December 30, 2007

Wind farm contaminates well

On July 4, 2007, a transformer in one of the substations at the 195-turbine "Maple Ridge" wind energy facility on Tug Hill in western New York exploded.* The wind company -- Iberdrola-owned Scottish Energy-owned PPM Atlantic -- reported the spill of 491 gallons of mineral oil to the N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and cleaned it up.

The DEC apparently never inspected the clean-up or even suggested to the company possible contamination they should look out for. They didn't even check, it seems, the amount of recovered oil.

In late November, a nearby resident noticed oil in his water and confirmed that there was oil in his well. Thus, 3 months after the event, the DEC finally got involved. At of Dec. 29, when it was reported in the Watertown Daily News, of "about 15" wells tested, only one was found to be contaminated. (Does that mean "within tolerable levels as defined by the law" or truly "no trace of oil"?)

One also wonders if this is the end of the story. Will the DEC continue testing the nearby wells as the oil continues to seep through the area? Will they examine the wind company's clean-up and try to determine exactly how much was spilled and unrecovered? Or will it all be brushed under the tarmac?

*This is a normal problem with transformers, because over time they generate combustible gases. Normal maintenance requires the oil to be periodically filtered to remove the combustible gases before they build up to dangerous levels. As with so many other things, the wind company seems to have thought this danger didn't apply to them. Now, they check and remedy all the substation transformers and the transformer at the base of each turbine on a regular schedule.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms environment, environmentalism

December 29, 2007

Happy, Healthy Animals Killed at Hollister Hill Farm

An article in the Dec. 20 Montpelier (Vt.) Bridge describes a source for "happy, healthy" meat in nearby Plainfield.

It's obvious that the concern is not so much for the animals but rather for the eaters of the animals,who want to feel happier and healthier about a problematic dietary choice. Since they are driven to gorge on animal flesh, it is indeed healthier if it is the remains of a grass-fed "beefalo" free of antibiotics and artificial hormones instead of a feedlot-fattened chemical-sustained cow. And they will be happier with the taste of a free-range naturally fed turkey compared with a "butterball" factory product.

And, during their cruelly shortened lives, the animals themselves are no doubt healthier and even "happy".

Thus, the people who raise them to be killed, their carcasses to be sold and eaten, and the people who buy and eat those pieces are able to feel less guilt and shame.

But the result for the "happy, healthy" animal is the same as for the industrial-raised animal: premature death at the hand of humans.

In times of famine, this might be justified for survival -- after all, cannibalism has been resorted to in such situations. But this "happy, healthy" meat market is a response to surfeit. It feeds the same desire for flesh that sustains the factory lots and drives the clearing of rainforests. Paying more for pieces of "happy, healthy", locally killed animals is an effort to separate one's appetite from that of the common horde.

But it remains, however, (literally, in our very long intestines -- quite unlike those of the carnivorous animals) quite as unhealthy, and the animals meet the same quite unhappy end.

animal rights, vegetarianism, Vermont

December 24, 2007

Pythagoras the Vegetarian

[Pythagoras] was the first to ban the serving of animal food at our tables, first to express himself in such words as these ...

'O my fellow-men, do not defile your bodies with sinful foods. We have corn, we have apples, bending down the branches with their weight, and grapes swelling on the vines. There are sweet-flavoured herbs, and vegetables which can be cooked and softened over the fire, nor are you denied milk, or thyme-scented honey. The earth affords a lavish supply of riches, of innocent foods, and offers you banquets that involve no bloodshed or slaughter; only beasts satisfy their hunger with flesh, and no even all of those, for horses, cattle, and sheep live on grass. ... Alas, what wickedness to swallow flesh into our own flesh, to fatten our greedy bodies by cramming in other bodies to have one living creature fed by te death of another! In the midst of such wealth as earth, the best of mothers, provides, nothing forsooth satisfies you, but to behave like the Cyclopes, inflicting sorry wounds with cruel teeth! You cannot appease the hungry cravings of your wicked gluttonous stomachs, except by destroying some other life!

'Not content with committing such crimes, men have enrolled the very gods as their partners in wickedness, and suppose that the divinities in heaven take pleasure in the slaying of patient bullocks! ...

