Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jeffrey St. Clair on today's environmental groups

'They [the large environmental groups] are shackled by their source of money, shackled by their relationship to the Democratic Party, shackled by the fact that their boards are controlled by corporate executives. ... The environment isn’t even talked about in political campaigns much anymore … aside from these airy homilies about global warming, or green jobs to try and reinvigorate the economy. ... It’s a tragic waste that hundreds of millions each year are going to these large organizations. What it means is that people are now left to fend for themselves, to mount their own resistance. ...'

Q: In the early 1990s, some journalists were talking about the limits to growth. As the ecological crises have gotten more dire and potentially more fatal to the human species, it seems like that’s not such a discussion any more in the mainstream.

'What they would like is sort of the Gore approach, which is painless optimism. And that’s not the way it is. These issues, down at the grassroots, are life and death issues. They’re not being reported, they’re not part of policy. There aren’t any easy solutions, there aren’t fifty easy ways you can save the planet. That’s what they want, but that’s not going to do it. And you can’t shop your way to a better planet.

'Difficult choices are going to have to be made in terms of growth, in terms of energy. I mean, California is essentially out of water. What are you going to do, are you going to spend billions of dollars to build a peripheral canal that won’t even solve your problem? Meanwhile, the ecology of your state is crashing. ...

'We’re not going to get our way out of this energy crisis as long as the energy system remains centralized. It’s just not going to happen. ... If you democratize energy production you can begin to enact the kind of fundamental changes we need. ... But if the question is the future of the atmosphere of the planet, I don’t think that’s going to get you very far. ... So frankly, I don’t think there are any solutions, because I think the climate crisis and the extinction crisis are beyond our control. Thirty years ago, if we’d made radically different choices, perhaps. There’s an element of hubris in this [that recalls] British philosopher David Ehrenfeld’s view of technology and the environment, the arrogance of humanism. The idea that a technological solution can stall or reverse climate change is almost the same kind of hubris that got us into this mess. ...

'What it’s going to require, even to feel good about yourself, as the planet careens toward a kind of climate Armageddon, is a radical downscaling. What we’re being offered is a kind of short-selling of the environment. The solutions from Gore, the solutions of many of the mainstream environmental groups, are a kind of profit-taking as the planet hurtles toward a radical reshaping of the global ecosystem which I think spells doom at the end of the line for mammalian species. That’s what these solutions are about. They’re about how to make money, how to capitalize off the anxiety and panic and guilt and hopelessness that many people feel about the state of the environment. ...'

Q: Will the economic crisis result in foundation money drying up for the big environmental groups and for smaller ones?

'Well, that is a positive. These major foundations have been like cloning shops for environmental groups. They control their agenda, they want all of them to look the same, behave the same, be utterly predictable, and dependent upon their money. Once you get on the foundation dole, it’s like becoming like a meth addict. A lot of them, certainly the smaller groups, will lose their funding first, and that’s going to be a very good thing. The weaning process is going to hurt for a while. But when they emerge from that, they’re going to be much better off. That’s what I’m interested in—the varieties of resistance to industrial capitalism and neoliberalism, the forces that are exploiting the planet. The first mission of the foundations was to take critiques of capitalism off the table. Hopefully in the future, you’re going to be seeing, five to ten years from now, much more indigenous radical and unpredictable, organic environmental groups that will end up being much more effective, much more healing for people.

'You want it to be fun, like Edward Abbey says… of all the movements out there, the environmental movement should probably be the most fun. You can see what you’re fighting for, the kind of direct actions and protests that you can engage in are much more exhilarating than a lot of other issues. And it has to be fun, otherwise you’re going to burn out. One of the things the foundations have done is turn it into a bureaucracy. It’s easier to control that way.'

Q: Do you see the environmental justice movement as holding hope for a shift toward that kind of activism?

