I can understand Bill Christian’s discomfort at the recent Dorset wind forum (Manchester Journal, Nov. 22), as I have experienced that same feeling when my belief in wind energy as a solution to climate change was challenged by facts and information.
As a researcher I have been willing to listen and learn, and I hope he will be open, too, as some of his assumptions and challenges to the information presented are not supported by facts.
We should all be concerned that, according to a New York Times article published on Nov. 19, globally the use of coal has increased 4.5 percent between 2010 and 2012. Germany, which is often cited as the best example of success incorporating wind and solar, increased its CO2 emissions last year by 1 percent, and Japan which had a goal of producing 25 percent less greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 has recently had to admit that it will not meet that goal and now projects that it will increase its emissions by 3 percent by 2020.
The message is that the conversion to renewables is not as easy as it appears. Simply building more renewables is not, by itself, going to save the planet. A recent report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation titled “Challenging the Clean Energy Deployment Consensus,” provides a thoughtful critique of the idea that just building more wind and solar will solve the climate crisis.
New England’s situation contains some good news, though, in terms of reducing coal and oil consumption. While Mr. Christian rails against coal, the fact is that between 2000 and 2012, regional oil consumption fell from 22 percent to less than 1 percent of all fuels for electricity generation, and coal consumption fell from 18 percent to 3 percent. Coal consumption in the New England electric grid is expected to further decline as more coal plants are slated for retirement. The not so good news is that natural gas is replacing coal and oil, and the region is becoming too dependent on natural gas for electricity. Natural gas is methane, which is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Contrary to Mr. Christian’s claim, I did not refer to “the myth of global warming,” as I acknowledge that the climate is changing. His purported quote is not something I have said or ever would say. My reference to “the myth of peak oil” was in the context of fracking for oil, which has changed the projections for the planet running out of oil as soon as was anticipated as recently as a decade ago. Without providing any sources, Mr. Christian disputes my statement that there is a 70 percent efficient natural gas power plant. The siting commission set up by the governor took a field trip to the natural gas plant in Londonderry, N.H. where they and I heard a presentation from the plant’s CEO and president. His presentation is online and it shows that the plant had a capacity factor of 72.9 percent in 2008 and 81.3 percent in 2012. I am sorry to say that it is true that Vermont’s mountain tops have been removed for wind turbines, something that has been well documented and which I have seen myself. Mr. Christian’s fixation on the damage done by coal does not make removing Vermont’s mountain tops for wind turbines okay. There is virtually no connection now between coal mining in West Virginia and wind energy development in Vermont. Building more wind turbines on New England’s mountains will not save any mountains in West Virginia, as our region uses very little coal.
Sadly, Mr. Christian’s claim that Wind Turbine Syndrome has been debunked is not true. I spend much of my time these days trying to help the victims of the big wind turbines that have been constructed on Georgia Mountain, the Lowell Mountains, and in Sheffield. People are living with intolerable noise and consequent health problems. Day after day, neighbors of these projects suffer headaches, sleeplessness, panic attacks, ringing in the ears – all without relief, and obviously without compassion from people like Mr. Christian who are for some reason inclined to ridicule their suffering. I would be glad to introduce him to the Therriens and their children, who would gratefully exchange houses with him for a while so he can experience what they do firsthand.
Vermonters for a Clean Environment has been working in Vermont communities for 14 years. We are not now and never have been funded by special interests of any kind, including coal, oil, natural gas, or nuclear. We are Vermonters working together to create healthy communities. We invite Mr. Christian to join us in our efforts to find meaningful solutions to Vermont’s energy needs that support our communities rather than divide them.
Annette Smith is the executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Inc. and lives in Danby.
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