Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wind power opens doors for new coal plants and transmission lines

A couple of recent news items illustrate how wind energy development is being used as the frontman for new coal plants and expansion of transmission lines.

First, a letter in the Feb. 28 West Central (Minn.) Tribune notes that a large new coal plant with transmission upgrades will be a necessary part of Minnesota's new effort to get 25% of their electricity from renewables.
The law is based on the results of the Minnesota Wind Integration Study, a project undertaken by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission resulting from 2005 legislation. The study report, which was published late last year, shows that by 2020 up to 20 percent of the state’s electrical energy could economically come from wind without adverse supply or reliability impacts. The report assumed, as part of its baseline, that certain facilities already were in place. [The study also misleadingly used wind data smoothed to hourly averages.]

Included in those assumptions was that eastern North Dakota and eastern South Dakota would contribute to Minnesota’s wind energy resource and that Big Stone II with its associated transmission would be built. The [coal] plant is needed as a source of baseload generation and to help ensure voltage stability between the Dakotas and Minnesota. Big Stone transmission upgrades are needed to help deliver energy from Minnesota’s wind-rich Buffalo Ridge.

Thus, in order for Minnesota to realize the goals of the Legislature’s “25 by 25” mandate, there must be a Big Stone II. ...
And an article in the Feb. 27 Newsday reports that the developer of a giant new high-voltage transmission line in central New York is selling it as a spur to wind energy development. Interestingly, Senator Hilary Clinton is critical of the transmission project yet an active proponent of wind development. It thus appears to be purely symbolic for her as it proves to be for all.

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

Monday, February 26, 2007

Avram Patt doesn't know what he's talking about.

To the editor, Rutland (Vt.) Herald:

Avram Patt (Perspective, Feb. 18) obviously did not read Metcalf's Feb. 11 letter past the first paragraph. Metcalf uses capacity rhetorically in the same way the industry does in leading people to believe that 1,000 megawatts of wind is indeed the same as -- and will thus replace -- 1,000 megawatts of other sources. The rest of the letter does not follow the industry in that misleading use of capacity, but instead cites, e.g., a German government study that 48,000 megawatts of wind capacity would be the same as only 2,000 megawatts of capacity from other sources.

It is Patt who is confused. He has evidently imagined the rest of the letter so he could more easily criticize it. His analogy about a car not burning gas until it's going somewhere is simple-minded. What if the car is sitting in a traffic jam or even a stop light? In city driving, because it must slow down and stop and reaccelerate so much more, the car actually burns more gas although going much smaller distances than it might on a highway. That is a more accurate analogy for much of the grid. If the wind rises, and energy from wind turbines requires other sources to stop or slow down their electricity generation, it does not mean that fuel at those other sources is no longer being burned. They have to stay "warm" to be available when the wind drops again. The few modern plants that can shut down must start up again more often, and that uses more fuel, too.

Wind energy on the grid is not like riding a bike and leaving the car in the driveway, as Patt suggests. Wind energy on the grid is more like riding a bike and having someone follow you in the car in case you get tired (lose your wind, so to speak).

But Patt's complaint (along with his attempted correction) is not only wrong, it is a red herring. After showing wind's minuscule potential contribution to our energy supply, Metcalf's letter is about the substantial noise from the giant machines. As the turbines have recently started operation in Mars Hill, Maine, for example, their noise is now undeniable, robbing people of sleep and the peaceful enjoyment of their homes and land.

He explains that sound is relative. What might be unnoticeable in a city during the day would be intolerable during a typically quiet rural night. And where unnatural noises are not the norm, especially at night, the rhythmic pumping and mechanical grinding of giant wind turbines (augmented by flashing lights) are much more intrusive than their absolute measures (as estimated by the developers) are meant to suggest.

That was the point of Metcalf's letter, and it was completely ignored by Patt. Just as the industry exaggerates the value of electricity from wind, it downplays its negative impacts. Even then, the cost-benefit balance is doubtful. When the facts are not ignored, the costs overwhelm.

Industrial wind turbine facilities are a not only a visual and auditory insult, they degrade and fragment wildlife habitat, they threaten bats and birds, they open up wild areas to sprawl with roads and transmission lines. As Vermont industry rep John Zimmerman has said, "wind turbines don't make good neighbors."

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Industrial wind vs. the environment

Which side are you on? (as the old union song asks) ...

