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Tilting At Windmills 651

Posted by Zonk
from the oil-just-hit-75-bucks-a-barrel dept.
GreedyCapitalist writes "Anne Applebaum writes in the Washington Post about environmentalists who are opposing renewable energy sources." From the article: "Already, activists and real estate developers have stalled projects across Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York. In Western Maryland, a proposal to build wind turbines alongside a coal mine, on a heavily logged mountaintop next to a transmission line, has just been nixed by state officials who called it too environmentally damaging. Along the coast of Nantucket, Mass. -- the only sufficiently shallow spot on the New England coast -- a coalition of anti-wind groups and summer homeowners, among them the Kennedy family, also seems set to block Cape Wind, a planned offshore wind farm. Their well-funded lobbying last month won them the attentions of Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who, though normally an advocate of a state's right to its own resources, has made an exception for Massachusetts and helped pass an amendment designed to kill the project altogether."
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Tilting At Windmills

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  • An example (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Feminist-Mom (816033) <feminist.mom@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday April 21, 2006 @03:40PM (#15176878)
    Is the "liberal" community of Cape Cod opposing windmills offshore since it would ruin the wonderful view.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday April 21, 2006 @03:45PM (#15176925)
    a proposal to build wind turbines alongside a coal mine, on a heavily logged mountaintop next to a transmission line, has just been nixed by state officials who called it too environmentally damaging.

    Yeah, because in 2 or 3 decades, when the sea rises and countless disaster stories that will make the LA flooding look like a joke will occur every year, the weather will turn hot and sterile, or brutally cold where it was mild before,... I'm sure we'll all be happy that the mountaintop's view has been preserved...
  • Re:Too True (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mOdQuArK! (87332) on Friday April 21, 2006 @03:46PM (#15176937)

    You're ignoring the only option which won't affect _something_: to use less energy, which is what those "hardcore" environmentalists probably really want...

    ...but that doesn't make as much money so it's not an attractive "solution" to anyone making money off the energy industry and since it usually requires people to change their consumption habits, it's not an attractive solution to the majority of us "lazy" people either.

    Ah well, at some point "scarcity of resources" will catch up with us and we'll all start killing each other over what's left. Something to look forward to.

  • Supersonic Windmill (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alohatiger (313873) on Friday April 21, 2006 @03:51PM (#15176974) Homepage
    Whatever happened with the idea of building a giant pipeline to generate power? It would be 100 miles or so long, and 10 feet wide. The last half-mile at each end it would taper out to about 20 feet. As weather fronts passed over it, the pressure difference would push air through the pipe, where it would achieve supersonic speed (due to the tapering).

    In the middle was a turbine that would work in both directions (as the pressure difference could go either way).
  • by mobiux (118006) on Friday April 21, 2006 @03:52PM (#15176984)
    In western WI, a private company is looking at building a wind farm in my county.
    I thought people would be happy about it, usually anything renewable is looked well upon, hell 5 miles away there is a manure digester that was praised for being "forward-looking".

    But this project is facing major opposition from the local residents because of supposedly lower property value.
    Funny thing about it, they don't want a windfarm ruining thier view, but they have no problem building a $500,000 house on a previously wooded hillside, and running the nice road up the side of the hill to drive there.

    They can kiss my ass, as least i am getting something from the windmill.
  • Re:Too True (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pete6677 (681676) on Friday April 21, 2006 @03:53PM (#15177001)
    More than that, the hard core "environmentalists" want the downfall of industrial society. Extreme environmentalism is just the best way to accomplish this. Look at groups like ELF, what are they really fighting for, the environment? By setting things on fire? I think not.
  • Re:An example (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Friday April 21, 2006 @03:56PM (#15177020)
    Massachusetts may be liberal, but it's also money. That goes triple for Cape Cod.

    Actually, no. Most of Cape Cod's residents are pretty poor, relatively speaking. Living costs are insane. Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard both have huge problems with drug and alcohol abuse because there's nothing to do on the islands, and life is pretty rough. Outside of the tourist seaason, practically nobody is around.

    The Cape isn't dominated by million dollar homes; to a large extent it's "middle class" people who have a small summer place.

    These issues are largely being driven (read: funded) by a very small minority that doesn't even live there.

  • Re:Too True (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 21, 2006 @03:58PM (#15177051) Homepage Journal
    You're ignoring the only option which won't affect _something_: to use less energy

    That is where you are incredibly wrong. All that wonderful food we eat, many of those beautiful landscapes, all those heated buildings we live in, and all those attractive clothes we wear all take energy to create. So much energy that any significant drop in power production would mean the death of a large portion of the human race today. Food production would drop, areas couldn't be cleared and replanted more effectively, buildings would fall behind on maintenence, and heat would become a premium. And that's ignoring the matter of overseas and land transportation used to move necessary goods around the world!

    While it's a nice sentiment to suggest that mankind cut back on energy usage, the question is "to what end"? Will we forgo the use of all new power and revert to living in caves? Shall it be the survival of the fittest? Well, if it comes to that, the feel-good environmentalists will be the first to die. You know why? Because a guy who doesn't mind using modern technology will happily pull a .22 caliber pistol and put a bullet between his eyes so that he can survive instead of the environmentalist.

    Technology creates more resources. That's the entire point of it. Right now our cups overflow because of it. But you can't go back unless you want the very halocaust you're trying to avoid. So pull your head out of yer ass and wake up to the fact that mankind NEEDS technology!

    Thank you.
  • by Valdrax (32670) on Friday April 21, 2006 @03:59PM (#15177059)
    No. You're confusing the loony, back-to-nature, anti-civilization crowd with the moneyed, "as long as it doesn't involve actual sacrifice", feel-good faux-enviromentalist crowd.

    Completely opposite ends of the green spectrum: Extremists vs. dabblers. Wannabe terrorists vs. people who put a bumper sticker on their SUV.

    It's like equating Falwell's crazies with fair-weather Christians. It offends people in the middle who care about the message but haven't gone so far as to be unable to understand it anymore.
  • by mmell (832646) <mike.mell@gmail.com> on Friday April 21, 2006 @04:00PM (#15177061)
    Y'know, it's actually impossible for us in the USA to repeat that kind of engineering feat - not that we lack the technology, the skill, the resources . . . just the willingness to acknowledge that TANSTAAFL (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, R. Heinlein), that if we want our lifestyle and our standard of living, something's gotta give. Somewhere there has to be a refinery, or a power plant, or a wind-farm, or a hydroelectric dam.

    Nowadays, there's no way to legally replicate such marvellous accomplishments as our fathers bequeathed to us. No more Hoover Dams, no more offshore drilling, no more drilling in the wilderness. Mind you, I hold nature worthy of preservation but I also hold technology worthy of furtherance. There must be a balancing point somewhere; we seem to have missed it.

    You ever think that our grandparents are only dieing of old age because their progeny is embarassing them? Just sayin', is all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 21, 2006 @04:03PM (#15177093)
    "They actually take enough energy out of the air to make a difference to the environment. That shouldn't be a big surprise, after all wind doesn't really have that much energy in it in the first place compared to water, geothermal"

    Where in the slithering, fiery pits of lowest Gehenna do you get this idea? Wind farms "take enough energy out of the air to make a difference to the environment"??? I really hope you are being sarcastic, or you are high on several forms of psychoactive toads.

    To counter your assertion, I will offer the exact same evidence you have: none.

  • Re:Too True (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Enigma_Man (756516) on Friday April 21, 2006 @04:06PM (#15177128) Homepage

    Unfortunately, those 10 people have enough money to buy 100 government officials, while none of the other 1,000,000 people have enough money individually (and don't pool their resources to buy officials, because hey, the government is for the people, right... right?)

    -Jesse
  • by podperson (592944) on Friday April 21, 2006 @04:16PM (#15177210) Homepage
    Fusion will lead to thermal pollution. Most of our problems can be reduced by (a) birth control and (b) energy conservation.
  • Re:Too True (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Savantissimo (893682) on Friday April 21, 2006 @04:28PM (#15177331) Journal
    there is a small but significant subset of environmentalists that literally wouldn't be happy until humans are extinct.

