September 30, 2005

The wind energy way

Like the Republican gangsters (and their Democratic molls) that have taken over our government, Greenpeace appears to believe that an effective way to silence the opposition is to throw out so many lies and non sequiturs that a concise response is impossible.

A staffer from Greenpeace's Washington office, Hallie Caplan, has been firing off letters to local newspapers where wind power battles are being fought. One of them appeared Wednesday in the Caledonian-Record of St. Johnsbury, Vt., beginning, "I am so excited about the windmill that will be erected this week."

As far as I know, there is no "windmill" erection planned in the area.

Then she gushes that "wind energy could supply 20 percent of the U.S.'s electricity from non-renewable hydro sources by 2020."

What is "non-renewable hydro"? Hydropower is generally considered a renewable source. Perhaps she meant "non-hydro renewables" but got jumbled in her excitement about the nonexisting new turbine. (Although the same phrase appears in a letter by her in Tuesday's Miller (S.D.) Press.)

If she meant hydro, then 20% of its 2002 contribution to our electricity is only 1.3%. For this she advocates industrializing Vermont's mountaintops? This is essential to combatting greenhouse gas emissions -- displacing nonpolluting hydro and causing new ecosystem damage?

If she meant non-hydro renewables, it's even more pathetic: 20% of that contribution is less than 0.5% of our electricity.

Despite this weak start, the letter goes on with the usual exaggerated claims of wind's potential, lumps it with other renewables, implies that it does not require 200 acres for every megawatt of output, lumps it with efficiency programs, insists we will save money (Greenpeace the cheap-energy advocate!), and even closes with the promise that the destruction of health and the environment by dirty energy sources "would be eliminated." (Actually Caplan specifies "health care" as one of the externalities to be eliminated, again making response difficult.)

In a similar letter in Monday's Greenfield (Mass.) Recorder, Caplan says, "The wind industry will provide a valuable source of highly skilled manufacturing jobs at a time when outsourcing has become a household word and a serious threat to people across the country." Apparently she hasn't heard about the turbine parts coming to this country from Vietnam, China, Brazil, Mexico, and Korea.

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National Wind Watch

National Wind Watch was founded as a nonprofit corporation in August 2005. The organization will seek to promote knowledge and raise awareness of the risks and damaging environmental impacts of industrial wind turbine development, and will make information and analysis on the subject available through its website,

Here is the press release announcing the new group:

Rowe, MA (September 27, 2005). In response to the accelerating development of industrial wind power plants in the U.S., a coalition of groups and individuals has established a nonprofit organization, National Wind Watch, to better educate the public.

Growing opposition to wind power plants is raising important questions about whether their construction is justified. Significant wildlife and other environmental impacts of wind turbine proliferation are also becoming evident. National Wind Watch aims to disseminate information about the questions and problems associated with wind power, and to provide support to concerned individuals and communities.

NWW President David Roberson states: “Much of the information on wind power plants currently available to the public is propagated by the wind energy industry and associated organizations. It’s onesided, and frequently misleading. Industrial wind has powerful backers, and small communities are often ill equipped to deal with the issues. National Wind Watch will help to remedy that by providing a central resource of information people can use to make more informed decisions.”

The new organization arose from a May 2005 conference of community planners, wildlife biologists, energy experts, and concerned citizens from across the United States. The group identified many widespread misconceptions about the supposed benefits of wind plant development, and also examined the marketing efforts and other strategies of wind energy proponents.
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September 28, 2005

Nine days and seven wind farms

Sue Sliwinski of Sardinia, N.Y., writes:

Over the past nine days and 3,000 miles and seven wind farms, Sandy Swanson and I took many still shots, reams of video, and copious notes and conducted numerous interviews. What's happening is an absolute crime. Every single impact that is denied by developers has been confirmed again and again in wind farm after wind farm. Lovely rural communities are being turned into industrial freak shows. In some places people have just accepted their fate and live with it, not understanding how empowered they actually are by their situations . . . meaning that all they'd have to do is get noisy enough and the developers would stop ignoring them. One told us she's learned how to go outside in her garden and block everything from her mind . . . so as not to be disturbed and frustrated. She said once, on a quiet day (the turbines weren't moving), she heard what sounded like gunshots. She had been blocking everything as she had taught herself to do and suddenly realized the gunshot noises were really coming from the nearest turbine . . . probably contracting as the sun went down.

