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December 16, 2005
Ask Not What Windmills Do To My View ...

One of the more laughable hypocrisies of the environmental movement has been the proposed windmill farm called the Cape Wind project. The proposal involves the installation of hundreds of windmills in an area that should capture enough power to generate a significant amount of clean energy -- the kind of energy that environmentalists normally insist be part of our future. Most of the time, this kind of government spending gets high marks from limousine liberals like Rep. Robert Kennedy Jr, but not when the project gets built where their limousines park, as Kennedy's fine NIMBY whine in today's New York Times explains:

AS an environmentalist, I support wind power, including wind power on the high seas. I am also involved in siting wind farms in appropriate landscapes, of which there are many. But I do believe that some places should be off limits to any sort of industrial development. I wouldn't build a wind farm in Yosemite National Park. Nor would I build one on Nantucket Sound, which is exactly what the company Energy Management is trying to do with its Cape Wind project.

Environmental groups have been enticed by Cape Wind, but they should be wary of lending support to energy companies that are trying to privatize the commons - in this case 24 square miles of a heavily used waterway. And because offshore wind costs twice as much as gas-fired electricity and significantly more than onshore wind, the project is financially feasible only because the federal and state governments have promised $241 million in subsidies.

Cape Wind's proposal involves construction of 130 giant turbines whose windmill arms will reach 417 feet above the water and be visible for up to 26 miles. These turbines are less than six miles from shore and would be seen from Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Hundreds of flashing lights to warn airplanes away from the turbines will steal the stars and nighttime views. The noise of the turbines will be audible onshore. A transformer substation rising 100 feet above the sound would house giant helicopter pads and 40,000 gallons of potentially hazardous oil.

According to the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the project will damage the views from 16 historic sites and lighthouses on the cape and nearby islands. The Humane Society estimates the whirling turbines could every year kill thousands of migrating songbirds and sea ducks.

Kennedy goes on and on like this without once mentioning that the people who would miss the stars in the sky at night have the last name of Kennedy, one of the wealthy families with permanent compounds on Martha's Vineyard. he invites all Americans to come out and visit to understand the view and ecosystem at risk with this project, but I doubt he's willing to put us all up at the family cabin for a couple of weeks. After Kennedy gives a laundry list of why, despite the support of most environmental groups, this project isn't as feasible as an on-shore facility, he then suggests moving it farther off-shore as a solution:

If Cape Wind were to place its project further offshore, it could build not just 130, but thousands of windmills - where they can make a real difference in the battle against global warming without endangering the birds or impoverishing the experience of millions of tourists and residents and fishing families who rely on the sound's unspoiled bounties.

In other words, damn the cost and the 40,000 gallons of hazardous oil, dead birds, and all that -- get the turbines out of my sight and I'll be happy to support Cape Wind.

Let's face facts. Kennedy has a point about the entire project, but doesn't want to make the final connection. The energy created by Cape Wind on any scale will be more expensive, more difficult to transmit, and more difficult to maintain than what gets generated now by unsubsidized commercial generation. It may be cleaner, but the actual manufacture and maintenance of the turbines isn't exactly clean, and the requirement for plenty of lubricant on site will always mean that petroleum is part of the equation and a potential for a minor spill now and then. Wind power will never generate enough electricity to replace any other source of power; at best, it will only add a little more flexibility to the grid.

It's nothing but a boondoggle for the environmentalists, a pork project designed to capture the votes of the limousine liberals who support it. Obviously, as Kennedy proves, that support only extends to the sacrifice of not actually having to see it. Typical.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 16, 2005 6:00 AM

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