Friday, March 31, 2006

"Oil is for heat and transportation"

Since switching many plants to cleaner-burning natural gas, the U.S. uses hardly any oil for generating electricity (about 3%), so wind-generated power really has nothing to do with oil, foreign or domestic.

As for global warming, the primary culprit again is heat and transportation. In electricity generation, it's coal. But coal provides the unfluctuating base load of our system, which wind power would never touch. At best, wind power may occasionally allow some peak load plants to ramp down, but since they then have to ramp back up again when the wind slows (or gusts above 60 mph), they may burn more fuel than if kept on line more steadily.

By any real-world analysis -- at least in the industrialized world where we expect a steady supply of energy at our fingertips -- large-scale wind power on the grid is a nonstarter.

In addition to its lack of benefits (except for tax avoidance by big investors -- Enron developed the industry, after all), it has serious negative impacts, particularly as such a huge number of the giant machines is required to pretend it's making any significant contribution.

And that is what is truly disturbing about this article. Lester Brown would have us think differently, but everywhere that wind power facilities are proposed, there is widespread opposition. Aboriginal Australians have fought (and lost) to save their dreaming. Zapotecas are fighting the plans for massive wind power "development" in the Tehuantapec peninsula, one of the world's most important bird migration passageways. To call a small pay-off to farmers in New York a boon is insulting as the wind companies pocket millions from tax subsidies and artificial renewable energy certificates (Enron's most inspired invention). The leases -- written by the company -- essentially make the farmer a tenant on his own land. He even signs away his right to speak to anyone about problems such as noise or stray voltage. Many neighbors of wind facilities have had to flee their homes because of serious health effects.

And so on. The point is that there's another side of this typical story of exploitation and chicanery than Lester Brown's corporate boosterism, one I would have expected a writer for OneWorld to instinctively seek out.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Michael Pollan: The Pathology of Desire

In a long essay in Sunday's New York Times Magazine about a quest to kill "his own" wild pig, Michael Pollan briefly envies the "moral clarity" of vegetarianism. He immediately comforts himself by declaring them "pitiable" because vegetarians "deny reality."

Yet at every step of his quest to "own" his meat, Pollan struggles with moral ambivalence and even disgust, requiring hundreds of words of twisted rationalizations. He does not deny his appetite for exotic meat, true, nor the violence necessary to transform an animal from a living individual in a vital social circle into a mouth-watering roast. Neither do vegetarians. Nor do vegetarians deny the natural repulsion we feel from the slaughter, as Pollan struggles to. But he must have his boar, so anything can be justified, any reality denied that does not fit the preordained outcome, the consumerist goal.

This is moral decadence. Most of us do not need to kill to survive. We hunt or eat meat only because we want to. It is a moral choice to continue or not. It is the same choice whether you kill your meal yourself or not, the same whether you write thousands of words about it or not, the same whether it's grass-fed and free-range or factory-farmed.

Pollan denies that reality and chooses to kill. He is proud that he is a "conscious carnivore," which only makes his choice especially chilling. The only reality indeed is his appetite.

animal rights, vegetarianism

Saturday, March 25, 2006

French Academy of Medicine warns of wind turbine noise

Ventdubocage has posted a report from the National Academy of Medicine in France, "Le retentissement du fonctionnement des éoliennes sur la santé de l'homme" ("Repercussions of wind turbine operations on human health"). Click here for the 192-KB PDF.

Following is a translation of a notice of the report by Dr. Chantal Gueniot in "Panorama du Médecin," 20 March 2006:

Wind turbines: The Academy cautious

The harmful effects of sound related to wind turbines are insufficiently assessed, warns the Academy.

Wind turbines, which are multiplying throughout the French countryside, will have to be considered as industrial installations and to comply, by that fact, to specific regulations that take account of the harmful effects of sound as particularly produced by these structures, determined a working group assembled by the National Academy of Medicine and presided over by professor Claude-Henri Chouard (Paris).

People living near the towers, the heights of which vary from 10 to 100 meters, sometimes complain of functional disturbances similar to those observed in syndromes of chronic sound trauma. Studies conducted in the neighborhoods of airports have clearly demonstrated that chronic invasive sound involves neurobiological reactions associated with an increased frequency of hypertension and cardiovascular illness. Unfortunately, no such study has been done near wind turbines. But, the sounds emitted by the blades being low frequency, which therefore travel easily and vary according to the wind, they constitute a permanent risk for the people exposed to them.

Since 2 July 2003, the law has required a construction permit for wind turbines over 12 meters, including an impact study if their [combined] power is over 2.5 megawatts. An investigation conducted by the Ddass [Direction Départementale des Affaires Sanitaires et Sociales] in Saint-Crépin (Charent-Maritime) revealed that sound levels 1 km from an installation occasionally exceeded allowable limits. While waiting for precise studies of the risks connected with these installations, the Academy recommend halting wind turbine construction closer than 1.5 km from residences.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism

Thursday, March 23, 2006

More about Searsburg turbines

Tom Shea has shared more about his experience as neighbor of the small wind power facility in Searsburg, Vermont (see earlier post, "industrial droning"):

"No one I know has gotten accustomed to these monstrosities. ... I unfortunately have a clear view of these things and can hear them quite learly from inside my house. ... They have destroyed the peace and quiet that my family had enjoyed for over 40 years in this wilderness. They make noise when turning, and make really loud bangs when the turning mechanisms require work, which is just short of constantly."

Regarding the recent tearing off of half a blade on one of the machines:

"I am a chemical engineer, MIT '86. My unprofessional opinion is that there is not a chance that lightning was the cause of this failure."

Despite the company's report that lightning tore off the blade during a storm, some people have questioned that claim. For example:
I expect that the Searsburg blade was broken by a sudden gust from the side, perpendicular to the axis of rotation. In high winds the blades are stopped and turned so that their leading edges face into the wind to minimize stress. This works fine if the wind stays in line with the axis of the windmill. In the event of a sudden sideways gust, at least one of the three blades will be sufficiently vertical to be broadside to the wind and subject to severe stress. Since the blades are not turning there is little centrifugal stress on the blades to keep them straight. This means the blades can be bent to the point of cracking the inelastic fiber reinforcing, causing failure. In mountainous terrain the wind gusts are so variable in direction that this kind of blade failure is likely.
The company would rather claim lightning damage (1) because they probably have insurance against damage by lightning but not by wind and (2) because it doesn't look so good if it's the wind that damages the machines. This is at least the third blade failure at Searsburg.

And remember, these models are relatively small to those being proposed today.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines Vermont

"Running from the wind"

Yesterday, CBC Radio reported the story of the d'Entremont family of Pubnico, Nova Scotia (see earlier post, "Wind Turbine Syndrome"), who were forced to leave their home because of health problems caused by nearby giant wind turbines. The 9-minute broadcast is available at CBC in a Real-Media stream. The CBC also broadcast stories on the problem on February 27 (8 minutes) and February 28 (7 minutes)

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Can someone say "My Lai"?

Julian Borger reports in today's Guardian (U.K.) an Iraqi police report:
After listing other incidents in the area, the report for March 15 states: "American forces used helicopters to drop troops on the house of Faiz Harat Khalaf situated in the Abu Sifa village of the Ishaqi district. The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 people, including five children, four women and two men, then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals." Among victims the report lists two five-year-old children, two three-year-olds and a six-month-old baby.

The US military say that the deaths occurred when US troops raided a house in pursuit of an al-Qaida suspect and that only four people were killed. Major Tim Keefe, a US military spokesman in Baghdad said: "A battle damage assessment, the initial reports, said that what they saw were four people killed - a woman and two children and an enemy - and they detained an enemy."

Brigadier General Issa al-Juboori, who runs the joint coordination centre in Tikrit, stood by the report and said he knew the police officer running the investigation. "He's a dedicated policeman, and a good cop," Gen Juboori told Knight Ridder. "I trust him."

Both accounts of the incident agree there was a firefight in the early hours of the morning when US troops raided a house which an al-Qaida suspect was suspected to be visiting. The American account said the house collapsed as a result of the firefight, killing two women, a child, and a man believed to have al-Qaida links. The suspect survived and was captured. But the Iraqi police report suggests that the killings took place when the house was still standing. A local police commander, Lieutenant Colonel Farooq Hussain, said hospital autopsies "revealed that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed".
Borger also notes the current investigation of another massacre last year:
In last year's Haditha incident, US troops are accused of killing civilians after a bomb attack. An initial marine report on the incident said a roadside bomb on November 19 last year killed a lance corporal and 15 Iraqi civilians. But further investigation revealed that the civilians had been shot with marine weapons after the blast.

A nine-year-old survivor, Eman Waleed, who lived in a house 150 metres from the roadside bomb attack told Time magazine that after the explosion her father began reading the Qur'an. "First, they went into my father's room, where he was reading the Qur'an, and we heard shots," she said. "I couldn't see their faces very well, only their guns sticking into the doorway. I watched them shoot my grandfather first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny."
anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

When do we call it fascism?

From Paul Craig Roberts in Counterpunch, responding to Bush's insane speech yesterday in Cleveland:

The security of Americans has nothing whatsoever to do with Iraq. Iraq cannot overthrow the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the separation of powers, and American civil liberties. Iraq cannot illegally spy on American citizens, declare them to be "suspects" and detain them forever without warrant or charges. Iraq cannot put American critics of the Bush regime on "no-fly" lists. ...

The Bush regime cannot lead the world to democracy by tearing democracy down at home. Not since Abraham Lincoln have American civil liberties been so threatened as by the Bush regime. America even has an Attorney General, a Vice President, and a Secretary of Defense who believe in torture. How do they differ from officials in the Third Reich or Stalin's KGB? Anyone who believes in torture is not an American. That person is outside our tradition. Yet, it is people who believe in torture who occupy our highest offices.

tags:  anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Echos of history

From "Who Killed Christopher Marlowe?" Stephen Greenblatt, New York Review of Books, April 6, 2006:

Why would Elizabeth, who was not by nature impulsively murderous, have wanted Marlowe dead? Her government, to be sure, was nervous about the threat of popular rioting, incited by the placard signed "Tamburlaine," but Marlowe, off at his patron's country house, was not directly implicated in this provocation. Still, Riggs argues, the combination of the placard and the spy's report triggered in the Queen and her close advisers a "moral panic," the paranoid fear of "an emergent alliance between atheists and Roman Catholic provocateurs." After all, Protestant polemicists had so often repeated the line that the Pope was a cynical unbeliever and that the Catholic Church was the Antichrist's conspiracy that they had come to believe that it was literally true. The list of scandalous opinions attributed to Marlowe did not seem to them either a deliberate slander or a piece of grotesque comedy; rather it seemed like the smoking gun they had long expected to find. And if anyone had bothered to notice that Marlowe's "Catholicism" was a double agent's role and his "atheism" the unverified report of a paid informer who was a notorious liar, it would not have made a difference. The authorities were spooked by their own fantasies. ...