'Yeah, I do. Environmental justice became a sort of passing interest of the foundations in the ‘90s. But the big money never came. It was the same old white Eastern elites pimping off of their issues, with the exception of Greenpeace, which probably was the only big environmental group that had a commitment on environmental justice issues in the Mississippi Delta Region, in Cancer Alley. They actually went there and listened to people living in the chemical soup bowl. And they put their expertise at direct action, how to train people in Cancer Alley, how to shut down a chemical plant for a day with a protest.

'The other groups remained in DC, they put out their White Papers, and when interest eroded in environmental justice they moved on to something else. I think people will be happy to extract themselves from the likes of the Environmental Defense Fund and the NRDC.'

Published in Terrain Magazine, Fall/Winter 2008

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism

Help the Obama transition team understand the negative aspects of industrial wind

Click here (change.gov/page/s/energyenviro) for a form to submit your thoughts to the Obama-Biden Energy and Environment Policy Team.

The Obama team needs to know that it is no longer excusable to pretend that large-scale wind is a meaningful part of our energy and environmental goals. Wind energy is intermittent, variable, and nondispatchable, so it can not replace other more reliable sources without correspondingly large-scale storage methods which don't yet exist and which would add to its cost and further reduce the amount of usable energy extracted. Wind power's ability to meaningfully reduce even slightly the rate of growth of greenhouse gas emissions is thus very limited. The money should be spent much more effectively than this.

Furthermore, big wind is largely incompatible with other environmental interests. It requires giant (400-500 feet high) moving machines spread out over a great expanse (at least 50 acres per rated megawatt), thus severely altering the rural and wild places where it is built, destroying and fragmenting habitat (with heavy-duty roads and high-voltage transmission lines as well) and presenting a direct threat to birds and bats (not just from the blades, but also from the low-pressure vortices created behind the blades). See www.wind-watch.org/documents/category/wildlife/.

Where there are human neighbors, the adverse effects on health from the intrusive rhythmic noise and shadow flicker are increasingly documented (see www.wind-watch.org/documents/category/health/. These people are the victims of the unquestioning support of industrial wind developers by politicians and, sadly, many environmentalists and progressives.

In short, industrial wind fails on many levels. Its potential benefits are at best minimal, and its adverse impacts to the landscape, animals, and people are many and only increase. Large-scale wind is a destructive boondoggle. It should be strictly regulated and certainly not encouraged.

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Weighing Wind Energy

Meg Mitchell, Forest Supervisor, Green Mountain National Forest, writes:

The Green Mountain National Forest released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement [DEIS] for the proposed Deerfield Wind Project in September and we will accept public comment until November 28. The DEIS helps us make a final decision on approval or disapproval of the project by analyzing the effects of an expansion of wind energy development onto National Forest lands, next to the existing wind turbines in Searsburg.

Energy development such as oil and gas exploration and extraction, pipelines, and electricity transmission lines have all been permitted on portions of National Forest lands across the country. However, wind energy development is new to us. Like other activities, this development would have costs and benefits we look at closely before permitting.

As I move toward a final decision, I consider the feedback, comments, and suggestions from all the people who are interested in this project. At recent public meetings, participants requested additional information about spill prevention, restoration and facility removal plans integrated into any action alternative. We also have more work to do on mitigation and monitoring plans for each alternative. In making my final decision I will take all of this into account, consult with other agencies, and step back and look at the larger picture.

This is very likely one of the better places for wind energy in the State (and why there are already wind towers there). But this does not mean we should proceed with this particular project now. This proposal is for is a small wind energy facility. Yet, even with careful design, there are local environmental effects that can’t be avoided. The chief concern appears to be the potential impact to bear habitat. Bears, like people, react differently to uncertainty or something new in their environment. Some prefer being conservative and staying away from development, while others are more comfortable with unknowns and can adapt. Scientists do not agree on all aspects of impacts to bears, but most agree limiting the amount of human access to the area is important.

