January 30, 2006

Hi, neighbor!

What puny trees!

(Tug Hill Plateau, N.Y.)

Click here for another view.

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Enron -- father of modern windpower

On the occasion of the Enron trials beginning today, it seems apt to bring up the fact that Enron pioneered large-scale wind energy on the grid in the U.S. They bought Zond Wind Systems, which after Enron's fire sale was bought by General Electric. Key to Enron's success was deregulation of the electricity market, so that it could more easily be manipulated by developers and brokers such as Enron without having to worry about the whole expensive package of energy delivery, i.e., infrastructure maintenance.

They also transformed wind power from an experimental alternative in tune with the environment into an industry that mocks environmental concerns.

And it worked, as long as people believed in it. But when California was subject to rolling blackouts which turned out to be caused by Enron's efforts to jack up prices, the project became suspect.

The line of defense for the Enron team today is that they did not know everything was collapsing around them, that the lies they told investors and auditors were not lies, because they really believed everything was great (which it still was, I suppose, for them).

Their heirs in the wind power development business do them proud. The larger public -- and worse, major environmental groups -- still believe, without any evidence to back up the industry's claims and seemingly oblivious to the impact on land and life.

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January 29, 2006

Yes, folks, modern wind turbines kill birds

I just noticed that comments from Californa campaigner Darryl Mueller on Shea Gunther's supercilious blog have not been deleted. Anything I post to the lad's blog is instantly deleted, of course, since I insisted on seeing the records to back up his claim that "a kilowatt-hour of wind energy means one less kilowatt-hour of conventional fuel burned."

In the face of Herr Gunther's denial that wind turbines kill birds anywhere else than Altamont Pass, I nonetheless posted a reference to one of the recent stories in the U.K. about the very rare white-tailed eagles killed in Smola, Norway, as well as the disruption of their breeding: "Wind farms condemned as eagles fall prey to turbines," The Times, Jan. 28, 2006. (Also see the earlier post on this site, noting 8 more dead eagles found that weren't mentioned in the U.K. reports.)

In his other efforts to distinguish Altamont, he emphasizes how slow the blades turn on new turbines, ignoring the fact that the blades are so long that they're turning at about 170 mph on most models.

He also laughs at birds and bats who aren't "smart enough" to avoid flying into the giant spinning blades, confusing willful violence with natural selection. I suppose he laughs when children are hit by cars?

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Whole Foods and the union

As Whole Foods, the 180-store natural foods grocer, now pretends to be using wind energy (and everyone seems to believe them), it is probably an appropriate time to bring up the fact that they hate unions, i.e., they hate that their workers might be able to look to another organization to defend their rights instead of simply submitting on the beneficent paternalism of the Whole Foods executives.

In 2002, the employees of the Whole Foods in Madison, Wis., successfully organized with United Food and Commercial Workers. The primary organizers were fired for sharing a botched latte instead of throwing it out. Founder and CEO John Mackey then toured the country to tell his employees how much they would lose if they unionize. He also threatened to pull advertising from magazines that ran ads for union drives.

A web site by the Madison workers keeps the union drive alive: www.wholeworkersunite.org.

Some interesting comments can be found in a discussion at Vegan Porn.

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Fight for a better world than this

Today's Progressive Review contains three stories about the pathetic thuggery of our government. The first comes from Georgia, where the ACLU released files showing extensive spying by the FBI, Homeland Security, and other agencies on citizens who express opinions that differ from the government's -- even in the matter of diet. Vegans picketing outside a ham store were watched by an undercover Homeland Security detective. One of the protesters noticed him, however, and came over and wrote down his license plate number (a wise precaution with such stalking). The detective demanded the paper, which was refused, and the protester was taken to jail.

The ACLU is also fighting the "ideological exclusion" provision in the Patriot Act that denies visas to foreign scholars that the government doesn't like (or fears).

And then there's the secret "no-fly list," which prevents journalists, activists, politicians, and many other people, even babies and toddlers, from boarding planes. It is said that there are 80,000 names on the list. There is no way to find out if you're on it until you try to board your flight. There's no way to find out why you're on the list and no way to get your name removed. Senator Ted Kennedy and Representative John Lewis found that they were listed and had to make several phone calls to get themselves off. Most of us, however, lack their connections.

A four-year-old was stopped, and the braindead processors held him until higher-ups from the transportation security administration cleared him. He had to go through the same process again on the return flight.

French journalist Bernard-Henri Lévy recently toured the country, calling himeself a new Alexis de Tocqueville. It was de Tocqueville (Democracy in America, 1835) who coined the term "tyranny of the majority," but Lévy was determined not to see it. Another useful idiot for this bitter, scared, thuggish America is, for example, "eco-entrepreneur" Shea Gunther, proud to be "100% American" as he calls for debate and then censors all of it. There is a better America, but it is the enemy of the one we have.

Go saoraid!

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January 27, 2006

Turbines kill rare eagles

From today's Guardian:
Wind turbines have caused the death of four rare, white-tailed eagles on islands off the Norwegian coast, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said yesterday.

The failure of as many as 30 other white-tailed eagles to return to breeding areas has added to concerns about the impact of wind farms on wildlife.
The Norwegian Ornithological Society, which monitors the 68-turbine Smola wind facility in question, has also found eight dead white-tailed (also called sea) eagles under the facility's power lines. All of these discoveries are not the result of systematic surveys but are only come upon by chance.

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Authoritarian democracy

Juan Cole writes in today's Salon (in an essay about Hamas's electoral victory in Palestine):
Democracy depends not just on elections but on a rule of law, on stable institutions, on basic economic security for the population, and on checks and balances that forestall a tyranny of the majority. Elections in the absence of this key societal context can produce authoritarian regimes and abuses as easily as they can produce genuine people power. Bush is on the whole unwilling to invest sufficiently in these key institutions and practices abroad.
That's the case at home, too.

January 26, 2006

On censorship

In most cases of censorship, it is the censor who thus proves his "stupidity."

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Signing away the farm

Here is a lovely part of the lease contract that Irish company Airtricity presents to landowners in New York.
9. Waived Right to Object. LANDOWNER acknowledges that certain aspects inherent to the operation of the Wind Energy Facility may result in some nuisance, such as visual impacts, possible increased noise levels, possible shadow flicker on residences, and other possible effects of electrical generation and transmission including without limitation potential interference with radio, television, telephone, mobile telephone and other electronic devices. LESSEE will attempt to minimize any impacts to LANDOWNER in part by taking every reasonable measure to meet or exceed standard U.S. wind industry practices in designing the Wind Energy Facility, and abiding by all regulations pertaining to the permitting and design of the Wind Energy Facility. LANDOWNER understands and has been informed by LESSEE that the Wind Energy Facility on the Leased Property may result in some nuisance, and hereby accepts such nuisance and waives their right to object to such nuisance provided that LESSEE complies with its obligations herein.
Also see "Signing it all away for crumbs from the table," about the contract presented to New York landowners by Singapore-based Noble Environmental.

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January 24, 2006

The Wind Watchdog

Click the title of this post for the Jan. 23 issue of "The Wind Watchdog," a collection of recent news items, opinion pieces, and other documents from National Wind Watch .

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Dear eco-entrepreneur et al.

I'm sorry to bother you guys, but if the whole scheme is so simple, why circle the wagons like this and fire barbs at us just because someone asked to see the numbers?

It's a bit of an overreaction, to say the least.

No one is challenging your reasoning or logic -- much less your sanity, intelligence, or patriotism [as you and yours have done]. It is a simple request for the numbers that back up your statements.

[Of course, the lack of real-world evidence does call into question your reasoning (and threatens your profits, I dare say), so perhaps lashing out a like a trapped animal is indeed your only recourse. It certainly suggests that you have no other, i.e., showing proof of your claims, or even trying to explain why no numbers are available.]

[The above, minus the sections in brackets, was posted to the comments section of whip-snapping eco-entrepreneur Shea Gunther's blog. It was almost immediately removed. There is clearly a problem with dissent over there.]

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January 23, 2006

Eco-terrorist feds

On Counterpunch, Michael Donnelly has some distressing but not surprising information not being generally reported about the feds' big cracking of what appears to be a rather small network of Earth and Animal Liberation Front activists. (Click the title of this post for his article.)

One of the conspirators, Arizona bookstore owner William Rodgers, died in custody, which, outside of anarchist circles, hasn't been reported at all except to echo the bland official -- apparently uninvestigated -- story of suicide. It appears that that may be the case, but suicides aren't supposed to be allowed to happen in custody, either.

The feds had infiltrated the network, and one of their agents admits that he is the one who set many of the fires. The first case of arson in the indictments is of a pickup truck at a forest ranger station. Graffiti were spray-painted on the building as well. Two days later, a rigged incendiary jug was suddenly found on the roof. Donnelly asks, why would they paint slogans on a building they were planning to burn to the ground?

An actual burning of a ranger station a few days later is just as, if not more, likely to have been done by loggers angry at the defense of the spotted owl's old-growth forest habitat. The research that justified Earth First's two-year blockade of logging at Warner Creek (Oregon) was lost in that ranger station fire.

It should also be noted that although the indictments were "unsealed" last Friday, most of the arrests were actually made on Dec. 7. It is clearly another case of the Mayberry Machiavellis saving announcements until their distraction is most useful, such as when the White House is trying to defend warrantless spying on fellow citizens.

Not just the logging companies and their duped workers, but industrialists too are grateful. "These folks appeared ready to stop at nothing in their zeal to prevent development and to stop any perceived environmental threats, from logging to larger vehicles," says the National Association of Manufacturers. "Their targets are not, fundamentally, a particular ski resort, logging company, meatpacking center or medical research project, but what these represent: human technology, human progress, human life," writes Onkar Ghate of the Ayn Rand Institute.

Adding this to reports that the FBI has been spying on People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, it is clear that anyone who defends the plants and animals of our world, the natural world whose vitality our own lives is part of and depends on, anyone who considers the universe outside our human skins as worthy of our moral response -- we all have reason to fear the terrorist thugs of our own industry and government.

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Eco-entrepreneur doesn't have numbers

Our correspondent tried again, as Shea Gunther's idea of controversy apparently means hosting only attacks on those who don't agree with him and censoring replies that ask for proof. The post lasted only a few minutes. Some debate they're having there.

They can't show numbers to back up their claims, so they excoriate anyone pointing that out as mentally unbalanced or worse. It's not a very convincing argument. In fact, it suggests the utter lack of one, which of course is what censorship is all about.

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January 22, 2006

The world has created Iran's need for nuclear defence

'I would sleep happier if there were no Iranian bomb but a swamp of hypocrisy separates me from overly protesting it. Iran is a proud country that sits between nuclear Pakistan and India to its east, a nuclear Russia to its north and a nuclear Israel to its west. Adjacent Afghanistan and Iraq are occupied at will by a nuclear America, which backed Saddam Hussein in his 1980 invasion of Iran. How can we say such a country has "no right" to nuclear defence?'

-- Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, Jan. 18, 2006

January 21, 2006

Eco-entrepreneur proud of censorship

Did I censor him? I sure as hell did. This is my blog and last I checked, I hold all the power here. I could waste my time trying to convince him that he’s wrong, but I have better things to do with my time.
Shea Gunther is upset because "Rucio" "just keeps asking for 'numbers'" which Gunther can't provide. So he calls us nuts and not completely "American."

After reproducing my complete earlier post (click title of this post), Gunther says, "I look forward to the anti-wind nutjobs reply." A correspondent of ours did in fact reply, asking if it was true, then, that Gunther was not able to answer Rucio's question. That reply has been removed. I guess it's the American way.

Update: Our correspondent tried again to post a comment, this time asking how Gunther squares "looking forward to replies" with deleting them if they question his dogma (good word!) and suggesting it is the deleting that he looks forward to. A few hours later, the comment was gone. Is that the only way Gunther can prove he's right?

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The Wind Watchdog

Click the title of this post for the latest issue of "The Wind Watchdog," a collection of recent news items, opinion pieces, and other documents from National Wind Watch .

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Eco-entrepreneur -- or censor?

Shea Gunther, who is behind the sale of "wind power credits" to the Whole Foods grocery store chain (who will continue to use as much "nongreen" electricity as ever), has a fairly clear post on his blog about how the system works. Namely, the money from Whole Foods supports the development of wind power on the grid, not to mention the profitable trade in "credits" (that are sold in addition to energy). It's rather a roundabout way of doing it, especially since they aren't changing their own energy use or getting any different electricity than their neighbors are -- but that's show business, I guess.

One point that Gunther emphasizes is that every kilowatt-hour generated by wind turbines replaces a kilowatt-hour generated by other fuels. From this he asserts, falsely, that every kilowatt-hour not generated from, say, fossil fuels, means that much less fuel burned. (More likely, however, a rise in the wind simply causes a plant to switch from generation to standby, in which mode it still burns fuel so that it can readily switch back to generation when the wind drops back.)

In the comments, one "Rucio" asked for evidence that less fuel is burned because of wind power on the grid. Gunther could only ask him to "imagine" the scenario he already described and ignored the request for actual data. It was not long before Rucio's simple requests for real evidence that Gunther's claims are true rather than the wishful thinking of "eco-entrepreneurs" (that is my addition -- "Rucio" was much more diplomatic however persistent) started to be removed.

Most people have a problem with awkward truths. But when you're advocating industrializing hundreds of square miles of rural and wild areas for what appears to be a sham, denial is not an option.

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January 19, 2006

"Carbon offsets" trade based on bogus accounting

George Monbiot continues his dance around criticisms of industrial wind power in an essay in the Jan. 17 Guardian (click the title of this post) about the charade of "carbon offsets," an important driver of wind power development.
But perhaps the most destructive effect of the carbon offset trade is that it allows us to believe we can carry on polluting. The government can keep building roads and airports and we can keep flying to Thailand for our holidays, as long as we purchase absolution by giving a few quid to a tree planting company [or green credit broker]. How do you quantify complacency? How do you know that the behaviour the trade induces does not cancel out the carbon it sequesters?

In other words I think it is fair to say that a scam is being perpetrated ... We know that climate change will impoverish many people. We now know that it will make others very rich. But their money-making schemes will have precious little to do with saving the planet.
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January 16, 2006

Black Law wind facility begins operation

The beautiful Black Law Wind Farm in Scotland (note how relatively tiny the tree is in the second photograph -- pathetic nature, mighty industry!):


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From Ironic Times:

We incorrectly reported that the EPA was working hard to reduce the flow of toxic waste released into communities surrounding power and chemical plants. In fact, the EPA is working hard to reduce the flow of information released about the toxic waste. We apologize for any confusion caused by our mistake.

January 14, 2006

Close door on wind power developers

To the editor, Rutland (Vt.) Herald:

On January 6 a letter stated that big wind could provide up to 20 percent of our power needs. If all of the current proposals (up to 312 MW) around the state were built, they would provide at most only 10 percent or our current (ignoring future growth) power needs. Each of the facilities would drasticallyhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif alter the character of the landscape for miles around with visual prominence, distracting motion, noise, and all-night strobe lights, degrade and fragment miles of wildlife habitat, and threaten endangered bats. They are all being actively opposed (see www.rosenlake.net/vwv).

Since it is unlikely that we will reach 10 percent wind, it is even more unlikely that we would allow building even more to get us to 20 percent.

Even if it works as advertised, big wind will never be a significant part of our power mix. It is common sense, not the governor alone, that is trying shut the door on such fruitless industrialization of our ridgelines.

A letter from Pennsylvania on January 7 claimed that big wind is working in that state. The writer called support of large-scale wind power a "no-brainer" because it replaces dirty energy sources. Those of us who still use our brains, however, would like to see the data showing what energy sources have actually been replaced.

After researching this issue for 3 years, I have yet to see any such evidence that wind power on the grid reduces the use of other fuels.

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January 12, 2006

Whole Foods pays extra for same electricity

From the Jan. 10 AP story:
Natural-food grocer Whole Foods Market Inc. said Tuesday it will rely on wind energy for all of its electricity needs, making it the largest corporate user of renewable energy in the United States. ...

"It's a sales driver rather than a cost," [Whole Foods regional president Michael Besancon] said. "All of those things we do related to our core values: help drive sales, help convince a customer to drive past three or four other supermarkets on the way to Whole Foods."
Whole Foods will not be "relying" on wind energy any more than they were before. Their stores will be getting the same electricity as their neighbors, but Whole Foods will be paying more for it in the belief that they are supporting the construction of giant wind turbines.

That's fine, but, as The Stalwart, a pro-wind business blog, points out, isn't their good (however misinformed) intention cancelled out by the quoted calculation that people will drive farther for their groceries?

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Diminishing capacity credit of wind power

The more wind power capacity is in the grid, the lower the percentage of traditional generation it can replace

from "Wind Energy Report 2005," E.ON Netz

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January 9, 2006

The Wind Watchdog

National Wind Watch has begun to issue "The Wind Watchdog," a collection of recent news items, opinion pieces, and other documents. Click the title of this post for the inaugural issue.

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"Clouds gathering over wind farm plan"

From today's The Australian:
In Frank and Theresa Cicero's quiet, winding street in Foster North [in South Gippsland, Victoria], local opposition to the [Dollar] wind farm -- which will see a turbine built 800m from their bush retreat -- is easy to find.

Almost every property in their street, apart from those of the farmers on whose land the turbines are being built, is for sale.

"I've watched my husband work all his life to build this home," Mrs Cicero said. "We've never had loans, we've always worked and saved. And now we find everything that we've put in here, it's all worth nothing."

The Ciceros had their home valued at $410,000 before the wind farm was taken into account. Afterwards, the estimated value dropped to $270,000. They have not received one offer for their property in two years.
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January 5, 2006

"The Sham of Homeland Security"

"To a lucky few, the Bush administration and its corporate oligarchy among them, terror-war America has been the best of all possible worlds: Perpetual war for perpetual profits, with a war on regulation and oversight thrown in as a bonus. Today, West Virginia is ground zero in that war. Al-Qaeda is nowhere in sight. The victims are American. The perpetrators are American. The dots are all-American, and yet unconnected."

-- Pierre Tristam

January 4, 2006

Tea time

"Coffee is for winners, go-getters, tea-ignorers, lunch-cancellers, early risers, guilt-ridden strivers, money obsessives and status-driven spiritually empty lunatics. It is an enervating force. We should resist it and embrace tea, the ancient drink of poets, philosophers and meditators."

-- Tom Hodgkinson, How to Be Idle