March 31, 2006

"Oil is for heat and transportation"

Since switching many plants to cleaner-burning natural gas, the U.S. uses hardly any oil for generating electricity (about 3%), so wind-generated power really has nothing to do with oil, foreign or domestic.

As for global warming, the primary culprit again is heat and transportation. In electricity generation, it's coal. But coal provides the unfluctuating base load of our system, which wind power would never touch. At best, wind power may occasionally allow some peak load plants to ramp down, but since they then have to ramp back up again when the wind slows (or gusts above 60 mph), they may burn more fuel than if kept on line more steadily.

By any real-world analysis -- at least in the industrialized world where we expect a steady supply of energy at our fingertips -- large-scale wind power on the grid is a nonstarter.

In addition to its lack of benefits (except for tax avoidance by big investors -- Enron developed the industry, after all), it has serious negative impacts, particularly as such a huge number of the giant machines is required to pretend it's making any significant contribution.

And that is what is truly disturbing about this article. Lester Brown would have us think differently, but everywhere that wind power facilities are proposed, there is widespread opposition. Aboriginal Australians have fought (and lost) to save their dreaming. Zapotecas are fighting the plans for massive wind power "development" in the Tehuantapec peninsula, one of the world's most important bird migration passageways. To call a small pay-off to farmers in New York a boon is insulting as the wind companies pocket millions from tax subsidies and artificial renewable energy certificates (Enron's most inspired invention). The leases -- written by the company -- essentially make the farmer a tenant on his own land. He even signs away his right to speak to anyone about problems such as noise or stray voltage. Many neighbors of wind facilities have had to flee their homes because of serious health effects.

And so on. The point is that there's another side of this typical story of exploitation and chicanery than Lester Brown's corporate boosterism, one I would have expected a writer for OneWorld to instinctively seek out.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism