For all the hype about the Bush Administration'
For the last seven years and counting, the green entrepreneur Jim
Gordon has been trying to build a fleet of wind turbines in federal waters near
the upscale seascapes of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The site
seemed ideal, given the stiff ocean breezes and the eco-friendly politics in
Massachusetts. The company says its 130 towers could meet 75% of the region's
electricity needs and reduce carbon emissions by some 734,000 tons every
The sort of people who can afford to use "summer" as a verb are in
favor of all that. Completely in favor, really. But they did want to raise one
quibble. Unfortunately, the wind farm would create "visual pollution" in
Nantucket Sound, particularly the parts within sight of their beachfront
Mr. Gordon went ahead anyway, and the opposition rose to gale force.
Supposedly the wind farm will lead to everything from the disruption of seabird
habitats to "desecrating ancient American Native burial sites," in the words of
Glenn Wattley, the head of an antiwind outfit funded by the likes of Bunny
Mellon. But what really upsets these well-to-do Don Quixotes is the thought of
looking at windmills that would appear about as tall on the horizon as the
thumbnail at the end of your outstretched arm.
Then there is the political saga, with the Kennedy family as the
Hyannis Port Sopranos, supplying the muscle. While Ted Kennedy was castigating
President Bush for destroying the environment, the Senator was working furiously
behind the Congressional scenes to kill Cape Wind. He even had the inspiration
of getting former GOP colleague Ted Stevens of Alaska to slip wording into a
spending bill that would have handed a veto to then-Governor Mitt Romney,
another aesthetically minded opponent. Robert Kennedy Jr., a Time magazine "hero
of the planet," tried to get the Sound designated as a national marine sanctuary
to bar development.
Incredibly enough, this political sabotage has so far failed. And last
week the Interior Department issued its long-awaited regulatory study, mostly
finding "negligible" environmental impact -- apart from a "moderate" impact on
the scenery. If the Obama Administration signs off, construction could begin
Mr. Kennedy blustered that the report was rushed out: amusing,
considering it runs to 2,800 pages. Bill Delahunt, the windy Cape Democrat, also
denounced the action as "a $2 billion project that depends on significant
taxpayer subsidies while potentially doubling power costs for the
Good to see the Congressman now recognizes the limitations of green
tech, such as its tendency to boost consumer electricity prices -- but his
makeover as taxpayer champion is a bit belated. Green energy has been on the
subsidy take for years, including in 2005 when Mr. Delahunt was calling for "an
Apollo project for alternative energy sources, for hybrid engines, for
biodiesel, for wind and solar and everything else." The reality is that all such
projects are only commercially viable because of political
Tufts economist Gilbert Metcalf ran the numbers and found that the
effective tax rate for wind is minus-163.8%
We'd prefer an energy policy that allows markets to shape the sources
that predominate -- which would almost certainly put Cape Wind out of business.
But President Obama seems determined to unload even more subsidies on green
developers as he seeks to boost renewables to 10% of the U.S. electricity mix by
the end of his first term and 25% by 2025; their share today is about 9% (5.8%
of which is hydropower).
We wouldn't be surprised to see the President's green future wrestled
to the ground by the likes of Mr. Delahunt, the Kennedys and other anticarbon
Democrats. Environmentalists love the idea of milking Mother Nature for power,
but they hate the hardware needed to make it work: huge windmills, acres of
solar panels, high-voltage transmission lines to connect them to the places
where people live. Of course, they still totally, absolutely, wholeheartedly
support green energy -- as long as it gets built where someone else goes
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