Maryland is facing bills to protect industrial wind developers from environmental scrutiny as they pave roads and string transmission lines over the Appalachian ridgetops and ram in giant wind machines that serve no purpose beyond making politicians and "green" consumers feel as if they've "done something" about our energy problems.

According to the blog My Commonplace Book (click the title of this post, and thanks to National Wind Watch for the tip), "The bill would eliminate any requirement for public review or notification -- or even for informing adjacent land owners whose property values could plummet [and would suffer from the noise]. Nor would there be any environmental review of the impact on wildlife, endangered species, or forest fragmentation. All an applicant for a wind project would have to do is request a construction permit from the Public Service Commission."

For an industry that claims to be green, they sure don't like actual scrutiny. No longer able to deny the substantial negative impacts of their projects on land, animals, and people, they now hope to exempt themselves from the law. This is an industry shaped by Bush's pals at Enron, after all.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, ecoanarchism, animal rights

Quote of the day

"It's like everything we do in this country. We jump in with both feet and we don't think about any of the consequences."

--Mike King, Illinois, on industrial wind

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Friday, February 23, 2007

Conservation Law Foundation weeps for polluters

Like Peter Shumlin, President Pro Tem of the Vermont Senate, Christopher Kilian of the Conservation Law Foundation is worried about global warming's effect on ski areas and snowmobiling (as expressed in a column recently appearing in Vermont newspapers). He wants to appear serious about fighting global warming but ignores the fact that ski areas and snowmobiling are contributors to global warming, not its victims. As examples of environmentally harmful recreation, they should be admonished not pitied.

environment, environmentalism, Vermont, animal rights

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Animal farms and deforestation and global warming

Here are some "inconvenient truths" from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations news room last year (underscoring added) ...

Livestock a major threat to environment

29 November 2006, Rome - According to a new report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent -- 18 percent -- than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation. ...

With increased prosperity, people are consuming more meat and dairy products every year. Global meat production is projected to more than double from 229 million tonnes in 1999/2001 to 465 million tonnes in 2050, while milk output is set to climb from 580 to 1043 million tonnes.

Long shadow

The global livestock sector is growing faster than any other agricultural sub-sector. ... But such rapid growth exacts a steep environmental price, according to the FAO report, Livestock's Long Shadow -- Environmental Issues and Options. "The environmental costs per unit of livestock production must be cut by one half, just to avoid the level of damage worsening beyond its present level," it warns.

When emissions from land use and land use change are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.

And it accounts for respectively 37 percent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants, and 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.

Livestock now use 30 percent of the earth's entire land surface, mostly permanent pasture but also including 33 percent of the global arable land used to producing feed for livestock, the report notes. As forests are cleared to create new pastures, it is a major driver of deforestation, especially in Latin America where, for example, some 70 percent of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing.

Land and water

At the same time herds cause wide-scale land degradation, with about 20 percent of pastures considered as degraded through overgrazing, compaction and erosion. This figure is even higher in the drylands where inappropriate policies and inadequate livestock management contribute to advancing desertification.

The livestock business is among the most damaging sectors to the earth's increasingly scarce water resources, contributing among other things to water pollution, eutrophication and the degeneration of coral reefs. The major polluting agents are animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and the pesticides used to spray feed crops. Widespread overgrazing disturbs water cycles, reducing replenishment of above and below ground water resources. Significant amounts of water are withdrawn for the production of feed.

Livestock are estimated to be the main inland source of phosphorous and nitrogen contamination of the South China Sea, contributing to biodiversity loss in marine ecosystems.

Meat and dairy animals now account for about 20 percent of all terrestrial animal biomass. Livestock's presence in vast tracts of land and its demand for feed crops also contribute to biodiversity loss; 15 out of 24 important ecosystem services are assessed as in decline, with livestock identified as a culprit.

Deforestation causes global warming

4 September 2006, Rome -- Most people assume that global warming is caused by burning oil and gas. But in fact between 25 and 30 percent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year -- 1.6 billion tonnes -- is caused by deforestation. ...

Trees are 50 percent carbon. When they are felled or burned, the C02 they store escapes back into the air. According to FAO figures, some 13 million ha [32 million acres, 50,000 square miles] of forests worldwide are lost every year, almost entirely in the tropics. Deforestation remains high in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

environment, environmentalism,, ecoanarchism, animal rights, vegetarianism

Sunday, February 18, 2007

How it ends

Boston Globe, Feb. 18, 2007, end of "Rally targets US base expansion": "I don't want any more Americans here," said Pucci Mori of Vicenza. "Wherever they go in the world, Americans cause trouble."

