Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Your handy guide to translating the fringe arguments against offshore wind energy development in the Great Lakes

What turbines would look like, from left, at 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 miles

Michigan has vast potential to generate energy from wind. Most of that potential is in the offshore waters of the Great Lakes. Now, the state is poised to adopt the first comprehensive rules for wind development in the Lakes.

It won’t be easy. Not everyone likes the idea of altering the view of our spectacular Great Lakes with wind turbines. Others don’t mind the view, as long as it’s not in their back yard – or more accurately, in front of their pricey lakefront properties.

Now Michigan’s anti-government bloggers are also up in arms about wind turbines. Their reasons run the gamut. They include cost (a debate worth having). Details over how to regulate them (again, a worthwhile discussion). And environmental concerns (Fringe Right bloggers mourning for the environment? Sweet Jesus! Has that EVER happened before. OK, we’ll get to that in a moment!)

Honestly, those in the distant hinterlands of conservativism will never support offshore wind turbines for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with cost or environmental concerns.

So, in order to prepare for the upcoming onslaught of doublespeak, I’m offering some translations for the arguments you will hear. But first, a note on costs.
Costs for wind energy keep going down while costs for conventional energy keep going up. In fact, Massachusetts regulators just OK’d a 15 year power purchase agreement for Cape Wind, the nation’s first offshore wind energy development.

The Massachusetts approval came after exhaustive review: 13 days of hearings, more than 1,300 exhibits and 3,000 pages of transcript. The conclusion: "[I]t is abundantly clear that the Cape Wind facility offers significant benefits that are not currently available from any other renewable resources. We find that these benefits outweigh the costs of the project." (and if you click on the link, don’t neglect to read the part about the 1,000 jobs created).

Now, the translations:
--- Wind energy shouldn't need taxpayer subsidies means (=) We have never raised a peep about the massive subsidies for conventional, polluting energy sources, but we’re mad as hell when it applies to something environmentalists support, Governor Granholm wants, or anything new and different.

--- Plans to regulate offshore wind are not up to par = Any regulation is bad. Any regulatory agency is evil. And anyone trying to enforce regulations is a jack booted thug.

--- The Great Lakes will be environmentally damaged by turbines = We don’t give a flying fruck about the environment when we support offshore oil drilling in the Great Lakes, oppose mercury emissions reductions, fight bans on water diversions, cheer more polluting coal power plants, oppose tougher vehicle emissions standards, fight against energy efficiency programs, encourage urban sprawl, urge lawmakers to bankrupt natural resource protection, or try to bury public transit initiatives. But, um, this time we do care. Really.

--- The wind doesn’t blow all the time, so it’s unreliable = This is an awesome sound bite. Game, set and match....beeeootch! We are betting nobody besides policy geeks goes to the trouble of exploring how decentralized power grids, demand load management and natural gas backup systems make this issue manageable.

 --- Coal power is tried and true, no reason to change = We talk a good game about embracing American ingenuity, cutting edge technology and striking out boldly for new frontiers like our manly heroes of the American Revolution. But when it comes down to it we're scared.

--- We don’t have faith in the leaders supporting wind energy = We despise Gov. Granholm and everything she stands for. We will despise Gov.-elect Snyder as well, should he dare cross us. The 2010 election was clearly a mandate against offshore wind.

--- It’s those pansy ass tree huggers who want wind energy = It’s those pansy ass tree huggers who want wind energy.



  1. Opponents of offshore wind farms are not quite as irrational as you’ve painted us. You’ve ignored two important points here:

    1. Wind energy/technology is great, but it works just as well on land. Muskegon, for example, is using wind energy at a waste-water treatment facility. “Thumb” communities have wind farms on actual farms. The reason offshore wind is under consideration is because the state government can lease the lake bottoms at a low rate. If the wind farms go on shore, as they should, companies like Scandia will have to buy land from private owners. This, of course, doesn’t jive with government and multi-national corporations getting into bed together.

    2. Lakeshore communities need to have the final say here, not political powers in Lansing and Detroit. Imagine a west Michigan city trying to make decisions for Metro Detroit – would never fly. The same respect should be paid to local communities. West Michigan is not a little brother for Lansing and Detroit to kick around anymore.

    I would also submit that not everyone who lives in Lakeshore communities is the owner of a pricey lakefront home. Many opponents are struggling financially, but still want to stop these wind farms from obstructing their views and enjoyment of Lake Michigan. And for supporters, it’s the hollow financial promises from Lansing and Scandia that make offshore wind so enticing. Ugly.

  2. Just because you're against turning thousands of acres of Michigan landscapes into large Industrial wind farms does not mean you are totally against this new 21st century term 'green energy', it just might mean you don't want to look out from your front porch with your morning coffee and see 700 giant turbines spinning and wooshing. Which what the actual plan is for Huron County, to turn it into a giant Industrial Turbine Zone and the citizens be damned...