'The heavens and everything that lies below them change their shape, as does the earth and all that it contains. We too, who are part of creation, since we are not merely bodies, but winded souls as well, can find a home in the forms of wild beasts, and be lodged in the beasts of cattle. Therefore, let us leave unmolested those bodies, which may contain the souls of our parents or of our brothers, or those of other relatives, or at least the souls of men. Let us not dishonour our kind, or cram our stomachs with feasts like that of Thyestes. What evil habits a man learns, how wickedly does he prepare himself to shed human blood, when he cuts open a calf's throat with his knife, and listens unmoved to its mournful lowing, which he himself has fed! How little short of full-fledged crimes are acts like these! And to what do they lead?

'Let the ox proceed with his ploughing, or blame his death on advancing years: let the sheep supply us with a defence against the biting North wind, and well-fed goats present their udders to be milked. Away with nets and snares, traps and cunning ruses. Cease to trick birds with limed twigs, to make a sport of hunting stags with feather-decked cords, or hiding barbed hooks beneath your treacherous bait. Destroy creatures that harm you, but even in their case, be content to destroy. Do not let their flesh pass your lips; live on some less barbarous diets.'

--Ovid, Metamorphoses, translated by Mary Innes

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, anarchism, ecoanarchism

December 22, 2007

No puppets, no peace

To the editor, The Hardwick (Vt.) Gazette:

Bruce Shields (Letters, Dec. 12) reveals the official Israeli/U.S. disdain for peace by repeating the complaint that it's the Palestinians who don't want peace. And what is the evidence for that complaint? It is the Palestinian desire for an end to Israeli occupation, for an independent state, and for some small measure of justice for the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and farms when Israel was established as an exclusively Jewish homeland -- outcomes Israel openly scorns.

Shields notes that other countries use the Palestinian refugees as pawns against Israel, but that does not erase the fact that Israel made them refugees in the first place and considers their return to be an impossibility. Their rage and frustration are not surprising, as the world -- especially Israel's sponsor, the U.S. -- has ignored their plight for 60 years.

Shields answers antisemitism and antizionism with an even more virulent antiarabism. The Israelis may want a solution to "the problem", but the Palestinians have learned that such plans do not mean freedom from Israeli control, let alone justice.

When Jordan ceded the West Bank for a future Palestinian state, Israel only expanded their occupation, rushing "settlers" in to establish outposts throughout, which require ever-expanding "security" buffers, taking more and more land -- olive trees, pastures, farm fields -- from the Palestinians. The roads to these outposts also need "protection" from the people through whose land they cut. Thus Israel has systematically divided and laid claim to much of the West Bank -- violating international law with de facto encouragement from the U.S.

As for Hamas, the Israeli government initially aided their rise to undermine Yasser Arafat -- because Arafat was becoming a credible "partner for peace". Similarly, Ariel Sharon sparked the latest intifada by an essentially military invasion of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and rode the ensuing wave of violence to power. It was an Israeli Jew who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin for making sincere moves toward peace with Syria. Arafat's associate Mahmoud Abbas long argued against the use of violence as counterproductive. Now that he is leader of the Palestinian Authority and has tried to control Hamas, Shields only emphasizes the worst aspects of another organization -- Hamas -- to dismiss an entire people.

Many Palestinians, along with their Arab neighbors, can indeed be blamed for perpetuating violence and sabotaging their own people's hopes. So can Israel.

The Jewish experience of persecution should make the Israeli government more sensitive to the abuses of power, but instead it seems the Palestinians have been made to pay for all history's violence against Jews.

In criticizing Peter Schumann for sharing his art with the besieged people of Ramallah and David Rodgers for reporting Schumann's account of his visit (which Shields did not attend), Shields relies on the same prejudiced intolerance he lays at the door of the "Arabs". It explains a lot of why peace is so elusive in that region.

human rights, Vermont

December 19, 2007

Ralph Nader -- the last American

Last night's Independent Lens on PBS showed An Unreasonable Man, a film about Ralph Nader. We were probably not the only ones who found it inspiring, for the same reasons we voted for him all three times he ran for President. But it may have reawakened in others the misplaced anger they felt toward Nader for daring to make Al Gore's tepid candidacy appear even worse by expecting more from the allegedly "liberal" party.

