Wednesday, May 31, 2006

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When Congress monopolizes the use of hot air....

Michael Hawthorne has a front-pager in the Chicago Tribune about how Congress is serious about ending America's addition to oil.... unless vacation homes are threatened:

The federal government has stopped work on more than a dozen wind farms planned across the Midwest, saying research is needed on whether the giant turbines could interfere with military radar.

But backers of wind power say the action has little to do with national security. The real issue, they say, is a group of wealthy vacationers who think a proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts would spoil the view at their summer homes.

Opponents of the Cape Wind project include several influential members of Congress. Critics say their latest attempt to thwart the planting of 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound has led to a moratorium on new wind farms hundreds of miles away in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Federal officials declined to reveal how many stop-work orders have been sent out. But developers said that at least 15 wind farm proposals in the Midwest have been shut down by the Federal Aviation Administration since the start of the year....

Harnessing the wind is a clean and relatively inexpensive way to generate electricity without the troublesome byproducts of coal or nuclear power. But the vast collections of turbines--some of which are 40 stories tall--are derided by opponents as unreliable and unsightly.

Of the scores of projects proposed around the country, perhaps the most controversial has been Cape Wind. If approved, it will be the first offshore wind farm in the United States.

Most of the opposition focuses on the proposed location in a channel between Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, the bucolic Massachusetts vacation areas frequented by many high-profile celebrities, business executives and politicians.

Critics of Cape Wind include members of the Kennedy family, whose summer compound is on Cape Cod. Both U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and his nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., have said the turbines would spoil the ocean views, threaten the local tourist economy and endanger migratory birds.

The younger Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and activist who has supported wind power in other parts of the country, said putting a wind farm in Nantucket Sound would be akin to placing one in the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park.

"This isn't the right location, for a number of reasons," Kennedy said.

Another opponent is U.S. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who has tried several times to block the Cape Wind project. In a 2002 letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, Warner included a handwritten note saying he often visits Cape Cod, which he called a "national treasure."

But the project continued to move forward until late last year, when Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, slipped an amendment into a military spending bill. The one-sentence congressional order directs the Defense Department to study whether wind towers could mask the radar signals of small aircraft.

Since then, at the Defense Department's behest, the FAA has been blocking any new wind turbines within the scope of radar systems used by the military.

Warner's amendment also appears to have reversed the government's position on the Cape Wind proposal. Both the FAA and the Air Force had previously signed off on the project, which would be located within miles of a missile defense radar system.

"This has nothing to do with wind," said Michael Polsky, president and chief executive officer of Invenergy, a Chicago company with projects in Illinois and Wisconsin that have been blocked by the government. "It has everything to do with politics."

Warner's office did not return telephone calls seeking comment. A spokesman previously released a statement saying the Defense Department study "ensures that Congress will possess as much information as possible on wind farms' impact on military operations."

posted by Dan on 05.31.06 at 09:44 AM


What a bunch of idiots. Wind power isn't a panacea and it doesn't replace fossil fuels entirely, but it helps enormously in cutting down the need for coal and oil to generate the same amount of electricity, while facilitating public transportation. While countries like Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and China are now running whole sectors of their economy on wind power, we're still stuck in 1st gear here in the US.

The irony here is that countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia are the biggest beneficiaries of our stupidity. The longer we wait to transition over to renewable fuels-- at least in part-- the more we enrich the Russians and Saudi Arabians at our own expense. In fact, the United States in many ways has become little more than a wealth-transfer machine to enrich the elite in Saudi Arabia and Russia. I wonder how many of these idiots wringing their hands at Al Gore's new movie and blocking efforts to develop renewables, realize that they're basically helping to fund anti-American elements the world over? Both liberals and conservatives in excess do incredibly stupid things on a consistent basis.

posted by: Redthumb on 05.31.06 at 09:44 AM [permalink]

What does the FAA have to do with "military radar?" The FAA runs air traffic control radar, but I'm pretty sure that air defense radar is run by DoD.

In any event, unless the wind turbines are a mile high or so, it seems they would be well clear of radar lines-of-sign at realistic altitudes.

posted by: david foster on 05.31.06 at 09:44 AM [permalink]

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