From The Guardian (U.K.), March 21, 1933:

The President of the Munich police has informed the press that the first concentration camp holding 5,000 political prisoners is to be organised within the next few days near the town of Dachau in Bavaria.

Here, he said, Communists, "Marxists" and Reichsbanner leaders who endangered the security of the State would be kept in custody. It was impossible to find room for them in the State prisons, nor was it possible to release them. Experience had shown, he said, that the moment they were released, they started their agitation again.

If the safety and order of the State were to be guaranteed, measures were inevitable, and they would be carried out without any petty consideration. This is the first clear statement hitherto made regarding concentration camps. The extent of the terror may be measured from the size of this Bavarian camp which - one may gather - will be only one of many. The Munich police president's statement leaves no more doubt whatever that the Socialists and Republicans will be given exactly the same sort of "civic education" as the Communists.

Absolute power for Hitler: The Cabinet at its meeting this afternoon decided on the text of the Enabling Bill which it will submit to the Reichstag. If this bill is passed, the Hitler Government will be endowed with absolute dictatorial powers. The Act will enable the Cabinet to legislate and to make laws even if these "mark a deviation from the Constitution", except that the Reichstag and the Reichsrat must not he abolished. But as these will be put out of action for four years, this provision will not inconvenience the Government, which will even have full powers at the end of four years to alter the electoral system by decree.

Military expenditure: As the Budget would be settled by decree, and as the figures would not need to be made public, there would be no extra-Governmental control of public finances, and the Government would be free to increase military and naval expenditure without the least publicity.

tags:  anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

"industrial droning"

Tom Shea of Searsburg, Vt., wrote a letter last August to the district ranger of the U.S. Forest Service about the prospect of yet more, much larger, wind turbines in the Green Mountain National Forest. His great-great-grandfather settled in Searsburg in the early 19th century, and his family owns the two houses closest to the existing 11-turbine 6-MW facility (198 feet high, no lights; the proposed expansion calls for at least 340-ft assemblies, requiring flashing lights). The complete letter is available at National Wind Watch.
A little less than ten years ago, a 'small' generating station of a 'handful' of windmills was proposed and rapidly sent through the approval process. This was to generate 'clean' energy that was reported to be no more intrusive than the sound of a 'whisper'. I have endured the industrial droning for close to ten years, with the added arrhythmic clunk of the gears from the turning mechanisms. This is described as a "barely noticeable" sound. I beg to differ. Due to this industrial noise pollution, I can no longer bring pets to the property, because the droning disorients them in the woods. The impact to the wildlife must be even more severe, despite the claims of the power company's 'consultants'. Regardless, my family's enjoyment of the quiet of the woods is severely diminished.

Now there is proposed a bigger generating station, with larger windmills, complete with aircraft warning lights. I have yet to see a detail on exactly where these enormous structures are to be located. Where will they be in relation to my property? Will they overlook my house? Why hasn't this been published? I suspect that is because they will be a huge eyesore. How can anyone expect a public response when these details have never been released? The propaganda pictures that the electric company published were taken five miles from the Searsburg town line. I do not consider this honest. ...

Will there be 400 foot tall electrical generators overlooking my house? Will the pristine landscape be turned into an industrial park? Will this wild expanse of nature resemble a metropolitan airport with its landing lights? ...

When the existing windmills were proposed, there was supposedly no opposition to them. The power company published(!) pictures of the view from our property that were taken while they were trespassing. They said that they had heard no opposition to the proposal. It should not have been hard to find [our] family in a town of less than 100, who had been there since the early sixty's. Yet the power company claimed that they had contacted all of the abutters. They had not contacted us, nor ANY of the other families that had their view of the mountains spoiled by these huge industrial machines. (They apparently only contacted tourists who never venture far from the road on the way to their ski vacations.) They subsequently published a glowing report that everyone they contacted liked the idea of the generators. This is a conclusion they decided on prior to contacting anyone. It is not intellectually valid.
tags:  wind power, wind energy, Vermont, environment, environmentalism

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Gag order

As noted before in this space (here and here), leases from wind power developers are extreme documents. A correspondent has recently informed us that several people who have given up their land for the huge (120 390-ft turbines so far, many more planned) "Maple Ridge Wind Farm" on the Tug Hill Plateau in Lewis County, N.Y., have been complaining privately about the noise. But they signed away their right to mention it to anyone but the company. Thus as far as the company is concerned there is no noise problem! Cute, huh?

tags:  wind power, wind energy, wind farms

Blowing out the fire

Jaon Vennochi writes in today's Boston Globe about the danger of censuring the criminal acts of the President:
Is Feingold's resolution motivated by pure political self-interest? He is a probable Democratic presidential candidate trying to stake his claim to the political left. Or is it principle? Feingold is the only US senator who opposed the original Patriot Act, and he voted against authorizing war with Iraq.

Either way, it creates a dilemma for Democrats.
A dilemma? Both political interest and principle are to be avoided? What's left for these ghosts that stalk the halls of Congress?
Current polls and surveys show people think as little of Bush as they do of Congress. Democrats in Congress should be thinking of ways to change that political reality. They need to increase their own favorability ratings at the expense of the opposition. Handing the opposition a weapon to use against Democrats is counterproductive, to say the least. But censure, and even impeachment, are seductive.
Keeping silent about illegal actions of the President will win respect? Refusing to act because of fear of the opposition will win votes?
In the House, 29 of 201 Democrats have signed on to a resolution from Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, that demands a special committee to investigate the Bush administration's "manipulation of prewar intelligence," among other things, and advise whether there are "grounds for possible impeachment." ...

