Drawing Lessons from East Coasters’ Wind Farm Objections

Published September 1, 2003

For decades, Easterners have been lobbying for federal laws that impose draconian reductions in emissions from electric utilities in the Midwest. Never mind that oil, coal, nuclear, and natural gas are abundant and cheap. Instead of continued reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power, they call for subsidies and tax breaks for renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

Never mind that modern emissions-abatement technology makes traditional fuel sources environment-friendly, as shown by ever-declining air pollution levels. And never mind that mining and drilling fuel the economic engine of whole regions of the country.

For a great many East Coasters, costs imposed on the rest of the country are a small price to pay for their own peace of mind.

That is, until liberal environmental activists and renewable energy companies proposed building windmills off the coast of Cape Cod.

Until now, the sight and noise pollution from gigantic solar power collectors and towering windmills have been confined to other people’s backyards. Outside of the deep South and, in particular, the desert Southwest, solar power collectors serve little purpose. And up until recently, giant bird-slicing windmills have been largely confined to Midwestern plains and California hillsides.

However, coastal breezes, government subsidies, and mandatory renewable fuels portfolios have resulted in a growing wind farm industry operating off the coast of Texas. Buoyed by the Texas example, liberal environmental activist groups (that is, those who aren’t too bothered by the thousands of annual bird deaths resulting from this unique style of aviary cuisinart) are teeming up with wind turbine manufacturers to push for the same plan off the coast of Cape Cod. After all, Cape Cod is famous for its never-ending coastal breezes.

But now that East Coasters themselves are being called upon to assume the yoke of unnecessary environmental burdens, they are singing a different tune. Responding to the concerns of wealthy, oceanfront homeowners who worry giant offshore wind turbines will ruin their morning sunrises and turn their Atlantic surf red with bird blood, Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy is pushing for federal legislation to require local resident approval before any new wind farms can be built.

While it is tempting to call Senator Kennedy a hypocrite, perhaps we would do better simply to apply his new perspective to federal legislation regarding all energy and environmental issues.

In keeping with Senator Kennedy’s wind power proposal, from now on:

  • The federal government will no longer tell farmers and ranchers that the rights of endangered species will take priority over customary uses of their land, unless local residents so approve;
  • If the citizens of Alaska and their elected officials believe it is possible to explore for oil while simultaneously protecting nearby caribou, the federal government will not ban such exploration, unless local residents accede to such a ban;
  • Westerners will have the same right to view their national forests and wilderness areas, via roads and the use of off-road vehicles, as East Coasters have to view their national seashores via roads and watercraft, unless Westerners themselves agree to make their national forests off-limits; and
  • Anti-industry rules, regulations, and taxes that would ruin the coal and oil industries will not be adopted unless approved by the coal miners, loggers, fishermen, and oil riggers who would bear the brunt of the pain when their companies and industries go out of business.

thanks for the inspiration, Senator Kennedy. We look forward to counting on your vote.

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].