New York Times, Feb. 18, 2007, end of "Jailed 2 years, Iraqi tells of abuse by Americans": "The United States through its actions made people hate the Americans much more than before."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bolshevik wind energy: "for your own good"

Marshall Rosenthal writes, in response to the dogmatic love of and defense of industrial wind energy against all reason and sense:

Self-convinced "enlightened," educated, environmentally "liberal" folks have accepted renewables as a matter of faith, just like American "lefties" accepted Joe Stalin and the Soviet "experiment" in the 30's and 40's, notwithstanding his genocides and depredations on his own people. Wind is just one part of the litany that they have embraced. If you approach them with the displacement of property owners and their destroyed property values, they simply don their anti-Republican blinders. If you appeal to their love of threatened wildlife, they toss the birds and bats and your concerns onto the fires of "global warming." If you present them with the abundant evidence that shows wind to be a failed technology, their anti-techno-speak goggles and ear plugs are deployed. If you show them the driving financial boondoggle and scam that wind actually is, they will brand you a conspiracy theorist and seek to silence and exile you from their midst. If you succeed in stopping the intrusion of these monstrous "toys for boys" they will revile you, or worse.

[See Emma Goldman's 2-volume My Disillusionment in Russia (1923) and My Further Disillusionment in Russia (1924) about her experiences in Soviet Russia from 1920 to 1921 and the Bolsheviks' betrayal of the revolution. --Ed.]

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

Friday, February 16, 2007

Chavez -- no need to worry yet

"Chavez’s decision not to renew RCTV’s license is not exactly akin to George W. Bush shutting down CBS or NBC because they ran a few stories critical of him. If RCTV were operating in the United States, it’s doubtful that its actions would last more than a few minutes with the FCC.

"RCTV is not exactly your average television station. In April 2002, it promoted and participated in a coup against Chavez in which a democratically elected president was overthrown by military rebels and disappeared for two days until large street protests and a counter-coup returned him to power. For two days before the coup, RCTV suspended all regular programming and commercials and ran blanket coverage of a general strike aimed at ousting Chavez. Then it ran non-stop ads encouraging people to attend a massive anti-Chavez march on April 11, 2002, and provided wall-to-wall coverage of the event itself with nary a pro-Chavez voice in sight.

"When the protest ended in violence and military rebels overthrew the president, RCTV along with other networks imposed a news blackout banning all coverage of pro-Chavez demonstrators in the streets demanding his return. Andres Izarra, a news director at RCTV, was given the order by superiors: no Chavistas on the screen. He quit in disgust and later joined the Chavez government.

"On April 13, 2002, after the coup-installed president Pedro Carmona eliminated the Supreme Court and the National Assembly and nullified the constitution, media barons, including RCTV’s main owner, Marcel Granier, met with Carmona in the presidential palace and, according to reports, pledged their support to his regime. While the streets of Caracas literally burned with rage over Chavez’s ouster, the television networks ran Hollywood movies like Pretty Woman. [One should also note our own New York Times' promotion of the coup. --Ed.]

"Likewise, Chavez is not creating a single-party state as widely reported but is melding together an amorphous array of parties that support him. He is not outlawing opposition parties. He has no need to, as he showed when he glided to a record landslide victory in the Dec. 5 presidential vote by a 63-37 percent margin in a free and fair election. Chavez also is not nationalizing the entire economy without compensation to companies, as Castro did in the early days of the Cuban Revolution, but rather is buying back a few key strategic utilities such as the CANTV telecommunications company or taking a majority government share in four oil projects."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Where are the environmentalists?

[You know things are bad when you have to depend on conservative lobbyists to sound the alarm about threats to the environment.]

Like a tsunami, the politics of global warming has washed over the State House this past month. As the water recedes, the enormity of the problem has begun to sink in. Everybody is pumped up and ready to do something, anything, to solve the problem. The hard fact remains that in the short term there is not much the tiny State of Vermont can substantially accomplish. This is not to say there's not a problem that should be addressed and that all of us should be more responsible for our planet. Caution and thoughtfulness should be the rule that guides the legislature as they move to answer this problem. Let's be sure the solution doesn't lead to a whole new set of problems. Attempting to place huge 400 foot wind turbines on Vermont's mountain tops is a perfect example.

For almost 40 years, Vermont has carefully created a set of land use laws specifically designed to protect the state's beautiful landscape. From the banning of billboards on Vermont's highways in the early 1970's to the development and implementation of Act 250, an entire generation of Vermont politicos, lawmakers, environmentalists and lawyers has made it next to impossible to build any new structures above 2,500 feet. It is so difficult to build in this state that many believe that had the ski areas not been in existence before Act 250, they would never have been developed. ...

Where are all the environmental organizations that helped develop our land use legacy?  In one fell swoop, behind the cloak of global warming, 40 years of Vermont development control policies are being threatened. The placement of huge wind turbines on Vermont's ridgelines flies in the face of Vermont's land use policies. How can this happen? One legislator put it best, "How can we be seen as leaders in the fight against global warming if we don't have industrial wind farms in the state? We would be no different that any other state."

Arguably the cleanest energy user and one of the most beautiful states in the union, Vermont is very different from any other state. Precisely because of things like Act 250 and related policies, Vermont is a national leader on environmental and land use issues. How can this state turn away from its environmental roots by defacing its ridgelines for a marginal generating technology? Wind turbines perform at only 35% of their potential capacity and require a 100% backup generating system for when wind conditions are less than ideal. Is this about feeling good? There is no compelling reason to promote the construction of industrial wind farms in Vermont. Global warming needs to be addressed, but that should not come at the expense of Vermont's land use policies. Simply put, industrial wind farms that destroy Vermont's picturesque ridgelines are not the solution to global warming.

MacLean, Meehan & Rice, Montpelier, Vt.
Monday Briefing, February 12, 2007

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

Monday, February 12, 2007

Wind paving way for nuclear

William Oxenham, in a letter to The Scotsman, notes,
The only long-term benefit of the Lewis wind farm will come at the end of its 20-year lifetime, when, with the Beauly to Denny pylon line in place, the newly industrialised area of Barvas Moor will be the ideal site to place a 1000MW "clean energy" nuclear plant.
The issue of wind energy is now entwined with a call for massive expansion of the grid. One has to wonder why politicians and utilities would so eagerly spend billions of dollars for an at best occasional peak provider such as wind. Mr. Oxenham, I think, has put his finger on it.

Wind is the excuse for new transmission infrastructure to support new nuclear plants in remote areas.

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

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Fat cats kill birds on bad site

The critical and none too lucid -- much less informed -- letter originally reproduced here has been removed out of pity.

Friday, February 09, 2007

"Our purpose is to project potential noise into the community,"

UPC Group, backed by almost $1.8 billion in European financing, is nearing completion of a wind energy facility on Mars Hill, Maine. But the noise complaints have already begun, with just a few of the turbines operating. The Public Service Board hearings for UPC's project in Sheffield, Vt., is currently in progress. From the Barton (Vt.) Chronicle, February 1, 2007 (click the title of this post):
Until now the issue of noise, which some believe should be included in an aesthetic assessment [which has been a farce of denial, self-rationalization, andd dismissal of local sensibilities -- Ed.] has been relegated to studies from competing experts, who often challenge one another's methodology.

But last week, as complaints about turbine noise begins to surface from places like Mars Hill, Maine, where a UPC wind farm recently went on line, a debate has started to shape up over how much weight the board should give tests that measure noise.

On the stand testifying as a panel for UPC were sound experts Chris Menge and Chris Bejedke. They testified that tests they conducted in the area indicated that turbine noises would not have an adverse effect on the community.

"Our purpose is to project potential noise into the community," noted Mr. Menge.

Under the revised layout that cut the original project from 26 turbines to 16, Mr. Bejedke testified that although the new Clipper turbines are bigger, they will produce less noise on the order of one to two decibels. Testimony from the panel also indicated that noise levels would come well under existing Environmental Protection Agency standards. And at high wind speed, according to their testimony, the noise of wind through the trees would tend to mask the noise from the turbines.
[Three decibels is generally described as the smallest difference detectable by human ears in normal conditions, so "one to decibels" will hardly make a difference, especially since being taller the Clipper turbines will project their noise farther.]
Yet, under cross examination from Sutton's attorney, Mr. Hershenson, the panel acknowledged that noise complaints have surfaced in other host communities despite test results. Displaying an article written by Mr. Bejedke that appeared in a trade magazine, North American Wind Power, Mr. Hershenson cited passages showing that complaints over noise began airing as soon as the turbines came on line.

