March 31, 2013

Bernie, don’t betray us

[Letter to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, from Garret Keizer of Sutton, Vermont — Published in the Times Argus and the Rutland Herald, March 31, 2013. Removed by request of the author.]

... Bernie Sanders, ... de facto spokesperson for the opportunists of “green capitalism”.
[Garret Keizer previously wrote in Harper’s Magazine (June 2007) about this issue — click here.]

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, Vermont

March 28, 2013

Rump Steak

Advocacy group Rural Vermont is promoting its 2013 “Annual Celebration”:

“Philip Ackerman-Leist,” director of Green Mountain College’s Farm & Food Project ... will be the guest speaker. Ackerman-Leist will share his first-person account of the recent international controversy involving Green Mountain College’s pair of working oxen “Bill” and “Lou.” This moving and disturbing story illustrates the profound lack of understanding and connection between contemporary American society and the source of our food. ... Special guest Philip Phillip [sic] will offer his ideas on how we can work together to bridge this divide.
Rural Vermont is a fairly politically progressive organization unfortunately bound by a devotion to and reflexive defense of the exploitation of animals. Ackerman-Leist similarly is too gorged on the flesh of (and the profits from) his grass-fed heritage-breed cows to consider that he might be the one with a profound lack of understanding. What possible ideas could he offer to bridge the divide between those who think a team of oxen deserved retirement after 10 years of work and those who can only think about such animals as food?

It was precisely people who are connected with the sources of their food who were able to draw a line at killing Bill and Lou. Ackerman-Leist, who petulantly had Lou killed despite (or rather because of) the controversy, is like the slaughterhouse worker who recently posted a video of himself shooting a horse. There is nothing in his actions or words that suggests working together to bridge a divide. In fact, the bridge is already there, but he refuses to acknowledge it, stubbornly seething at the shoreline, still shouting impotent defiance after those who have left him behind.

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, ecoanarchism

March 24, 2013

Life after Oil and Gas: Pity Earth’s Creatures

Today’s New York Times Sunday Review juxtaposed two pieces on its front page: Elisabeth Rosenthal’s puff piece (last gasp?) for large-scale renewable energy, “Life After Oil and Gas”, and Edward Hoagland’s lamentation about nature’s disappearance under the march of human civilization, “Pity Earth’s Creatures”.

Hoagland’s piece stands as the answer to Rosenthal’s.

Except for some comments by International Energy Agency economist Fatih Birol suggesting that conservation and efficiency are more practical and effective choices, Rosenthal hardly considers why we have an energy crisis, of consequences as much as supply. (She also ignores, of course, the fact that huge investments in wind and solar have never been documented to actually reduce the use of other fuels. And both Rosenthal and Birol ignore the fact that countries and states that produce a high percentage of their electricity from wind are actually on larger grids, which make the percentage very much less.)

Instead Rosenthal assumes that we can “easily” produce the power we need from wind, solar, and water, citing the latest work of Mark Jacobson, whose numbers should frighten rather than inspire:

For New York State alone: 4,020 onshore and 12,770 offshore 5-MW wind turbines, 387 100-MW concentrated solar plants, 828 50-MW PV solar plants, 5,000,000 5-kW home and 500,000 100-kW business rooftop PV solar systems, 36 100-MW geothermal plants, 1,910 0.75-MW wave systems, 2,600 1-MW tidal turbines, as well as 7 1,300-MW hydro plants (half of which already exists).

Except for the rooftop solar, where do these go? Where do all the new “smart-grid” power lines and substations go? Where do all the materials to build and maintain and replace all these things come from? And what if these projections fall short (as they most certainly would)?

Except for rare hydro sources like Niagara Falls (or geothermal sources like Iceland’s volcanoes), renewable energy sources are diffuse. Therefore they require sprawling facilities of huge devices to collect enough to meet even a fraction of our electricity needs, let alone all of our energy (i.e., including transportation, heating, and manufacturing).

Furthermore, wind and solar are intermittent: The wind isn’t always blowing, and the sun shines only during the day. On top of that, their energy is variable, wildly so, in the case of wind. That means they need 100% backup.

Jacobson’s vision has already been imagined by H.G. Wells. In his 1897 “A Story of the Days To Come”, he described “the Wind Vane and Waterfall Trust, the great company that owned every wind wheel and waterfall in the world, and which pumped all the water and supplied all the electric energy that people in these latter days required.”
Far away, spiked, jagged and indented by the wind vanes, the Surrey Hills rose blue and faint; to the north and nearer, the sharp contours of Highgate and Muswell Hill were similarly jagged. And all over the countryside, he knew, on every crest and hill, where once the hedges had interlaced, and cottages, churches, inns, and farmhouses had nestled among their trees, wind wheels similar to those he saw and bearing like vast advertisements, gaunt and distinctive symbols of the new age, cast their whirling shadows and stored incessantly the energy that flowed away incessantly through all the arteries of the city. ...

To the east and south the great circular shapes of complaining wind-wheels blotted out the heavens ...
Where is nature in all this? Where is the countryside? Jacobson’s vision would turn it all into a power plant for the cities, and mines and refineries for endlessly building that power plant. There would be no escape. No nature to marvel at and lose oneself in. No nature to be left alone to live its own lives. Only the vain hand of human expansion.

As Hoagland writes in the other piece, we have already lost so much, as 7 billion people (doubled since 1970, tripled since 1940) trample over and push aside the world of other lives. The dream of renewables, which are inherently inefficient, only expands that process. If we would decry what we have already done to the earth, we need to start doing with a lot less. But the reality of renewables is that their use not only allows but requires more use of fossil and nuclear fuels, more extraction of resources, more paving over paradise.

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

March 20, 2013

Wind industry fears real scrutiny

To the Editor, Valley News:

What is the real threat of Vermont Senate Bill 30 (Dori Wolfe: “Don't Reject Wind Energy in Vermont,” letter, March 17)? Now stripped of the 3-year moratorium provision, it only requires the Section 248 permitting process to abide by rather than merely consider Act 250 criteria.

It is ironic that business people like Wolfe, while in one breath urging us to save the environment by buying their products and services, in the next express alarm that environmental scrutiny “would severely damage the wind industry.”

But on the latter point she is right: These projects, especially on otherwise fiercely protected ridgelines, are not green. The environmental (not to mention financial) costs far outweigh the necessarily minuscule benefit from a diffuse, intermittent, and highly variable source.

To avoid that conclusion, Wolfe raises the specter of oil and gasoline, which fuel our cars, heat our homes, and power our factories but provide almost none of our electricity. In fact, more wind requires building more natural gas– and even diesel-powered plants just for backup. She notes that housecats kill more birds, as if that absolves the additional deaths caused by wind turbines, and disregards wind energy’s unique toll on raptors (eagles, owls, and the like) and bats, the latter already decimated by white nose syndrome.

Wolfe also touts the latest poll showing continuing support for industrial wind energy (ignoring the broad dissatisfaction everywhere they are actually erected or even proposed). If industrial wind is as popular as the polls indicate, then the greater local involvement enabled by Act 250 would be a boon, not a threat.

But S.30 would make it harder for developers to divide communities and to pit town against town, because Act 250 puts the region’s interests before those of industry lobbyists in Montpelier.

If industrial-scale wind (and solar) are indeed beneficial to the environment and communities, locally as well as globally, then its marketers have nothing to fear from a more democratic and environmentally rigorous permitting process. If they do indeed have reason to fear, that’s precisely why we need to say yes to S.30.

Eric Rosenbloom

[Note:  The letter as reproduced here reflects minor editing by the author.]

[Click here to read about Jeff Wolfe's threats regarding S.30.]

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

March 17, 2013

in the muddle is the sounddance

Why do European cars have twice the fuel efficiency as in the US?

Dear Senator/Representative:

I use the Mini Cooper Clubman (manual transmission) as a typical example here, and because the Clubman is a larger model. Compare these fuel efficiency figures:

US: 35 mpg hwy, 27 cty, 30 comb.

UK: 50 mpg hwy, 34 cty, 43 comb. (CO₂ emissions 129 g/km, 152 g/mi)
(converted from Imperial to US gallons)

UK: 65 mpg hwy, 53 cty, 60 comb. (CO₂ emissions 103 g/km, 138 g/mi)
(converted from Imperial to US gallons)

These new super-efficient diesel engines (and apparently the regular gas engines, too) are burdened in the U.S. with obsolete particulate emissions rules that severely reduce their efficiency.

Whereas their efficiency ensures very low emissions anyway.

Please do all you can to allow the new-generation diesel engines that Europeans enjoy into the US, without forcing them (or even regular gas engines) to lose their incredible efficiency.

Imagine cutting the greenhouse gas emissions from most of our cars by half!

[comment:  CO₂ emissions are not regulated in either the U.S. or the E.U., and particulate emission limits are similar (and similarly specified as g/mi or g/km), so it is even stranger that high-efficiency diesel-powered cars, common in Europe, are not available in the U.S. Or that those few diesels that are available in the U.S. (e.g., from Volkswagen) get much less mileage than comparable models in Europe.]

March 13, 2013

Time and the Ferret Fancier

Time, still a cross, an irreconcilable liability; the single healthy moment chased by a starvation future and devoured by a voracious past. Paul Noble said time was only the skin of space, a necessity relative to the mind of man. That hard word relative: the height of a tree relative to the depth of the root and the strength of the storm.

Time like an everflowing stream . . . that pessimistic hymn that always made him see vividly the Annam and hear the curlews mewling, the melancholy air the cry of doomed prisoners in the dark; one of Rainey’s favorites because it could be dropped a key and roared without strain.

But he kept on trying to agree his two times – he had to, to make-believe some semblance of normality. He swore in a new set of intentions every night.

Morning and evening, Rainey one end, Jill the other and every evening scrape scrape scrape – Jill harping on the taut netting-wire with a not unmusical minor sound, the pink eyes flashing when they caught a spark of light. He always intended to be early with her meal but, just like going to school, some small thing or another appeared to delay him.

And then the dull end of a melancholy day – a few hours in the house, the fire dying down, the smell of hot rubber when the bottles were filled, Agatha making her policeman rounds, Ellen taking out her hairpins and letting the still rich gray-black hair flow over her shoulders, transforming herself unwittingly into a young old witch, the dark eyes burning in the parchment-pale face, Conor yawning, winding the clock and examining the kindling for the morning, the refreshed clock dinging and danging out time – ding-dang, time-time. Wash hands, face, teeth, feet and take the miming candle and dance a horde of shadows up the stairs. Bed and an insurance man's spell of a prayer that was a rope down which he slid into timelessness, through all the gathering pageantry of dream.

—Anthony C. West, The Ferret Fancier (1963)