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Wind and coal: step-siblings

Dave Murphy wrote thoughtfully last week about the problems of coal extraction and paper mill exhausts as they create environmental and health problems in the area. We should indeed be concerned about these problems, and work as a community to regulate these industries in ways that reduce or eliminate them. For example, the costs of mountaintop removal coal extraction techniques in terms of environmental destruction are far too high. And we should welcome, not resist, EPA enforcement of air pollution standards.

But then Mr. Murphy veers off path by implying that massive wind technology will do anything about these problems. Perhaps he doesn’t know that wind and coal are step-siblings, related because the corporations that own most of the coal farms are the same ones that own and operate most of the wind plants, such as Florida Power and Light, GE, and our friends nearby at AES. Many of GE’s wind turbines came from Enron, which GE bought after the former company went belly up in 2001. We’ll be hearing a lot from GE this year in praise of wind technology, since NBC is also owned by this corporate giant.

Wind technology has a massive footprint, much greater than any coal mine or paper mill. But it produces no capacity value, meaning it cannot replace conventional power plants that do produce reliably. More wind facilities will likely produce more coal facilities, not lessen their number.

Reasonable people should agree, in any event, that two wrongs don’t make a right – here or anywhere.

Jon Boone


The Republican

17 January 2008