In Lincoln, Wisconsin, for example, the attorney noted that complaints surfaced even when the noise levels were in compliance with the permit. As a result, he added, a moratorium had been imposed throughout the county on wind farms.

Vermont has no standards for noise studies, but according to testimony, a Massachusetts public agency uses as a cap ten decibels over the measured background noise. [Emphasis added] No permit is awarded if the noise exceeds the cap.
[An increase of ten decibels is perceived to be a doubling of the noise level. It has been stated that community concerns generally begin around an increase of six decibels.]
Mr. Hershenson argued there are numerous locations in the Sheffield project where turbine noise would exceed the ten-decibel cap. That was an assertion that Mr. Bejedke rejected.

Argument Monday suggested there may be a bias at work when background samples are collected in rural areas that are quiet.

Most of the complaints at the Lincoln wind farm came during the night. According to expert testimony on the Sheffield project, none of the studies was conducted at night. Mr. Bejedke testified that most of the samplings were collected between 8:45 a.m. and 2 p.m.

However, Mr. Menge contended that if there were a bias, it would work against wind farms. Quiet background noises at night in the country, he said, "would require the wind turbines to be practically silent."
[Exactly! Not only is it quieter at night, sound typically carries farther. Wind turbines don't care if you're trying to sleep. In Oregon, the 10-dB limit was modified to use urban noise levels instead of those of the actual (i.e., rural) site -- this was done at the behest of wind developers, who, as Menge concedes, know that giant moving machines in a rural area will be distinctly, intrusively, and disruptively noisy. So, as with the "issue" of aesthetics, change the law when reality is in the way.]

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, Vermont

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Cross-Over Politics and the Ideology of Scale

By Sam Smith

[Part of a continuing series on devolution -- the opposite of governmental centralization, commercial monopoly and cultural domination. Devolution is the art of conducting public affairs at a practical level closest to the human spirit and human communities]

In an age of conglomeration and domination, the cross-political nature of devolution -- or the ideology of scale -- attracts little attention. One can go through a whole political campaign and never consider it. But that doesn't mean the issue is not there.

Consider two current examples: the assault on local control of public schools and the smart growth movement. Both are driven by a curious alliance of liberal, conservative and corporate interests. And both attempt to replace the decentralization of decision-making with centralized, bureaucratic choices.

For example, only Vilsack among the Democratic candidate for president has challenged the No Child law despite it being based on absurdly inadequate justifications, proposed by the least qualified president ever to hold office and pushed by a bunch of child profiteers who will probably be the only clear winners under the legislation.

Similarly, the smart growth movement is being increasingly driven by a dubious alliance between "we know what's good for you" liberal planners and developers who initially resisted the idea until they realized how many new high-rises might result.

Liberals and conservatives who favor America's two centuries of local school control, or wish to resist the transformation of successful communities into high-rise factory farms for globalized serfs, find themselves ignored, ridiculed as NIMBYs or considered behind the times. ...

No Child Left Unregimented

The assault on community-controlled public education is not only a result of Bush's No Child law. Bill Kauffman once noted in Chronicles that it was liberal Harvard president President James Conant who produced a series of postwar reports calling for the "elimination of the small high school" in order to compete with the Soviets and deal with the nuclear era. Says Kauffman, "Conant the barbarian triumphed: the number of school districts plummeted from 83,718 in 1950 to 17,995 in 1970."

Writing in Principal Magazine, Kathleen Cushman pointed out that the small school movement was driven by
the steady rise in school size that has seen the average school population increase five-fold since the end of World War II. A push to consolidate schools has reduced the number of districts by 70 percent in the same period. Ironically, this trend toward big schools coincides with research that repeatedly has found small schools -- commonly defined as no more than 400 students for elementary schools -- to be demonstrably better for students of all ability levels, in all kinds of settings. Academic achievement rises, as indicated by grades, test scores, honor roll membership, subject-area achievement, and assessment of higher-order thinking skills. For both elementary and secondary students, researchers also find small schools equal or superior to large ones on most student behavior measures. Rates of truancy, classroom disruption, vandalism, theft, substance abuse, and gang participation all are reduced in small schools, according to a synthesis of 103 studies.
Education is one of those human activities clearly centered on two people (teacher and student). As the system surrounding this experience becomes larger, more complex and more bureaucratic, the key players become pawns in a new and unrelated bureaucratic game. The role of the principal also dramatically shifts -- from being an educational administrator to being a cross between a corporate executive and a warden. It is such a transformation that helps to bring us things like what happened at Columbine.

Consider, for a moment, that not a single private school has merged with five or ten other academies in the name of efficiency and improved learning. No one has suggested an Andover-Exeter-Groton-Milton-Choate-Kent School Administrative District. ...

Yet not only do we find George Bush, with lots of Democratic support, actively destroying local control over public schools, mayors and governors rushing to join the attack.

For example, inspired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who has yet to produce convincing results for his corporatization of public education, DC's 36-year old new mayor Adrian Fenty is following suit. He wants to abolish the elected school and put the system under his control despite his impressive inexperience in education. But Fenty, like many in politics and business, is absolutely convinced that certainty is an adequate substitute for competence.

How little he really understands was well described by Colbert King in the Washington Post:
If governance and lack of accountability are the main problems, why do students attending Lafayette and Murch elementary schools, which are west of Rock Creek Park, exceed proficiency targets in reading and math by wide margins while students at Ketchum and Stanton elementary schools, east of the Anacostia River, fall far short of the mark? The four schools are in the same governance structure. Their principals report to the same superintendent and are guided by the same school board policies. True, Lafayette and Murch, located in middle-income neighborhoods, have more white students. But before going off on a racial tangent, consider this: Black students attending Lafayette and Murch, in contrast to their counterparts in Southeast, also excel in reading and math.
King asked Fenty why his takeover would help matters: "His bottom line: he has the energy, determination, and sense of urgency that he feels are missing among school leaders to make those things happen." In other words, he thinks what the schools really need most is himself.

Perhaps even more bizarre is what is happening in Maine. The plan itself is familiar: the pursuit of the false god of educational efficiency through the concentration of school districts as ordered by the governor. 290 school districts would be merged into 26 regional administrative units.

What makes it stranger is that Maine is one of a handful of New England states where one can still find the remnants of American democracy functioning at human scale thanks to such institutions as town meetings and lots of small villages that do what they want without excessive interference from above. This tradition has produced in recent years more independent governors (although not the present one) than just about any state and a culture of honest independence in politics and governance that would best be emulated rather than reorganized.

And who suggested the course that the governor is following? None other than representatives of that citadel of Washington anti-democratic elitism, that hospice of prematurely aging MBAs and political science majors: the Brookings Institution. This is like Arianna Huffington coaching the Chicago Bears.

To add to the oddity, it is all being done in the name of "smart growth." ...

This is not a left-right struggle but one that may be far more important for our future: a struggle between communities and bureaucracies and between humans and systems. At present, the communities and humans are not winning.

Smart Growth

The tie-in with smart growth is quite revealing. The smart growth movement started as a largely well intentioned movement led by planners and environmentalists. Many of their proposals made sense but it had some serious problems, beginning with the insulting manner it treated suburban communities in which many Americans lived, had improved their lives and educated their children. As is traditionally the case with planners, these citizens were expected to adapt to a purportedly ideal physical model -- even at the cost of having to move or being evicted -- instead of having the emphasis placed on improving -- for them as well as the environment -- the communities in which they currently lived.

This is not a new problem with planners. In 1910, G.K. Chesterton described two characters, Hudge and Gudge, whose thinking evolved in such a disparate manner that the one came to favor the building of large public tenements for the poor while the other believed that these public projects were so awful that the slums from whence they came were in fact preferable. Wrote Chesterton:
Such is the lamentable history of Hudge and Gudge; which I merely introduced as a type of an endless and exasperating misunderstanding which is always occurring in modern England. To get men out of a rookery, men are put into a tenement; and at the beginning the healthy human soul loathes them both. A man's first desire is to get away as far as possible from the rookery, even should his mad course lead him to a model dwelling. His second desire is, naturally, to get away from the model dwelling, even if it should lead a man back to the rookery.

Neither Hudge nor Gudge had ever thought for an instant what sort of house a man might probably like for himself. In short, they did not begin with the ideal; and, therefore, were not practical politicians.
Much of American politics and planning follows the Hudge-Gudge model, producing failure for both conservatives and liberals -- the former offering us an army of the homeless and the latter presenting us finally with drug-infested housing projects.

In the case of smart growth, the Hudge-Gudge conflict could have been avoided by considering not just a community's ecological liabilities but its assets, and then figuring out how to lessen the former without harming the latter. ...

