Friday, June 29, 2012

‘no great principles to compromise’

Substitute “Obama” for “Clinton”:
Every politician accumulates IOUs, but Clinton has them by the truckload, starting with Wall Street. The herald of ‘change’ is utterly traditional in his fealty to the traditional lobbies, starting with the military-industrial complex.

... The week before the election, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette unleashed some of the harshest abuse that the governor had ever sustained. The editorial asked what Governor Clinton's record could teach us about President Clinton:

‘A purely rhetorical approach to issues that may please all, coupled with a tendency to side with those interests powerful enough to do him some political good ...

‘Finally, and sadly, there is the unavoidable question of character ... it is not the duplicitous in his politics that concerns so much as the polished ease, the almost habitual, casual, articulate way he bobs and weaves. He has mastered the art of equivocation. There is something almost inhuman in his smoother responses that sends a shiver up the spine. It is not the compromises he has made that trouble so much as the unavoidable suspicion that he has no great principles to compromise.’

—Alexander Cockburn, Nov. 6, 1992, The Golden Age Is In Us

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dear Pat

Dear Senator Leahy [Vt.]:

You write:

"In passing the Affordable Care Act, Congress built on the cornerstones of modern America like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, to strengthen the Nation's social safety net and help protect hardworking Americans."

That is such obvious bullshit that you must think words have no meaning if you were able to sign your name to it. Social Security is provided by the government, not by forcing people to buy annuities on their own. Medicare and Medicaid are insurance programs provided by the government, not by forcing people to enrich private insurers.

As an aside, don't you also cringe at the word "hardworking"? Is there to be a panel to determine who is "hardworking" enough to receive what is due to them as a citizen? In fact, it is the least hardworking who seem to be the most rewarded, cheered on and even subsidized to live off the labor of others. You write, "It's time to stop the political posturing. Congress works best for the American people when we are able to come together to solve national problems." Yet here you are, challenging your readers as to how "hardworking" they are or flattering what is normal life as something that puts one group against their mythically "lazy" neighbors.

But back to the "Affordable Care Act": It strengthens nothing except the grip of for-profit insurance on our lives. To require the industry to cover our right limbs, we must pay with our left limbs. And you may not know this, enjoying some of the best medical insurance in the world, paid for by all Americans, but coverage means nothing when the company actually has to pay for something. Their business is to deny payment. This "Affordable Care Act" is no better than kicking everyone off welfare and saying poverty has ended.

Making it illegal not to have medical insurance does not strengthen the social safety net. It only underscores its absence. And the absence of a government worth the name.

human rights, Vermont, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Dear Bernie

Dear Bernie [Senator Bernie Sanders, Vt.]:

Your defense of industrial-scale wind energy is logically fallacious.

It does not follow that because wind turbines don't produce carbon emissions, they reduce such emissions from other sources.

It does not follow that because wind turbines don't produce toxic air pollution, they reduce the pollution from coal-burning plants.

It does not follow that because wind turbines don't have the impacts of fracking or nuclear waste, they reduce those impacts.

The fact is, after decades of experience, it is impossible to detect any meaningful reduction of carbon emissions, air pollution, or other poisonings of the environment from other sources of electricity due to industrial wind energy on the grid.

That being the case, there is no excuse for continuing support of this industry that has no beneficial effect and leaves only a legacy of divided communities, degraded landscapes, and destroyed natural habitats.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wind Energy Is Wasteful and Harmful

The president of Wind Watch writes:

Climate change, dwindling resources, ecological and geopolitical concerns surrounding conventional sources of electricity — all are prominent worries today, as they should be.

Wind power companies and their lobbyists — and many in the environmentalist community — assure us that industrial wind can break our dependence on other fuels, reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and help build a “green” economy of 21st-century jobs.

A closer look, however, reveals that wind’s actual record has not lived up to those promises — despite billions of dollars of public and private investment and an increasingly undeniable toll on the environment and on the citizens, mostly rural, who must bear the personal costs of 500-foot turbines thrust into their neighborhoods.

