What is this guy running for, president of Holland?
If so, he might as well go all the way and let New Jerseyans smoke marijuana in coffeehouses. Then perhaps we might come to understand why our electric rates will be rising to subsidize an ill-advised experiment with a technology that shows no sign of ever producing power economically.
I’m talking about Chris Christie and windmills. On Thursday, our governor held a bill-signing ceremony in Gloucester County to tout the idea of raising your electric rates to place windmills in the ocean off New Jersey.
I spent the day in Union Beach. The beach in question is on Raritan Bay and offers a splendid view of the New York Harbor. I was enjoying that view in the company of some local residents who are leading the opposition to the Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority’s plan to erect a giant windmill not far from the bayfront.
As we gazed out over the harbor, Bill Heller told me the windmill in question would be 75 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. I could see the statue looming on the other side of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. And if you can see the statue from Union Beach, that means this windmill would be visible from most of the New York Bay. And that in turn means it would become a symbol of Union Beach.
It’s a symbol the residents don’t want, said Borough Councilman Lou Andreuzzi. He told me he preferred the town be symbolized by the waterfront area that has been recently restored to pristine condition.
“We’re really proud of Union Beach,” Andreuzzi said. “This town has come so far in 30 years.”
That’s a polite way of saying the place used to be a dump. Literally. Heller mentioned a toxic-waste site up the beach a bit that used to be a dumping ground for used batteries.
“If these people are so green, why don’t they give us a grant to clean that up instead of a grant to build a wind turbine?” he asked.
The town’s residents feel they’re being used as a dumping ground yet again, this time for a project that wouldn’t be accepted in an uppermiddle-class enclave like Holmdel, which also belongs to the regional sewerage authority.
The authority board members from that town accuse Union Beach residents of being anti-environment, said Andreuzzi.
“They constantly insult our people like we just crawled out from under rocks,” said Andreuzzi, who has an MBA and is a high school teacher. “Well, they have 443 acres known as Lucent Technologies in Holmdel. If you put 10 wind turbines there you could be a hero.”
Of course, anyone who suggested such a thing “wouldn’t get out the door of that council meeting without getting tarred and feathered,” he said.
The problem for proponents of windmills is that thanks to the miracle of the internet, it’s easy to set up a website showing videos of them making noise, killing birds, catching fire, blowing apart, falling over and doing other things that drive the neighbors nuts. Heller, who is a corporate events planner by trade, has put such a site together at “noturbine.com.”
The solution signed into law by Christie earlier that day is to put the windmills so far out at sea that they can’t be seen from land. That sounds nice – until you think about how expensive it would be. The Union Beach project carries a price tag of about $7 million, with half of it paid for by a federal grant. If it costs that much to erect one windmill on land, what would it cost to erect dozens of them at sea?
The economic analysis of the bill states that “it is impossible to estimate what the rate request will be and how it will affect ratepayers.”
It is possible to estimate how those ratepayers will react, though. They’ll be ticked off. Everyone likes the green movement – until they have to part with some green.
Political insiders suspect this is all part of Christie’s agenda to position himself as some sort of a fresh face on the national Republican scene so he might make it onto the 2012 Republican ticket.
I hope so. Because the alternative is frightening.
He may really believe in this stuff.
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