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Wording of Orangeville wind turbine survey was biased

The old adage, “figures never lie, but liars figure,” is a most appropriate axiom when applied to the Orangeville wind turbine survey (mailed Aug. 19, 2008). The first of five survey questions is worded to elicit a desired response from Orangeville residents. It reads; “Would you be in favor of a wind turbine energy project in the Town of Orangeville if it reduced your town property taxes for at least 20 years or more?” This conditional question is both hypothetical and directional. Certainly, the majority of property owners will vote yes to a hypothetical that “may” reduce their property taxes.

According to David Shapiro of the Wyoming County Planning and Development Office, 73 percent of the respondents marked yes to the survey question quoted above. As expressed, it is surprising that the affirmative responses were not 100 percent. In support of this biased wording, the December 2008 newsletter from the Invenergy Corporation states that this town board survey “proves there is strong, consistent support for wind energy in Orangeville.” It also claims that this is a fair and independent gauge of the local support for wind energy.

In order for a survey to be “fair and independent,” the questions must not contain any directional hypotheses. The survey questions must be thoroughly reviewed to eliminate any prejudicial wording and field tested to determine their objectivity. These controls for bias were obviously not applied when developing this survey.

How would the Orangeville property owners respond to the following hypothetical question? “Do you favor a wind turbine energy project in the Town of Orangeville if it significantly reduces the value of your property and negatively impacts your quality of life?” With the exception of the developer’s paid supporters, it is highly unlikely that there would be any affirmative responses to such a question.

Therefore, what is the motivation for such a manipulative survey question? Do town officials and developers have an altruistic desire to “save the environment” and help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by allowing a wind turbine farm to be developed in Orangeville? Objective scientific evidence clearly rejects the claim that wind energy is a viable large scale alternative to fossil fuels or nuclear energy.

Wind energy projects across the globe have not replaced even one fossil fuel or nuclear generating plant.

Fundamentally, wind energy is neither reliable nor predictable. It cannot provide power on demand, it is not compact, and it is not economical. (See Droz, J. aaprJohn@northnet.org).

In reality, wind power development is sold to a community based on temporary financial incentives offered by the developers. The only thing “green” in this transaction is the developers’ subsidized profit paid for with our tax dollars and shared with local supporters who have signed land-lease contracts with the developers. Some of the current Orangeville town officials are paid supporters of the proposed Orangeville Stony Creek wind farm project having signed land-lease agreements with the developer. In spite of their personal financial interest in seeing this project move forward, they refuse to resign their public position or recuse themselves from matters related to the proposed Orangeville wind energy project.

The driving force behind the wording of the survey question quoted above is neither altruism nor sound scientific methodology. Instead, the answer can be found by following the money trail. The unfortunate consequence of this self-serving motivation is that when the government subsidies and tax breaks end, wind turbine projects will languish. This will leave local communities with short term gain for some, and long term pain for all because of an unnecessary exploitation of the environment. Sadly, there is no difference in outcomes between greed and incompetence.

We all support new and efficient technologies that will help satisfy our large scale energy needs at a reasonable cost. However, society has limited financial resources and expending large amounts of taxpayer dollars on inefficient wind energy projects will further delay the development of real solutions to all our energy demands.

Dr. Joseph A. Zampogna is a citizen of Orangeville.