Representative James P. McGovern of Worcester called the resolution "tempting," but concluded that it distracts from the party's goals of winning House and Senate races in the fall. Representative Barney Frank says, "This is an understandable emotional response from people who are very angry. But why do we want to energize George Bush's people?"
A fine plan: Defeat Republicans by not opposing them. Bore the Republican base into an apathy matching that of the Democrats. But there again, the Republicans are way ahead: They don't need votes, because they own the ballot boxes.
A political survey done by American Research Group is helping the left make its case. It is based on 1,100 telephone interviews among a random sample of adults nationwide from March 13-15. Of those surveyed, 46 percent said they favored censuring Bush for authorizing wiretaps of Americans without obtaining court orders; 44 percent opposed and 10 percent were undecided. On impeachment, 42 percent favored a vote to impeach; 29 percent opposed and 9 percent were undecided.

The survey is particularly interesting when responses from independents are analyzed. On the censure question, 42 percent said they favored it; 47 percent opposed. On the impeachment question, 47 percent favored it; 40 percent opposed.
So it isn't just for the left, as it turns out! Censure, even impeachment, is a mainstream no-brainer. The percentage opposed to impeachment is less than two-thirds the percentage of voters that are supposed to have elected the bastard. And the all-important "swing" voter remains just as uninteresting and irrelevant as ever.
It all adds fuel to the flames swirling around the White House. There is danger for the GOP, but also for Democrats: Will those flames consume those who fan them, too?
The Joan Vennochi solution: Sit in the dark and pretend that Bush won't do anything else bad and that it will all be like a bad dream when a new president is elected in 2008. That is, if Bush allows a new election. Who would dare stop him, since both political interest and principle are so risky?

Alternatives:
Second Vermont Republic
Green Party
Labor Party

tags: anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, Vermont

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Vermont legislators propose throwing out hearing results

State representatives Keenan of St. Albans City, Shand of Weathersfield, and Young of Orwell introduced a resolution yesterday to recommend that the Public Service Board reject its hearing officer's recommendation to deny a permit for the East Haven Wind Farm and grant it anyway.
Whereas, notwithstanding the hearing officer's recommendations, a close review of his findings reveals many conclusions which in combination argue convincingly for the PSB to act contrary to the hearing officer's overall recommendation, ...
This weirdly suggests that Janson himself did not make a close review of his own findings -- and that these legislators somehow have a better knowledge of the evidence than the man who presided over weeks of hearings and has read thousands of pages of testimony.
Whereas, the 329-foot wind turbines would produce electricity that would be sold entirely to a local municipal electric company, the Lyndonville Electric Department (LED), and

Whereas, the power will be sold to LED at five percent below market cost and will decrease slightly the market price for electricity with the greatest economic benefit for individuals in the Northeast Kingdom who reside nearer the project, and ...

Whereas, not only is this newly available electric power being sold locally and at five percent below market cost, it would also help meet the regional need for electric power derived from renewable resources, ...
In fact, the electricity will be sold to grid operator ISO New England, who will send the check to LED who will take out 5% and then send it on to EMDC. LED is not buying the electricity; they are taking a cut of the sales to ISO New England. As for helping meet the regional need for renewable energy sources, the turbines would have a likely average output of around 1.5 MW, or less than 0.005% of the current capacity of the New England grid.
Whereas, opponents of the project have stated that demand-side lifestyle changes could substitute for the need for renewable power, and this is an argument the hearing officer rejected, ...
In Vermont, 1.5 MW represents 0.25% of our peak load. Certainly in this case, demand-side changes could easily substitute.
Whereas, increased local employment would occur both from short-term construction jobs and longer-term system operation, ...
EMDC has contracted with a Burlington firm for construction. GE would supply the workers experienced in turbine assembly. Almost all local employment would be for land clearing, excavating, and hauling cement. The national average for full-time (essentially custodial) jobs after the facility is operational is 1-2 per 20 MW rated capacity: not many prospects are likely from a 6-MW facility.
Whereas, this small a wind farm is unlikely to impact significantly the migratory bird population, and the hearing officer acknowledged the Agency of Natural Resources, statement that a project containing only four turbines will probably not result in a large number of bat deaths, ...
Janson singled out the lack of information about the impact on birds and bats and the reluctance of EMDC to undertake proper studies.
Whereas, the portions of the former Champion Lands from which viewers would have a prominent view of the turbines used for snowmobiling, logging, and other activities inconsistent with true wilderness areas, ...
None of these involves 330-ft machines, none of them is active at night, and none of them violates the dark sky of that area with strobe lights.
Whereas, the public investment in these lands was to purchase a public access easement, and the presence of a commercial wind farm on nearby private property will not significantly diminish the easement, ...
Janson, despite what I consider many seriously wrong assumptions of the value of wind power, clearly determined that it will.

tags:  wind power, wind energy, wind farms, Vermont, environment, environmentalism

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Get serious about wind

In today's Burlington (Vt.) Free Press, in an article about the recommendation from the hearing officer that the Public Service Board deny Mathew Rubin and Dave Rapaport a "certificate of public good" for their proposal of 4 wind turbines in East Haven  . . .
At the Conservation Law Foundation in Montpelier, Vermont Director Chris Kilian was highly critical of Janson's recommendation, saying it was discouraging "since we have to build thousands of windmills if we are serious about global warming and decommissioning nuclear plants."
Yes, indeed: thousands. The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant has a capacity of 510 MW and annual output around 85% of that (due to down times). The wind turbines proposed in East Haven have a rating of 1.5 MW each but are likely to average only 25% of that (due to variable winds). So it would take 1,156 of them to equal the output of Vermont Yankee.

When Vermont Yankee is not shut down for refueling or any of its many problems, i.e, 85% of the time, its output is a steady 100% of capacity. In contrast, because of the cubic relation of power output to wind speed, wind turbines would be producing at much less than their average rate about two-thirds of the time. That means that even more are needed. Government agency analyses from New York, Ireland, Britain, and Germany have all determined that wind power's effective capacity, or its ability to replace other sources is only about a third of its average capacity.

So it would take 3,468 1.5-MW wind turbines to provide the energy currently generated by Vermont Yankee. That's not just "a few carefully selected ridge lines" but would require the industrialization of well over a hundred. It would require stringing turbines along the entire spine of the Green Mountains like a barbed wire fence separating east from west.

Many people already consider the state to be under siege by the less than 200 MW currently proposed at 6 sites.

With so much overbuilding and redundancy, most of it would have to be shut down when the wind is strong or it would overload the system -- thus further diminishing its effective capacity.

This is not to voice support for Vermont Yankee, whose decommissioning I support. I have to clarify that, because it is an assumption wind promoters generally cling to rather than face the inadequacy, much less the madness, of their alternative. Ditto for coal and any other obviously greater evil they would raise to avoid scrutiny of their own depredations.

Three and half thousand giant wind turbines would still require back-up stations both to balance their variable power and to generate energy when the wind is weak. Each turbine, 330-430 feet high, sweeping a vertical air space of 1-1.5 acres, requires at least 50 acres of clear land around it. (That means it would require more than 270 square miles of wind plant to equal the output of Vermont Yankee.) Wide strong roads are required for access. New high-capacity transmission lines and substations would be built. Most of the turbines must be lit by flashing strobes day and night. The blades turn, ensuring their dominance of the landscape. Noise generated by the blades, gears, motors, and generators are intrusive as well, its low-frequency aspect a threat to health and well-being. Wildlife habitat is fragmented and forest diminished. Birds and bats are particularly threatened.

And we would still need the same amount of generating power from other plants (which would be run less efficiently, i.e., with more emissions) to keep the system running when the wind isn't perfect. With this pathetic outlook, and considering as well the fact that electricity is only a fraction of our energy use, wind looks about as far from a "serious" solution to global warming or decommissioning nuclear plants as one could get.

tags:  , , ,

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Animal labs are anti-science

To the Editor, The Guardian (U.K.) [published Mar. 15, 2006]:

I would like to add to Sharon Howe's reponse (Mar. 10) to Timothy Garton Ash that antivivisectionists are not anti-science. Garton Ash makes a fetish of science but ignores the fact that it is science that makes it impossible to deny that the sentience of other animals is not very different from our own, and it is science that has, as Howe describes, developed better means of research and testing for human medicine than the Victorian barbarism of animal labs.

tags: 

Monday, March 13, 2006

American Communism

"In heaven there is only Communism; and why should it not be our aim to prepare ourselves in this world for the society we are sure to enter there? ... All distinctions of rich and poor are abolished. The members have no care except for their own spiritual culture. Communism provides for the sick, the weak, the unfortunate, all alike, which makes their life comparatively easy and pleasant. In case of great loss by fire or flood or other cause, the burden which would be ruinous to one is easily borne by the many. Charity and genuine love one to another, which are the foundations of true Christianity, can be more readily cultivated and practiced in Communism than in common, isolated society." --Schoolteacher, Zoar, Ohio

"There is a freedom from the frivolities of fashion, from arbitrary restricitions, and from the frenzy of competition; we meet our fellow-men in more sincere, hearty and genial relations; kindred spirits are not separated by artificial, conventional barriers; the soul is warmed in the sunshine of a true social equality." --On the Community of Bethel, Missouri

from American Communities, by William Alfred Hinds, 1878

tags: 

Finnegans Wind

I, but a poor mimic, dedicate this peace to Stan Moore, RIP

-- Its a criime shem, our Shun emits. Yore no is us goot ass a yass. Mimountin loons larch end immoovabull, ond yur edifyce shaks in sham. Thy wryot of nays 'll here r reitchus aye un timble to arth.

-- Shant, his Shim reparts. Hiss win dys up. Hiss hedd hass croktt ass hiss towrinkss pinn. Hee well nutt phall fo hee hatt nott riss. Hat shut! Oun mus born!

Issy, shunned and shemmed, combed her feathers and powndered her meathers and she lupt hem all. For she wood soar what the fusses. But shee cood knowt soar so fasses the wind turnd them ill. The sheman herd and will aveher weep. The shunnon just fload in his muddeyed bink.

tags:  , , ,

Sunday, March 12, 2006

"Wind Turbine Syndrome"

Here is a picture of the d'Entremont home in Pubnico, Nova Scotia, where their ancestors have lived since the 1870s. Daniel and Carolyn d'Entremont, with their 6 children, had to abandon it on Feb. 21, 2006, because of "wind turbine syndrome," the cluster of symptoms being found around the world where people live near giant wind turbines.

d'Entremont home, Nova Scotia

Dr. Nina Pierpont of Malone, N.Y., has interviewed them as part of her research into this problem. She testified before the New York State Legislature Energy Committee on March 7. A 68-KB PDF of her testimony is available at AWEO.org. Here is an excerpt.
Three doctors that I know of are studying the Wind Turbine Syndrome: myself, one in England, and one in Australia. We note the same sets of symptoms. The symptoms start when local turbines go into operation and resolve when the turbines are off or when the person is out of the area. The symptoms include:
  1. Sleep problems: noise or physical sensations of pulsation or pressure make it hard to go to sleep and cause frequent awakening.

