March 29, 2007

Wind Energy in the Third World

It has just been announced that Energias de Portugal (EDP) is buying Horizon Wind Energy from Goldman Sachs (for $2.15 billion, twice what Goldman Sachs paid for it less than 2 years ago). This follows the purchase of Community Energy and PPM Energy (the latter through its purchase of Scottish Power) by Spanish energy giant Iberdrola.

Other foreign companies active in U.S. wind energy development include Ireland's Airtricity, Spain's Gamesa and Naturener, Australia's Babcock & Brown, Electricité de France (via Enxco), Nedpower of The Netherlands, Shell, BP, and the various UPC Wind companies funded by European investors through Italian parent UPC Group.

Beyond the fact that prospects for wind energy expansion are drying up in Europe while subsidies in the U.S. can cover up to 75% of the cost of erecting a wind energy facility, might there be another reason for so much foreign investment in wind energy?

Spain's Iberdrola is also erecting wind turbines in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca. Spanish regulators have ruled that the electricity produced there can be applied towards Spain's Kyoto (and now E.U.) obligations. That's because Mexico is exempt from the Kyoto accord.

The U.S. has not signed on to the Kyoto accord and has not established similar requirements. As in Mexico, might the foreign owners of wind energy facilities in the U.S. be intending to claim the "renewable energy credits" for their own countries?

Thus, all that industrialization of rural and wild landscapes, the fragmentation and degradation of natural habitat, the destruction of wildlife, and the wrecking of people's peaceful enjoyment of their homes would not even serve to meet the goals of expanded renewable energy established in many states.

This ineffective tokenism is also seen in the misdirected effort of renewable portfolio standards. The goal, as with the Kyoto accord, is to reduce emissions from fossil fuels. But the requirement is only to add non-carbon sources of electricity (and ignoring transport, heating, and industry uses of fossil fuels).

If the goal is indeed to reduce emissions, then that should be the requirement.

Spain will not be reducing its carbon emissions by building giant turbines in Mexico. Yet they will nonetheless be credited for doing so, based only on the production from those turbines without any proof of a corresponding reduction of fossil fuels even in Mexico, let alone in Spain.

It appears that much of the U.S. has become a third-world country as well, ripe for exploitation by global capitalists as well as our own "developers."

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

Oil is for transport and heating, not electricity

Farnham Woods comments on an idiotic article in yesterday's Salon:

Only about 3% of the electricity in the U.S. is generated from oil, and that's mostly from sludge left over after refining.

Mandelstam keeps talking about the newness of wind on the grid but also notes that Europe has 15 years of experience with it. That experience is notably missing from this article. Europe is still using fossil fuels at the same rate as ever. Germany, the world's leader in wind capacity, has 26 new coal plants planned. Denmark, the per-capita leader, hasn't put up a new turbine since 2004. In Spain, with the third largest wind plant, energy giant Iberdrola is moving much of its investment to North America. Wind has proven to be a dead end. It has proven to be an expensive, destructive boondoggle.

Also missing from this article is any hint that opposition is not limited to the rich protecting their ocean views. In fact, there are hundreds of opposition groups around the world, many of them in poor rural communities, protecting the only thing of value they have -- peace and quiet -- from sprawling industrial plants. Opposition includes indigenous communities in Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, and India -- all fighting not a "green alternative" but the same predatory developers they have always had to fight.

Finally, the claim that birds are not threatened by "modern" turbines is belied by the continuing fact of their deaths. The Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society in New York recently acquired the draft report of the first-year study of bird and bat deaths at the 120-turbine facility in Lewis County. The company-sponsored survey estimated that at least 3,000 to 6,000 birds and bats were killed by the turbines last year. The rpm of the turbine blades is indeed lower, but they now sweep a vertical area of 1 to 2 acres with tip speeds of 150-200 mph. And the much higher towers put them into the paths of many more migrating birds.

Nobody questions the obvious problems with coal. But no matter how many giant wind turbines we build, it will unfortunately not reduce our use of coal one lump.

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

March 28, 2007

Against the Giants in Oaxaca

Al Giordano wrote in the Feb. 9, 2006, Narco News:

This is not about windmills, Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos thundered on Monday morning across this windswept plain. "It is about giants."

The greedy grab for the Isthmus of Tehuantepec -- the narrowest stretch of land in Mexico -- is a mega-project by Capital and State that does not stop at windmills. It also includes new highways and oil pipelines connecting the ports on both oceans, an expanded hydroelectric dam in Jalapa del Marques along the way, tourist Meccas to replace small fishing communities between Salina Cruz and Huatulco and a new zone for maquiladoras -- those cheap-labor mills that generate power not from wind but from human muscle and bone along the US-Mexican border -- that will exploit the poverty of the workers that the mega-developments displace from their lands and the natural resources they cultivate.

And so it is to this breezy plain that Zapatista "Delegate Zero" came on Monday morning to harness the wind that only human hands, and not machines, can tap: that of rebellion. "You are not alone," he told yet more communities of fighting (read: still human) people throughout the Isthmus. In La Venta's town square he said, "We will fight with you against these windmills."