Generous handouts — paid for by every American — intended to create a smattering of factory jobs could be much more efficiently spent to help the economy as a whole, and to work towards seriously addressing concerns of resource depletion, energy security, and pollution control.

The wind is diffuse, intermittent, and variable. When the realities of the electrical grid are taken into account, wind energy’s theoretical benefit is drastically reduced, because other sources have to stay on line — and operate less efficiently — to not only provide electricity on demand, but also balance the fluctuating wind-generated supply.

Not only are industrial wind turbines a waste of land and money, they also have serious negative impacts.

Wind projects usually target open areas and undeveloped mountain ridges. A single turbine weighs 250 tons or more and requires wide heavy-duty roads for construction and maintenance. It is supported by an underground foundation of hundreds of tons of steel-reinforced concrete. A group of turbines is a sprawling facility that dominates the landscape for miles. The facility also needs a substation and high-voltage transmission lines to connect to the grid.

In addition to wind energy's impact on rural landscapes and wild habitats, human neighbors often suffer from the noises generated by the giant machines. Leases typically include “gag orders” to keep landowners quiet about their complaints. Neighbors — many of them unsuspecting — are induced to silence in return for small “forbearance” payments.

As more people speak out, many jurisdictions are insisting that at least 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) separate the turbines from any residence to protect people's health. Others are recognizing the necessity of limiting low-frequency and pulsating noise.

The wind industry has benefited for decades from favorable treatment by all levels of government. Yet to this day it has been unable to demonstrate the results that are still promised. Against this backdrop of a failed experiment, the clear burdens imposed by industrial wind — on our diminished landscape, on wildlife, on people’s right to enjoy their homes — are unacceptable. It is time to hold this industry to account. Strict environmental siting and nuisance regulations are needed to limit its impacts. We need to end the many direct and indirect subsidies that prop it up.

Industrial wind has shown itself to be a great waster of resources, both natural and human. As more communities around the world learn about the harm it does, and stand up to say no, our business people and politicians would do well to take heed.

The people are indeed speaking up in ever greater numbers. They are your neighbors. And they are starting to be heard above the roar of the turbines.

[Click here to download PDF]

Climate change hysteria

There is only one thing worse than climate change hysteria, and that is the hysteria of climate change denial.

There is no denying the fact that humans make a mess of their environment. This is not news. Environmental concerns are neverending and myriad.

Slowing the human contribution to climate change will not stop all the other crimes against our planet, nor would debunking climate alarmism or exposing opportunism obviate the need to be as concerned as ever about our environment.

Hysteria on both sides, both driven by fears we are all susceptible to, ultimately ensures that business carries on as usual, exploiting those fears, playing one group against another, and walking away with easy profits. And the environment continues to lose.

environment, environmentalism

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Wind and Coal and Natural Gas

So how's it going, the reduction of fossil fuel emissions with the expanded erection of industrial wind? Today I looked at IEA data for electricity generation in the U.S., which I haven't done since a few years.

From 2006 to 2010 electricity from coal went down 139.8 TWh, from natural gas up 165.4 TWh, and from wind up 68 TWh. Overall generation went up 55.3 TWh.

If anything is replacing coal, it is obviously natural gas, whose increase seems to be proportional to that of wind.

Natural gas emits about half of what coal does, and without particulates, so that is indeed an improvement. The practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to get more natural gas, however, is certainly a worrying one, and the emissions and widespread contamination from fracking may well cancel any benefit of switching from coal to natural gas.

Furthermore, there are different kinds of natural gas–fired turbines: open-cycle and combined-cycle. The latter can be about twice as efficient as the former. But because wind turbines are also being erected, the less efficient open-cycle gas turbines must be used, because combined-cycle gas turbines can not power on or ramp their output quickly enough to balance the fluctuating power generated by wind.

In summary, wind is not doing much at all to reduce fossil fuel emissions, and may well be responsible for less reduction than is possible without wind. That only makes industrial wind's own environmental and social impacts that much more unacceptable.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mike Barnard doesn't know much about wind

Comments to a pair of editorials in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by AWEA CEO Denise Bode and Wind Watch President Eric Rosenbloom have apparently been closed, so we received this late reply to the most substantial one. It is notable that all of the comments attacked Rosenbloom's piece (despite most commenters obviously not having read it), with unquestioning acceptance of Bode's inane sales pitch. It looks like the "New South" is still easy prey to carpetbaggers.

