December 30, 2009

There Is Plenty of Renewable Energy -- Just Take It

This comment was sent to us, responding to a vapid article by Jurriaan Kamp at Huffington Post:

"Renewable" energy -- as opposed to fossil or fissile fuels -- are those that the earth is already using. When humans take it, whether it's water, wind, or sunlight, we are taking it from other living things. In that sense, though "alternative", renewable energy is not green.

It is also, except for hydro, not efficient, requiring massive machines over huge areas to collect the diffuse resource. And without traditional thermal backup, it requires equal buildup of means of storage, which not only adds to the adverse environmental impact but also drastically reduces efficiency yet more.

Meaningful carbon and pollution taxes would not bring in renewables any more than current subsidies do. But they might inspire more conservation and efficiency, a result that would truly help the planet, not just "transform" our means of exploitation.

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

December 29, 2009

Wind Turbines and Health Disputes

In an editorial at, Bill Opalka describes Nina Pierpont's recently published case series describing wind turbine syndrome and the consequent pushback by the American and Canadian Wind Energy Associations. Unfortunately, a few members of their "expert panel" have written in clear support of Pierpont's findings. Opalka also notes their statement that "for 30 years, people have been living near the more than 50,000 wind turbines operating in Europe and the more than 30,000 in North America, with few people experiencing ill effects." A correspondent sent us her comment:
Case studies vs. review

If Pierpont's work is new, then the industry's (self-published) review of earlier published work, much of it not specific to wind turbines, is not a convincing refutation. The point is that it is indeed a newly described phenomenon.

As for the statement that people have lived near wind turbines for decades with few complaints, it should also be noted that: 1) most of those turbines are much smaller and much farther from residences than those now being built in North America and the U.K. (and even so, Dutch and Swedish studies have found remarkable levels of annoyance and sleep disturbance, both of which they describe as an adverse health effect); 2) lease and neighbor easement contracts, signed in the innocence of industry reasurances, generally include gag orders against making problems public; and 3) many properties near wind turbine facilities are bought by the company because of health complaints, as, e.g., last year in Dufferin County, Ontario, with the imposition of new gag orders.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

December 25, 2009

Are there no prisons?

Paul Krugman wants us to know ("Tidings of Comfort", New York Times, Dec. 24) that the health insurance bailout bill just passed by the Senate is a great progressive act. He notes that if Tiny Tim can keep from getting sick until 2014, some yet-to-be-defined subsidies will help his family pay for some of his insurance, which they very likely will still not be able to afford (the company will be required to cover his preexisting condition by being allowed to charge more for it), for which crime they will be fined in true Scrooge-like fashion -- "to make America a much better country".

Krugman, who has written about the feasibility of both single-payer insurance (Medicare) and socialized medicine (Veterans Administration), now scolds "progressives" -- i.e., 70% of the American people in poll after poll who want a government-run single-payer system -- that "politics is the art of the possible". Krugman is an economist and knows that every other country in the world that has established universal health care has done so first by making it not for profit. The senate bill allows insurance companies to apply 20% (but no more!) of what they take in to "administrative" costs, mainly profits, bonuses, and dividends. In most universal-care countries, they are limited to 5%, and it is often less. Yet it is not possible that Americans should at least be able to choose an efficient public plan.

He thus gives up the fight (admonishing anybody who doesn't), happy to accept the Senate bill as law, to ignore or criticize what actually is possible. As Krugman points out: "There is a narrow [Congressional] majority in favor of a plan with a moderately strong public option. The House has passed such a plan." And there are likely 50 votes for it in the Senate. And, as already mentioned, there is a strong majority of the public in favor. Instead of crying about the rules of the Senate and fetishizing the need for 60 votes, and blaming the American people for not being impressed with the massive sell-out so far, Krugman should admonish both Harry Reid and Barack Obama for letting the assholes run the game.

The "possible" in Krugman's eyes is limited to what the lobbyists deem to be so. But Obama, at least, was elected in the hope that he would listen to the people first. Our bad! Shut up and be joyful! Paul Krugman brings you glad tidings that your betters have protected themselves royally so that someday they can help you a little bit maybe. More crumbs, please, sir.