Nancy Davies wrote on Mar. 28:

... here's the article I've been predicting: "Teachers and APPO and communal land owners announce the boycott of Venta II," accompanied in action by other organizations including The Front of the People of the Isthmus in Defense of the Land. President Felipe Calderon and Governor Ulises Ruiz are inaugurating the construction of the new wind farm to generate electricity, owned by a Spanish transnational, on Wednesday March 28 (see the video newsreel, The Windmills of Capitalism). About two hundred hectares of communal land and about nine sub-municipalities of Juchitán are in dispute. The wind farm is seen as a basic part of the development of the Plan Puebla Panama, and infringes on the autonomy of the indigenous residents of the area. The area is protected, according to Noticias, by a circle of military soldiers.

Ninety-eight wind generators already operate with a supposed capacity of 83.3 megawatts. In the second stage the transnational company, Iberdrola, has invested $100 million. The World Bank has recently loaned $20 million for the development of La Venta III, which confirms that regardless of who's protesting, the project will go ahead.

On March 3 three-hundred-and-sixty men from the Federal Preventative Police, traveling in vehicles with dark windows and carrying high power weapons, evicted the communal land owners from the neighborhood Tres de Abril located within the polygon of Venta II, because they were an "obstacle to the project." Many believe that the outcry against the wind generators has more to do with the offensively low rental and a voice for the people whose land has been "rented" for thirty years. The rental was reportedly carried out by agents who ignored the community assembly process and were in turn allegedly paid off handsomely by the government and/or Iberdrola.

And George Salzman wrote on Mar. 25:

"Harvard contributes to reconstructing Oaxaca" is the grand headline splashed across the Sunday, March 25, 2007 front page of Noticias, the major daily newspaper published in Oaxaca City. When I saw that announcement this morning I thought, "Oh, my God! (Never mind that I'm an atheist.) That's both good news and bad news."

The good news is that the popular struggle in Oaxaca is serious enough that it is being seen by those pre-eminent intellectual guardians of global capitalism as a potential threat to the status quo. The bad news is that Harvard University, always in the service of the super-rich, and therefore in step with (or ahead of) U.S. government plans and actions, is preparing to put its gloved but dirtied hands to work for the PAN/PRI government of Felipe Calderon and the local PRI governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. The message is clear. It's going to take more than sheer military suppression to crush the popular revolution. But it must be crushed, in the interest of global capitalism, and therefore the 'intellectual power' of Harvard University will be brought to bear in addition to the military state of siege already put in place in the city. What we can be certain of is that Harvard's intellectual prowess will not be used to uncover the fates of the people disappeared and still unaccounted for by the Federal and State armed agents or to assist in the struggle for justice and dignity for the people of Oaxaca.

Also see the press releases posted here from the Union of Indigenous Communities of the Northern Zone of the Isthmus.

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

Are We Politicians or Citizens?

From Howard Zinn, writing in the May 2007 Progressive:

When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them.

March 24, 2007

End the War by Continuing the War

Report by the World Socialist Web Site (click the title of this post for complete article):

The bill is a labored attempt by the Democratic leadership to pose as opponents of the Iraq war, while in practice ensuring its continuation. The vote to authorize war funding flies in the face of the will of the electorate, which expressed its desire to end the war and its opposition to the policies of the Bush administration in last November’s congressional elections, overturning Republican control in both houses of Congress. ...

As New York Senator Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, made clear in an interview with the New York Times last week, if elected she would keep a large force of American troops in Iraq indefinitely to secure “remaining vital national security interests” there. She elaborated on these “national security interests” by noting that Iraq is “right in the heart of the oil region.”

Similarly, the House Democrats’ bill upholds the war aims of US imperialism by listing as one of the benchmarks the passage of an oil law that will open up Iraq’s vast reserves to exploitation by US energy conglomerates. ...

In the weeks leading up to Friday’s vote on the floor of the House, the White House and congressional Republicans continually called the Democrats’ bluff, exposing their antiwar pretenses by challenging them to cut off war funding. This culminated last week in the passage, with overwhelming Democratic support, of a Republican-sponsored nonbinding Senate resolution vowing to never cut funds for “troops in the field.” ...

As Pelosi and her subordinates scrambled to assemble the necessary 218 votes to secure passage, groups on the so-called liberal wing of the party declared their support, including the Congressional Black Caucus and

The critical role was played by the misnamed “Out of Iraq Caucus” of House Democrats. This group of some 70 congressmen has postured as the most militant critics of the war. Their key leaders, such as Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters, both of California, have been paraded before antiwar demonstrators by protest organizers as living proof that the Democratic Party can be pressured to end the war.

Pelosi dealt with them through a combination of threats and inducements. The house speaker reportedly warned California Rep. Barbara Lee, another leader of the Out of Iraq Caucus, that she would be stripped of her post on the powerful House Appropriations Committee if she sought to block passage of the bill.