For those people who blame Nader instead of Gore or Bush for the outcome of the 2000 election, here is an analysis of the voting. It should help return them to reality. The most notable finding is that where Nader did well, so did Gore.

December 12, 2007

"Best Renewable Energy Project": Clipper wind turbines failed after couple months

PennWell announces 2007 Projects of the Year winners

11 December 2007 -- PennWell Corp's Power Engineering magazine announced the 2007 Projects of the Year Award winners at an awards gala held December 10, 2007 at the New Orleans Sheraton Hotel. Each year, the magazine recognizes some of the world's best power projects from four major categories: gas-fired projects, coal-fired projects, nuclear projects and renewables projects. Winners and honorable mention recipients in each category are selected by the Power Engineering editorial committee. ...

The 2007 Best Renewables Project of the Year Award Winner was the Steel Winds Wind Farm, co-owned by BQ energy and UPC Wind. The wind farm, a 20 MW facility consisting of eight Clipper WindPower 2.5 MW liberty series wind turbines, is located on the site of the old Bethlehem Steel Mill, located along the shores of Lake Erie in Lackawanna, N.Y. It is the first commercial deployment of Clipper WindPower's Liberty turbines.

[thanks to Cohocton Wind Watch]

Why are the Lackawanna windmills being taken apart?

(Lackawanna, NY, December 11, 2007) -- ... They all started turning for the first time in June, this Steelwinds Project was the first to use the newest clipper wind turbines touted as the new standard for reliable performance, but by late summer, engineers discovered damage inside one of the gear boxes, and then shut down 5 others, because the timing was off in those gear boxes too.

A Clipper Vice President tells [News 4's George Richert] the plan now is for a crane to arrive next week to take all of the gear boxes down send them back to the factory in Iowa, and then replace them one by one throughout the winter. The towers will still stand but the blades will have to come off of all eight wind mills. It could be March or April before the job is finished.

[thanks to National Wind Watch]

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines

December 10, 2007

Immoral Rearmament

That's the title of a review of The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze. The review was written by historian Richard Evans in the Dec. 20 New York Review of Books. Here's an interesting quote:
So extensive was Hitler's drive to rearm that it was absorbing over a fifth of German state expenditure by the eve of the war.
That skewed priority ensured the destruction of Germany, leaving few resources to, for example feed, clothe, and shelter its people, let alone maintain a modern economy.

According to official U.S. government accounting, the U.S. similarly allocates over a fifth (21% in 2007) of its budget to "national defense". According to the War Resisters League, however, adding the military portions from departments other than Defense and the debt and obligations of past military actions and readiness brings the figure to over half: 51% in 2008. Even subtracting past obligations, the figure is 31%, almost one-third of the budget.

The only outcome of that kind of misspending is disaster. Its logic requires ever more build-up which only comes at the expense of a functioning society.

December 8, 2007

Reduce emissions by reducing energy use (duh!)

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has released its study of the economic impact of a federal Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), which is being debated in the U.S. Congress as part of new energy legislation. The ACEEE found that the RES would lower electricity prices, primarily by reducing demand rather than by adding renewable energy plants.

The RES, which is allegedly meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but instead simply calls for 15% of electricity sales by 2020 to be from renewable sources, allows 27% (why not all, as in Canada?) of the requirement to be met by efficiency improvement, i.e., actually reducing use. The ACEEE assumes the 4% efficiency will be used, and that's where the savings are -- in both prices and emissions.

The ACEEE underscores this by analyzing another scenario that would combine a 15% RES with a 15% efficiency requirement, finding very much greater savings.

That is not surprising. Requiring purchases of renewable energy does nothing towards the goal of reducing greenhouse gas and other emissions or of reducing the use of dwindling or sociopolitically problematic energy sources. It is like a diet regimen that says every time you eat a dish of ice cream you have to eat a carrot (or pay someone else to eat a carrot).

In Canada, Alberta requires a 12% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2014. A similar federal rule is expected to take effect in 2010.

The U.S., in contrast, only adds tax giveaways to the carrot industry to those for the ice cream companies. Cutting down is bad for business.