August 6, 2008

"A boon for Pickens, not for America"

Gal Luft of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security writes:

At a time of economic decline and record-high gas prices, there is something refreshing in an oilman turning into one of the nation's leading advocates of renewable energy. This could explain why T. Boone Pickens' multibillion-dollar efforts to reduce America's oil dependence and develop clean energy have garnered so muchpublic attention.

Pickens is right to suggest that America's oil dependence is a source of economic ruin and that Congress must act to stop the biggest transfer of wealth in human history. But Pickens stands to benefit from his own campaign -- and his proposal could do more damage than good to U.S. energy security.

Pickens' proposal involves a California ballot initiative to provide $5 billion in subsidies for developing clean-energy fuels on top of a $58-million public relations campaign to reduce America's oil dependence through wind power. Not coincidentally, the Texas oilman is heavily invested in natural gas and wind power.

The Pickens plan promises to dramatically reduce oil use by shifting the transportation sector from gasoline-powered cars and trucks to natural-gas-powered vehicles. This would allegedly reduce oil imports by more than 30% and would supposedly save the U.S. economy $300 billion that otherwise would end up in the coffers of oil-rich foreign countries. According to the plan, wind energy would substitute for natural gas, now generating 20% of the nation's electricity, freeing natural gas to power a third of the vehicles in the U.S. ...

Pickens' assertion that increased use of wind power would displace natural gas is based on wishful thinking. Our energy system is not a Lego game -- one piece can't replace another at whim. Even if 78 [actually, more like 124 --Ed.] other billionaires were willing to follow Pickens' footsteps and build a 4,000-megawatt wind farm -- that's the number needed to displace the current electricity production from natural gas -- there's no way to guarantee that natural gas would be the only energy source that would be displaced by all those turbines. Why not coal, or [hydro]?

Furthermore, implementation of the Pickens plan might actually tie more natural gas to the power sector. Wind is an intermittent source of power -- the wind doesn't blow 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- and until and unless our electricity grid has sufficient power storage capacity, utilities counting on wind need to have backup power plants that can be powered up to fill in the gaps when the wind does not blow. This back-up power is today generally provided with natural gas.

Pickens also claims that a shift from oil to natural gas would strengthen U.S. national security. But contrary to Pickens' proclamations, in relation to its need, the U.S. is not rich in natural gas. Just as with oil, the U.S. consumes 23% of the world's natural gas but it only has 3% of the world's reserves. Its reserve-to-production ratio is less than 10 years. ...

A shift to natural gas could even weaken U.S. national security: More than 60% of the world's reserves are concentrated in five countries -- Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- countries that are already engaged in discussions on the establishment of an OPEC-like natural-gas cartel. Shifting from dependence on one authoritarian regime's energy source to another's is like jumping from the frying pan to the fire. ...

August 5, 2008

Puttin' the Boone (Pickens) in Boondoggle

A three-part analysis of the "Pickensplan" by Steven Milloy:

The Wind Cries 'Bailout!'

July 10, 2008

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens launched a media blitz this week to announce his plan for us "to escape the grip of foreign oil." Now he's got himself stuck between a crock and a wind farm.

Announced via TV commercials, media interviews, a Wall Street Journal op-ed (July 9) and a web site, Pickens wants to substitute wind power for the natural gas currently used to produce about 22 percent of our electricity and then to substitute natural gas for the conventional gasoline currently used to power vehicles.

Pickens claims this plan can be accomplished within 10 years, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, reduce the cost of transportation, create thousands of new jobs, reduce our carbon footprint, and "build a bridge to the future, giving is time to develop new technologies."

It sounds great and gets even better, according to Pickens.

Don't sweat the cost, he says, "It will be accomplished solely through private investment with no new consumer or corporate taxes or government regulation."

What's not to like?

First, it's worth noting Pickens' claim made in the op-ed that his plan requires no new government regulation. Two sentences later, however, he calls on Congress to "mandate" wind power and its subsidies.

Next, Pickens relies on a 2008 Department of Energy study claiming the U.S. could generate 20 percent of its electricity from wind by 2030.

Setting aside the fact that the report was produced in consultation with the wind industry, the 20-by-2030 goal is quite fanciful. Even if wind technology significantly improves, electrical transmission systems (how electricity gets from the power source to you) are greatly expanded, and environmental obstacles (like environmentalists who protest wind turbines as eyesores and bird-killing machines) can be overcome, the viability of wind power depends on where, when and how strong the wind blows -- none of which are predictable.

Wind farm siting depends on the long-term forecasting of wind patterns -- but climate is always changing. When it comes to wind power, it is not simply, "build it and the wind will come."

Even the momentary loss of wind can be a problem. As Reuters reported on Feb. 27, "Loss of wind causes Texas power grid emergency." The electric grid operator was forced to curtail 1,100 megawatts of power to customers within 10 minutes.

Wind isn't a standalone power source. It needs a Plan B for when the wind "just don't blow."

This contrasts with coal- or gas-fired electrical power which can be produced on demand and as needed. A great benefit of modern technology is that it liberates us from Mother Nature's harsh whims. Pickens wants to re-enslave us with 12th century technology. ...

... So what's up with him?

Not only does Pickens' firm, BP capital, have significant investments in natural gas, but last June he announced plans to build the world's largest wind farm in west Texas, capable of producing 4,000 megawatts of electricity.

The federal government currently subsidizes wind farm operators with a tax credit worth 1.9 cents per kilowatt hour -- potentially making for a tidy annual taxpayer gift to Pickens based on his anticipated capacity.

But all is not well in Wind Subsidy-land.

Since Congress didn't renew the wind subsidy as part of the 2007 energy bill, it will expire at the end of this year unless reauthorized.

Subsidies are perhaps more important to the wind industry that wind itself. Without them, wind can't compete against fossil fuel-generated power. As pointed out by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (July 9), "In 1999, 2001 and 2003, when Congress temporarily killed the credits, the number of new turbines dropped dramatically."

It's little wonder that Pickens is waging a $58 million PR campaign to promote his plan. If it works, his short-term gain will be saving the tax credit and his wind farm investment. In the long-term, he stands to line his already overflowing pockets with hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

What will the rest of us get from this T. Boone-doggle? That's anybody's guess, but it probably won't be cheaper energy, energy independence or a cleaner environment.

Is T. Boone Pickens 'Swiftboating' America?

July 24, 2008

Liberals have done a U-turn on conservative billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens.

Formerly reviled for funding the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" campaign against Sen. John Kerry, he's now adored by the Left -- unfortunately, for trying to gaslight the rest of us on energy policy.

Already having addressed the proposal's flaws -- and Pickens' plan to profit at taxpayer expense from it -- let's consider how Pickens' marketing shades the truth.

On his Web site and in TV commercials, Pickens tries to frighten Americans about being "addicted to foreign oil."

"In 1970, we imported 24 percent of our oil. Today, it's nearly 70 percent and growing," he intones.

Aside from the fact that the Department of Energy (DOE) puts the import figure at a more moderate 58 percent, Pickens gives the impression that imported oil is scary because it all comes from the unstable Mideast.

His TV commercials feature images of American soldiers fighting in Iraq and he likens the annual $700 billion cost of foreign oil to "four times the annual cost of the Iraq war."

But hold the phone. Only 16 percent of our imported oil comes from the Persian Gulf -- barely up from 13.6 percent in 1973, according to the DOE. Imports from OPEC countries are actually down -- from 47.8 percent in 1973 to 44.5 percent in 2007.

Contrary to Pickens' assertion that oil imports are growing, the DOE expects oil imports to decrease by 10 percent by 2030.

Pickens tries to shame Americans because, "America uses a lot of oil ... That's 25 percent of the world's oil demand, used by just 4 percent of the world population."

Some might think these figures make us sound greedy and wasteful.

But what Pickens omitted to mention is that the size of the U.S. economy in 2007 was about $13.8 trillion and the size of the global economy was $54.3 trillion.

This means that the U.S. economy represents about 25.4 percent of the global economy. ...

Finally, Pickens laments the $700 billion (less at current oil prices) "wealth transfer" from America to foreigners every year because of our "addiction."

But is he also concerned about our "addiction" to other imports?

In 2007, the U.S. merchandise trade deficit -- the difference between imports of goods from and exports of goods to foreign countries -- exceeded $815 billion.

Contrary to Pickens' demagoguery, "wealth transfer" is a term generally used in the context of estate planning, where money is simply "gifted" to heirs.

Our purchases of foreign oil, in contrast, are more reasonably known as "trade" ...

Then there's Carl Pope, the head of the Sierra Club, who not only flies in Pickens' private jet but writes paeans about him on the liberal Huffington Post blog.

"T. Boone Pickens is out to save America," Pope wrote on July 3. ...

Machinations

July 31, 2008

Simply put, Pickens' pitch is "embrace wind power to help break our 'addiction' to foreign oil." There is, however, another intriguing component to Pickens' plan that goes unmentioned in his TV commercials, media interviews and web site -- water rights, which he owns more of than any other American.

Pickens hopes that his recent $100 million investment in 200,000 acres worth of groundwater rights in Roberts County, Texas, located over the Ogallala Aquifer, will earn him $1 billion. But there's more to earning such a profit than simply acquiring the water. Rights-of-way must be purchased to install pipelines, and opposition from anti-development environmental groups must be overcome. Here's where it gets interesting, according to information compiled by the Water Research Group, a small grassroots group focusing on local water issues in Texas.

Purchasing rights-of-way is often expensive and time-consuming -- and what if landowners won't sell? While private entities may be frustrated, governments can exercise eminent domain to compel sales. This is Pickens' route of choice. But wait, you say, Pickens is not a government entity. How can he use eminent domain?

Are you sitting down?

At Pickens' behest, the Texas legislature changed state law to allow the two residents of an 8-acre parcel of land in Roberts County to vote to create a municipal water district, a government agency with eminent domain powers. Who were the voters? They were Pickens' wife and the manager of Pickens' nearby ranch. And who sits on the board of directors of this water district? They are the parcel's three other non-resident landowners, all Pickens' employees.

A member of a local water conservation board told Bloomberg News that "[Pickens has] obtained the right of eminent domain like he was a big city. It's supposed to be for the public good, not a private company."

What's this got to do with Pickens' wind-power plan? Just as he needs pipelines to sell his water, he also needs transmission lines to sell his wind-generated power. Rights of way for transmission lines are also acquired through eminent domain -- and, once again, the Texas legislature has come to Pickens' aid.

Earlier this year, Texas changed its law to allow renewable energy projects (like Pickens' wind farm) to obtain rights-of-way by piggybacking on a water district's eminent domain power. So Pickens can now use his water district's authority to also condemn land for his future wind farm's transmission lines.

Who will pay for the rights-of-way and the transmission lines and pipelines? Thanks to another gift from Texas politicians, Pickens' water district can sell tax-free, taxpayer-guaranteed municipal bonds to finance the $2.2 billion cost of the water pipeline. And then earlier this month, the Texas legislature voted to spend $4.93 billion for wind farm transmission lines. While Pickens has denied that this money is earmarked for him, he nevertheless is building the largest wind farm in the world.

Despite this legislative largesse, a fly in the ointment remains.

Although Pickens hopes to sell as much as $165 million worth of water annually to Dallas alone, no city in Texas has signed up yet -- partly because they don't yet need the water and partly because of resentment against water profiteering.

Enter the Sierra Club.

While Green groups support wind power, "the privatization of water is an entirely different thing," says the Sierra Club. Moreover, the activist group has long opposed further exploitation of the very groundwater Pickens wants to use -- the Ogallala Aquifer.

"The source of drinking water and irrigation for Plains residents from Nebraska to Texas, the Ogallala Aquifer is one of the world's largest -- as well as one of the most rapidly dissipating ... If current irrigation practices continue, agribusiness will deplete the Ogallala Aquifer in the next century," says the Sierra Club.

In March 2002, the Sierra Club opposed the construction of a slaughterhouse in Pampa, Texas, because it would require a mere 275 million gallons per year from the Ogallala Aquifer. Yet Pickens wants to sell 65 billion gallons of water per year -- to Dallas alone. In a 2004 lamentation about local government facilitation of Pickens' plan for the Ogallala, the Sierra Club slammed Pickens as a "junk bond dealer" who wanted to make "Blue Gold" from the Ogallala.

But while the Sierra Club can't seem to do anything about Pickens' influence with state legislators, they do have enough influence to make his water politically unpotable. This opposition may soon abate, however, now that Pickens has buddied up with Sierra Club president Carl Pope.

As noted last week, Pope now flies in Pickens' private jet and publicly lauds him. The two are newly-minted "friends," since Pope needs the famous Republican oilman to lend propaganda value to the Sierra Club's anti-oil agenda and Pickens needs Pope to ease up on the Ogallala water opposition.

This alliance isn't sitting well with everyone on the Left.

A TreeHugger.com writer recently observed, "... I am left asking myself why the green media have neglected [the water] aspect of Pickens' wind-farm plans. Have we been so distracted by the prospect of Texas' renewable energy portfolio growing by 4000 megawatts that we are willing to overlook some potentially dodgy aspects to the project?" ...

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

August 4, 2008

Dark (K)night

James Howard Kunstler writes (click title of this post for his site):

The most striking thing about the new Batman movie, now smashing the all-time box office records, is its emphasis on sado-masochism as the animating element in American culture these days. It must appeal to the many angry people in our land who want to hurt others, even while they themselves feel deserving of the grossest punishments. In other words, the picture reflects the extreme depravity of the current American sensibility. Seeing it all laid out there must be very validating to the emotionally confused audience, and hence pleasurable, in all its painfulness. ...

At the center of all this is the character called "The Joker." Judging by the reams of reviews and reportage about this movie elsewhere in the media, the death of actor Heath Ledger, who played the role, adds another layer of juicy sadomasochistic deliciousness to the proceedings -- we get to reflect that the monster on screen may have gotten away, but the anxiety-ridden young actor who played him was carted off to the bone orchard before the film even officially wrapped (and therefore deserves extra special consideration for America's greatest honor, the Oscar award, while the audience deserves its own award for recognizing the lovely ironies embroidered in this cultural phenomenon.)

The Joker is not so much a person as a force of nature, a "black swan" in clown white. He has no fingerprints, no ID, no labels in his clothing. All he has is the memory of an evil father who performed a symbolic sadomasochistic oral rape on him, and so he is now programmed to go about similarly mutilating folks, blowing things up, and wrecking everyone's hopes and dreams because he has nothing better to do. He represents himself simply as an agent of "chaos." Taken at face value, he would seem to symbolize the deadly forces of entropy that now threatens to unravel real American life in the real world -- a combination of our foolish over-investments in complexity and the frightening capriciousness of both nature and history, which do not reveal their motivations to us.

By the way, forget about God here or anything that even remotely smacks of an oppositional notion to evil. All that's back on the cutting room floor somewhere (if it even got that far). And I say this as a non-religious person. But the absence of any possible idea of redemption for the human spirit is impressive. In the world of "the Batman," humanity at its very best is capable only of being confused about itself. This is perhaps an interesting new form of dramaturgy -- instead of good-versus-evil you only get befuddlement-versus-evil. Goodness has lost its way in the dark night of the American psyche, as might be understandable considering the nation of louts, liars, grifters, bullies, meth freaks, harpies, and tattooed creeps we have become. The best we can bring to this predicament is the low-grade pop therapy that passes for thinking nowadays in educated circles. Any consideration of the heroic is off the menu here. We can't ask that much of ourselves. It's too difficult to imagine. Meanwhile, The People -- that is, the citizens of Gotham City -- literally banish even the possibility of heroism from town at the end of the movie -- they take an axe to it! -- perhaps indicating that they deserve whatever befalls them or, shall I say, "us."

A few other striking elements of this spectacle deserve attention. One is the grandiosity that saturates the story elements, and the remarkable impotence of it all. The Batman possesses every high-tech weapon and survival implement ever dreamed up, yet they avail him nothing ...

Finally there is the derivation of all this sadomasochistic nihilism out of a comic book. How appropriate, since we have become a cartoon of a society living on a cartoon of a North American landscape, that the deepest source of our mythos comes from cartoons. We're so far gone that real human emotion is beyond us. We're too far gone -- and even without shame -- to care how this odious movie portrays us to the rest of the world. It is already making a fortune out there.

July 30, 2008

Safe setbacks: How far should wind turbines be from homes?

Let's start with what one manufacturer considers to be safe for its workers. The safety regulations for the Vestas V90, with a 300-ft rotor span and a total height of 410 feet, tell operators and technicians to stay 1,300 feet from an operating turbine -- over 3 times its total height -- unless absolutely necessary.

That already is a much greater distance than many regulations currently require as a minimum distance between wind turbines and homes, and it is concerned only with safety, not with noise, shadow flicker, or visual intrusion.

In February 2008, a 10-year-old Vestas turbine with a total height of less than 200 feet broke apart in a storm. Large pieces of the blades flew as far as 500 meters (1,640 feet) -- more than 8 times its total height.

The Fuhrländer turbine planned for Barrington, R.I., is 328 feet tall with a rotor diameter of 77 meters, or just over 250 feet (sweeping more than an acre of vertical air space). According to one news report, the manufacturer recommends a setback of 1,500 feet -- over 4.5 times the total height. In Wisconsin, where towns can regulate utility zoning for health and safety concerns, ordinances generally specify a setback of one-half mile (2,640 ft) to residences and workplaces.

But that may just be enough to protect the turbines from each other, not to adequately protect the peace and health of neighbors. When part of an array, turbines should be at least 10 rotor diameters apart to avoid turbulence from each other. In the case of the proposed 77-meter rotor span in Barrington, that would be 770 meters, or 2,525 feet. For the Gamesa G87, that's 2,850 feet; for the Vestas V90, 2,950 feet -- well over half a mile.

Since the human ear (not to mention the sensory systems of other animals or the internal organs of bats, which, it is now emerging, are crushed by the air pressure) is more sensitive than a giant industrial machine, doubling that would be a reasonable precaution (at least for the human neighbors -- it still doesn't help wildlife).

Jane and Julian Davis, whose home is 930 m (3,050 ft) from the Deeping St. Nicholas wind energy facility in England, were forced by the noise to rent another home in which to sleep. In July 2008 they were granted a 14% council tax reduction in recognition of their loss. It appears in this case that the combination of several turbines creates a manifold greater disturbance.

Sound experts Rick James and George Kamperman recommend a minimum 1 km (3,280 ft) distance in rural areas. James himself suggests that 2 km is better between turbines and homes, and Kamperman proposes 2-3 km as a minimum. German consultant Retexo-RISP also has suggested that "buildings, particulary housing, should not be nearer than 2 km to the windfarm"; and that was written when turbines were half the size of today's models.

Both the French Academy of Medicine and the U.K. Noise Association recommend a minimum of one mile (or 1.5 km, just under a mile) between giant wind turbines and homes. Trempealeau County in Wisconsin implemented such a setback. National Wind Watch likewise advocates a minimum one-mile setback.

Dr. Michael Nissenbaum and colleagues surveyed residents near wind turbines in Maine and found significantly worse sleep and mental health among those living 1.4 km or closer than those living farther from the machines.

Dr. Nina Pierpont, the preeminent expert on "wind turbine syndrome", recommends 1.25 miles (2 km). That is the minimum the Davises insist on as safe as well. In France, Marjolaine Villey-Migraine concluded that the minimum should be 5 km (3 miles). In June 2010, Ontario's environment ministry proposed requirements that offshore wind turbines be at least 5 km from the shoreline.

To protect human health, these distances are simply crude ways to minimize noise disturbance, especially at night, when atmospheric conditions often make wind turbine noise worse and carry it farther even as there is a greater expectation of (and need for) quiet. The World Health Organization says that the noise level inside a bedroom at night should be no greater than 30 dB(A) or 50 dB(C) (the latter measure includes more of the low-frequency spectrum of noise, which is felt as much as, or even more than, heard). A court case in Great Britain resulted in the “Den Brook” amplitude modulation conditions, which define and limit pulsating noise, which is especially intrusive, as any change, outside the dwelling, of >3 dB in the LAeq,125ms (125-millisecond averaged sound level) in any 2-second period at least 5 times in any minute with LAeq,1min (1-minute averaged sound level) ≥28 dB and such excess occurring within at least 6 minutes in any hour.

Updates: 

Since 2008, Queensland, Australia, has limited night-time noise indoors to 30 dB(A) (1-hour average), with limits of 35 dB(A) no more than 10% of the time and 40 db(A) 1%. Respective daytime limits are 5 dB(A) above the night-time limits. They also specify that existing continuous 90% sound levels should not be increased and that variable noise averages should not increase existing sound levels more than 5 dB(A) in the same time period.

Scottish Planning Policy “recommends” a distance of 2 km between wind energy developments and the edge of cities, towns, and villages to reduce visual impact. Since August 2011, Victoria, Australia, has allowed wind turbines within 2 km of a home only with the homeowner's written consent. In April 2013, the Québec, Canada, government approved a 2-km setback from homes in the municipalities of Haut-Saint-Laurent, Montérégie. Citizens groups in Germany suggest a minimum distance of 10 times the total turbine height to residential areas (see this story). Since July 2013, the state of Saxony has required 1 km between wind turbines and residential areas.

In February 2014, Newport, North Carolina, established a 5,000-ft (1.5-km) setback from property lines, a 35-dB limit for noise at the property lines, and a total height limit of 275 feet. The latter two conditions were also established by Carteret County, North Carolina, in February 2014, as well as a 1-mile setback from property lines.

Also see:  “Wind turbine setback and noise regulations since 2010”

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, human rights, animal rights

July 29, 2008

Wind Turbines: Offensive industrialization of human space

By Brian L. Horejsi, behavioral scientist and citizen advocate for democratic process, Calgary, Alberta; Barrie K. Gilbert, wildlife Ecologist and conservation activist, Wolfe Island, Ontario; and George Wuerthner, ecologist and writer, Richmond, Vermont; 28 July 2008:

People are barking up the wrong tree by promoting, or succumbing to, wind turbine construction regardless of where it is proposed and how many there might be. Many North Americans are infected with tunnel vision and erroneously appear to believe that turbine generated energy is somehow linked to reversing the growth in and impact of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

There exists NO evidence anywhere that [wind] turbine energy is substituting for or displacing fossil fuel dependence, nor is there any evidence that it is in any material way slowing the rate of GHG emission growth. [Wind] turbine energy is a non-factor in the never ending growth agenda of the fossil fuel industry, and it is not a factor in the agenda of governments promoting growth in and dependence on oil and gas consumption. There can be no better example than North America of the failure of turbine energy to slow growth in anything.

People have been hoodwinked into promoting wind turbine energy as some sort of Nirvana all while human population growth and per capita energy consumption continue to spiral upward. Turbine energy generation is fueling growth in human population and energy consumption and growth in a false “economy”. It is NOT doing the opposite.

Matching the folly of the energy replacement misunderstanding is denial by governments and promoters of the ecological impacts and health effects of turbines; the ugly reality is that they are a serious addition to the industrialization of quiet rural landscapes that people have long valued for quality of life, retirement, and recreation.

