There’s an awful lot of spin going on in Robbie Gemmel and John Kirby’s playful documentary, “Cape Spin! An American Power Struggle,” which avoids taking sides in the tragicomic, decade-long battle for the future of Nantucket Sound.
In 2001, Jim Gordon — a man who’d made his fortune from gas-fired power plants (he still owns a few) — decided to go green, proposing to construct the first major wind farm in America off the coast of the idyllic playground for the rich.
Although seemingly no one in the film is opposed to clean energy as a concept, the “Cape Wind” project, with 130 turbines standing 440 feet tall to be spread across a 25-square-mile area, immediately met opposition from the NIMBY crowd.
But as Neal Costello, a lobbyist for Cape Wind (and one of the dozens of people interviewed in the film) points out: “These people who say ‘not in my back yard’ — it begs the question: How big is their (expletive) back yard?”
Pretty big, it would seem.
Fossil fuel magnate Bill Koch, billionaire CEO of Oxbow Carbon, was one of the original financiers of the deep-pocketed Alliance to Preserve Nantucket Sound.
Although the filmmakers were unable to interview Koch, they have an attractive, articulate mouthpiece for the Alliance with Audra Parker. Hailing from Chelmsford, she’s engaged in a full-time push-back against Barbara Hill, the bespectacled, folksy lady from Washington, D.C., who represents Clean Power Now, the well-heeled group in favor of Cape Wind.
Both sides have spent a combined total of more than $70 million in the bitter feud, and there are currently 11 lawsuits pending against the project, challenging rulings on fishing, navigation, endangered species and tribal rights.
“There are really two Cape Cods,” observes NPR reporter Sean Corcoran. “There’s the rich Cape Cod — and then there’s the folks that serve those people. And they make up the vast majority of this population here.”
One of the little guys, Peter Kenney, a local commentator known as “The Great Gadfly,” sums up the situation best when he confronts Jim Gordon at a public event.
“You know what green energy is? This is green energy,” he says, producing a dollar bill from his pocket.
(“Cape Spin! An American Power Struggle” contains brief coarse language and a wealth of Kennedys.)