Scott Srnka from Lincoln Township, Wisconsin, is enduring such awful atrocities, it's very hard to believe they're true. I've even steered clear from his information over the past three years for fear of being accused of using scare tactics. But the guy is rock solid, and anyone who meets him and actually goes to his beautiful farm and sees his beautiful family knows he's the real deal. His neighbors know he's honorable and credible and that his troubles are real . . . it's those of us who hear about his dilemma long distance that doubt the truthfulness when we hear about his deformed cows, his family's health problems, etc. due to severe stray voltage.

Most farmers experience some levels of stray voltage on their farms. But the extenuating circumstances on Scott's farm include a combination of surface rock, no substation for this particular wind farm, and the nearness of the turbines. He and one other dairy farm are being severely impacted, but the other one, right next door, won't admit it because they own the leases for about 10 or 15 of the turbines and don't want to jeopardize that easy money.

Scott is a young man and the farm was his father's and grandfather's before him, but after hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses to try to remedy the problems caused by the wind farm across the street, he's calling it quits and may be moved out by spring. His wife is pregnant with their third child and they are nervous wrecks, though they have gone through every imaginable test to ensure that the baby's been fine right along. He says with the equipment he's installed he knows when it's bad, and when it is they leave the home for a week, maybe two . . . however long it takes to get back to more tolerable levels. Scott says that under the current conditions, he's losing about a thousand dollars a day from what his farm should and would otherwise normally produce.

Bob Bittner [Illinois], a long-time and dedicated opponent who we recently haven't heard much from, was not at home when we visited his lovely farm house . . . also once his father's, now surrounded with 10 turbines within 4,000 ft of his home, with one only 1,300 ft away. His neighbors told Sandy and I that they believe he spent over $250,000 in court battles and ended up signing a deal with the developers that basically said he would quit interfering in exchange for not being sued for all the lost income the company incurred over the 3 or 4 years of legal wrangling he brought.

I left a note in his door, and when I got home there was an e-mail from him for the first time in a very long while saying that since the turbines went up, he and his wife, Sharon, for their peace of mind bought a cabin in the woods about seven miles away to escape the impacts . . . noise, lights shadows . . . . People everywhere are being driven from their homes.

In the Mendota Hills wind farm [Illinois], it's like the twilight zone. There is no life. Almost every home within the boundaries of the wind farm is kept to look as if someone lives there . . . but on close inspection it's clear that no one does. All the lawns are mowed perfectly . . . but most often no flowers are tended. Every house seems to have a chair or two outside in the front yards creating the appearance that people actually plunk their butts down in them to relax once in a while, but they're dirty and unused. Every window and door is closed, with drapes and shades drawn at eye level. There are cars and trucks with current licence plates parked outside of garages or with garage doors open so you can see them. We didn't check for cobwebs in the mailboxes, we wish we had, but they looked rusty and old. Even dogs were kept on leashes in many of the side yards . . . animals that are evidently being visited once a day to be given food and water. I know this all sounds crazy, but to prove it to ourselves, we went back after dark . . . thinking, well maybe everyone was just at work. But inside these houses, only one light burned, shining through greasy grimy windows in spots where curtains were left slightly open to reveal the condition of the glass, and revealing absolutely no movement whatsoever.

We heard about connectors that were not supposed to be used, but were indeed and have since blown holes -- small craters -- in roads and fields. The stories we've been told all echo each other. There are many children involved. Some, such as in Lincoln Township, have grown up knowing nothing but life with wind turbines. People have been bought off where they're fighting. A family's teenage daughter totaled her car in an accident with wind equipment on a foggy day and then had to fight to get reimbursed! Another says that her little kids are terrified by the noise and can't fall asleep when conditions are bad, such as on rainy nights. Their nearest turbine is 1,000 feet from the bedroom window. Another older woman says, through tears, that her town, where she was born and raised and where her family farm still exists, has been ruined.

Story after story after story . . . .

Lights, shadows, noise, TV and phone interruption, gawkers, accidents, lost views and plummeting property values, and more . . . all on tape, video, and still shots. We felt sick at the end of every day . . . like we had to get away and take a break from the twirling blades and the surreal atmosphere and our sadness for all these families.

It felt so good to get home and step out of the car into this beautiful environment that Sardinia still is and hopefully will stay for years to come. So . . . now we have to figure out how best to use all this information, and not let a smidgen go to waste, because all these families living in these inconceivable conditions deserve no less.

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September 27, 2005

Some errors concerning Danish energy

To the Editor, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.):

Tapan Munroe is right that we have much to learn from Denmark about efficient energy use, but a couple of statements in his Sept. 25 piece are incorrect.