It is helpful also to bear in mind that next to economists, no profession has been so consistently wrong and harmful to the human spirit as urban planning. ...

The human, the community, the small were repeatedly considered archaic, insignificant and regressive.

From the progressive movement of the early 20th century on, well-meaning but excessively self-assured members of the elite have controlled the debate, the money and the plans, with barely restrained contempt for the reservations, concerns and resistance of the less powerful. And so it is with smart growth.

Listen to Grow Smart Maine:
Many of Maine's smaller cities and towns are experiencing unplanned growth but lack the resources and experience to manage that change in ways that protect the character of their community. ... The Model Town Community Project will work with a selected town during 2006 and 2007 to provide tools and advice that will help the town shape its future. The project will mobilize local, state and regional resources, enable the town to explore new growth strategies and fully engage local residents by combining the best elements of New England town meetings with ground-breaking new technologies.
In other words, we'll come in and show you how to run a town meeting our way, just like we learned at business school.

But if smart growth is meant to be about environmentally sound planning, how come we have to consolidate our school districts and our town offices?

Because once you put your faith in the sort of expertise that a planning-managerial elite offers, once you turn to MBAs like others turn to Jesus, then you don't really need democracy, town meetings or small schools. What you need is efficiency and managerial skill and you have been promised that, so why worry?

Further, even over smart growth's short life, a disturbing alliance has developed between some liberals and developers thanks to the latter discovering that the environmentalists didn't really want to stop them from building, they just want them to build somewhere else and most likely in a place where they could get more per square foot ...

In some neighborhoods, citizens are even being called NIMBYs because they don't want high-rises shoved into their pleasant communities and the name-callers include not just the developers but enabling liberals who think they're saving the planet. Never mind that in their own city, in Greenwich Village or in Europe there are plenty of examples of density without high-rise factory farms. ...

In both the school consolidation and the smart growth debates the issue of human scale -- and not some liberal-conservative conflict -- is at the core. But we have been taught -- by intellectuals, by the media, by politicians -- to revere a promise of efficiency and technological advance over the empirical advantages of living the way humans have traditionally lived, including valuing the small places that host, nurture and define their lives. We have been trained not to even notice when our very humanity is being destroyed in the name of mere physical change.

We should notice, though, because in the end, if we lose the fight for staying human, whether we were liberal or conservative won't have mattered a bit.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Snarky Boy

Be sure to read Vermont Snarky Boy, for fine and fun commentary on Vermont politics and journalism (and beyond).

"... Vermont, a place where the thick coat of denial can run deep, where the hype of all-things-perfect can lead to most-things-being-false."

Of special recent note is his wonderment at how swiftly the demand by voters for universal health care became instead a clamor by governor and legislators for universal cell phone coverage (though not even universal cell phones, i.e., socialism only for the already-haves). That sure is incremental. Anyone who still thinks the Democrats (with their huge majorities in both houses and still refusing to take this issue to a real solution) are any different from the Republicans is, to borrow the term from Snarky Boy, a ninny.

Vermont, anarchism

Community outreach, or another broken soul crying for help

Our friends at National Wind Watch received the following e-mail, reproduced here in its entirety. It reveals the brutal instincts, limited cognitive functioning, and ultimately sad lives of many, perhaps most, industrial wind developers. It betrays an utter lack of concern for the environment and for other people.

Subject:  Drunk
Date:     Mon, 5 Feb 2007 19:50:17 -0500
From:     Jay Wilgar <jwilgar@aimpowergen.com>
To:       <query@wind-watch.org>

You guys are a real treat of an organization.  Get the facts dumb ass.  Give me a call 647-286-4234
The following information is from the web site of AIM Powergen Corp.
Jay Wilgar, Vice President - Field Operations

Jay's career has spanned investor relations and several entrepreneurial ventures. Prior to co-founding AIM he was a partner in Pentagon Capital Partners Inc., an asset based financing company. Jay has often spoken to student groups on small business development and was most recently a judge of the Nestle "Reach for Your Dreams" entrepreneurship challenge. Within AIM, Jay heads up land acquisition and project design team.

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In Ontario AIM has identified several project sites that leverage the excellent wind resource of the Great Lakes basin. The most advance project is the Erie Shores Wind Farm located along the northern shoreline of Lake Erie between Copenhagen and Clear Creek. It is anticipated that this project could be commissioned by the first quarter of 2006.

