Monday, May 08, 2006

Weird Politics

In a turn of events that I can only call bizarre, I find myself siding with the Bush administration against Senator Ted Kennedy on an issue involving energy policy and the environment. How weird is that? The issue is Cape Wind, a proposal to build a large farm of electricity-generating windmills in Nantucket Sound, off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Nantucket Sound is a windy place, and also part of New England, which badly needs new sources of clean, renewable energy. The problem, at least in some people's minds, is that Nantucket Sound is a big tourist attraction. It's also a place where a lot of wealthy people live, people who tend to own really nice sailboats. And a lot of those people don't want a bunch of windmills messing up their view, even if they'll be so far offshore as to be barely noticeable. I'm afraid Senator Kennedy is one of them. (Walter Cronkite was, too, for a while. Then he reversed his position and came out in favor of the project.)

Along comes Senator Stevens from Alaska who, as a political favor to Kennedy, slips a clause into the Coast Guard authorization bill, a clause that would give the governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, also an opponent of Cape Wind, the right to veto the project. This is political hackwork, and it is unbecoming of Senator Kennedy to engage in it. It is also very bad energy policy. The project should stand or fall on its merits, not on political sleight of hand.

There are numerous environmental reasons to support the Cape Wind project, and even the Audubon Society, which initially expressed reservations due to possible hazard to birds, completed a study suggesting that the danger was not nearly as great as feared.

Usually a champion of environmental causes, and almost always a defender of the working class and the poor, Senator Kennedy has turned against the common good on this one. It breaks my heart, not only because I think this windmill farm is a good idea, but also because I have long trusted Ted Kennedy to defend the values of justice and fair play that I hold dear. But I fear he has left us on this one.

And who shows up to defend the project? The Bush administration! Have I landed on the Bizzaro Planet, or what? Are they getting involved in this just because they hate Kennedy? (They haven't done anything else good for the environment that I can think of.) Well, whatever the reason, I have to stand with the Bush people on this one. They're right.

I didn't think I would ever hear those words coming out of my mouth. Aaaiiieeeee! Stop me before I say it again!



At 7:48 AM, Blogger substandardTim said...

things aren't so black and white with most politicians. infact you're lucky to get gray, usually you get a slimy green color from them.

At 12:21 AM, Blogger Steve said...

As a resident of MA with a house on the Cape, I can say this issue isn't so black-and-white. Yes, it is an obvious case of NIMBY, but there are other legitimate concerns - enviromental impact, impact on shipping lanes, and even whether or not wind power is worth building - for a good explanation find the peak oil scenario at Exit Mundi ... "Wind is obviously stuff that doesn’t contain a lot of energy -- just compare slamming your head into a bit of wind with slamming it into a concrete wall. And what’s more: to build wind mills, you’ll have to weld steel, drive all kinds of stuff and engineers around in trucks and cars, build factories and make thousands of components. In the end, it costs more energy (oil) to actually build a windmill, than a windmill will ever generate during its entire lifetime!"

At 2:27 AM, Blogger Jeffrey A. Carver said...

Hi Steve -- Thanks for logging in as a Cape resident. I agree with you that the issue is not black and white. All of the environmental concerns, shipping concerns, and so on should be taken into account in making the decision. It could be that one of those will be a deal breaker. But to put the final say in the hands of one man (Romney) who is already an opponent of the project is just a way of saying, kill it, no matter what. I should note that the latest I heard was that Sen. Kennedy had modified his position to saying that the commandant of the Coast Guard should make the final call. Not perfect, but a step in the right direction.

The Exit Mundi site looked interesting, but I seriously doubt their assertion that the net energy cost of building wind turbines (or photovoltaic cells) is greater than the return. They certainly didn't offer any backing for the claim. (I've heard similar claims made about nuclear power. And yet, there they were, pushing nuclear power as practically the only workable alternative.)

As for the statement, "Wind is obviously stuff that doesn’t contain a lot of energy..." tell that to the people who lived through Katrina and Andrew.

So no, I'm not buying that one--not without some pretty convincing evidence.


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