May 9, 2006


My modest solutions, such as spreading straw and growing clover, create no pollution. They are effective because they eliminate the source of the problem. Until the modern faith in big technological solutions can be overturned, pollution will only get worse.

-- Masanobu Fukuoka
The One-Straw Revolution

environment, environmentalism, anarchism, ecoanarchism

May 8, 2006

Against wind power in Skye

Responding to the recruitment by the opposition group SWAG of notorious defense lawyer Giovanni di Stefano, Moira Macdonald of Skeabost and District Community Council (which has been hoping to get their own industrial wind plant) reminded the BBC today that a ballot of Edinbane residents last July found 57% in favor of the ill-conceived wind power facility in northern Skye:
"It is clear that there are people within the community who are ignoring the wishes of the majority and attempting to enforce their own minority view by any means possible."
As with all such surveys, the majority will not be directly effected by the wind turbines. As with all issues of civil rights, it is the experience of the minority that must be considered. Also crucial is the impact on those who have no voice at all: the animals. It is therefore not to be dismissed that 30% of the respondents were against the project. The only votes that should matter are of the people who must live with the machines every day. Or perhaps Mrs. Macdonald believes in the mob rule instead.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, anarchism, animal rights

May 7, 2006

Offshore wind power construction harms dolphins

The noise of construction at offshore wind power facilities adversely affects dolphin behavior, according to research published in the quarterly Water and Environment Journal. The author, J.A. David, writes that industrial noise, particularly pile driving, interferes with the dolphins' echo-location and thus their ability to navigate, find food, and avoid predators. This can seriously impair their health and their ability to breed successfully. Lactating females and young calves are especially vulnerable.

This paper may be part of on-going research by industry and government in the U.K. into the impacts of large offshore wind power facilities. Its focus is the unique noises of construction and does not examine the effects of vibration and noise from the regular operation of the giant machines. One recalls the story from last year about hundreds of seals apparently affected by the wind turbines on Scroby Sands, with babies being born dead and live ones being abandoned.

One also wonders where Greenpeace is on this issue.

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

May 6, 2006

Conservation Law Foundation ignores standards

The Associated Press report of Thursday's arguments before the Vermont Public Service Board over constructing wind turbines in East Haven (for which the hearing officer recommended denial of permission) describes the testimony of one supporter of the project.
Sandra Levine, a CLF [Conservation Law Foundation] lawyer, told the board she frequently climbs Hunger Mountain in Worcester, which is near her home. From the summit, she can see ski trails and power lines. She wanted to know why those weren't visual blight but wind power is. "I'm concerned now that we're holding wind turbines to a higher standard," Levine said.
Is she now a supporter of ski trails and power lines? Would she support developing the top of Hunger Mountain with ski trails and power lines? Would she support a line of 250-foot-high towers with 150-foot-long rotating wings attached to bus-sized generator housings, all anchored in huge holes filled with thousands of tons of cement and steel -- along with strong and straight access roads and power lines and clearcutting -- on the top of Hunger Mountain, or all along the Worcester and Northfield mountains?

Wind turbines are not being held to a higher standard. They are huge and uniquely intrusive (don't forget the noise and vibration and the effect on wildlife as well as humans), and they particularly target ridgelines which are rigorously protected.

We would have to be in desperate straits, and wind power would have to be an incredibly beneficial technology, to consider erecting industrial power plants on the ridgelines. But we have hardly begun to seriously reduce our energy demand, and wind power has in fact proved to be almost useless in supplying the grid. Industrial wind power is a symptom of waste and sprawl, not part of a solution. Rather than being held to higher standards, developers and their agents complain that they are being held to any standards at all.

It is understandable that predatory capitalists, abetted by lazy politicians, push these things. But that organizations like CLF, VPIRG, and Greenpeace willfully fall for the sales pitch is disturbing indeed.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, Vermont, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism

May 5, 2006

Green tags: breathtaking gall, deflating gullibility

Activewear marketer Prana (which means "breath," in the sense of "spirit" or "life-force," in Sanskrit) has clambered on to the "100% wind powered" charade with its "Natural Power" initiative. The goal of offsetting the negative environmental impacts of the company's activities is commendable. The use of renewable energy certificates, or green tags, from wind power, however, makes it a sham.

Even the symbol of the initiative is misleading: an old wind-powered water pump, which never had anything to do with electricity, let alone transport and heating (electricity being only one source of emissions).

Consumer excitement about "offsetting" one's carbon emissions (without, of course, giving anything up except a few spare dollars) is understandable. When it involves actually planting trees, insulating roofs, or switching to compact fluorescents, or even buying renewable energy where one's utility makes it available, it is worthwhile. But the willful self-deception of buying green tags is inexcusable.

On Prana's web site they write, "Wind generated power is a clean, renewable source of energy which produces no greenhouse gas emissions or waste products." That is an obviously simplistic statement. Greenhouse gases and waste are indeed produced during the manufacture, transport, construction, and maintenance of wind turbines. Acres of trees, often in ecologically vital interior forests, are cut down for each tower, access roads, and transmission infrastructure. Hundreds of gallons of lubricating and cooling oil in each turbine must be periodically replaced (and often leaks). The giant rotor blades are often destroyed by wind, lightning, and fire.