    Maybe not such a small segment - andd they may not be willing to wait for ordinary Malthusan consequenses to get rid of people.

    Here's a recent article about Dr. Eric R. Pianka, University of Texas evolutionary ecologist and lizard expert who the Texas Academy of Science named as the 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist for 2006: http://www.sas.org/tcs/weeklyIssues_2006/2006-04-0 7/feature1p/index.html [sas.org]

    "a few hundred members of the Texas Academy of Science rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to a speech [by Dr.Pianka] that enthusiastically advocated the elimination of 90 percent of Earth's population by airborne Ebola."

    Interestingly, the article exposing Pianka's genocidal ambitions was written by Forrest M. Mims III, the famous electronics education author, who apparently now is Chairman of the Environmental Science Section of the Texas Academy of Science and editor of The Citizen Scientist site of the Society for Amateur Scientists.
  • Re:Too True (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Friday April 21, 2006 @04:32PM (#15177381)
    One of my more cynical thoughts is that we should give everybody a Hummer. Lets burn up all the oil and get past this stage of development as quickly as possible.

    Once there is incentive to change, change will happen. But now, since people only see the perfect solution of our blinder restricted vision, we're stuck with status quo.

    I know there was an article [slashdot.org] a while back about Canadian trucking Co. using an electrolysis rig to generate hydrogen which in turn fed into the engine producing significant better fuel combustion and mileage and much less pollution emissions. Something like 20-30% better. Which as you suggested, pays for itself *very* quickly in terms of long haul trucking.

    This [chechfi.ca] article is even a no modification setup...just bolt it on and hook up power.


  • Re:Too True (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rei (128717) on Friday April 21, 2006 @04:36PM (#15177415) Homepage
    Wikipedia has a lot more balanced discussion of the pros and cons of wind power:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power [wikipedia.org]

    To sum up: Intermittancy is a non-issue where associated with pumped storage. Europe's hydroelectric dams, for example, have enough water behind them to power the entire continent for a month, and only take minutes to change their output. There are plenty of other efficient ways to deal with the intermittancy issue; it just requires preplanning instead of using wind as a patch. For most systems, no extra storage is needed and no waste occurs unless you start getting to a large percentage of your power coming from wind. This is due to the fact that normal powerplants can fall off the grid without notice as well. This doesn't occur as often as wind cycles up and down, but because it can occur, and the results of a loss of power are unacceptable to Americans, we have to have the surplus capacity anyways. Wind power output can generally be predicted well for hours in advance, which is more than enough for most existing plants to ramp up their generation (some plants take as little as 30 seconds). This ignores demand-side management as well. For example, if you have wind power running an electricity-intensive industrial process (such as aluminum refining or desalinization), you just ramp up and down plant capacity as the power situation dictates. The wider the turbines are spread out, the more constant the wind is. Also, wind tends to be inversely correlated with solar energy (cloudy days and nights tend to be windier)

    There are lots of refs at the bottom of the page.

    Also, your linked article may want to recheck how "little" global warming hydroelectric power (which wind often displaces) causes. Dams displace CO2, but they increase methane production; methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas. In some cases, hydroelectric plants are worse global warming contributors, per MW, than coal. Pairing wind with hydroelectric allows you to reduce the scale of the hydroelectric plant use (or, conversely, to get a lot more power out of a give amount of hydroelectric potential)
  • by phkamp (524380) on Friday April 21, 2006 @04:42PM (#15177456) Homepage
    Back in the 1980ies here in Denmark, a left-lunatic-fringe school built the first windmill and published a report titled "Let a thousand windmills bloom"

    They were ridiculed and everybody were adamant that windmills would spoil the landscape and do things to the cows milk etc.

    Then the government introduced a subsidy on electricity from windmills and suddenly all the farmers could see a good business case and today we have most of the country plastered with windmills.

    As a result Denmark gets around 20% of its electricity from wind nowadays.