On Thursday, Lee, Woolsey, Waters and company insured passage of the bill at a closed-door session with Pelosi. The Washington Post reported on Friday:

“As debate began on the bill yesterday, members of the antiwar caucus and party leaders held a backroom meeting in which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a final plea to the group, asking it to deliver at least four votes when the roll is called. The members promised ten.” ...

The legislative charade mounted by the Democratic Party has nothing to do with ending the war in Iraq. There are, in fact, no principled differences between the Democrats and Bush when it comes to the imperialist aims of the war. Both parties, the Democrats no less than the Republicans, serve the corporate interests—the oil conglomerates, the Wall Street banks, and the American financial oligarchy as a whole—that seek through military violence to establish US control of the resources and markets of the world.

The differences between those within the political establishment who favor continued escalation of the war and those who seek to continue the colonial occupation with reduced US troops are purely tactical. They have to do with the best means of salvaging the US debacle in Iraq by killing and brutalizing more Iraqis, in order to secure US control of the Middle East. ...

In this critical task for the American ruling elite, forces like the Out of Iraq Caucus and their “left” allies in the protest movement play a crucial role. They serve not to end the war, but to provide a right-wing, pro-war party with a left-wing, antiwar gloss, the better to block the emergence of an independent movement of working people against war, repression and social inequality.

March 23, 2007

Wind on grid does not displace other sources

Back to the fraud of industrial wind, a correspondent writes:

In most cases, when the wind energy is a small fraction (less than 5%) of the load, the grid probably does not throttle back other power sources, letting the line voltage go up within safe bounds. This means that when windmills suddenly drop off the grid like dominoes, which they are wont to do, the grid will not have to scramble to avoid a brownout.

In this case, there is no fuel saved, more power is used by customers due to the higher voltage, and the utility happily charges the customers. Since many electrical devices simply waste the extra energy, that energy is wasted to a great extent.

If a large fraction of the grid power is from wind, the situation is very unstable, so unless there is adequate water power to react quickly, it is necessary to have fossil fuel generation "spinning" in reserve to compensate for the sudden domino failure characteristics of windmills. Naturally this wastes considerable energy, so the wind energy never really displaces fossil fuel consumption in an adequate manner to be justified.

Finally it should be noted that all fossil fuel generation equipment has an optimal range of operating efficiency, usually near full load. If they have to reduce output, this generally means more coal, gas, or oil per kWh is consumed, thus there is no one-to-one relationship with any savings of fossil fuel from the use of windmills. ...

The bottom line is, attaching windmills to the grid is simply foolish. If you were an Inuit living in a remote part of Alaska, not connected to the grid, and you are used to being frequently without power, perhaps they would make sense to you . . . if they were subsidized.

War Is Peace

Ron Paul, Libertarian Republican from Texas, puts the Democrats to shame in explaining his intention to vote against the bill to "end the war by fully funding it for another year":
Only with the complicity of Congress have we become a nation of pre-emptive war, secret military tribunals, torture, rejection of habeas corpus, warrantless searches, undue government secrecy, extraordinary renditions, and uncontrollable spying on the American people. The greatest danger we face is ourselves: what we are doing in the name of providing security for a people made fearful by distortions of facts. Fighting over there has nothing to do with preserving freedoms here at home. More likely the opposite is true.
Meanwhile, Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, and other Democrats who intend to vote against the bill are -- bizarrely -- working to help pass it. And Democrat Jim McGovern is typical, saying, "I want this war ended today. If I thought it would help this war ending sooner by voting against the bill, I would vote against it in a heartbeat." But voting for the bill is to vote for the war's continuation, you jerk. The Democrats, elected to power because their nation -- not to mention Iraq -- is sick and tired of the lies and futility of this escapade, should heed the words of John Lewis (thanks to Vermont Snarky Boy for the quote):
Tonight, I must make it plain and clear, that as a human being, as a citizen of the world, as a citizen of America, as a member of Congress, and as an individual committed to a world at peace with itself, I will not and cannot vote for another dollar or another dime to support this war.
Vermonters: our own Peter Welch, after campaigning with a strong anti-war platform -- the only thing that distinguished him from his Republican opponent -- will be voting "aye" along with his leaders. Tell him how sorry you are that he won't be re-elected in 2008.

Note, the Senate version of this war bill does not have the sham "end date," only a nonbinding recommendation. Have Pelosi and Reid orchestrated all this so that reconciliation will fail and the Democrats will then propose a true bill to end the funding? They could point to the fact that Republicans didn't support the "compromise," which she ensured by loading the bill with so much pork to give Republicans a principled reason to oppose it. A stupid game, and an unlikely scenario. As Sharon Smith concludes in Counterpunch:
The Democrats, like the Republicans, are biding time in Iraq, in the hopes of consolidating a long-term U.S. military presence there -- while leaving open the option of attacking Iran as a bargaining chip. Clinton stated recently, "No option can be taken off the table" against Iran's alleged nuclear threat, while presidential rivals John Edwards and Obama echoed, "All options on the table."