December 26, 2004

Nuclear power behind wind advocates?

Besides NIMBY (see earlier post), opponents of large-scale wind power are often dismissed as fronts for the nuclear and coal industries, despite no evidence whatsoever. (Former director and current communications director of the American Wind Energy Association, Tom Gray, was forced by a British court to publicly retract such a charge about the Country Guardian group.)

NIMBYism more often -- and more accurately -- applies to supporters of wind energy. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened to prevent a wind facility near his home, though he insists on building them everywhere else. In the U.S., Massachusetts politicos are enthusiastic about wind power except in the view of their Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard homes. And Bruce Lisman, a director of Central Vermont Public Service, which is fighting to turn a pristine mountain top in southeastern Vermont into a giant wind power plant, is appalled by one his neighbors in western Vermont planning to put up a small turbine for his home. That's the definition of NIMBY, folks.

Back to the nuclear and coal industries: How do they benefit from the "green" push for wind power? Scare-mongering about climate change and CO2 emissions is central to the wind industry's marketing strategy but only serves to show how insignificant wind's contribution can ever be. They have, however, successfully lobbied for the "consensus" view that our energy-use emissions are changing the climate. Having accepted that, and having supported massive wind projects and subsequently seeing their lack of positive impact (and their inordinate negative impact), governments must now more seriously address the very narrowly focused problem they have imposed on themselves.

The wind industry also knows that conservation would save loads more electricity than their turbines could ever provide, so they rarely advocate that obvious green solution, which would make their product irrelevant.

So who now steps in to save the day? Nuclear power, which emits no CO2, and coal, which continues to innovate mining and electricity generation to be more environmentally friendly (for example, Florida Power & Light was just named as the best energy company in the U.S. by the World Wildlife Fund for their "clean" coal initiatives -- see earlier post).

Is it just a coincidence that as most of Europe and North America has shied away from nuclear energy Greenpeace is the loudest "environmentalist" advocate of industrial wind power? Greenpeace became a giant well funded organization through dramatic actions against nuclear energy. Without a vital nuclear power industry, it is nothing. In the U.K. Greenpeace has put its name on a "green" utility plan (Npower Juice) that is run under the Germany-based RWE Group, one of the world's biggest nuclear power generators. The interest for both sides appears to be the same: more nuclear power.