March 29, 2007

Wind Energy in the Third World

It has just been announced that Energias de Portugal (EDP) is buying Horizon Wind Energy from Goldman Sachs (for $2.15 billion, twice what Goldman Sachs paid for it less than 2 years ago). This follows the purchase of Community Energy and PPM Energy (the latter through its purchase of Scottish Power) by Spanish energy giant Iberdrola.

Other foreign companies active in U.S. wind energy development include Ireland's Airtricity, Spain's Gamesa and Naturener, Australia's Babcock & Brown, Electricité de France (via Enxco), Nedpower of The Netherlands, Shell, BP, and the various UPC Wind companies funded by European investors through Italian parent UPC Group.

Beyond the fact that prospects for wind energy expansion are drying up in Europe while subsidies in the U.S. can cover up to 75% of the cost of erecting a wind energy facility, might there be another reason for so much foreign investment in wind energy?

Spain's Iberdrola is also erecting wind turbines in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca. Spanish regulators have ruled that the electricity produced there can be applied towards Spain's Kyoto (and now E.U.) obligations. That's because Mexico is exempt from the Kyoto accord.

The U.S. has not signed on to the Kyoto accord and has not established similar requirements. As in Mexico, might the foreign owners of wind energy facilities in the U.S. be intending to claim the "renewable energy credits" for their own countries?

Thus, all that industrialization of rural and wild landscapes, the fragmentation and degradation of natural habitat, the destruction of wildlife, and the wrecking of people's peaceful enjoyment of their homes would not even serve to meet the goals of expanded renewable energy established in many states.

This ineffective tokenism is also seen in the misdirected effort of renewable portfolio standards. The goal, as with the Kyoto accord, is to reduce emissions from fossil fuels. But the requirement is only to add non-carbon sources of electricity (and ignoring transport, heating, and industry uses of fossil fuels).

If the goal is indeed to reduce emissions, then that should be the requirement.

Spain will not be reducing its carbon emissions by building giant turbines in Mexico. Yet they will nonetheless be credited for doing so, based only on the production from those turbines without any proof of a corresponding reduction of fossil fuels even in Mexico, let alone in Spain.

It appears that much of the U.S. has become a third-world country as well, ripe for exploitation by global capitalists as well as our own "developers."

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism, human rights