The list of environmental costs imposed on wildlife and people are now being recognized; they are far from meaningless, but they have been trivialized by turbine promoters and politicians that have systematically tilted the deck sharply in the developers favor. Environmental costs have been systematically ignored by a political and regulatory system that has corrupted individual and societal freedom and environmental integrity by relegating these values to some distant offshoot of economic growth. These costs, and those who stand by them, are treated with contempt; how dare they influence the decision to grant some landowner a chance to make a buck by carving your backyard and your space into fragments with giant chopping machines?

Wind turbines are an assault on human well being and act to degrade the human “gestalt”. Promotion of wind turbine energy is a case of serious misjudgment by those who fraudulently use green wash to promote their commercial aspirations.

Buried deep within the human genome is an innate recognition and suspicion of monsters – large objects – looming on the horizon. Wind turbines are today's versions of a threatening monster, jammed down the throats of neighbors and localities. 30% of the human cortex occupies itself with processing visual information, far more than any other sense, and nothing delivers a more intrusive and intense visual picture than the tower and blades of wind turbines. Turbines erode freedom of the human mind hour after hour, night after day, virtually forever, like a cell phone ringing incessantly and yet no one is able to turn it off. To many people this intrusion into their physical and physiological space is an insidious form of torment. The mental effect is analogous to the physical effects of a heavy smoker sitting next to you essentially for life!

We do not subscribe to the managerial/market approach to democracy or conservation with its deeply entrenched bias against human values such as an unadulterated horizon. This largely corporate view denigrates the value of freedom of the human spirit – the very pedestal upon which human dignity, character and strength are built.

In an honest and fair regulatory and political environment, local citizens and communities would bury turbine projects long before they get to the serious implementation stage. Once again, however, citizens are being forced to try to employ the very tools that degrade our quality of life and humiliate us as mere pawns of some corporate created market economy. ...

The commercial private sector is forcing itself into your life, and that constitutes a taking of your rights, benefits and well being. We propose that each person impacted by a turbine receive, as a starting point for negotiations, $3000 annually, to be paid by the developer for the loss of private and citizen rights, a very large portion of which includes peace and satisfaction, a critical part of your state of mind. We all know that is a significant part of personal, social and democratic well being. The concept is simple; if the developer and some uncaring land owners want to destroy your rights and those of other citizens, inflicting on you suffering and mental distress, the good old “free” enterprise system developers and local governments love to hide behind, comes into play; they pay to destroy part of your life. There has to be pain and resistance in the system for those who knowingly exploit the public and individual vulnerability, a now institutionalized vulnerability which commercial and private sector interests worked hard to establish.

The recent proliferation of wind turbine farms is just one more case of the serious aggression and destruction that reflects the continuing expansion of an extremist private property and commercialism agenda. This socially, legally and politically defective agenda and process is being exploited by corporations, some local residents, and local governments. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not freedom and it is not democracy; it is vandalism and oppression in the name of commercialism. As citizens we have the right, and we say the obligation, and we must marshal the courage, to reject wind turbine invasions as a corruption of our well being that is cached “in our spirit rather than in our wallet”.

[Our thanks to National Wind Watch for bringing this essay to our attention]

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

July 22, 2008

Pickens plans to pull one over u

Thomas Pickens has a plan to replace the electricity we currently generate from natural gas with wind-generated electricity, to free it up for fueling transport (via his Clean Energy Fuels Corporation). The fawning coverage of the "Pickensplan" and his own proposed giant wind energy facility in northern Texas (not on his own land, however -- "They're ugly", he says) has been pathetic, especially from environmentalists (read, Sierra Club) who should be a little more skeptical about someone who self-importantly boasts, "I know more about energy than anybody."

The following claim is made on the Pickensplan web site: "At 4,000 megawatts — the equivalent combined output of four large coal-fire plants — the production of the completed Pampa facility will double the wind energy output of the United States."

That's comparing Pampa's rated capacity (which would not be on line until some years in the future) to the actual output (about 25% of capacity) of existing wind plants at the end of 2007.

