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The ‘Big Wind’ debate  

Credit:  The Orleans Record, orleanscountyrecord.com 7 March 2012 ~~

If the argument for erecting giant windmills on our ridgelines is that it is a means of moving us as a state and country away from our dependence on fossil fuels, there is little evidence to support that argument. In fact the exact opposite may be true. Because wind energy is as unreliable and intermittent as it is and because the Governor is so intent on removing nuclear power from the mix, we may be more dependent on electricity generated from fossil fuels such as coal and oil for baseload power when the wind is not blowing. With the State legislature giving the utilities the power to sell their Renewable Energy Credits they “earn” from wind generation to even larger utilities south of Vermont who are dependent on fossil fuel generation the argument in favor of industrial wind becomes even weaker. Electricity accounts for only 4% of Vermont’s carbon emissions. Most carbon emissions come from motor vehicles and heating fuel. A more positive approach to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels would be more research into biofuels and heat efficiency.

If the argument for industrial wind is to protect us from “climate change,” that argument does not hold much water either. Most scientists believe Tropical Storm Irene may be more a matter of “cyclical change” than “climate change.” To consider Tropical Storm Irene a product of “climate change,” one would have to forget the Flood of 1927. The Governor’s answer to flood control seems to be to enable powerful corporations to shave our ridgetops and erect giant wind towers across the now barren landscape. His view of climate change is through the eyes of an ambitious politician, not through the eyes of the scientist. There is evidence that the destruction/construction involved in creating these industrial wind projects will have an adverse affect on flood conditions. It never makes sense to destroy one fragile yet viable environment to save a much larger environment we have even less control of. It makes even less sense that the very forces that have put our planet in peril are now holding the reins of power. Our energy policies are being driven by utilities making profits on the backs of our most economically disadvantaged citizens and communities.

Questions of land arise in the debate over Big Wind. During the Douglas Administration a moratorium was put on all public lands to keep industrial wind off state property. Now in a push to bring industrial wind to public land in Deerfield in the southern part of the state the present administration wants to lift the ban. Is the state government a better steward of the land than private land owners? Is it in the state’s best interests to bar or limit land use on public property? Is it in the State’s best interest to allow utilities to criminalize otherwise law-abiding citizens on private property in their protest against industrial wind? Is it in the State’s best interest to allow a powerful corporation to arrest an acclaimed reporter covering this protest? Is it in the State’s best interest to allow this same major utility to blast away a portion of this property that is under dispute by one landowner? Is it in the State’s best interest to allow a major utility to criminalize a landowner to the point where he cannot collect firewood on his own property without the threat of being heavily fined or even arrested? Finally, is it in the State’s best interest to approve the merger of Green Mountain with Central Vermont Public Service and allow it to wield even more abusive power than it has on the Lowell ridgeline. The State’s best interest is the Public’s interest. The time has come to revisit and maybe redefine the term “public good,” in order to serve the public and not just the utilities.

Utilities like Green Mountain Power are moving ahead with their projects at lightning speed, thanks to a highly expedited review process taken on by the Public Service Board. What used to take years through the arduous Act 250 process, now is much quicker, where public hearings are conducted and expert testimony is all but ignored. Environmental concerns take a back seat to the process, with safeguards put in place after the fact. Officials step out of the way, avoiding being run over by the very freight train they helped create.

The administration’s energy plan projects well into the future, 2050. A lot can change between now and then. Instead of conserving energy we will be using more electricity for running cars and heating our homes. People will become even more dependent on the most expensive energy on the planet. Most of our ridgelines will be destroyed. Our fresh clean water supply will be a thing of the past, possibly polluted by the high-maintenance machinery designed to “save” our planet. Long before this happens the wind towers, which have a life expectancy of 20 to 25 years will be either rendered useless by old age or dismantled. This is not the vision of the future I want to leave my grandchildren. Maybe it is time for political climate change. Maybe it is time to elect leaders who serve all the people instead of only people who fit with their agenda and support their political campaigns. Maybe it is time to elect leaders who appoint people willing to think independently and offer good advice, instead of kow-towing to the Governor’s every wish.

There are two informational videos available now. One is put out by Energize Vermont called “Vermont’s Energy Options.” The other is “Windfall.” Proponents of Big Wind may not reach the same conclusions as the films do, but they will be braced with important information. There are many parallels between the small New York town documented in “Windfall” and Lowell.

Richard Rumery

Newport Center, Vt.

Source:  The Orleans Record, orleanscountyrecord.com 7 March 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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