I am also searching for other options for those concerned with preserving wildlife habitat and supporting alternative energy development. One possibility is ensuring additional quality habitat on nearby lands is managed for bears. Because these bears range over large distances, yet depend on a variety of habitat, this could be one way to offset some risks. Such lands could be privately owned or managed by a nongovernmental group, Town or agency. This could also be a tool for future alternative energy projects that have broad benefits, and localized effects.

As the Forest Supervisor, I also must consider the health of the Green Mountain National Forest and the habitat it provides. We must change our energy consumption patterns by combining energy conservation with the development of cleaner sources to protect Forests, our health and all forms of life that depend on ecosystems and the services they provide. Even without the encouragement of the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, I feel a responsibility to be part of the solution.

I also need to know the full opinion of the Public Service Board; they are well versed in these matters and as the final Public Service Board hearings proceed, I’ll be listening for their opinion. It’s the right way to proceed since we both share jurisdiction and responsibilities for this project. I look forward to more feedback on our DEIS. As the final information and opinions flow in, I know this is an important decision and it will weigh heavily on my mind.

More information:
Kristi Ponozzo
Public Affairs Officer
Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forest

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, animal rights, Vermont

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wisconsin "model" wind ordinance disappears from state web site

Here's an interesting bit of information from the press release announcing the unanimous approval of a large wind ordinance specifying strict noise limits and 1/2-mile setbacks:

An open records request from the town of Union study committee revealed that no medical or scientific data was used to set the 50 decibel noise limits or the 1000 foot setback the Public Service Commission recommends. Questions about the origins and authors of the State's draft model wind ordinance remain largely unanswered. The State has since pulled the draft model ordinance from its website and the Public Service Commission has been unable or unwilling to say who pulled the ordinance from the website and why. This draft model ordinance was used to site the turbines in Fond du Lac county where people are experiencing trouble with turbine related noise, shadow flicker and other negative impacts.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gas and oil interests now openly in charge of American Wind Energy Association

Whose interests are being served? As many people have long pointed out, the industrial wind industry is not an alternative to but a symptom of big energy. . . .

On Nov. 14, the the industry trade group American Wind Energy Association announced a new chief executive officer (CEO) to replace Randall Swisher after nearly 20 years: Denise Bode, who will take over in January.

Denise Bode has been the CEO of natural gas lobby American Clean Skies Foundation. Before that, she was president of Independent Petroleum Association of America and legal counsel to former Senator David Boren of Oklahoma, who sits on the board of Conoco Phillips.

She was appointed to George W. Bush's Energy Transition Advisory Team, chaired by Dick Cheney, and has lectured at the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. When she ran for the Republican nomination in Oklahoma for U.S. Congress in 2006, she received almost $200,000 from oil and gas interests, the 6th highest amount in the entire country that year.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Graphic artists against big wind

Comeek artist Lynda Barry talks to City Beat in Los Angeles (via National Wind Watch):

The work I’m doing the most of to save the environment is getting the word out about the serious downsides of industrial scale wind turbines. If the goal of using renewable energy resources is to reduce CO2 emissions, industrial-scale wind turbines don’t do this. Because they need fossil-fuel burning power plants to function, and because those power plants are never powered up or down in response to the wind being there or not, the same amount of CO2 is going into the air. This conclusion was reached by the National Academy of Sciences and also a Norwegian study on Danish wind power. You will get more electricity to sell from wind turbines, but no real reduction in current CO2 levels. It’s the only renewable resource that keeps us completely dependent on power companies, fossil fuels (usually coal), and the grid. It’s the only one that doesn’t cause a loss of customers for the power companies. All the other renewable energy choices cause customer loss. Also, industrial wind is used as the justification for more and bigger transmission lines and use of eminent domain. Bigger and more transmission lines allow greater use of fossil-fueled power plants. So industrial- scale wind energy is just another way to say “MORE! MORE! MORE!” Most people don’t realize that unless the wind is blowing at a certain speed – at least 10 miles an hour – the turbines can use more energy than they produce. Most people don’t understand how much electricity it takes to run a machine that is 40 to 50 stories tall. Most people never even ask how the power is getting to and from the turbine. They don’t know about the thousands of miles of cables.

