OCEAN CITY — The Sierra Club’s plan to promote wind energy turned into a debate Friday afternoon over science and economics when several groups opposed to offshore wind turbines arrived to protest.
The environmental-advocacy group planned to teach kids to fly kites on the 10th Street beach to coincide with Global Wind Day, a worldwide event originally coordinated by wind-energy producers to gain support for the technology and industry.
Americans for Prosperity, a nationwide political advocacy group, counterprotested in New Jersey and elsewhere, sending out news releases calling the events “a concentrated effort to indoctrinate small children into a cult-like movement.”
In Ocean City, Sierra Club members and the various families who came out to join them flew kites on the beach, while members of local tea party-oriented groups held their demonstration on the Boardwalk.
The two groups mostly stayed separate. A few members from each talked to the opposing side and cordially debated the issues. They also took turns pitching their positions to passers-by.
“We basically wanted to come out to talk about the fallacy of wind energy,” said Dennis Mahon, of Northfield, president of Liberty and Prosperity, a local nonprofit group.
Mahon spoke through a megaphone, and several people held up American flags and signs bearing slogans such as “Global Wind Power, Another Wacko Idea.”
“I realize that sometime down the line here we’re going to need some form of renewable energy,” said Bob Krug, of Upper Pittsgrove Township, Salem County, who was with the Greenwich Tea Party. “I think that right now, natural gas is the way to go.”
The protesters made financial arguments against wind energy, saying the costs for installing and maintaining wind turbines are too high, and that it would be a waste of taxpayer money through subsidies.
Costs and benefits of wind turbines on land and offshore have been debated and analyzed extensively in New Jersey as several East Coast states have been racing to build the first offshore wind farm in the country.
Plans to build wind turbines off New Jersey are still in the approval process, and it will likely take years before such a project is completed.
Meanwhile, the people gathered to promote wind energy mainly advocated for it from an environmental standpoint. They said that, as a relatively clean source of electricity, it helps to reduce pollution caused by coal burning and natural gas extraction.
“Global climate change is going to affect us all,” said Donna Henry, of Galloway Township.
“We need clean air so we can have a better life,” said Henry’s 12-year-old daughter, Tatum.
Kim Teplitzky, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club, said that if taxpayer groups are concerned about state and federal subsidies for renewable energy, they should be just as critical of subsidies for fossil-fuel industries.
“I’m all for doing away with all the subsidies,” he said. “Do away with all the regulations, too.”
Asked whether he would support wind energy if the technology were improved and it would not cost taxpayer money or increase electricity rates, he said he “would go for that in a heartbeat.”