Sunday, May 07, 2006

Ted Stevens & Don Young: foes of wind power or champions of states' rights?

The Anchorage Daily News has picked up on a story about Kennedy and Stevens' backroom bargain to block a wind farm of the coast of Massachusetts. Young is also involved in the attempt. The main opposition to the farm is from residents of the area, Nantucket and Cape Cod, who are concerned about noise, the view, and possible navigation hazards. The NIMBY question is a real one: these are the people who will be most affected by the project. But this country desperately needs to get off oil and onto renewable sources. Nantucket Sound is great for this kind of power generation. Conservative and liberal commentators alike are annoyed by Kennedy's hypocrisy.

Groups like Save Our Sound strongly oppose the project, while others, like the Natural Resources Defense Council and Clean Power Now support it. Clean Power has an interesting discussion of the impact on birds. Governor Romney is adamantly opposed.

While I think it is important for states to have a say in what goes on in their offshore waters, this little deal stinks. I don't see that smog and derricks and drill rigs are all that aesthetically pleasing—windmills are one heck of a lot better looking—or particularly environmentally sound. Again, wind farms are better. I'm not sure about the noise problem, but I do know that when I was in Hannover (Germany) the noise from the windmills all over the place was pretty neglible, especially in comparison with the Autobahn.

The question is, what do Stevens and Young expect from Kennedy in return for this favor? (Although it appears to be blowing up in their faces: even the White House is against this provision to block the wind farm.) Perhaps help in fighting the feds on some other issue, such as drilling in ANWR?


Rob said...

I'm curious as to what your opinion is about ethanol. Sixty Minutes did quite a feature about it this evening and Brazil is very much in the news for becoming more energy sufficient because of it. How viable an option do you believe it to be for the U.S. and how soon can we convert to it.

Deirdre Helfferich said...

Ethanol? I don't know that much about it, but what I've been reading seems to indicate that it's not practical--we'd have to dramatically increase our crop production and the energy involved in growing those crops would cancel out the replacement value.

I may have given the impression that I thought oil is used for electricity production; it's not. Or not very much. Oil is used intensively in modern agriculture: fertilizers, pesticides, fuel for machines and transport, plastics, etc. The main issue is one of conservation. We have to radically change our habits of transportation and fuel consumption. Conservation and developing the habit of staying at home is where it's at; oil is too valuable for other things to just burn it. In this respect, ethanol or fuel cells are a valid replacement, but not without dramatic reduction of our NEED for get around. Mass transit, fuel efficiency, city planning that eliminates sprawl, etc. are what makes any other fuel reasonable. Conversion to ethanol is only part of an answer, and too many people seem to view it as just a one-for-one changeover, ethanol for gasoline--and that's unworkable.