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“Cleaner energy” is destructive symbolism

To the Editor:

Re: “Cleaner Energy” (Editorial, May 28) – The growth of renewable energy is not in itself a sign of good. By the same reasoning, heart disease and diabetes are good since more people every year develop these diseases.

Renewable energy standards are fundamentally flawed. Their ostensible goal – reduction of carbon emissions or fossil fuel use – is not what they actually require. It is like making every suburban commuter strap a bicycle to the back of their car. Nothing actually has to change – the requirement is only symbolic.

Similarly, it is meaningless to say that wind generates, e.g., 20% of Iowa’s electricity. The question is how much less fossil fuel is burned. After 10 years of such wind “penetration” in Denmark, fossil fuel savings due to wind on the grid can not be shown. This seems to be because wind is intermittent and highly variable, so other sources must be kept running on standby or must run less efficiently with more frequent starts and stops, thus significantly reducing, or even canceling, any potential carbon savings.

But grid-scale wind energy is more than a mere symbol. It represents an unprecedented industrialization of rural and even wild places to collect the very diffuse resource, with not only sprawling arrays of 400-feet-high strobe-lit spinning machines, but also the wide strong roads needed for their construction and maintenance, substations to connect them to the grid, and miles of new transmission lines. Besides destroying both human and wild habitats, developers leave behind divided communities, where they expertly pit a few well-paid-off landowners against their neighbors, or even one town against another.

The result of subsidies to big wind has been only destructive.

Eric Rosenbloom
President, National Wind Watch, Inc.