An accurate statement would begin: "Despite a rating of 4,000 megawatts, covering 400,000 acres, and costing taxpayers $6 billion -- not counting hundreds of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines and heavy-duty roads -- the completed Pampa facility will have an average rate of output of only 1,000 megawatts. And it will generate at or above that average rate only one-third of the time, answering to the wayward wind, not to the actual needs of the grid."

But the real flaw in the Pickensplan is the idea that wind would replace natural gas in the production of electricity. In fact, the addition of substantial wind energy plant would require the addition of a similar amount of natural gas plants, because those are the only ones that are flexible enough to start quickly and operate over a wide range of loads to balance the fluctuating and largely unpredictable infeed from wind turbines.

Of course, that would work out even better for Pickens' natural gas company.

[What would 20% of our electricity (the proportion currently generated from natural gas) from wind mean? Click here for earlier post about the Department of Energy/American Wind Energy Association paper saying it's "feasible".]

wind power, wind energy

July 19, 2008

Turning wilderness over to development in Maine

Bob Weingarten and Nancy O’Toole of Friends of the Boundary Mountains write in the July 10 Daily Bulldog:

The Maine Legislature created the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) in 1971 to serve the people of Maine and act as the authority over 10.4 million acres of unorganized lands, and one of the largest contiguous undeveloped areas in the Northeast. Among LURC’s responsibilities are the promotion of orderly development, and the protection of natural and ecological values.

In 1974, to ensure the protection of fragile and irreplaceable soil and habitat, Maine’s mountainous areas above 2,700 feet were given zoning protection from ecological-damaging development by LURC. That protection stood the test of time until January 2008 when LURC reversed the protection of our mountains.

Now, before us we have the biggest industrial project being approved, by LURC, which will change the western Maine mountains forever. A project so huge it’s difficult to sum up the total environmental impact, but let us provide a brief overview.

LURC is about to give final approval to TransCanada’s Kibby Wind Power Project based on a final design plan that doesn’t have final surveys, core testing completed, or hydrology mapping finished. (Which means add at least 20 percent to the following figures). There will be 47 intermittent and 38 perennial streams impacted by bridgeways and culverts that will divert streams up to 225 feet. For road building and towers, a total of 423.6 acres will permanently be impacted. Another 310 acres will be cleared and changed from forest and wetland to right-of-ways for transmission lines. The estimate for total road length is 30.5 miles, with widths ranging from 25 to 35 feet, and for 21.75 miles a 150-foot wide “right of way” for the kV line. A 60-foot “right-of-way” for the 34.5 kV buried collector system that runs from turbine to turbine, and then moves to overhead poles moving down the slopes and ridges to the substation. There will be new buildings, temporary batch plant that will be producing 700 yds3 of concrete per turbine pad, rock crushers, and at least 20 acres will be filled by the unused rock and dirt from blasting and road construction.

The project will impact many species of Maine. The northern bog lemming is among Maine’s rarest mammals and listed as threatened. The Atlantic Salmon and the Canadian Lynx is listed as endangered and its habitat will be impacted by this development. Five state-listed plants species have been identified in the project through the wetlands that will be impacted by the transmission lines. The accumulation downstream due to unforeseeable erosion from all these disturbances will greatly impact the fish and natural vegetation forever. Over time the culverts will fill with sediment, silt fences washed out and the environmental damage will accelerate in magnitude and increase in intensity. This doesn’t even include the hundreds of migratory birds, bats and raptors that will perish each year as a result of the 400-foot high turbines. ...

The Governor’s Task Force on Wind Power Development is promoting 2,000 MW by 2015 and 3,000 MW by 2020, by establishing an Expedited Review and Permitting Area in Maine, which includes at least one-third of LURC’s jurisdiction. In the unorganized areas a rezoning would not be required and the DEP will assume jurisdiction for permitting on any proposal that goes through an organized area; the expedited process should take only 185 days.

An Executive Order required LURC to draft a Commercial Industrial Development Subdistrict (D-CI) to streamline permitting and do away with rezoning hearings. In the draft there are two full pages of townships and plantations on the expedited wind energy development area. ...

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