  2. Headaches which are increased in frequency or severity.

  3. Dizziness, unsteadiness, and nausea.

  4. Exhaustion, anxiety, anger, irritability, and depression.

  5. Problems with concentration and learning.

  6. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Not everyone near turbines has these symptoms. This does not mean people are making them up; it means there are differences among people in susceptibility. These differences are known as risk factors. Defining risk factors and the proportion of people who get symptoms is the role of epidemiologic studies. These studies are under way. Chronic sleep disturbance is the most common symptom. Exhaustion, mood problems, and problems with concentration and learning are natural outcomes of poor sleep.

Sensitivity to low frequency vibration is a risk factor. Contrary to assertions of the wind industry, some people feel disturbing amounts of vibration or pulsation from wind turbines, and can count in their bodies, especially their chests, the beats of the blades passing the towers, even when they can’t hear or see them. Sensitivity to low frequency vibration in the body or ears is highly variable in people, and hence poorly understood and the subject of much debate.

Another risk factor is a preexisting migraine disorder. Migraine is not just a bad headache; it’s a complex neurologic phenomenon which affects the visual, hearing, and balance systems, and can even affect motor control and consciousness itself. Many people with migraine disorder have increased sensitivity to noise and to motion -- they get carsick as youngsters, and seasick, and very sick on carnival rides. Migraine-associated vertigo (which is the spinning type of dizziness, often with nausea) is a described medical entity. Migraine occurs in 12% of Americans. It is a common, familial, inherited condition.

... Data from a number of studies and individual cases document that in rolling terrain, disturbing symptoms of the Wind Turbine Syndrome occur up to 1.2 miles from the closest turbine. In long Appalachian valleys, with turbines on ridge-tops, disturbing symptoms occur up to 1.5 miles away. In New Zealand, which is more mountainous, disturbing symptoms occur up to 1.9 miles away.

In New York State, with its mixed terrain, I recommend a setback of 1.5 miles (8000 ft.) between all industrial wind turbines and people’s homes or schools, hospitals, or similar institutions. This setback should be imposed immediately for turbines not yet built.
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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Letters about Londonderry and Manchester

The recent votes in the Vermont towns of Londonderry and Manchester against erecting giant wind-powered generators have naturally generated letters to the state's newspapers. One writer to the Burlington Free Press, while recognizing the concerns of communities as serious, nonetheless considers wind power as a "chance to locally control some of our own power supply, rather than to rely on others for much of our power." The problem is, we can't control the wind. So we would either rely on other sources as much as ever, or turn to them only as needed (which would be most of the time) and pay a premium for that "independence."

Another writer expressed her recognition that wind turbines should directly benefit the communities hosting them, not serve as mere generators of "green tags" for far-off investors. Unfortunately, as Enron recognized when they invented the concept, green tags are the only thing the turbines reliably generate. That writer also described visiting large wind facilities, "the cattle undisturbed," as if that is model behavior for all of us.

There have been other letters responding to Rob Charlebois of Catamount Energy complaining about "a sophisticated advertising campaign against his project" in Londonderry and that "we have work to do at educating the public about the benefits of the project." The letters note that Catamount hired a PR firm, ran large ads in several newspapers, and made several mailings. The Glebe Mountain Group sent out postcards once and paid for only a few advertisements in the local weekly. They also note that Charlebois is up against real education, which the pablum from his PR firm can't stand up to. One writer sums up:
... A few of the things we learned are: Industrial wind plants will not replace conventional power plants. Conventional power plants do not run as efficiently when they have to back up intermittent wind electricity. Wind generated electricity does not significantly reduce CO2 emissions. Wind turbines make noise, which, in a mountain environment, can be focused and amplified unpredictably. The tips of wind turbines, which travel up to 191 miles per hour, are a threat to birds and bats.
The sheer size of the machines is probably the most surprising aspect to people who have not been forced to look into the issue. The Glebe Mountain Group used an effective graphic, which is on line at www.vermonterswithvision.org/sizecomparison.html.

Finally, a letter in Friday's Brattleboro Reformer frankly states, "[T]he PSB [public service board] should not consider this vote result." He goes on:
"In the end, the PSB must act in the interest of all Vermonters, not on one town's public opinion, regardless of whether that local opinion was the result of a poll, an amendment to the town plan or any other means of expression. Otherwise any town could hold a vote, or amend its plan in order to block a needed transmission line, communications facility or power generation facility. This would lead to chaos in Vermont's plans to provide power and communications to support economic growth.
This is an ironic sentiment so soon after town meeting day, praised by all (a little too desperately, in my opinion, especially in its fear of the other essential part of free democracy, the secret ballot) as democracy in its purest glory. This appeal to the "greater good" is the essence of fascism, particularly when the greater good is revealed to be only the good of the "greater": large corporations and their investors.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

What domestic spying means

A piece in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times describes the last time extensive domestic spying was uncovered, by the theft of FBI records on March 8, 1971, by activists who then anonymously mailed them to journalists and politicians. The case was never solved, and political spying by the FBI was sharply curtailed.