Prana goes on to explain how they offset their electricity use (although not the energy used in transport and heating):

Prana has committed to offsetting approximately 6,000,000 kilowatt hours, or 100% of the electricity generated to power 250 retail locations nationwide by supporting the generation of an equal amount of renewable energy by purchasing US EPA approved Renewable Energy Certificates, also known as 'RECs' or 'Green Tags'. ...

Generating electricity from wind still costs more than generating it from fossil fuel sources, in spite of exciting advancement in wind energy technology [i.e., the towers and rotor blades get bigger --Ed.]. The additional funds provided to renewable energy generators through the purchase of certificates by Prana and others provide critical additional financial incentive for project expansion and future development.
There it is: The sale of green tags simply provides an extra income stream to the generator. It does not add wind power to the grid. It does not offset anything, because the energy (along with the benefits it represents) has entered the grid anyway. It's lovely to donate extra money to wind power companies (such as GE, Florida Power & Light, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan) if you believe they need it or you think it relieves your energy-use guilt. But you cannot claim that you are offsetting the electricity you use (which doesn't change). You cannot claim that you are "100% wind powered."

The purchase of green tags does not cause any more or less wind power to enter the grid. Nor does it cause any more or less conventional power to be used. As Prana themselves clarify, "The electricity will continue to be uninterrupted even when the wind isn't blowing. As always, the retail locations are still connected to the respective regional electricity systems."

Enron invented the accounting trick that allows separating the actual energy generated by a renewable source from its "environmental attributes." This essentially allowed them to sell wind energy twice. Prana uncritically describes this absurd fraud:
Renewable energy has two components: the energy commodity and the corresponding green power attribute. The Energy Commodity is the actual electricity produced at facilities that generate the renewable electricity. The electricity generated is sold as conventional/generic (market) power stripped of its environmental benefits, or attributes. No environmental claims can be made on this power, because it is separate from the associated environmental benefits that are at the center of a Renewable Energy Certificate.
In other words, the energy goes into the grid whether or not its green tags are sold, but it's only "green" when the tags are sold. It's magic!

And although the energy is already used, only the buyers of the green tags, which cost a fraction of what the actual energy costs, get to be able to say they "use green energy." Elaborate accreditation and certification processes ensure that none of the many brokers blunder and knock over the house of cards.

Prana again:
It is not possible to send the electricity directly to store facilities or any other specific end user location because of the nature of the electricity grid. ... Once renewable electricity is delivered to the electric grid, it mixes with power from other generating plants. This means the actual electricity generated from 'green' sources cannot be directed to a specific home or business.
Either the energy has environmental benefits or it doesn't. If it does, that is because it enters the grid, not because RECs are sold. (sigh)

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, Vermont, environment, environmentalism, sustainability, green energy, green living, green business, carbon offset, ecoanarchism

May 3, 2006

Wind energy promoters take advantage of state-issued Non-Veracity Licenses

On energy giant Gruppo UPC's Sheffield Wind site, the following statements are made: "More people turned out for the non-binding referendum in support of UPC’s project in Sheffield than voted in the last presidential election. A strong majority [sic] voted in favor of the project (120-93). An opinion poll conducted after the election showed that people favored the project because it provided clean, renewable energy and a positive economic impact for the town."

Notice the trickiness of that last sentence. It does not say that the poll corroborated the vote but only describes the reasons given for those who "favored" the project.

In fact, the question was whether one would like to see none, less, the same, or more wind development in Sheffield. It was part of a general survey along with other items such as agriculture and cell towers and the reasons one chooses to live in the town (or township, as it would be called in other places). In contrast to UPC's statement, it did not specify the project. The level of wind development in Sheffield is currently none, so UPC's agents campaigned vigorously to make sure people understood that support of their project required a "more" vote.

Nevertheless, the result was that only 40% (69 of 173) wanted to to see wind development. Forty-five percent (78 of 173) clearly chose "none," and the rest chose "less" (8) or "the same" (18), which meant in effect "none." Hence the slipperiness of the statement on the UPC web site. And even that is dishonest, because the survey gave no indication of the reasons people made their choices. UPC's spin is simple projection of their, well, their own spin.

That 2-1 rejection of industrial-scale wind power corroborated a survey the year before in which 79% of the residents and property owners -- 346 out of 436 -- signed a petition from Ridge Protectors against UPC's project.

The vote of 120-93 (56%-44%, hardly a "strong" majority) was clearly the aberration, and it followed a "grass roots" organizing campaign run by a Burlington advertising firm hired by UPC and apparent outright vote buying. The developer's tactics clearly served as a wake-up call, and the vote was corrected in the subsequent poll.

Another example on the web site of the developer's deceit is hidden in their output projections. By calculating back, one can determine that they are based on a capacity factor of 32%, even though the actual experience in the U.S., including Vermont, is less than four-fifths of that, around 25%.

As a correspondent from Malone, N.Y., has quipped, wind power promoters carry a Non-Veracity License (NVL) stamped for a nominal fee by the secretary of state. That's why they're taken seriously. The law requires that they not be questioned.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, Vermont, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism