March 11, 2006

Letters about Londonderry and Manchester

The recent votes in the Vermont towns of Londonderry and Manchester against erecting giant wind-powered generators have naturally generated letters to the state's newspapers. One writer to the Burlington Free Press, while recognizing the concerns of communities as serious, nonetheless considers wind power as a "chance to locally control some of our own power supply, rather than to rely on others for much of our power." The problem is, we can't control the wind. So we would either rely on other sources as much as ever, or turn to them only as needed (which would be most of the time) and pay a premium for that "independence."

Another writer expressed her recognition that wind turbines should directly benefit the communities hosting them, not serve as mere generators of "green tags" for far-off investors. Unfortunately, as Enron recognized when they invented the concept, green tags are the only thing the turbines reliably generate. That writer also described visiting large wind facilities, "the cattle undisturbed," as if that is model behavior for all of us.

There have been other letters responding to Rob Charlebois of Catamount Energy complaining about "a sophisticated advertising campaign against his project" in Londonderry and that "we have work to do at educating the public about the benefits of the project." The letters note that Catamount hired a PR firm, ran large ads in several newspapers, and made several mailings. The Glebe Mountain Group sent out postcards once and paid for only a few advertisements in the local weekly. They also note that Charlebois is up against real education, which the pablum from his PR firm can't stand up to. One writer sums up:
... A few of the things we learned are: Industrial wind plants will not replace conventional power plants. Conventional power plants do not run as efficiently when they have to back up intermittent wind electricity. Wind generated electricity does not significantly reduce CO2 emissions. Wind turbines make noise, which, in a mountain environment, can be focused and amplified unpredictably. The tips of wind turbines, which travel up to 191 miles per hour, are a threat to birds and bats.
The sheer size of the machines is probably the most surprising aspect to people who have not been forced to look into the issue. The Glebe Mountain Group used an effective graphic, which is on line at

Finally, a letter in Friday's Brattleboro Reformer frankly states, "[T]he PSB [public service board] should not consider this vote result." He goes on:
"In the end, the PSB must act in the interest of all Vermonters, not on one town's public opinion, regardless of whether that local opinion was the result of a poll, an amendment to the town plan or any other means of expression. Otherwise any town could hold a vote, or amend its plan in order to block a needed transmission line, communications facility or power generation facility. This would lead to chaos in Vermont's plans to provide power and communications to support economic growth.
This is an ironic sentiment so soon after town meeting day, praised by all (a little too desperately, in my opinion, especially in its fear of the other essential part of free democracy, the secret ballot) as democracy in its purest glory. This appeal to the "greater good" is the essence of fascism, particularly when the greater good is revealed to be only the good of the "greater": large corporations and their investors.

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