    Once energy prices get high enough, windmills will stop ruining USA and become "a sensible economic investment".

    BTW: The trend here is to put new windmills off the coast because water disturbs the wind less than land.

    Poul-Henning
  • Re:Too True (Score:5, Interesting)

    by einhverfr (238914) <chris.travers@gmail . c om> on Friday April 21, 2006 @04:53PM (#15177555) Homepage Journal
    In my backyard we have some wind mills. Well, figuratively speaking (they are in the backyards of friends of mine, actually and within maybe 15 miles). In my state, Wind power is taking off. There has been some controversy exactly as you describe from the "I built my house here and don't want to see your windmills" crowd, but all and all this has not been a huge concern.

    What is driving the projects here in Washington State has been a set of deals with local farmers to rent space on farmland for the windmills. The farmer then gets a percentage of the proceeds (and is thus farming wind), and the power company (usually a county PUD) gets the space for the windmills. Works out well for everyone.

    Now, it is true that there are some environmental hazards of windmills, regarding migrating birds, and the like. However, these are small in comparison to the problems of coal, nuclear, and even hydroelectic on the scale that it has been implemented in our state. Wind is a good option if approached well and built up in moderation.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 21, 2006 @04:54PM (#15177561)
    In Ontario, several of our coal plants are relatively close to medium size cities, and not just poor ones like the above post mentions. So, back when they were federally regulated, they took the time and the 100s of millions of dollars to install electrostatic scrubbers, filter systems, etc. We ended up with some of the most advanced coal plants in the world, that produce less than 1% of the province's air polution, less than all of the province's SUVs alone, and less than 1/50th of what traffic produces.

    So, years later, what are we doing? Bowing to the public opinion that coal = evil, instead of putting in a few car-pool lanes, the government has mandated that we will spend billions of dollars replacing coal plants (built using the most advanced technology) with natural gas plants built by the lowest bidder.
  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Friday April 21, 2006 @05:04PM (#15177651)
    I'm related to an anti-wind activist and I'll tell you what they think. First off, they complain that there is far too much population on the planet. They think people should stop having children, etc. Think euthanasia is a good thing, etc. They are the basically lower the population at any and all costs and don't go creating any more energy or else it will encourage people to have more babies. They think that since they have lots of money they'll be the last ones kicked out of the lifeboat when the difficult times come. Really, they are living so damned well that a huge drop in their standard of living wouldn't really mean that much to them if it meant that all the less desirable inhabitants of the planet were eliminated. This position has actually become quite popular in recent years and I hear it more often and more vehemently. I just wish people would come right out and say it. Instead they take positions on various issues that they think will promote their aims and just pay lip service to whatever window dressing makes the rest of the coalition they're with happy.
  • Re:Too True (Score:4, Interesting)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Friday April 21, 2006 @05:16PM (#15177731)
    The micro-utopian organic gardening crowd aren't a problem; they're the ones getting high and practicing what they preach without bothering the rest of us. The ELF types are the dangerous ones, and they exist in EVERY political movement. The real problem is that all they really want is an excuse to use force; they'd feel equaly at home in the communist movement, or as anarchists, or even as militant conservatives. For people like that, the actual goal or ideology is secondary - it's the hate and violence that's important.
  • Re:Too True (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iamlucky13 (795185) on Friday April 21, 2006 @05:31PM (#15177822)
    There has been some controversy exactly as you describe from the "I built my house here and don't want to see your windmills" crowd, but all and all this has not been a huge concern.
    Nor should it be a concern. It's private property. This isn't even an emminent domain debate. These people should go take a long walk off a short pier...preferrably over a volcano. These are the same type of people who sue their neighbors for painting their house the wrong color and messing up the community's feng shui, which literally happened in my sister's neighborhood. Some people aren't happy unless they have something to be unhappy about.

    Noise is a concern to people who have seen the California wind turbines from the 70's in operation. The lower RPM's, improved blade design, and increased tower clearance make the new, larger designs much quieter. I think it's almost eery how quiet they are.

    Birds are a pretty minor concern as well. Some people like to point to a valley in California where the hawk population decreased by 90% after the turbines were installed. That was one exceptional region, and the newer designs are also better in that regards. The newer 1.5 MW turbines are huge! The blades typically clear the ground by about 50 meters and the birds generally below the swept area. The lower RPM's also give them more time to dodge the blades if they do get the crazy notion to fly through the swept area.

    By the way, I have a bone to pick with you about your turbines over there in eastern Washington. One of your boys got dropped in the middle of our freeways here in Portland last fall. Really messed up traffic to have a 100 ton generator sitting in the road. If that ain't proof that wind power is evil, I don't know what is.
  • by WinPimp2K (301497) on Friday April 21, 2006 @05:39PM (#15177879)
    Hmm.. just how much do those rich folks pay in property taxes on their compounds anyways? Now how much would a wind farm have to pay? I thik this would be an excellent use of the Kelo decision to sieze the property of the anti-wind protestors and build the wind farms so the local authorities would reap the benefits of the overal economic improvement.

    Yes I know the protestors are not sitting on the prime site for the windfarms, but obviously they constitute a "blight" preventing economic development.
  • Re:Too True (Score:3, Interesting)

    by einhverfr (238914) <chris.travers@gmail . c om> on Friday April 21, 2006 @05:43PM (#15177901) Homepage Journal
    The basic problem is that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Every form of energy has its environmental cost somewhere down the line. There might be forms of energy which have a localized net benefit (methane from farm manure) but the entire process in these cases is usually has a net negative impact.

    Wind, as I say, is a good option in many ways. And with new technology it is getting better. However, I will say that we may never be fully aware of what the environmental costs will be, so it is best to look at a balanced energy generation policy as a part of a solution which also includes conservation and power generation by waste reduction (such as methane-based power from composting manure).

    What I cannot say is whether Wind will still seem to be the same great source that it appears today if it was massively implemented.
  • Re:Too True (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Savantissimo (893682) on Friday April 21, 2006 @06:18PM (#15178120) Journal
    How are Mims' religious views relevant to this? It's more important that he has encouraged tens of thousands of people to do their own experiments and make their own scientific instruments. Mimms views on evolution are wrong, sure, but that does not affect his good scientific work in other fields.

    Your first link claimed he hadn't changed anything in Mims' letter, but in fact cut an unspecified amount, likely the more cogent part. At any rate it all has no bearing on the case at hand. Attacking the messenger is not a valid tactic.

    Your second link is an attempt at the old guilt-by-association argument - or perhaps even more tenuous. Something along the lines of "Al-jazeera reports on Bush and on al-Quaeda, therefore Bush is linked to Al-Quaeda"

    Your third link is to a TV station whose idea of invesigative reporting goes no further than asking Pianka if he wanted to kill everybody and then taking everything he says as unvarnished truth.

    Your fourth link is where you cribbed most of your post, and it is pure primate territorial display - "The wingnut echo chamber has recently gone insane ..HOOT HOOT AAH AAH THUMPTHUMP... IDers hate our freedoms... HOOT!. It's like the green version of O'Reilly.

    Here's a better link to someone proposing that Pinka didn't mean it:
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/04/pianka_ and_mims.php [scienceblogs.com]

    And here are a couple of first hand refutations in reply to that:

    I took Evolutionary Ecology from Dr. Pianka a few years ago. He'd frequently get sidetracked onto:

    1. Cool Australian lizards.
    2. His buffalo.
    3. How much he disliked his neighbors who kept killing rattlesnakes.
    4. How some horrible disease is going to wipe out huge chunks of the population any year now, and how pleased he will be when that happens.

    So, yep, sounds like Dr. Pianka to me. The quotes in the article all sound pretty familiar.

    Posted by: Tiger Spot | April 2, 2006 09:18 PM

    ***

    PZ,

    when I was at SUNY Stony Brook, Pianka gave a similar talk where he said the same offensive crap. What Tiger Spot said sounds right, except we got the 45 minute version. My recollection is that it didn't go over very well. He does know his lizards however.

    Posted by: Mike the Mad Biologist | April 2, 2006 09:44 PM


    So no, Pianka isn't likely to spread a virus but he is looking forward to the deaths of billions of people.

  • by drwho (4190) on Friday April 21, 2006 @06:33PM (#15178204) Homepage Journal
    I have really strong feelings about this, so excuse me if I rant a bit.

    The so-called Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, i.e. those people trying to stop wind turbines in the water off of cape cod, is headed by William I. Koch, who is a billionaire by way of his family's Oil & Gas fortune. The Alaska congressmen are just trying to protect the value of the what Alaska is worth - which is a lot of money when the US can get oil from nowhere else -- of course they don't want competition from states who would rather generate the power at home without expensive Alaskan oil. Ted Kennedy is opposed for an unknown reason - but the other Massachusetts senator, the famous John Kerry, is a supporter of Wind Power.

    There was a document leaked a while back showing the fund raising strategy of the professional fund raising company from new york who was hired by this Alliance - and the strategy biols down to "Don't bother with the poor or middle class - raise money from the ultra-rich" -- the rich who don't have to suffer from energy crisis that we are going through, or some who even get richer because of it.

    I am going to stop now, before I burst an artery...
  • Re:Too True (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JWSmythe (446288) * <jwsmythe@jwsmyth ... minus physicist> on Friday April 21, 2006 @07:00PM (#15178331) Homepage Journal
    It all depends on the group, and their agenda.

        Are you against the pollution that the coal fired plants put off, and the potential radiation from a nuclear plant? Then you'd like wind, solar, hydroelectric, and wave power.

        Are you worried about the woodland critters and plants? Then solar is probably out, because you'd be covering the ground to some degree with panels.

        Are you worried about the birds? Then wind power is out.

        Are you worried about fish? Then hydroelectric is out.

        Are you worried about whales? Then wave power is out.

        There are non-environmental people against various things too. I believe it was in Connecticut, the local government was pushing for wind power. It wasn't the environmentalists there complaining, it was the locals complaining about the potential for noise and, god forbid, windmills being seen if you were to drive 20 miles and climb up on a hill to get a look.

        I think nuclear plants look pretty cool. They have a particular asthetic look to the domed reactor and huge cooling towers. Then again, it's not quite as pleasing to take a boat anywhere near the warm water outlet and not find anything living in the water.

        I'm all for solar, wind, and wave power. Not only can it be deployed fairly easily, but it can eventually be moved for whatever reason. Maybe another location is found to be more productive. Hydroelectric is nice, but it does require a huge building project to accomplish it, and usually flooding large areas to get the required water pressure.

        I live by a really great place to put a wind and solar farm. There's a ridge with almost constant wind. The south facing side of the hills could be home to huge solar panel arrays. The residents in the valley below would never have it. There are a few million of them, living in smog year round. Clean power would destroy their pretty view. Of course, they can't usually see the view through the smog.

        Environmentalists would complain that it would hurt the natural ecosystem. Sure, some coyotes may get killed. If the neighbors wouldn't have complained about gunshots, I would have killed some on my own. What about the small woodland critters? Well, my cats killed off quite a few, probably numbering near the same as any power generation systems would have. In nature, things die. It's not a perfect world, even though people have their perfect picture of it in their minds. I guess most environmentalists have never seen a house cat come home with parts of a small bird, snake, lizard, or anything else that may move enough for a cat to play with. It's nothing compared to what the larger animals do to each other.
  • by jesterzog (189797) on Friday April 21, 2006 @11:06PM (#15179119) Homepage Journal

    Funny thing about it, they don't want a windfarm ruining thier view, but they have no problem building a $500,000 house on a previously wooded hillside, and running the nice road up the side of the hill to drive there.

