, neighbors in England say they feel it in their homes. A 160-year-old playing field started to sink soon after large wind turbines were erected nearby.

Finally, he scoffs at the notion that wind companies could go bankrupt. Altamont Pass in California is filled with hundreds of rusting wind towers whose owners can't be found. The federal incentive of accelerated depreciation encourages fast profit taking and abandonment.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Slouching towards Armageddon

The Second Coming
by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Monday, November 01, 2004

Ralph Nader for President

Michael Colby has written a good piece about Nader at his Broadsides blog:
... If he wanted an ego rush this late in his life, he would have imitated the mainstream eco-ninnies in D.C. during these elections and got in line for the accolades, the award ceremonies, and the “opportunity” to rub elbows with the nation’s power elite. But Ralph knew what kind of bullshit all of that amounts to and, thankfully, steered clear of it. Instead, he’s decided to run for the presidency and put a spotlight on the issues that have not been broached by the other candidates.

And he’s taken a beating. He knew he was going to take a beating. Worse, he knew he was going to get knocked around by his so-called friends – the people who supported him in the past but would turn their back on him now. But Ralph’s deep belief in democracy and the importance of addressing issues trumped his fear of getting the collective knives in the back from his “friends.”

So it’s nothing short of hilarious to hear people say that any of this is about Ralph stroking his ego. He’s too smart for that. And he’s knows just the opposite is happening: his ego and his reputation are being trashed by folks who should know better.

Nader believes in something. He’s not afraid to stand up for what he believes. And he’s not a quitter. But those qualities have become so alien to the mainstream political world that when someone like Ralph steps onto the national scene with them, he’s condemned and called egomaniacal. The cesspool seems to enjoy its own filth. If idealism, passion, truth, and commitment are allowed into the game, how could the chicanery of the two-party game not be exposed?

The next time someone wants to engage me about Nader, here are the rules: We only talk about the issues. We talk about where we stand on the issues compared to where Ralph (and the other candidates) stand on the issues. And then maybe we can agree that a candidate who has an enthusiastic love of democracy and is running for the presidency to end the war, protect the environment, cut the defense department, curtail corporate crimes and transgressions against our democracy is rational and hopeful rather than egomaniacal.

If Kerry took just one position that was similar to Nader’s, the Nader bashers would have one small point. But he hasn’t –- and they don’t.

Enough already. Vote your dreams.