December 22, 2009

Moving steel production from U.K. to India saves the planet

Before Rajendra Pachauri became head of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he was director and then director-general of the Tata Energy Research Institute, later called "The" Energy Research Institute, or TERI, which is essentially a division of the Indian industrial conglomerate the Tata Group. And he still is. TERI now has branches worldwide. In North America, its corporate sponsors include Amoco, two leading U.S. defense contractors, Monsanto, and two world leaders in the international carbon market, according to Christopher Booker and Richard North in the Independent (click the title of this post).

Under the "Clean Development Mechanism" of the Kyoto accord, which will be replaced by an even more lucrative scheme by the Copenhagen agreement, the Tata Group is transfering steel production from a Corus (which it owns) plant in the U.K. to a new one in India, putting 1,700 British workers on the dole and earning itself a potential £1.2 billion in carbon credits. Pachauri has apparently managed to convince people that emitting your carbon in a "developing" country is better than doing it in a "rich" country. And that his countless industry connections are not a conflict of interest but rather a sign of his fervent commitment to fighting climate change. Of course, rich countries have always transfered as much of their dirty business as possible to poorer countries. But they never pretended that it was saving the planet.

December 20, 2009

Destroying forests to save carbon emissions

"Clear-Cutting the Truth About Trees", Bernd Heinrich, New York Times op-ed, Dec. 20, 2009:

Part of the problem is the public misunderstanding of how forests and carbon relate. Trees are often called a “carbon sink” — implying that they will sop up carbon from the atmosphere for all eternity. This is not true: the carbon they take up when they are alive is released after they die, whether from natural causes or by the hand of man. The only true solution to achieving global “carbon balance” is to leave the fossil carbon where it is — underground.

Beyond that, planting more trees is decidedly not the same thing as saving our forests. Instead, planting trees invariably means using them as a sustainable crop, which leads not only to a continuous cycle of carbon releases, but also to the increased destruction of our natural environment. ...

In fact, most of the problems with the system can be traced back to the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1997. After much political wrangling, the Kyoto delegates decided that there would be no carbon-reduction credits for saving existing forests. Since planting new trees does get one credits, Kyoto actually created a rationale for clear-cutting old growth.

This is horrifying. The world’s forests are a key to our survival, and that of millions of other species. Not only are they critical to providing us with building material, paper, food, recreation and oxygen, they also ground us spiritually and connect us to our primal past. Never before in earth’s history have our forests been under such attack. And the global-warming folks at Copenhagen seem oblivious, buying into the corporate view of forests as an exploitable resource.

A forest is an ecosystem. It is not something planted. A forest grows on its own. There are many kinds of forests that will grow practically anywhere, each under its own special local conditions. When a tree falls, the race is on immediately to replace it. In the forests I study, there so many seeds and seedlings that if a square foot of ground space opens up, more than a hundred trees of many different species compete to grow there.

So if you want to plant a specific species of tree for lumber or for offsets, you’ll have to apply an (petroleum-based) herbicide repeatedly over its lifespan. If you hope to make a profit, you will plant a tree genetically engineered to grow quickly and resist disease. This is the path to domestication of a plant that needs to be ever coddled with fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. And not coincidentally, there will then be a market for its seeds, and all the chemicals needed to coddle the crop.

In the end, what was originally intended as a mechanism for slowing global warming has created huge economic pressure for ecocide. And there will be no objections from easily duped bleeding- heart “environmentalists,” who absolutely love tree planting because it sounds so “green.”

To preserve something it first has to be valued, and the most effective means of valuing it is to have a practical use for it. If the discussions in Copenhagen were any indication, mankind sees little value in forests, but much in tree plantations. ...

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, ecoanarchism

December 16, 2009

Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects

In contrast to the latest effort by the Canadian and American Wind Energy Associations to assert otherwise ("Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects: An Expert Panel Review" (December 2009), read what a couple members of their expert panel said before they tapped into the wind industry money pipeline.

1. "A Review of Published Research on Low Frequency Noise and Its Effects", Report for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (U.K.) by Dr Geoff Leventhall, assisted by Dr Peter Pelmear and Dr Stephen Benton, May 2003 [excerpts]

8. Annoyance

8.2.4 Annoyance and the dBA. A comparison of a band of noise peaking at 250Hz with a band peaking at 100Hz, whilst both were adjusted to the same A-weighted level, showed that the annoyance from the low frequency noise was greater than that from the higher frequency noise at the same A-weighted level (Persson et al., 1985). This work was subsequently extended (Persson and Bjorkman, 1988; Persson et al., 1990) using a wider range of noises, for example, peaking at 80Hz, 250Hz. 500Hz and 1000Hz, leading to the following conclusions:

There is a large variability between subjects.

