Letter from the Editor

Monday, June 12, 2006

Fear in the wind

I have now officially heard everything.

Word comes to us this week from an alternative energy advocacy group that political opposition is building to that most evil scourge of society...

No, not guys getting hitched to each other, or even the Da Vinci Code. The other scourge of the 2006 political scene:

Wind energy.

Yeah, wind energy.

And here we are, sitting happily in the middle of one of the world's largest wind energy fields, happy as hogs in slop, not realizing the INCREDIBLE DANGERS all around us!

Senator Ted Kennedy opposes a wind project in Massachusetts as ruinous to the aesthetic environment (it happens to be in sight of a house Teddy owns.) Donald Trump is whipping up political opposition to windfarms in Scotland of all places, saying they will ruin the environment. (They happen to be in sight of a golf course he wants to build.)

Now I ask you, would you rather look at a wind turbine, or Ted Kennedy running the beach in Speedos, or The Donald's toupee?

Windfarm opposition groups have sprung up this year from Texas to Australia, claiming that wind turbines will wipe out populations of birds that are sure to fly straight into them.

Birds in Texas and Australia are apparently not too bright. I've not seen piles of brain-damaged birds laying about under out turbines to date, and I can attest to the fact that they possess timing superb enough to nail me with a runny white deposit as I jog by 40 feet below a cottonwood branch.

In Illinois, critics have apparently stalled a wind energy project this season by claiming that the shadow from the blades will give people motion sickness.

British politicians object to turbines' appearance, in New Zealand, the government is said to be going to court to kill windfarms, and even the FAA is blocking some wind energy developments by claiming they may interfere with radar.

It is thought that the anti-wind groups have the potential to develop into a major international lobby.

In the U.S., wind advocates say, the opponents are finding allies in politicians like Senator Stevens of Alaska (who just might prefer oil drilling revenue in the National Wildlife Refuge, hey?)

For those of us who have now lived in the shadow of two very successful windfarms for some time now, all of this political hot air sounds very foolish. But it is not difficult to stir up fears in places where wind energy is a new concept.

I can remember, before the first turbines went up near Storm Lake, a few folks who theorized that the turbines would drastically change our weather patterns, cause us to be attacked by foreign nations or perhaps other planets, or that the spinning blades would somehow scramble our brainwaves.

So far, I can report no Martians, and though I have spent more than a little time in the vicinity of those towers, my mind is no more or less scrambled than it was going in.

All of the foolishness would be laughable, but for the fact that it could cost us dearly if it hindered the development of renewable "green" energy.

It has taken some creative incentives and mandates on the utilities to begin to break our complete dependence on fossil fuels. If misinformed or self-serving politics is able to shake our national resolve, it could be bad news for existing renewable energy projects as well as an undeserved hurdle for future developments. And if they can attack wind, they can surely do a number on the hopes of ethanol, biodiesel and other efforts.

In northwest Iowa, wind has become a third staple crop, and it has been one of the very few forms of development that truly seems to be a win-win.

For all who are fearful or convinced that there is something terribly wrong with wind energy, I would invite them to Storm Lake, where we have environmentally-conscious bicyclists coming around just to travel the rural wind route.

Even Ted Kennedy and Don Trump are welcome, though we won't take a check... Seeing, as they say, is believing.

In the meantime, it might be time for people who believe in alterative energy to get as busy as the opponents have become.

* Reach the editor at dlarsen@stormlakepilottribune.com