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Windmills aren’t the answer to increasing energy needs

Fact: What was the book George Washington bought immediately after signing the Constitution? The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote. I had no idea Washington had such a great sense of humor. I feel a kindred spirit with the great man as I begin this letter to try to kill the windmills that could be forming on our horizons in a few years.

In 2019, Michael Moore produced a movie called “Planet of the Humans,” exposing the alternative energy business as being, in a word, “bogus.” The film is free on YouTube for anyone who wants to watch it. I highly recommend it. It is factual, clear and far-reaching. What is particularly interesting is this is produced by Moore, who has championed many liberal causes. Green energy has been seen as a liberal cause.

Prager University, a conservative media group, has a similar film called “Unobtanium,” which is a reference to the magical energy source found on the planet Pandora in the movie “Avatar.” It is also a good watch. The movie is, of course, fantasy. Prager has been criticized as a right-leaning group favorable to the oil and gas industries. That’s what makes Michael Moore’s movie so interesting. Both Moore and Prager have come to the same conclusion: There is not enough energy in wind and solar to replace fossil fuels by a lot.

Solar energy, for example, has an energy density of 1.5 microjoules per cubic meter. That is over 20 quadrillion times less than oil. Windmills provide somewhat more energy than solar, but still minuscule in comparison to oil. To the layman that means there ain’t no gold in them there hills. This is according to a study by the International Journal of Green Energy done by Bradley Layton of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics at Drexel University. The study found that to replace the amount of electric energy provided by fossil fuels in the U.S. with solar you would need to cover an area the size of Texas with solar panels. Is that reasonable? That was based on 2008 usage. Our energy needs are a lot more today.

Remember the saying “Science is not political.”

The largest contributor to greenhouse emissions that create climate change is China. The Chinese pollute almost twice as much as the next largest contributor (the U.S.). The U.S. has reduced and continues to reduce its carbon footprint. China stated in its pledge to the Kyoto Protocol that it would reach peak emissions in 2030. That should be hardly comforting to those who think coastal cities will be underwater in the next few years. It’s hardly comforting to me, knowing how transparent the Chinese Communist Party has been on all fronts, that it would comply with any international agreements unless it is in its best interests to do so.

In fact, China, at 28%, contributes more greenhouse gases than both the second and third polluters together (U.S. and India, 22%). To my knowledge, India has made no timeline commitment to reduce emissions or state when it will reach peak emissions. Both China and India have said it will take about $2 trillion or $3 trillion each from developed countries to get into compliance. Whatever that means. Which developed country is going to ante up, particularly to the second largest economy (China)?

Now on to the next part of our reality check. Developing countries want what we have: a good standard of living and healthy economies. Who is going to tell most of continental Africa, South America and other parts of the world, “Sorry, guys, you can’t develop because we need you to stay undeveloped to save the planet”? Do you really think they will do that? Countries in these areas will achieve income parity through energy.

The energy densities of both wind and solar might supplement coal, oil and natural gas, but the sun is closer to the Earth than these energies are to replacing fossil fuels. Both wind and solar also come at an enormous cost to the environment. Mining operations, manufacture, distribution, installation and maintenance all require carbon technologies. And where are the turbines made? China! Of course. So there are as yet no U.S. jobs involved except to set them up. Another net loss/cost for the U.S.

Fifty-eight percent of China’s energy comes from coal. It has no issue burning copious amounts of coal to make wind turbines for the U.S., particularly knowing that relying on alternative energies makes us weaker as a country. In fact, China today burns more coal than the rest of the world put together.

I have another question that is important to the Jersey coast windmill equation. Who is responsible for taking the windmills down when they have worn out? The taxpayer again? Is the current plan just to let them fall apart in place? Will the toxins, neodymium, dysprosium, rust and concrete, not to mention the tons of carbon dioxide from the manufacture of concrete, leach into the ocean a few miles from our beaches? Can the plan be to have the blades, turbines and bases disintegrate and fall into the sea a few miles from the beach with endless hazardous debris washing up on our shores? Surely that is not the plan. This cannot be the best that we can offer.

My suggestion is do what Colorado did with the rape of the land that mining operations caused in that state, if this foolishness cannot be stopped now. Colorado forced mining companies to fill in the holes when they were done and restore the area to pre-mining conditions. That virtually stopped the abusive mining. I’d have these energy companies put enough money (1½ times the cost of the project) in escrow for the removal of the windmills when the time comes, and the time will come. The life expectancy of a windmill is about 20 to 25 years in a normal environment. That would avoid shell companies filing for bankruptcy when they are done with the ruins (just one more Superfund dump site).

Anyone who owns a house on the Island knows that rust begins to form on our exterior metal hardware items in a matter of months, not years. I expect the lifespan of the windmills to be a fraction of the published lifespan.

A huge escrow account would prevent the problems created by companies like Monsanto and GE when they dumped PCBs in the Housatonic and Hudson rivers. When these companies were presented with the cleanup bills, they feebly pointed to the lease agreements those states had signed allowing them to dump. The politicians who happily signed these agreements are long out of office or dead. These same companies used blackmail tactics, threatening to close operations in those states and move all operations and employees elsewhere. Which they did anyway, moving most of the jobs offshore.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a climate change denier. Climate change is real. The U.S. Navy is studying climate change very closely. Insurance companies have revised and continue to revise their insurance models based on climate change. I don’t have a silver bullet answer. However, this proposal of windmills off the Jersey coast is misguided. Nah, it’s just plain absurd when you dig into the numbers.

Windmills are a very bad deal for New Jersey and in general. It seems, though, that as a country we are hell-bent on alternative energy no matter what the cost. Yet more and more people are becoming aware of the negative impacts of these alternatives.

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of the facts and evidence,” wrote John Adams. One more of my favorite quotes is by another great leader: “I’d rather argue against a hundred idiots than have one agree with me.” – Winston Churchill. Hope everyone enjoyed their “Independence Day.”

Bill Boyd lives in Brant Beach.