The dBA underestimates annoyance for frequencies below about 200Hz.

10. Low frequency noise and stress

10.1 Low frequency noise and cortisol secretion. It is difficult to measure stress directly, but cortisol secretion has been used as a stress indicator (Ising and Ising, 2002; Persson-Waye et al., 2002; Persson-Waye et al., 2003). Under normal circumstances, cortisol levels follow a distinct circadian pattern in which the diurnal variation of cortisol is to drop to very low levels during the early morning sleep period, rising towards the awakening time. The rise continues until about 30 minutes after awakening, followed by a fall until midday and further fluctuations. Stress disrupts the normal cortisol pattern.

Ising and Ising (2002) discuss how noise, perceived as a threat , stimulates release of cortisol. This also occurs during sleep, thus increasing the level of night cortisol, which may interrupt recreative and other qualities of sleep. Measurements were made of the effect on children who, because of traffic changes, had become exposed to a high level of night lorry noise. There were two groups of subjects, exposed to high and low noise levels. The indoor noise spectrum for high levels typically peaked at around 60Hz, at 65dB, with a difference of maximum LC and LA of 26dB. The difference of average levels was 25dB, thus indicating a low frequency noise problem. Children exposed to the higher noise levels in the sample had significantly more problems with concentration, memory and sleep and also had higher cortisol secretions. Conclusions of the work were that the A-weighting is inadequate and that safer limits are needed for low frequency noise at night.

Perrson Waye et al (2003), studied the effect on sleep quality and wakening of traffic noise ( 35dB LAeq, 50dB LAmax) and low frequency noise (40dB LAeq). The low frequency noise peaked at 50Hz with a level of 70dB. In addition to cortisol determinations from saliva samples, the subjects completed questionnaires on their quality of sleep, relaxation and social inclinations. The main findings of the study were that levels of the cortisol awakening response were depressed after exposure to low frequency noise and that this was associated with tiredness and a negative mood.

In a laboratory study of noise sensitive subjects performing work tasks, it was found that enhanced salivary cortisol levels were produced by exposure to low frequency noise (Persson-Waye et al., 2002). A finding was that subjects who were sensitive to low frequency noise generally maintained higher cortisol levels and also had impaired performance. A hypothesis from the study is that changes in cortisol levels, such as produced by low frequency noise, may have a negative influence on health, heightened by chronic noise exposure. The three studies reviewed above show how low frequency noise disturbs the normal cortisol pattern during night, awakening and daytime exposure. The disturbances are associated with stress related effects.

[ [ [
Related to this is the finding from a Dutch study released last year that: "the sound of wind turbines causes relatively much annoyance. The sound is perceived at relatively low levels and is thought to be more annoying than equally loud air or road traffic" ("Visual and acoustic impact of wind turbine farms on residents", by Frits van den Berg, Eja Pedersen, Jelte Bouma, and Roel Bakker, June 3, 2008). This was the final report of the European Union–financed WINDFARMperception study. It is not cited in the new CanWEA/AWEA paper. See also a note from September that in this study, only 9% of the respondents lived with estimated outdoor noise level from wind turbines of more than 45 dBA. It is also noted that in an oft-cited (including in this latest CanWEA/AWEA work) Swedish study (Pedersen and Persson Waye, 2007), the average outdoor noise level was only 33.4 ± 3.0 dBA and the average distance to the nearest wind turbine, which could be as small as 500 kW in size, was 2,559 ± 764 ft (780 ± 233 m) -- the finding of few health effects is hardly relevant to the common North American situation of much closer construction of much much larger machines; in fact, the findings of significant annoyance and sleep disturbance (both of which have adverse health effects) under such "amenable" conditions should ring alarm bells about giant erections closer to homes, not to mention their effect on wildlife.
] ] ]

13. General Review of Effects of Low Frequency Noise on Health

13.2 Effects on humans. Infrasound exposure is ubiquitous in modern life. It is generated by natural sources such as earthquakes and wind. It is common in urban environments, and as an emission from many artificial sources: automobiles, rail traffic, aircraft, industrial machinery, artillery and mining explosions, air movement machinery including wind turbines [emphasis added], compressors, and ventilation or air-conditioning units, household appliances such as washing machines, and some therapeutic devices. The effects of infrasound or low frequency noise are of particular concern because of its pervasiveness due to numerous sources, efficient propagation, and reduced efficiency of many structures (dwellings, walls, and hearing protection) in attenuating low-frequency noise compared with other noise.

