Energy Policy and Massachusetts
Do you remember open-book tests, the ones where you could look up the answers to the questions?
Those are the kind of tests that Cape Wind has passed.
Here are some questions that weren't on the test.
What right do you have to build an energy plant in what amounts to an ocean sanctuary?
How can you describe the Nantucket Sound project as the harbinger of more offshore energy installations when the Draft Environmental Impact Statement listed so many problems with alternative sites?
Why should the project's impact on cultural resources such as Barnstable's historic districts be left unaddressed until some post-approval negotiation over mitigation?
How can a state agency charged to overturn the decisions of state and local agencies (if these actions would threaten the provision of adequate and appropriate power supplies) reject a regional regulatory commission's judgment? How, indeed, when the state Legislature that created both decreed that the commission's actions could be challenged only in the courts?
The smart money knew the fix was in two years ago when word started circulating that construction mogul Jay Cashman would move to erect a 120-unit wind farm in Buzzards Bay. ...Apparently Cashman is making things right for his wind farm proposal, too. House Speaker Sal DiMasi has not just admitted but declared that he and Jay Cashman are close personal friends as are their wives. Unable to leave well enough alone, the speaker goes on to say that his personal relationship with Cashman has nothing to do with a nasty little piece of stealth legislation he tucked into an energy bill last week. This stealth amendment would allow construction of alternative energy facilities -- read "wind farms" -- in state ocean sanctuaries where such construction has been strictly forbidden until now.
The surprise that one week before Thanksgiving Massachusetts Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi had thrown a last-minute Mickey into a state energy bill was no surprise at all…just business as usual. Well… maybe not so usual.
The obvious beneficiary of this maneuver to allow development of “alternative energy” projects within previously protected state ocean sanctuaries is one Jay Cashman, multi-millionaire construction tycoon and close personal friend of the speaker. Cashman has announced his plans to desecrate Buzzards Bay in the name of renewable profits.
Under the guise of supporting clean energy, members of the Massachusetts House have rushed an amendment through the legislative process that threatens the future of Buzzards Bay. It erases part of the ocean sanctuary protection Massachusetts coastal waters have enjoyed for decades, allowing clean energy development - most notably, wind turbines - to be built with a less stringent public review.
In a shady move, Rep. Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill, the House energy chairman, slipped the measure into an energy bill at the last minute. The bill received only a voice vote, with little debate.
As my public statements make clear, I oppose the Cape Wind project because of the numerous unanswered questions about its impact on local fisheries, navigational safety and the local environment and economy. We are now facing the prospect of a private developer essentially seizing, on a no-bid basis, 25 square miles of public lands and waters. I believe that such a project should not go forward until national standards for off-shore wind farms are in place to protect coastal communities. Even though the Worcester Telegram & Gazette disagrees with me on this issue, it does a disservice to its readers when it ignores the detailed arguments I have made against proceeding with this project.
But advocates often tout renewable energy not for its economics, but because it's virtuous. Many of those who are willing to impose the costs of various environmental schemes on other Americans based on "ideals" suddenly have started looking more closely at the tradeoffs when something they hold dear would have to be sacrificed, like a nice view. Wind energy is never going to be anything but a bit player in meeting the world's energy needs. The Nantucket tempest is useful mainly as a real-world test of whether some of the world's most privileged liberals wear their ideals all the time, or only when it suits them.
Time and technology have caught up with Cape Wind. Its advantage of six years ago as a novel proposal is now flattened by the advance of deeper-water wind technology (as well as promised advances in wave and tidal energy generation).
By the time Cape Wind could be up and running - by 2011 or 2012 at the earliest - commercial-scale deeper-water projects will be a reality. No matter how you spin it, deeper-water locations are a better alternative to Cape Wind. The winds are stronger, the potential is greater and the risks are significantly lower.
Robert Sullivan's review of "Cape Wind" (June 17), about the battle over the development of a wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, made me wonder why a majority of Cape Cod and island residents would oppose a project that promised them clean, cheap, non polluting renewable energy at a time when everyone is focused on making America energy independent. You can start with the fact that this project won't deliver lowercost energy because offshore wind is by far the most expensive form of energy. You can then wonder what all the fuss is about when you understand that at its optimum operating efficiency (an average of 170 megawatts, according to Cape Wind's own Web site, and not the 468 megawatts its proponents claim) it would produce just 1 percent of New England's electricity supply. And because wind energy is inherently unpredictable (it depends on when the wind is blowing and cannot be stored), fossil fuel plants would always have to be online as reserve power to keep our lights on. Concluding his review, Sullivan mentions the growing opposition to a wind farm proposal off the coast of Long Island. This opposition is bolstered by the economic facts of the project - according to previously confidential documents obtained by Newsday, energy from the proposed wind plant would cost Long Island ratepayers as much as double the wholesale cost of energy.