Exploration and development work continues on several other Ontario project sites including the Lowbanks Wind Farm located near Dunnville, and the Simcoe Shores Wind Farm near Beaverton.

AIM has expanded its development activities across Canada with the development and exploration of various sites in the Maritime and Prairie Provinces.

AIM continues to identify and evaluate potential wind power development sites throughout Canada and internationally.

Project Locations in Canada [interactive map]

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AIM PowerGen Corporation
200 Consumers Road, Suite 604
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M2J 4R4

Tel: 416-502-0993
Fax: 416-502-1415
Toll Free: 1-877-AIM-POWR (1-877-246-7697)
Email: info@aimpowergen.com

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

Friday, February 02, 2007

Wind projected to produce 0.89% of U.S. electricity in 2030

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) of the Dept. of Energy, in their Annual Energy Outlook 2007, wind produced 0.36% (14.6 billion kWh) of the total electricity (4,036 billion kWh) generated in the U.S. in 2005. Wind provided 0.05% of all of the energy consumed (only 99.95% to go!).

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) the installed wind capacity was 6,725 MW at the beginning of 2005 and 9,149 MW at the end, an average installed capacity for 2005 of 7,937 MW. If we divide the EIA-reported generation by the 8,760 hours in a year, we find that the average rate of production was only 21% of capacity.

The EIA generously projects that wind will produce 0.89% of the total electricity generated in 2030. This is 22% lower than their previous year's projection. Of course even that ignores the fact that other sources have to burn extra fuel in the effort of balancing wind's intermittent and highly variable infeed.

See the comments in this space about AWEA's recent announcement of wind's 27% growth in 2006 (from 0.36% "penetration" to perhaps 0.45%).

((((+))))

AWEA recently noted that the 2,454 MW of wind "capacity" added in 2006 cost "approximately $4 billion." That's $1.63 million per megawatt.

According to budding energy giant AES Corporation, in its annual "Wind Generation Review" (Dec. 11, 2006) from Ned Hall, vice president for renewable generation, capital costs of installing wind have risen to $1.75 million per megawatt.

But AES also points out that "U.S. equity structures" (i.e., the Production Tax Credit, 5-year double-declining balance accelerated depreciation, sale of renewable energy credits, and other federal, state, and local subsidies) "provide return of all capital and development fees within five years." Not, of course, to the taxpayers: rather a hefty and swift transfer of public funds to private accounts.

For no benefit, but only harm to the environment, wildlife, people, and communities.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, ecoanarchism, animal rights

AWEA: Wind energy capacity passed 1% of U.S. total in 2006

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) issued a press release last Tuesday boasting that 2,454 MW of new wind energy capacity was erected in 2006, an increase of 27%, to 11,603 MW. That brings it up to 1.2% of the total generating capacity in the U.S.

More than 35,000 MW of new non-wind capacity is estimated to have been added in 2006 to bring the total to an estimated 980,000 MW.

According to the Energy Information Agency of the U.S. Department of Energy, wind produced 0.36% (14.6 billion kWh) of the total electricity generated in the U.S. in 2005 (4.036 trillion kWh). (That represents an average (some days more, most days a lot less) output of 21% capacity, only two-thirds of the 30% claimed by AWEA. Assuming a 2% increase in the total, the 27% increase in wind would bring its share to 0.45%.

The large space requirements and aggressive visual intrusion of industrial wind are already causing resistance to its continued expansion. Just to stay at its current level of 0.45% "penetration" would require adding over 450 MW (at about 50 acres per MW) in 2007 and progressively more each year thereafter.

A "modest" 5% penetration today would require 130,000 MW of new wind capacity, increasing every year. The total today would require 6.5 million acres, or 10,000 square miles, about the total land and water area of Massachusetts. That's outrageous enough, but imagine the more ambitious goals of two to four times that. These are giant moving machines, strobe-lit day and night, each sweeping an vertical area of 1-2 acres with blades traveling 150-200 mph at their tips.

This does not even consider the massive amounts of new high-capacity transmission infrastructure that would be needed to get all that wind energy from the formerly bucolic rural and wild provinces to power the lobbyists at AWEA.

This is not a green alternative but industrialism running amok. Big wind is clearly irrelevant to our energy plans, a source of more problems than it can claim to solve, an obvious dead end.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, ecoanarchism, animal rights, vegetarianism