13.6 Conclusion. There is no doubt [emphasis added] that some humans exposed to infrasound experience abnormal ear, CNS, and resonance induced symptoms that are real and stressful. If this is not recognised by investigators or their treating physicians, and properly addressed with understanding and sympathy, a psychological reaction will follow and the patientís problems will be compounded. Most subjects may be reassured that there will be no serious consequences to their health from infrasound exposure and if further exposure is avoided they may expect to become symptom free.

2. "Application of Sumas Energy 2 Generation Facility: Prefiled Testimony of David M. Lipscomb, Ph.D., Before the State of Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council", June 2000 [excerpt]

Q: Are you familiar with the effects of noise on public health?

Ans: Yes. In addition to my work with the U. S. EPA, I have attended and made presentations to numerous International Congresses on Noise as a Public Health Problem. They include 1968 (Washington, D.C.); 1973 (Dubrovnic, Yugoslavia); 1978 (Friburg, Germany) and 1982 (Turin, Italy). These were gatherings of active researchers on the topic from around the world. Proceedings of the Congresses were produced and are contained in my library.

Q: Could you describe some of these effects?

Ans: Yes. The effects include loss of sleep, hearing damage, irritability, exacerbation of nervous and cardiovascular disorders, and frustration stemming from loss of control of one’s acoustical environment.

Q: Is a person able to control the physical reaction within their body to sound?

Ans: Only to a limited extent. Dr. Samuel Rosen, formerly physician at New York City’s Mt. Sinai Hospital stated: “You may be able to ignore noise – but your body will never forgive you.” The truth in this statement is that “coping” is a fatiguing activity. Therefore, the energy spent in coping with environmental noise or the frustrations it produces, is robbed from energy desired for other forms of activity.

Q: At what sound levels would your expect to see reactions of effects of noise?

Ans: Surprisingly small sound levels can cause certain reactions. For example, sleep studies have shown that subjects will shift two or three levels of sleep when the environmental sound is increased only 5 dB. Thus, a person in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM), the fifth stage of sleep, when the bedroom sound level is 35 dBA, will shift out of that essential level of sleep when the sound increases only to about 40 dBA. As a result, this negative health effect is known to lead to chronic fatigue and irritability.

Q: Could you please explain the effect of noise at night in residential areas?

Ans: Yes, recall that I mentioned low-frequency noise entering a house almost unimpeded. If that noise source is the predominant sound in a bedroom, any change in the sound level can influence a person’s sleep level, therefore, reducing the adequacy of rest afforded by sleep. Further, the noise source, if it is from the power generation plant, serves as a masking noise. That is, it covers up other sounds to which one may need to attend. For example, sounds from a child’s bedroom.

Q: Could you please explain the effect of low frequency noise and how it travels?

Ans: Yes, but to do so, I must introduce the term “wave length”. This is the distance covered by a sound during one cycle. For example, a mid-frequency 1000 Hz sound has a wave length of slightly more than 1-foot. Lower frequency sounds have longer wave lengths. Thus, a 100 Hz sound has slightly more than a 10-foot wave length. The longer the wave length, the more efficient the sound is in penetrating barriers such as walls of a structure. For the purposes of this investigation, I would define low frequency sounds as those falling below 100 Hz. Perhaps you have experienced life in an apartment when a neighbor plays a stereo loudly. The sound that penetrated to your quarters was the bass (low frequency sound). Also due to the wave length characteristics, low frequency sounds dissipate less over distance than do sounds of higher frequency.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

December 13, 2009

"This sentence is dangerous"

The Den Brook Judicial Review Group were recently successful in a Freedom of Information request to obtain drafts of a government-contracted report about noise levels from wind turbine facilities: "The measurement of low frequency noise at three UK wind farms" by Hayes McKenzie Partnership Ltd. for the (former) Department of Trade and Industry, 2006, contract no. W/45/00656/00/00; URN no. 06/1412. See the material posted at National Wind Watch, by courtesy of the Den Brook Judicial Review Group.