Where he writes, "Nearly 20 percent of the country's energy comes from wind power," it should be noted that wind turbines produce only electricity, which represents only 18.3% of Denmark's total energy use according to an energy flow chart for 2003 from the Danish Energy Authority. Twenty percent of the electricity therefore represents less than 4% of the total energy.

But because the turbines produce power in response to the wind rather than actual demand, much of it -- 84% of western Denmark's wind production in 2003, by one analysis -- has to be exported (i.e., dumped) because it is not needed. Despite a landscape already saturated with turbines, it appears therefore that they produce only about 3% of the electricity Denmark uses.

Munroe also implies that Denmark's economy is not fossil fuel based. In fact, they are more fossil fuel based than the U.S. According to the Danish energy flow chart, 93.6% of their energy supply is from oil, natural gas, and coal. Much of the oil and natural gas is exported, and all of the coal is imported. In balance, fossil fuels (primarily coal) supply 89.1% of the total energy Denmark uses and 88.3% of its electricity.

In comparison, an energy flow chart from the U.S. Department of Energy for 2002 shows that fossil fuels are the source of 88.0% of our total energy and 69.6% of our electricity.

The Danes use their energy much more wisely and don't have domestic nuclear power, but they are nonetheless very much reliant on fossil fuels, and large-scale wind power has hardly changed a thing other than ruining the countryside.

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September 25, 2005

Must. Stay. The. Course.

Phil Donahue recently made Bill O'Reilly flinch during his Fox show, The O'Reilly Factor, as transcribed at Counterpunch.

O'Reilly has admitted that the occupation of Iraq has not gone well. But he clings to the idea that it is necessary to "the war on terror." That is, since we turned Iraq into a terrorist free-for-all, we have to stay the course -- which will obviously have the effect of keeping it a terrorist free-for-all. This failure, this making things worse, in O'Reilly's mind, as in so many others, is the reason we can't just leave.

I am uncomfortable conflating the Bush's murderous wars with wind power developers (though Bush himself is tight with former wind pioneer Enron (making Texas a "showcase" for a while) and off-shore wind facility builder and war profiteer Halliburton), but both of them worry me (to put it mildly) and both of them are supported by a wide range of fellow citizens despite negative evidence.

I recently read in the comment section of an article at In These Times the same illogic for continuing wind development as Bill O'Reilly's for staying in Iraq. Namely, evidence that it has not worked is precisely the reason it must be expanded.

O'Reilly et al. chant "war on terror" to fend off reality, and the supporters of industrial wind chant "climate change." They understandably need to believe that we are doing something about a real problem. The need appears to be stronger than any desire to honestly assess the effects of what they support.

Few people easily switch from belief in an idea to realization of its sham (the rise and fall of celebrities provides a redirection of that need). So they more strongly assert the belief, as if to convince themselves, as if to make the doubt, and even the evidence, go away.

War on terror! Climate change! Must. Stay. The. Course.

Meanwhile, nothing changes except for the worse. The sham continues. (The "neocons" rationalize such policies of lies as "creative destruction"!)

By the way, Donahue brought up a chilling parallel, saying that two things related to Iraq have doubled in the past year: the number of Americans killed, and Halliburton's stock price.

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September 22, 2005

"We have made enough mess there already"

"They told you Britain must invade Iraq because of its weapons of mass destruction. They were wrong. Now they say British troops must stay in Iraq because otherwise it will collapse into chaos. ... America left Vietnam and Lebanon to their fate. They survived. We left Aden and other colonies. Some, such as Malaya and Cyprus, saw bloodshed and partition. We said rightly that this was their business. So too is Iraq for the Iraqis. We have made enough mess there already."

--Simon Jenkins, The Guardian (U.K.), Sept. 21, 2005

Join a demonstration this Saturday, Sept. 24, to raise your voice in the U.S. (while it's still allowed) against continuing our ridiculous and deadly escapade in Iraq and for the impeachment and conviction of George W. Bush for crimes against humanity (or at least grave dishonesty and incompetence and destruction of our nation if not others).

September 21, 2005

Senators not worried about John Roberts

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont has announced his support of John Roberts for the Supreme Court, saying, "I can only take him at his word that he does not have an ideological agenda."

Yet Roberts' whole career has involved crafting words for an extreme ideological agenda. He has found Robert Bork, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and William Rehnquist too soft in his efforts in the Reagan and Bush I administrations to prevent the implementation of civil rights laws. He is opposed to the most important role of the Court: protection of the equal rights of minorities.

See the article by William Taylor in the current New York Review of Books for a summary of what a monster John Roberts really is. Of course, the Senators can live with him on the Court. His actions don't affect them, so why not collaborate?

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