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Bill McKibben on Windmills
Jamais Cascio, 16 Feb 05

Grist points us to Bill McKibben's editorial in today's New York Times. McKibben notes that proposed windmill farms often generate local opposition based on the argument that the size of the wind turbines ruins scenic views and lowers property values; such arguments often come from people calling themselves environmentalists. McKibben fairly gently suggests that such folks look at the bigger picture, and learn to love (or at least live with) the clean energy towers. I'll be more blunt: global warming is going to do a lot worse to the environment than just make the coast less scenic, and NIMBY opposition to having their seaside resorts' views "ruined" by only-visible-on-the-clearest-days windmills on the horizon needs to end. Now.

Or, as Dave Roberts at Grist put it: Oil and gas exploration is ravaging the American West. The nuclear industry is resurgent. And oh yeah, the globe is frying.

If environmentalists take global warming seriously, and expect others to take it seriously, maybe they shouldn't become bitchy provincialists the minute you want to build a wind turbine that impedes the scenic view off the back porches of their vacation homes.

Damn straight.

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Comments

Damn straight bis.

I'm so pissed at people who will complain about any tiny fault that the green technologies have (some people on slashdot were recently complaining about the wave-generators), but they expand infinitely less energy complaining about coal plants and nuclear. What gives?


Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 16 Feb 05

One has to remember that modern "environmentalism" started in the beginning of the 20th century with "conservationism" - conserving the planet from the ravages of industry. Many of the people who opposing the windfarm proposed off of Cape Cod in Massachusetts are of the opinion that they are defending the special atmosphere of the Cape from a new type of profiteer- they feel that they are being conservatonists and, to look at it from their perspective, they are right.

The really bad news about climate change is that there is no such thing as conservation anymore - everything changes whether you do something about the environment or not. This fact is extremely unpalatable for almost everyone, but most of all for our conservationists brothers and sisters.


Posted by: Marshall Spriggs on 17 Feb 05

I must disagree. Wind power, just because it sounds nice and seems environmentally clean, may not be the best solution. It's costly, it produces a tiny amount of energy, and it must be balanced by other sources since it's not constant. Saying that "if you're against wind power, you're not a real environmentalist" is overly simplistic. Finances should go where they'll do the most good. Wind power isn't that place. Here in southern France (which gets 75% of its power from nuclear!), wind power has become a crutch for would-be environmentally-conscious politicians. It's, well, silly.


Posted by: Marc Simon on 22 Feb 05

Marc, I suppose it's possible that the situation is different in France, but in both the US and the rest of Europe, the cost of wind power is comparable to electricity drawn from other generation sources. And, over time, wind could well prove to be less costly. Do you know if the rates for electricity in France include the eventual decomissioning costs for the nuclear reactors?

You're correct that wind is not constant, but the need to be "balanced" isn't a shortcoming -- as this site has explored at length numerous times (most recently here), a diverse, distributed grid has some distinct advantages over centralized power grids.

When you look at the facts, you'll find that wind power is hardly a "silly" proposition, but is an increasingly important part of the global shift to renewable power.


Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 22 Feb 05

Tiny fault? Each assembly is 300-400 feet high, sweeping over an acre of air, set in a foundation filled with tons of steel and hundreds of cubic yards of concrete. They require clearcutting around them and strong roads. Vast amounts of them are required to produce even a tiny amount of the electricity we actually use. They represent a rush to industrialize our last wild places -- for no reason except sheltering energy companies from taxes. I responded to McKibben's op-ed piece at kirbymtn.blogspot.com/2005/02/bill-mckibben-is-tired-of-looking-at.html.


Posted by: KM on 27 Feb 05



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