3rd draft, page 35:
It is important to note, however, that for Site 1: Location 1, the occupant complained of wind turbine noise only after being woken by the passage of a motor vehicle on the nearby A-Class road. As such, this indicates that, rather than wind turbine noise resulting in noise which is of sufficient level as to awaken a sleeping person, it is the inability to return to sleep associated with some audible wind turbine noise within the bedroom which is of more concern to that occupant. A difficulty in returning to sleep will result in tiredness the next day and all the associated descriptions of ill health which might be associated with a lack of sleep – this sentence is dangerous and could be read that windfarms cause ill-health which is not the intention. We need the report to stick to the facts that LFN is bleow the guidelines but that once woken by a car there may be problems getting gback to sleep for those with sensitive hearing as result of the windfarm – something like that.[Personal Details/Name of official removed under Reg 12(3) of the EIRs]
In the final report, page 48, the "dangerous" sentence has been deleted.

It is also interesting to note how the conclusion statements regarding aerodynamic modulation changed from draft to final report:

3rd draft, pages 45-46 (essentially the same from 2nd draft, not yet written in 1st draft):
The common cause of complaints associated with wind turbine noise at all three wind farms is the audible modulation of the aerodynamic noise, especially at night. Although the internal noise levels associated with this noise source are not high enough to result in the awakening of a resident, once awoken the audibility of this noise results in difficulties in returning to sleep.

The analysis of the external and internal noise levels indicates that it may be appropriate to re-visit the issue of the absolute night-time noise criterion specified within ETSU-R-97. To provide protection to wind farm neighbours, it would seem appropriate to reduce the absolute noise criterion for periods when background noise levels are low. In the absence of high levels of modulation, then a level of 38 dB LA90 (40 dB LAeq) will reduce levels to an internal noise level which lies around or below 30 dB LAeq with windows open for ventilation. In the presence of high levels of aerodynamic modulation of the incident noise, then a correction for the presence of the noise should be considered.
Final report, page 67 (deletions indicated, and additions in italics):
The common cause of complaints associated with wind turbine noise at all three wind farms is not associated with low frequency noise, but is the audible modulation of the aerodynamic noise, especially at night. Although the internal noise levels associated with this noise source are not high enough to result in the awakening of a resident, once awoken the audibility of this noise can results in difficulties in returning to sleep. It is also not uncommon for a wind farm to be identified as a cause of the awakening although noise levels and the measurements/recordings indicate to the contrary.

The analysis of the external and internal noise levels indicates that it may be appropriate to re-visit the issue of the absolute night-time noise criterion specified within ETSU-R-97. To provide protection to wind farm neighbours, it would seem appropriate to reduce the absolute noise criterion for periods when background noise levels are low<. In the absence of high levels of modulation, then a level of 38 dB LA90 (40 dB LAeq) will reduce levels to an internal noise level which lies around or below 30 dB LAeq with windows open for ventilation aerodynamic modulation and the means by which it should be assessed. In the presence of high levels of aerodynamic modulation of the incident noise, then a correction for the presence of the noise acoustic feature should be considered.
wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights

December 8, 2009

Muhammad Ali on war

"Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No, I'm not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. ... If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people, they wouldn't have to draft me, I'd join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I'll go to jail, so what? We've been in jail for 400 years."

December 6, 2009

Trim costs of wind power: Don't build 'em

Kate Galbraith writes in today's "Green, Inc." column for the New York Times that offshore wind is moving along: first example, Denmark's starting the operation of Horns Rev 2, the world’s largest offshore wind farm, in September. That project represents the first addition of wind capacity in Denmark since 2003. In November, it had already ceased operation due to problems with the transmission connections -- which Galbraith forgot to mention.

Horns Rev I, a.k.a Nysted, had expensive problems, too. Every single nacelle (with blade assembly) had to be brought back ashore to replace all of the transformers and generators. Less than 3 years later, it was shut down again because of transformer problems.

Clearly, offshore wind is even more of a boondoggle than onshore wind.

It is also clear that the imperative to build it up is stronger still -- witness the growing number of ads (and even video games) featuring wind turbines featuring wind turbines. This goes hand in hand with corporate support for a cap-and-trade "solution" to carbon emissions: Wind is the absolver. As long as those blades are spinning, someone gets to continue emitting carbon. Build enough of them, and nobody has to change anything about their energy use. With wind on board, coal and oil are clean and green! Even though the reality is that wind is just more of the same making things worse -- for people, for nature, for the economy.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms

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