March 23, 2005

Wake up and smell the coffee

A letter in the March 22 [Burlington, Vt.] Free Press asks if "selfish" worries about aesthetics, safety, and threats to wildlife are all (!) that opponents to industrial wind power have to weigh against the promise of a clean energy source. The writer makes a couple of errors, however, in his enthusiasm for that as yet unproven (despite decades of experience) promise.

First, he raises the specter of terrorists supported by our purchases of oil. Only 3% of our oil use is for generating electricity. Transportation uses 88%, and we export 7%. Windmills, even if they performed as well as the sales brochures promise, would have pretty much no effect at all on our use of oil.

Second, he is mistaken that the turbines and towers can just be torn down when no longer needed and the trees can grown back. Unfortunately, the wide straight strong roads that are necessary for installing the facilities will have already permanently altered the landscape, including water flow. And each tower is set in a 2,000-square-foot foundation containing hundreds, even thousands, of yards of concrete and tons of steel. On most mountaintops in Vermont, the bedrock will have been blasted to make that huge hole. Removal of these facilities will not be easy (or cheap), and it would certainly not leave the site anywhere near as it was before.

It's true that our current energy use threatens the mountains as well. But that does not excuse industrializing them instead, particularly with a technology that does little, if anything, towards actually changing our energy use.

-- letter published in the Burlington Free Press, March 29, 2005

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