Consumers are paying some of the highest electricity rates in the nation, which severely limits the ability to attract and retain good jobs. Yet we add further costs to every electric consumer's bill to fund programs that, though intended to promote energy efficiency and the use of renewables, lack proportion, rationality, accountability, and oversight.
It's time to stop piling on these added charges to our electric bills and start examining and coordinating the myriad programs we have.........Consumers also pay about $25 million annually into a fund disbursed by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to site and encourage projects using renewable power. Renewable power is a good thing, when it is economically viable, but for now electricity from sources such as wind and solar power is much more expensive than existing sources. We should not levy new taxes to fund more expensive power.
In the Williams/Whitcomb world of tabloid journalism, there is no room for thoughtful discussion, for weighing costs against benefits, for understanding that self-interest is at work on both sides of the issue or for any kind of honest discussion. Such thoughts would get in the way of the facile thinking and cynical blather that fills their book and that is now commonplace on TV, radio and the Internet. Do you find yourself bored now that Don Imus and Rosie O'Donnell are off the air? Does the Internet no longer meet your need for trash talk? Then read this book. You won't learn anything substantive from it, but it'll be great entertainment.
Wind fact: The energy produced is not stored; therefore, the turbines have to have full back-up systems. Are you willing to forego using electricity when the wind does not blow? Of course not. Therefore, wind needs full alternate energy back up. Subsidies: Take all the money behind putting up wind turbines and offer free compact fluorescent bulbs for everyone in Massachusetts and we would effectively cut energy use by far greater numbers than if we dotted every ridge in Massachusetts solidly with turbines!
There are better ways and let's explore them before we wreck our natural landscapes in this beautiful commonwealth of Massachusetts.
As the MMS is developing a foundation for good ocean-use decisions, it must carefully evaluate the Cape Wind project, not only in the context of environmental standards, but also economic ones. Unfortunately, MMS has so far refused to share its economic viability model for the Cape Wind project. If it continues to withhold that information, its review will be less than credible.
Sorry, Ms. Williams, but you have no right to classify us all as ‘narcissists'; we hold our anti-wind positions for a wide variety of reasons. Mainly, though, those who oppose wind do so because we've taken the trouble to learn the technical details, and we realize that wind power is in fact an expensive scam, driven solely by developers eager to cash in on the concerns over climate change. Were subsidy money and incentives to be removed, these folk would decamp overnight.
While some windmill projects are laudable - most notably Jiminy Peak's relatively small-scale operation in Hancock - the Berkshires do not need a plethora blighting our scenery and providing a negligible blip on the Grid. This state also is spending - or planning to spend - far too much money in subsidies for out-of-state and even out-of-country developers whose "energy credits" derived from windmill projects will not make even a small dent in this nation's reliance on oil and coal.
Far too many of the proposed windmill projects in this region seem to be geared more toward pleasing the greenies and "let's pretend to make a difference crowd" than they are toward producing significant energy.
I was shocked at your editorial of March 5 titled "Let wind project breathe free." Your statement that the Hoosac Wind Project "will provide enough power to the grid to serve roughly 9,000 homes" is utterly ridiculous since it implies that the beneficiaries will be residential users. Somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of our electricity use is encumbered by business and industry. Furthermore, whatever electricity provided by the project does not go directly to residential users anyway.
Wind power has never caused a fossil fuel or nuclear power plant to be shut down. Wind power is so unpredictable (and generation is much less in summer months when demand is high) that all those nasty polluting plants still have to continue to operate.
You also write about with the "perils of global warming and of dependence on Middle Eastern countries for oil, wind energy is moving to the foreground" Windmills produce electricity, not effectively or efficiently, but that is all they produce. Less than 3 percent of U.S. electricity is produced by oil-fired plants. So given the paltry amount of unreliable electricity produced by wind farms, would we reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil? Of course not.
Although the approach is too late for projects that have already begun a federal review process, a dozen New England congressmen and senators have asked for help from the Department of Energy in coordinating a regional approach to siting liquefied natural gas facilities. Reps. Tom Allen and Mike Michaud have both signed on to this request, which makes sense for future energy projects.
Energy efficiency is by no means a permanent solution, but it should be a permanent part of the solution. Sensible energy use, combined with new power resources, is the only workable answer for New England.
It’s time for the Times to catch up with the truths about “wind energy.” In fact, “wind farms,” including the Cape project, make little sense from a national and public interest point of view.
Editor's Note: Submitted to the Washington Times on July 7, 2006. The Washington Times editorial follows Glenn Schleede's response.
With proper oversight and operation, nuclear plants have been as safe as any other, and are infinitely cleaner and less polluting.
Massachusetts has an ambitious goal for renewable-energy development but no realistic plan or guidelines to reach it. The result is a free-for-all with the state lavishing money on wind-power development in the Berkshires, investors and other states benefiting from the largess, and Berkshire towns and residents left in the dark as to the real consequences for our community, our economy, and our beautiful mountains.
Editor's Note: Eleanor Tillinghast is head of Green Berkshires, Inc., an environmental
group based in western Massachusetts.