April 16, 2007

The power of greenwash

To the Editor, New York Times Magazine:

Thomas Friedman, in his enthusiasm for "green" industry ["The Power of Green," April 15], forgets that there are other impacts to be considered along with carbon emissions. Nuclear's shortcomings are well known [waste, uranium supply, radioactivity, warming rivers, WMDs]. The proposal to use a sixth of our croplands (or mow down more rainforests) to fuel our cars with ethanol raises obvious questions. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs contain toxic mercury. Replacing coal with natural gas would add another source of volatile geopolitics to that of oil. The new infrastructure that Friedman envisions would industrialize more of our landscape without any suggestion that old infrastructure would be replaced.

[As part of his unwillingness to give up any part of "our way of life," Friedman barely mentions conservation, reviving rail travel, or decentralizing our shopping and work setups, and, like Scolow and Pacala, he completely ignores the raising of animals for meat and milk, responsible for 18% of manmade greenhouse gases, according to the U.N. -- more than transport.]

And large-scale wind turbines -- now commonly over 400 feet tall, with blades nearly 300 feet across, in arrays of a dozen up to hundreds -- are already destroying rural and wild landscapes: fragmenting and degrading valuable wildlife habitat, threatening populations of bats and birds, and wrecking the lives of people who have to live with their intrusive thumping and shadow flicker.

It is no surprise that George W. Bush made Texas a leader in wind energy. His friend Ken Lay's Enron had bought Zond Wind (subsequently bought by GE) and together they gamed the system to make big wind profitable without having to prove its usefulness. Theirs is the model still followed by other states. It is not an example of environmental leadership, but of a boondoggle and environmental debacle that does little, if anything, to move us away from carbon and other environmental and political problems.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism