Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 573, June 6, 2010

"A sign of the tyrant is a failure to
distinguish between dissent and treason"

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Green as in Money
by Craig Goodrich

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Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

I grew up in rural Wisconsin.and spent my adolescent summers at my aunt's place on the St. Lawrence River. I know and love the people and lifestyle. Not terribly cosmopolitan, sometimes, but peaceful, close to the earth, and very, very human.

I returned home recently for a visit and discovered that huge swaths of rustic Wisconsin countryside had been vandalized by armies of monstrosities the size of the Statue of Liberty, with a Boeing 747 pinned to her nose. 86 of the things have been put only 2 miles from Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin, the largest freshwater marsh in the world and a major stopover for migrating mallards and geese (duckburger, anyone?). Now Wolfe Island, at the entry to the beautiful St. Lawrence from Lake Ontario, has been desecrated the same way, and plans are afoot for Amherst Island and Cape Vincent. Ye Gods, has everyone completely lost their minds?

Their whooshing and low-frequency thub-thub-thub, audible at disturbing volumes for up to five miles in the mountains or over water, prevents people from sleeping, upsets livestock to the point that productivity decreases sharply while miscarriages rise, and drives away all wildlife (who do not have to worry about mortgages or property values) within a three-mile radius. No deer, bear, or even squirrels. Offshore turbines in Great Yarmouth, England, are causing baby seals to be born dead or to be abandoned by their overstressed mothers at the Yorkshire breeding grounds on the North Sea. The FAA-required strobe lights disfigure the clear night sky. Our beautiful Wolfe Island now most resembles a poster for a low-budget science fiction movie.

But, of course, low-budget they aren't; the towers cost upwards of $2 million each to erect, and about $1 million each to take down and decommission. (When the various investors and fly-by-night energy companies have taken turns depreciating the things, will they take them down? Or will our grandchildren live in a landscape of rusting 300-foot hulks topped by broken fans, leaking chemicals into our land? Looking now like the B-movie aliens after they lose the war...)

Industrial-grade heavy-duty access roads have to be hacked through the fields and forest. The smallest available industrial turbine is 1.5 MW, the equivalent of a two thousand horsepower electric motor, weighing on the order of 60 tons. The truck carrying it has to be able to get through. The nacelle containing the turbine is the size of a large bus; the armature must be turned regularly—even if there's no wind—to keep it from sagging under its own weight, like the drivetrain on a battleship. Just to counter the CO2 from producing the tons upon tons of cement needed to anchor the towers, these things would have to operate near full capacity for over six years. They are not the cute little windmills behind the barn, or the picturesque features of the Dutch countryside. In operation, the tips of the fan blades are moving at nearly 200 mph; I hope the terns (and the eagles, and the falcons, and the geese) stay alert in the middle of the night.

Not to mention, of course, that each turbine contains well over 60 gallons of chemically-sophisticated motor oil to lubricate its complex gearbox and bearings. When—not if—it starts to leak into your streams, rivers, and pastures as these notoriously unreliable machines age, what effect will that have on your drinking water—and your fishing, since all the game for hunting has cleared out? What effect on your peace of mind will it have when a lightning strike disintegrates a blade—throwing ten tons of carbon fiber, fiberglass, and aluminum, white-hot, in huge fragments, for distances up to half a mile, while igniting the lubricating oil 300 feet above the woods? (This sort of event has occurred several times in Germany, with turbines substantially smaller than those planned for newer plants.) In the Wisconsin winter, the turbine blades regularly throw huge chunks of ice, weighing several hundred pounds, up to a thousand feet from the tower.

But perhaps this is all worthwhile if we're saving the planet? Nope. Wind power is so variable that backup fossil plants have to be kept fired up constantly anyway. No carbon dioxide emissions have been reduced—anywhere. Denmark, the most turbine-ridden country in the world for more than a decade, has not been able to shut down a single power plant and, because its small electrical grid can't absorb the vacillations, has had to dump most of its hugely expensive wind wattage to the much larger grids of Sweden and Norway at (as we say) fire-sale prices. Denmark, Germany, and Spain—the leading European wind enthusiasts—have all put moratoria on any further wind installations, because of both public outcry and the budget drain of government subsidies. England, Scotland, and Wales are all in an uproar over the destruction of their countryside and coasts.

Moreover, after twenty years and $100 billion of tax-supported research, the small coterie of UN scientist-bureaucrats trumpeting global warming have been totally unable to come up with any solid evidence that carbon dioxide is the cause of the warming (which has now apparently stopped, or at least paused for 30 years), much less that any additional warming will cause catastrophes.

All the evidence, from increasingly sophisticated satellites and deep-diving ocean buoys, is that climate fluctuates in response to natural cyclic changes in ocean currents and solar activity, and that the worldwide sea level has been rising at about eight inches a century for the last five thousand years or more and is still doing so. So there is no reason to worry about CO2, a plant fertilizer, a necessary part of all life on this planet, in the first place. All this devastation of the landscape is for nothing. Less than nothing. Wind power is a fraud based on a fraud.

But the story is always the same. The wind promoter comes into a quiet rural area, stages several community presentations, pure Madison Avenue professionalism, promises jobs and a great boost to the local economy, chats up the local leadership, and paints rosy pictures of a prosperous environmentally-correct future in the industry of tomorrow. Landowners are wooed with talk of huge commission checks for the generated power.

If there's any local resistance, the promoter buys the cooperation of said local leadership to paint it as NIMBY—he, of course, would not live within 50 miles of one of the things—and environmentally irresponsible (hah!). If this doesn't work, he'll buy a few county, state, or provincial politicians to simply deprive the local jurisdiction of any authority over turbine siting, as they did for example in Wisconsin, England, and Ontario. In Oregon, wilderness noise regulations prevented development of a wind installation, so of course in 2004 the wind promoters had their friends in Salem change them. In New York, Attorney General Cuomo's investigations of wind developers' bribery is continuing, and they now have an "Ethics Code". Doesn't that give you a warm fuzzy feeling?

So the phalanx of giant towers goes up anyway. It's always the same story—in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Wales, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Sweden, Missouri, Scotland, New York, Germany, Kansas, Hungary, Italy, even Corsica—the modus operandi never varies. The Internet is full of sad little websites put up by local community groups who opposed this vandalism of their countryside and their quality of life; they've posted their letters of opposition, their legal pleadings, and finally the horror-inspiring pictures of what happened to their woods and fields—and to their children, who often fall asleep at school because the turbine noise keeps them from sleeping at night. It is excruciating to see this over and over and over.

Jobs? The construction crews and engineers are brought in from outside—the leading turbine manufacturers are all European—and the long-term local jobs amount finally to one or two. The local economy? Politicians love to trumpet hundreds of millions in investment in the area. Now, If these hundreds of millions were to build a steel plant, or a giant amusement park, or a conventional nuclear power plant, it would indeed provide hundreds of long-term, high-paying jobs. Yes, these monsters will generate countless millions in tax breaks, taxpayer subsidies, and "carbon credits". But not for the local people; they'll be lucky to get two jobs and maybe a fancy maintenance truck. The money will all flow to the financiers (like Al Gore's business partners in Goldman-Sachs) in New York City. More than $100 billion in Federal subsidies have already gone to Big Wind—$333 for every man, woman, and child in the country—not to mention State mandates and financial favors. The turbines produce essentially no useful power, and no local jobs, but very efficiently blow our money into fat cats' coffers.

The huge turbine towers will earn their installation cost back in tax breaks and subsidies (subsidies and tax breaks at your expense) in less than three years. Then, of course, shell fly-by-night company A sells the turbines to shell fly-by-night company B, which then gets its years of boodle at taxpayer expense. And so on.

Until finally the turbines stop working. Again, they cost over a million per tower to decommission, and the wind magnates can afford much pricier law firms than landowners—as the landowners already know, having discussed the amazingly small size of their commission checks with the company. Does anyone seriously think these ugly monstrosities will be taken down and the land restored in twenty years?

Is this the legacy we wish to leave our grandchildren? The people must fight against this nightmare takeover by the eco-industrial complex. We must fight to save our environment from, for God's sake, the environmentalists. So future generations will not look around and say, "This must have been so beautiful once. I wish I could have seen it then. I wonder why they did it."

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