Apart from all this, consider the impact on flying creatures. Turbines are placed in migration corridors because that’s where the wind is. It’s maddening to me that wind developers are getting away with this, siting them in wildlife refuges, national parks, and other protected areas.

By the way, on-site wind turbines of the smaller scale are great. Small, on-site power generation is the best alternative, and it’s the one the power companies are going to fight the hardest against.

My favorite renewable resource option is manure digesters – for both animal and human manure. It’s the only renewable energy option that actually cleans up other environmental problems as it creates electricity. It’s also the least sexy of the choices and one no one wants to talk about.

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

Friday, November 14, 2008

Whitewave Foods Recognized For Renewable Energy Investment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has honored the owner of Silk Soymilk, Horizon Organic, International Delight, and Land O'Lakes, Whitewave Foods, for its green power purchases:

"To date, the company's total wind energy purchases are the equivalent of eliminating more than 450 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually."

The problem is that they have not been purchasing green power, only renewable energy credits. They are donating money to wind power companies, but they are not buying actual energy from them.

Whitewave is using the same electricity as their neighbors. It is not eliminating any greenhouse gas emissions. It is not even adding wind energy to the grid to be used by others, because that is already paid for.

It is only padding the portfolios of wind energy investors. For which service it gets an award from the EPA.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Oceans of fluids"

An ad for Frontier Pro Services in the October 2008 issue of North American Windpower:

Running a wind farm is a massive task.
Scores of turbines, thousands of tons of metal and fiberglass, oceans of fluids. How does anyone keep up with it! ...

Protecting your assets is the most important job you have, and Frontier Pro Services is here to help.
Gearbox servicing
Fluids sampling
Oil and hydraulics changes
Blade repairs
Scheduled maintenance
Frontier Pro Servics
They keep your moneymakers spinning.

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

Thursday, November 06, 2008

U.S. coal use for electricity, 2002-2007

Receipts of Coal Delivered for the Electric Power Industry -- Electric Power Annual, Energy Information Association, January 21, 2009
2002:   869,929,000 tons
2003: 949,191,000
2004: 965,057,000
2005: 986,213,000
2006: 1,043,681,000
2007: 1,016,236,000
Direct Use and Retail Sales of Electricity, Total Electric Industry -- Electric Power Annual, Energy Information Association, January 21, 2009
2002: 3,631,650,307 MWh
2003: 3,662,029,012
2004: 3,715,949,485
2005: 3,810,984,044
2006: 3,816,845,452
2007: 3,923,814,234
Coal delivered per electricity used (ratio of above figures)
2002: 0.2395410 ton/MWh
2003: 0.2591981
2004: 0.2597067
2005: 0.2587817
2006: 0.2734407
2007: 0.2589919
That doesn't look like less coal being burned because of increasing wind capacity (from 4,275 MW at the beginning of 2002 to 11,603 MW at the end of 2006), as claimed by the wind energy industry. In fact, the trend appears to be more coal burned per unit of electricity, a phenomenon seen in the U.K. as well, even as coal's share of electricity production is decreasing:
   GWh from coal--Total GWh--Proportion from coal
2002: 1,933,130 3,858,452 0.5010118
2003: 1,973,737 3,883,185 0.5082779
2004: 1,978,301 3,970,555 0.4982429
2005: 2,012,873 4,055,423 0.4963411
2006: 1,990,511 4,064,702 0.4897065
2007: 2,016,456 4,156,745 0.4851046
Wind on the grid may be having the exact opposite effect that its promoters claim.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election endorsements

Vt. Governor: Anthony Pollina

Vt. Lieutenant Governor: Ben Mitchell

Vt. State Representative (Hartland–West Windsor): John Bartholomew

U.S. Representative (Vt.): Peter Welch