It’s official. As of the last few days you and I now share this earth with 7 billion souls. That number is anticipated to be 9 billion by 2050.
While that speaks volumes about the success of our species it also presents massive challenges for the collective governments of the world. In order to feed that many mouths every day the advanced economies of the world will be forced to develop extreme efficiencies in both water and agricultural technology. That takes energy; lots and lots of energy. Our world economies are currently and predominantly fueled with carbon based resources in the form of natural gas, coal and fossil oil. All three remain beyond abundant and combined could provide world energy needs for the next hundred years at a sustained economic growth rate of 10 percent, which any economist would tell you is a fantasy beyond the reach of our ability right now.
Despite the fallacy that we are quickly “running on empty,” it is imperative that we as a species seek alternative energy resources and quickly for a couple of reasons. One is arguably environmental and the other, according to the most recent middle-east crisis, is geo-political. We are sorely in need of a Thomas Edison moment; a breakthrough that will literally transform the world and would provide a quantum leap in the quality of life as we know it.
The problem, of course, is that this great mind hasn’t had the “light-bulb” moment yet that would allow us to begin our next great chapter. While such breakthrough moments have occurred throughout history we must also be mindful of the many false profits that have attended them as well.
To bring this enormous macro-economic dilemma down to the micro-economic level, Wareham is now faced with its own false profit moment cloaked with the cover of “green energy.” On March 23 the ZBA will continue its hearing on the Wind-Bog project, a proposal for eight industrial-size wind turbines situated on privately owned bogs in Wareham. These would be 50 story wind facilities with wing spans of a Boeing 757.
The problem is that these turbines will do virtually nothing that the developer says they will do. The town gets nothing from this project while at the same time is exposed to potentially massive side effects. There is no sales tax generated, no user tax, no excise tax, and no property tax generated that isn’t already collected. There will be no discounted energy to the community, no net-metering, no economic value of any kind to Wareham. At best perhaps one full-time job may be created. Bog land is already massively subsidized by the taxpayer in the form of land of low value tax assessments.
Now to add insult to injury the tax valuation of surrounding homes may be effected. More than 19 percent of Wareham homes will be within 1.25 miles of one of these turbines. That’s a combined value of over $100 million in tax base. Would you purchase a home next to a wind turbine?
The bottom line is that we have one overly subsidized industry (Cranberry) hosting another overly subsidized industry (wind) at the expense of the tax payer. Wind Bog will claim that coal and gas get more subsidy money which is true in the aggregate. But on a per kilowatt basis wind gets 15 to 20 times the subsidies of the other two.
To prove that this is an artificially propped-up and ultimately unsustainable industry (wholly dependent on taxpayer support) one only needs to look at the project activity during periods of low subsidy funding.
During the fiscal years 2000, 2002 and 2004 wind subsidies virtually dried up and so did project proposals. When major amounts of funding came on line in the form of federal stimulus money (tax credits, electricity production credits, 30 percent Section 168 grants,) an entire cottage industry of speculators and opportunists sprang up with it, one of which has just shown up in Wareham. The Bog Wind developer has virtually no experience at this kind of development. In fact this is his first one. According to the developers own disclosures it has little or no net worth. It could not even afford to come up with the $16,000 53(G) deposit required by the ZBA to fund a consultant to the board. The ZBA had to allow an installment plan for the developer to proceed.
According to the Mass Clean Energy Center, Bog Wind estimated its pre construction costs to be about $325,000. So where is all this up front money coming from? How’s about $50,000 in agricultural agency related grants and $325,000 in low cost loans from Mass Clean Energy (in short 90 percent from the taxpayer). The same taxpayer who will now pay 19 percent more for the energy generated than from conventional resources. In fact, this developer is on record as seeking more grants so that the “landlords” can become equity partners. That would be the cranberry industry.
The cranberry industry needs taxpayer money to fund their equity (ownership) investment into a heavily tax payer subsidized investment? That type of double-dipping in the private sector is called fraud.
You do not have to tolerate this folks. This is your community too. Private property rights can go only so far before they infringe on the rights of others. The good news is that other communities have seen the other side of the green energy story. Very recently the town of Brewster rejected wind turbines, the Bourne developer pulled his project, and the Falmouth selectmen voted that the Wind One turbine be turned off during operating conditions that produce the most offensive side effects, mainly noise. Later next moth the Cape Cod Commission will vote on a sub-committee recommendation to order minimum set backs from residential neighborhoods.
It is now your opportunity to be heard. Attend the ZBA hearings. Listen very carefully to the opponents arguments, which come at the conclusion of the developer’s presentation. Pay attention to the developer’s lack of credible response which has been his M.O. thus far. I assure you what you will hear is not exactly sunshine blowing in the wind. While you do so don’t forget who is waiting and watching quietly in the room. If this passes muster at the level of a few of the smaller cranberry bog owners what do you think are the chances that the major growers will pass this one up?
What would that look like? What will your community look like with a forest of mega wind turbines all over what our cranberry friends boast is pristine open space? Who exactly do you think will care what you think once you allow this to happen and they have made their return on your investment?
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