Clean Power: Lead or Get Out of the Way
by Scott Shields, Sun Apr 16, 2006 at 08:47:05 AM EDT
I've long been irked by the moves taken by supposedly progressive lawmakers to block the installation of wind turbines for aesthetic reasons. It really does not get any more hypocritical than people claiming to want to fight global warming fighting even harder against wind power that might obstruct the scenic views of their constituents. It's perfectly reasonable for an elected representative of the people to stand up for the wishes of the people. However, the potential benefits of sustainable energy far outweigh the personal interests of a relatively small group of constituents.
It should be obvious to many readers that I am referring pretty specifically to Senator Ted Kennedy. As far back as 2003, Kennedy has publicly opposed a plan to install wind turbines off of Cape Cod in Nantucket Sound. The plan's opponents, like legendary journalist Walter Cronkite, talk a lot about making "natural treasures" like Nantucket Sound "off limits to industrialization." But personally, I think it's pretty crass to call a project like this "industrialization." After all, wind power is more about reversing the impact of twentieth century industrialization than furthering it.
The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog has the details on a move by Kennedy to scuttle the plans for this proposed wind farm.
Sen. Ted Kennedy and other rich land owners on Cape Cod continue their attacks on a proposed wind turbine power plant on Nantucket Sound. Aides to Sen. Ted Stevens (R., Alaska), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, say Kennedy suggested an amendment, now tucked in the Coast Guard's annual authorization bill, that gives Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican foe of the project, a veto even though it would be located on a federally owned part of the Sound. Two Democrats on the panel, Senators Maria Cantwell and Frank R. Lautenberg, objected. A third Democrat, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, has issued a statement complaining that the move makes a "mockery" of efforts by Congress to increase clean domestic energy supplies.
I'd like to say that we should take this story with a grain of salt as it comes from aides to a Republican Senator. After all, when news of the Romney veto came to light, it was Stevens and fellow Alaska Republican Don Young who took the heat. But unfortunately, given Kennedy's opposition to this plan, it seems to me that news of his involvement is most likely accurate. After all, why should Stevens take a hit for Kennedy?
The right loves this story. And love it they should. It's a clear cut case of liberal hypocrisy. Here's a leading member of the party that claims to be pro-environment trying to shut down an environmentally responsible project because it would take away from his scenic views. It's classic NIMBYism. John Stossel couldn't make up a better narrative if he tried.
There have been some attempts by Cape Cod environmentalists to downplay the potential benefits from the project. Senator Kennedy's nephew, Robert Kennedy Jr, has been one of the project's most outspoken critics. Initially, that gave me some pause as to the true environmental responsibility of the project. But at best, it seems that his judgement is likely clouded on this particular subject. Here's how the Natural Resources Defense Council characterizes the project:
As the first offshore wind energy undertaking in the nation, Cape Wind would set a precedent for similar facilities that could improve air quality, public health and global warming emissions. The Cape Wind project would provide 420 megawatts of electricity from 130 emissions-free turbines. That is enough to supply 75 percent of power needed on Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.
By using clean energy instead of fossil fuel electricity generation, the Cape Wind project will eliminate approximately 360 tons of particulate matter, 2,400 tons of sulfur oxides, 800 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 1,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide for every year of operation. That will reduce respiratory problems and other pollution-related health effects, as well as reducing the carbon pollution that causes global warming.
I have a great deal of respect for Senator Kennedy. But on this issue, he needs to either lead or get out of the way. This isn't about the views from Cape Cod. This is about the future of our planet.