Mike Barnard (June 13, 1:10 pm) appears to be a one-man propaganda machine on behalf of the big energy companies hiding behind wind. He misrepresents not only his own apologias but also Rosenbloom's arguments.

For example, at aweo.org (not com), Rosenbloom notes that wind turbines on the grid consume a significant amount of energy. One of the sources is the Danish Wind Energy Association. He admits that the exact amount can only be speculated, however, because, as he also notes, it is not measured, as reported by the Electric Power Research Institute. This is an example of questions we should be asking but that the industry refuses to answer.

To some of Barnard's other points:

1. Intermittency. There's a big difference between predictable intermittency and knowing exactly how that intermittency will shape up. And there's a big difference between continuous minute-to-minute variability and the occasional loss of a single coal or nuclear plant. In fact, the grid is overbuilt precisely to handle such an event. Building wind requires using that excess capacity to balance wind's variability (as Rosenbloom says in this piece). And, as Germany has discovered, when that excess capacity is tied up with the wind, the loss of a coal or nuclear plant would be catastrophic.

2. Subsidies. It is a strange argument to say that money has long been wasted on other sources so it is only fair to waste more on wind. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind received 42% of all federal subsidies for electricity production while producing 2.3% of the electricity generated. Wind is clearly benefiting from a very unlevel playing field already.

3. Wind "farms" are usually built, with their roads, platforms, substations, and transmission lines, in previously undeveloped, even wild, places. The impacts of such massive and sprawling constructions are obvious.

4. There has actually been no "peer-reviewed" study showing no connection between giant wind turbines and health problems. The "reviews" that Barnard cites are essentially echos of each other that carefully avoid the ever-growing reports of health problems that begin when the turbines start turning and that disappear when the person leaves the area. It can only be called sociopathic to reverse the cause and effect, as Barnard does by blaming the doctors and acousticians who report findings of harm. In contrast, an editorial in the preeminent British Medical Journal (BMJ, 8 Mar 2012) recognizes the health effects of large-scale wind energy facilities and calls for serious study to provide the basis for adequate regulation to protect the public.

5. The science of biological effects of low-frequency noise and infrasound (LFN/IS) is young. In fact, LFN/IS is rarely measured as part of noise control regulations. But it is known (as reported in "peer-reviewed" journals) to have serious physiological effects and that large wind turbines produce it.

6. While I was composing this reply, wind was generating less than 4% of Ontario's electricity, according to the Independent Electricity System Operator. And the province was exporting about the same amount. To say that wind, even in part, allowed switching off coal clearly ignores the facts. In fact, Ontario has replaced coal with more nuclear and natural gas.

wind power, wind energy

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bloomsday

More than any other writer, Joyce gave voice to the uncommon in the common, the commonness of the uncommon.

He rejected God and State for the human, who made (and makes) them.

Noisy village

I can only assume there is a "noisiest village" contest today, which I did not know about.

Or perhaps it's national weed-whacker day? To celebrate what is perhaps the ultimate symbol of rude, lazy, and wasteful?

I felt quite antisocial and unpatriotic quietly scything the dog pen amidst the roar of gas engines near and far.

environment, environmentalism, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism, "Guns, Gas Engines, and Jesus"™

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Military Hero Worship

Thomas H. Naylor writes at Counterpunch:

Nations which amass military might always find a way to use it. The risk of war increases in direct proportion to the military power of the state. Wars also cover up a plethora of political and economic problems by deflecting public attention away from the real issues.

Many, but not all, of our troops are naïve, well intended, ill-informed, patriots, who have been manipulated into risking their lives for false gods by our prowar media and political system. But heroes they are not.

In stark contrast to the troops, Obama, Biden, Panetta, Clinton, Petraeus, Stevens, Leahy, and Sanders know better. They are all people of the lie. They know exactly what business they are in. It’s call technofascism.

Vermont, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism