A friend sent me an op ed that cracked the door on a little bit of truth that urban America needs to accept. Rural America doesn’t want to become your power plant. Donald Trump was in Iowa recently, and issued a Trumpism critical of wind power. The media jumped on its propaganda pony to point out that Iowa loves wind, and gets 36.6% of its energy from wind. The story was that Trump was a lone critical voice and that Iowans are happy to reap wind profits and jobs and nobody minds becoming America’s power house. That’s just not true, according to the op ed. There is serious resistance to industrial wind in Iowa and other rural states. I already know this, but many do not, preferring instead to believe the rosy picture painted by an industry making money hand over fist exploiting rural America.
What’s the difference between what happened in West Virginia a hundred years ago and what’s happening in the Midwest now? Not much. Out-of-state corporations invaded and bought up the land and the people in order to exploit them for corporate gain. The people were told it was a great opportunity for jobs and tax revenue, and became so dependent on a single industry that they can’t survive without it. Energy became the only game in town, and the politicians and profiteers refused to utter any criticism, despite the reality that it was actually destroying the state. And then, just like that, energy was no longer sustainable in the state because society had moved on from that particular form of energy. And the state was left in ruins as the corporations raced on to the next big energy goldmine. Those who refuse to learn from history are destined to repeat it.
Wind energy relies on tax credits. The companies who build wind farms are raking in the dough courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. When the governmental largess stops, so will the wind farms. But meanwhile, wind energy companies are desperately, madly, trying to build new tax credit generators while they still can. And rural America resists.
What was it Donald Trump said? “I don’t want to just hope the wind blows to light up your house and your factory…” Wind is an intermittent resource. It doesn’t blow constantly at a consistent speed. If Iowa was 100% dependent on wind energy, homes and factory lights would rise and fall like the wind. I saw another propaganda blast last week that claimed a European country’s train system runs on “100% wind energy.” Untrue. Electrons are all the same color, whether created by coal or wind, and they’re all mixed together when combined on the electric grid. Otherwise, that train would start and stop, slow down and speed up, based on a gust of wind. Face it, other forms of energy generation must back up intermittent resources to provide a steady stream of energy. At some point, wind reaches saturation in a geographic area, and considering that rural America doesn’t use a whole lot of power compared to urban America, Iowa may be at its saturation point right now. But the tax credits are still good for another 3 years, and once a wind farm qualifies, it can draw on that credit for 10 years. When the last big hurrah of wind gets built in 3 years, and when the 10-year draw of taxpayer profits expires, Iowa is going to be left in a graveyard of broken wind turbines that are too expensive to fix, and without tax credits, it doesn’t make sense to replace them. But the wind industry needs to build NOW, even if Iowa can’t use the power, so the companies want to export it. And the next thing you know, some cowboy wants to build gigantic transmission lines for export. While hosting turbines is completely voluntary on the part of the landowner (and some argue that the landowner is paid quite generously for leasing land), cowboy’s transmission line wants to use eminent domain to force landowners to host its towers for a pittance. There’s a complete disconnect here – if wind farms are voluntary, then the infrastructure to enable them should also be voluntary. But it’s not. And rural America objects to having its productivity and lifestyle sacrificed for benefit of big wind’s profits and the environmental dreams of electric consumers in other states.
This article makes a better attempt at balanced coverage. This is the story that urban America never hears. And the few who do hear it tell the ones living in wind alley that their criticisms of industrial wind aren’t true, or that the should just suck it up, or that criticism of big wind is a sock puppet of the Koch brothers. As one Iowan commented, you just haven’t become effective in your opposition until some arrogant, urban environmentalist accuses you of being funded by the fossil fuel industry. Nailed it.
Putting aside the politicians and wind farm hosts, and the corporations who fund them with a tiny portion of their profits, all the “support” of big wind comes from urban environmentalists who don’t live there. This is often expressed quite arrogantly by folks who want to save the planet at someone else’s expense. They’re condescending, they’re blithe, they’re arrogant, and they don’t want to host energy infrastructure in their own communities. They’re looking for the next patsy, because importing coal-fired power from West Virginia is now just so gauche. It’s not about taking responsibility for their own needs (something rural America is very familiar with), it’s about demanding that someone else take responsibility and sacrifice for their needs. The dictating to rural America about what they must do isn’t going over too well. Rural America isn’t some cretinous population easily swayed to paint Tom Sawyer’s fence, and they resent being treated as such. And they will continue to resist urban America until the arrogance stops. Everybody matters, or nobody matters. Those who think they’re so smart that they can control rural America like a monkey on a leash just can’t seem to grasp why they continue to lose. We must come together on even footing. If you love wind energy, urban America, put it in your own backyard. Rural America doesn’t want to become your power plant.
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