Now we know that the Bush administration appears to have continued the Pentagon-planned Total Information Awareness data-mining spy program -- which was canned in the face of justifiable outrage -- under the much more secret National Security Administration. Just as J. Edgar Hoover marked his fellow citizens as enemies of the state for acting against bigotry and inequality, and by doing so justifying any criminal action against them, so the big W has revived that "privilege" for himself and his corporate cronies.

This time, however, the only outrage is its being technically illegal. So Congress rushes to make it "legal" and journalists breathe a sigh of relief.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Sutton strongly rejects industrial wind power

At town meeting yesterday, Sutton (Vt.) voted 120 to 23 against the proposal by Italy-based UPC to construct six giant wind turbines on their ridgelines. This sent a clear message to the select board (which asked for the vote), which was inclining favorably to the development after UPC offered them $100,000 a year for ten years.

And in neighboring Sheffield, one pro-wind member of the planning commission was voted out in favor of a new member opposed to the same project, which would see 20 of the 400-ft-high machines on Sheffield's ridges.

Sheffield had a town vote on Dec. 1, 2005, which the developers won 120-93 with old-fashioned vote buying, but since then the planning commission (which was then generally supportive of the project) made a broader survey. They found that two-thirds of the respondents opposed and one-third supported wind power development on the ridgelines. Earlier in 2005, Ridge Protectors sent a petition to everyone on the Sheffield grand list. Of the 436 petitions sent out, 346 were returned with signatures against the UPC project.

Londonderry voted 425 to 213 on February 24 against investor Diamond Castle–owned Catamount Energy's proposal to erect 19 420-ft-high turbines on Glebe Mountain. Yesterday, they approved $100,000 to fight the project, and one member of the select board was replaced by a clear opponent of the Glebe Mountain proposal.

Manchester, whose Little Equinox ridge is targeted by Endless Energy of Lowell, Mass., held their town meeting on Saturday and voted by voice to oppose the project.

In contrast, a survey of voters at Readsboro's town meeting found that support for expansion of the Searsburg facility (the existing 11 200-ft-high machines to be supplemented with 20-30 340-ft-high machines) into their town was strong at 191-31. There is another proposal for Readsboro (the "Deerfield" project) involving 20-25 new turbines. As reported, it is unclear what exactly the Readsboro residents thought they were responding to.

In other town meeting news, four towns joined Newfane (the only one to have warned the article) to call on Representative Bernie Sanders to begin impeachment of George Bush. Montpelier and Burlington voters rejected a call to stop adding fluoride to the water, preferring weak bones, Alzheimer's, and cancer in the name of stronger tooth enamel. And Burlington elected a new mayor using instant runoff voting to ensure a majority preference.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Manchester opposes wind power

The town of Manchester, Vermont, convened a special meeting Saturday night to discuss and vote on the wind power project on Little Equinox Mountain proposed by Endless Energy. By a voice vote at the end, the people of the town chose to oppose the project. They also approved $150,000 to fight it.

The Village Planning Commission had already done its homework, as represented by the statement below.

()()()()()()

From The Manchester (Vt.) Village Planning Commission's Policy Statement on the Proposed Little Equinox Mountain Wind Farm:

At a Special Meeting of the Commission held on Saturday, Feb. 25, to discuss the results of the recent Wind Forum, the Commission concluded, unanimously, that the proposed project should not be supported because:

1. The project violates both the Town and Village Plans of Development.

2. The project's detriments outweigh its benefits to the Manchester Community.

3. No pollution reductions will result because of the "Green Tag" sale.

... Several fundamental contradictions have concerned us from the outset:

a. Why are we discarding the preservation requirements of our Plans of Development? The Manchester Town Plan of Development states: "Structures shall not be permitted on or near mountaintops and ridgelines, so that these features are preserved in their natural state." Similarly, the Manchester Village Plan of Development says: "The natural and irreplaceable resources such as the scenic backdrop of Mount Equinox should be preserved." The proposed five-turbine installation is in clear violation of those provisions of the Plans.

b. Can we continue to keep an open mind about the Endless Energy Corporation proposal when its representatives have not been forthcoming on fundamental issues, such as financial viability and wind farm construction expertise, and have misrepresented other facts relating to the proposed development?

THEREFORE, unless convincing new information emerges to the contrary, the Manchester Village Planning Commission feels compelled to oppose the proposed wind farm at Little Equinox Mountain, based on the following facts:

1. The proposal contradicts both the Manchester Town and Manchester Village Plans of Development.

2. The five turbine structures will permanently debase the natural beauty of Manchester's highly scenic asset, our Equinox ridgeline, due to their 390' height and 300' rotor span.

3. The windmills would present a visual and noise threat to the entire community, especially to residents on Bentley Hill, Ormsby Hill, Lathrop Lane, and McCooey Drive. These problems might well become seriously detrimental to property values in those areas and beyond.

4. Several of Manchester's most visually sensitive attractions would be negatively affected by the dominating presence of the turbines; these include Equinox Pond, Hildene, Union Street, and large sections of the Battenkill.

5. By far, the financial beneficiaries of the Wind Farm enterprise would be Endless Energy, its investors, the Burlington Electric Company (BED), and BED customers, whereas Manchester would be virtually left out of the money. Specific estimates, based on the best available information including Endless Energy' 20 year contract with BED, are:

Developer benefits:

Endless Energy's revenues $43 million
Unnamed investors' profits $27 million
BED Green Tag Revenues $25 million
Investor Fed. Tax Loss Benefits $18 million
Fed. Renewable Energy Tax Credit $5.5 million

Manchester Town revenues:

Manchester Town Tax (excl. educ.) $20,000 per year: $400,000 total over 20 yrs.
Manchester "Dowry": $30,000 per year: $600,000 total over 20 yrs.
Manchester Electric Rate Savings: NONE ...

