Saturday, February 6, 2010

Yes and No aren't complete answers to question of wind turbines in Lake Michigan

Congressman Pete Hoeskstra, R-Holland, has launched on online “survey” to gauge public support or opposition to Scandia Wind Offshore’s plans to construct a wind farm in Lake Michigan offshore from the Pentwater/Ludington shoreline.

The problem with Rep. Hoekstra’s survey is not that it has no statistical validity – it’s essentially a tool to let his constituents vent, and doesn’t purport to be anything more.

The problem is that there are nine potential selections we can choose, ranging from “There are no circumstances that can convince me to accept wind turbines in Lake Michigan” to “I would accept the proposal because we must move toward renewable energy at all costs”

Yet each of the nine answers naively presupposes that the choice is simply “yes” or “no.” The survey does not acknowledge that, if the turbines are not built, the electricity needs to come from somewhere else.

A more honest survey would ask Rep. Hoekstra’s constituents which energy option they favor. If not wind turbines, would they rather see a new coal-burning power plant in town? Or a nuclear facility on the shore of the lake? Or an aggressive energy efficiency program added their current utility bill to make the additional electricity use unnecessary.

As Michigan moves to build a new clean energy economy, there will be dozens more local discussions like the ones occurring on the Lake Michigan shoreline right now. Wind turbines offshore will surely be considered an eyesore to some. That’s no different from other public utilities. Overhead power lines, interstate highways and railroad crossings are not pretty, but we accept them as a tradeoff for the public service they provide.

Robust discussions on the pros and cons of each of our energy options are worth having. But let’s not let Rep. Hoekstra imply that “Just Say No” is an effective energy policy.


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