There’s a reason I don’t live in New Jersey. It doesn’t look like Oklahoma.
Well, sure, they’ve got The Pine Barrens, a woodsy area where a guy got killed by a bear this past fall, and a little bit of marshy seashore left that used to have some pretty good duck hunting, but that’s about it. Drive through the state like I used to as a kid, quite regularly, between Key West and Maine, and you’ll pass through mile after mile of industrial “high rise”; smoke and vapor stacks billowing plumes into the sky; mile after square mile of “tank farms” full of gas, oil, and chemical products.
The only part of the nation that looks more polluted at first glance is South Louisiana where my father has lived for over thirty years now.
I don’t want New Jersey to come to Oklahoma, but it is anyway. It’s coming in the form of giant windmill machines that stand four hundred feet high and whirl huge metal blades of over sixty feet in length, three to a machine, which at a distance look like something out of a Mad Max movie; futuristic and horribly menacing. In fact, they’re already here, sprouting like huge metal mushrooms out of countryside I have hunted and fished all of my life from one end of the state to the other.
Wind machine proponents, often federally subsidized in the construction of their machines, tout the machines as a door to the future of electric energy use in America. They’re betting on it; nevermind the days when the wind doesn’t blow, and that there has not yet been developed a battery huge enough to store electricity for use on windless days.
They’re paying landowners what amounts to a royalty of the machines’ monthly production, the same as oil companies have done with their product for over a century, now. Nobody knows if one of the mills will ever run an ambulance, a school bus, or a rescue vehicle of any type.
When the same machines were proposed for the windy Atlantic just off the trendy shorelines, and in sight of, President Obama’s favorite vacation spot, the island of Martha’s Vineyard, then Senator Ted Kennedy, of Massachusetts, whose family has long maintained a private mansion there, did everything he could to kill the proposal as quickly as possible. He offered that the famed Vineyard’s oceanic views were too valuable to sacrifice as experimentation projects for “green energy”. Some other place would have to do.
Well, here we are, right? Who cares about the view in Oklahoma? The Governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, in conjunction with developers coming into his state, has apparently agreed to keeping the garish looking contraptions out of southeastern Kansas, and the fabled Flint Hills, actually geographically a part of the ecosystem of greater Osage County, a place I drive through at least once a week so close is it to my home, and probably yours.
Environmentalists, many of which are active hunters and fishermen, are fighting the introduction of these machines based on their potential danger to wildlife habitat. It’s already known that night migrating birds of all kinds fly into tall buildings on clear nights, let alone during inclement weather.
The sound of the machines, and they make a noise you can’t hear inside your vehicle driving by at sixty miles an hour, might disrupt breeding habits of fowl, particularly rapidly declining populations of (in our part of the state) the Greater Prairie Chicken, and the Eastern Meadowlark, birds that were once seen nearly inside the city limits of both Mannford and Sand Springs. An effect on deer populations? Nobody knows.
The Osage Indian Tribe is against the machines because “planting” them will involve moving soil, rocks, i.e. minerals, which they own totally as a tribe in that county, in order to erect the devices. Private property owners in Osage County own the surface rights to their land, and presumably the air that blows over it, but not the minerals. It’s going to be an interesting case when it finally gets to court. If it does.
My main argument against the things is almost a purely aesthetic one: I hate looking at the things. I’d bet every bit as much as Ted Kennedy did.
Does the wind only blow in Osage County? If we’re going to mess up the scenery in Osage County to provide what amounts to more government jobs wind machine manufacturers and their employees, let’s go ahead, do the job right, and start putting them up all around the U.S. wherever the wind blows. Put five or six on top of Mount Rushmore; a few hundred along the skyline of the Grand Tetons; at least twenty or thirty on top of Pike’s Peak. How about a small one on top of the Washington monument? George was a patriot, and surely would have approved. The Golden Gate Bridge? The Gateway Arch in St. Louis could hold at least two. Downtown Chicago? Oh, my goodness. The “Windy City”?
Mike Fuhr, State Director for the Oklahoma Chapter of the Nature Conservancy addressed this topic in a Tulsa World editorial this past December 18, and did a good job doing it. It jogged my memory and reminded of a similar piece I did seven years ago which included a photo I took of one of my former favorite state views on Highway 64 just west of Fort Supply, on the way to Guymon. If the pagination people at the printer’s didn’t mess up, you should be able to see it with this article. What you will see used to be one of my favorite views in the state.
Too much of the state has already been visually corrupted by these godawful things. What’s a good view worth?
All of the last, and best, scenic spots left in our state? Osage County, too?