6. Under present FAA rules, at least three (possibly all five) of the turbine towers would be required to display flashing red lights night and day.

7. Endless Energy's claim that the proposed wind farm will reduce pollution is negated by the fact that the "Green Tags" sold to out-of-state power companies would allow their oil and coal-burning plants to continue to pollute the air on a kilowatt for kilowatt basis compensated by this wind farm's output. ...

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

"Red squirrels to lose forest home"

From the Daily Post (Wales), March 2:
Wales' largest colony of red squirrels face eviction after their forest home was earmarked for new windfarms.

Clocaenog Forest and the surrounding area lies in a Strategic Search Area (SSA) defined by the Welsh Assembly as suitable for wind turbine development.

Now planning consultants Arup, acting for Conwy and Denbighshire county councils, say the area outside the forest is less suitable for development, and wind farms should be concentrated in the forest itself.

It means that large sections of Clocaenog Forest could be felled -- which would spell disaster for its thriving populations of red squirrels and other wildlife, including dormice.

Adrian Lloyd Jones, conservation officer at North Wales Wildlife Trust, said: "This could end up destroying the whole population of red squirrels in the forest.

"Forestry people I've spoken to suspect up to half the trees may have to go. But the impact on squirrels could be even greater because of the edging effect on their habitats -- the usable area for squirrels could be reduced by as much as 75%."
What is not mentioned in this article is that the red squirrel population in all of England and Wales is next to nothing. Its decline is typically blamed on the introduction of grey squirrels in the late 19th century. But it isn't grey squirrels mowing down forest habitat. In this case, it's wind-mad politicians giving the green light to rapacious developers in the delusion that they're helping the planet.

New packaging for the same old environmental destruction.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

"Birds, bats at high risk on Red Oak"

From The Recorder (Va.), March 2:

A study conducted at Highland New Wind Development's site on Allegheny Mountain last fall found a higher rate of nocturnal migration on Red Oak Knob and Tamarack than at sites where other such studies have been conducted.

Sunday, about 75 people turned out for a seminar at The Highland Center when speakers addressed the proposed Highland New Wind Development utility and its potential effects, notably that birds and bats may be in even more danger than previously surmised if the projects is built here.

Wildlife biologist and consultant Dan Boone reviewed the avian study by ABR Inc., the firm hired by HNWD to take a look at migration numbers on the project site. That study shows a higher number of birds and bats are flying through the site than at any other he's seen, Boone said.

"I had always been a proponent of wind energy," he said. After he was hired to study avian effects for a project in Maryland, however, Boone came across a thin report on the utility and, "I couldn't believe how bad the science was," he said. It spurred Boone into becoming an activist and policy analyst opposing wind development in the East.

Boone says despite the fact that the best wind potential lies in the West, the major population centers are in the East, contributing to the drive to develop wind energy in the Mid-Atlantic region, which draws 24 percent of the nation's electric load. "And Highland and Bath are two of the best sites in Virginia for wind," he says, although this area also has some of the most sensitive environmental areas where turbines carry a high potential to be detrimental to wildlife, local economies, and residents.

Boone said the wind industry often argues turbines only kill about two bats each, and that cats kill far more birds. Those arguments, however, do not hold water, he says. For one thing, the kinds of birds killed by cats are common back yard birds, not forest and migratory birds affected by wind utilities.

Bat populations can be seriously and critically affected by wind projects, particularly if the number of facilities proposed in the East are built, creating an overall cumulative effect on their migratory patterns and survival. ...

Golden eagles, a federally protected species, are at risk, too, especially because their Appalachian populations are very small, Boone said.

... In Tucker County, W.Va., at the wind utility on Backbone Mountain, studies concluded some 4,000 bats were killed in one 2003 season -- the highest ever recorded.

Nearly all wildlife impact studies at wind plants to date, Boone notes, have involved the kind of terrain that's different from the forested ridge tops of this region.

Boone explained scientists don't really know yet why bats tend to be attracted to wind turbines -- some surmise it has to do with the low-frequency noise and vibration. But in the Allegheny Mountains, he said, there is a stronger, tighter migration path -- birds and bats use the mountain front as a focused freeway for migrating north and south, and therefore there will always be more of them in a smaller area along this area. ...

Rick Lambert of Monterey, owner of Highland Adventures and active caver, agreed there were serious concerns.

"I have to tell you I was initially for this wind project until I was asked to look at the bat reports for Highland and Pendleton," he said.

After reviewing the studies conducted by HNWD and Liberty Gap, however, Lambert said he found too many errors and inconsistencies. "We really need more research," he said.

Lambert said there are actually four endangered bat species in the area -- the Indiana bat, the Virginia big-eared bat, the gray bat, and the small-footed bat. All of them, he said, are likely to be in Highland County caves, too. Some have been documented here, but Lambert said not all privately-owned caves have been explored or seen at the right times during migration to document the bat populations. He believes there are bound to be far more of these endangered bats in both counties.

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Freudian typo

"Our forefathers fought for the right to fee speech." [emphasis added]

-- New York Times, "Six Animal Rights Advocates Are Convicted of Terrorism," Mar. 3

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Plug-in folly

To the Editor, New York Times:

Where does Nicholas Kristof ("100-M.P.G. Cars: It's a Start," Feb. 5) think the electricity for plug-in cars will come from? The cars themselves may run more cleanly, but the electricity will likely come from plants burning more coal -- hardly a cleaner alternative.

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