    Down the road from where I live (Wellington, New Zealand), there are a group of local residents trying to block the impending wind turbines. The complaints are a combination of property values, living aesthetics, and so on, as usually happens when this sort if thing happens. There's also a handful of trampers (that's a NZ word for hiking) who think it should be left undeveloped for recreational reasons. Fortunately (I think), it doesn't look like they're going to stop it from going ahead. The power companies aren't exactly helping, though. They've been doing the standard corporate marketing thing of trying to get consents for twice as much as what they could possibly get, simply so they can then tone it down and look like they're making a compromise from the original plan.

    All that said, I do have some sympathy for the property values crowd. I like going on long walks, and as much as I dislike the way that a lot of land with great views, etc, gets divided up, sold and fenced off so that only a single person can access it, that's effectively the way that capitalist society is arranged. The incentives everywhere tell people that they have to own property and look after their finances for the future. Otherwise someone else will push in and take the money and land anyway, and you'll end up with nothing for the future.

    I'm unlikely to build a million dollar summer house in a remote area with an expensive driveway and fence it off, because I don't agree with that way of doing things. That said, if I bought a $250,000 house in the city and someone decided to build a prison next door (severly lowering the property value), I'd be seriously annoyed... because a $250,000 home dropping to a $150,000 value means that I suddenly have $100,000 less towards whatever's in my retirement fund. And that's huge. This isn't even going into the possibility that a property might have a much higher value to me than anyone else. Perhaps I developed a property near the sea because I had a critical need to get a boat in and out, and it might simply not be possible to find something that meets the same needs elsewhere.

    If people buy and develop properties with full knowledge of what's likely to happen, I have little sympathy for them. But we also really need systems to make sure that people can't do this sort of thing without being made clearly aware of it beforehand. If that's not possible, then I personally think that governments should arrange ways that residents can get properly compensated for the value of their property that they're likely to be losing. This might be by requiring that companies applying for consents to develop land pay out a pre-determined "fair" rate of compensation to surrounding property owners, or through some other means.

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday April 21, 2006 @11:49PM (#15179224) Homepage
    Altamont Pass was the first really big wind farm. It has 6000 windmills in successive rows, all in a relatively narrow pass. It really is something of a veg-e-matic for birds. It's tough for a bird to fly through that pass and avoid all those windmills, and because it's a mountain pass on a major bird migration route, the birds can't go around it. The Altamont Pass windmills are mostly in the 50KW to 100KW range.

    The current generation of wind turbines are huge machines in the 1MW to 3MW range. They're up higher and more visible to birds, and there are fewer of them per unit area. The older turbines at Altamont are being replaced by bigger machines, which apparently kill fewer birds.

    But nobody is happy with the current arrangement.

  • Re:Too True (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mrchaotica (681592) on Friday April 21, 2006 @11:51PM (#15179229)
    If trains were dramatically more efficient and cost effective then items would be shipped that way.
    It's more complicated than that. Trains are dramatically more efficient than trucks, if you compared them from the same point A to point B. However, as you mentioned, the train can't get to point C because the tracks don't go there.

    In other words, the problem is that the infrastructure was designed to favor trucks rather than trains. The decision to develop this way was made in the first half of last century, when gas was cheap. Unfortunately, they didn't forsee the situation we have today, and now we're stuck with the wrong infrastructure. If we had developed the rail system instead of the interstate highway system we would have been better off now, in terms of shipping efficiency.
  • Re:Too True (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bush Pig (175019) on Saturday April 22, 2006 @12:07AM (#15179260)
    > If trains were dramatically more efficient and cost effective then items would be shipped that way.

    Not true. The main reason (in Australia at least) that trains aren't used more is because of trans-shipment. That is, you put your stuff on a truck, drive it to the nearest railhead, it gets put on a train and taken to a railhead nearer to its destination, it gets loaded onto another truck and delivered. In Australia, which is about the same size as the US but with less than 10% of the population, most of whom live in Sydney anyway, this is (almost) a reasonable excuse. (Look at a map of Australia showing the railway lines to see what I mean.) In the US or Europe, with much larger, more densely packed populations, it isn't. However, just because something is indefensible doen't mean people won't keep doing it if it saves a bit of time and money. Don't forget that, in the US at least, there is (effectively) a massive subsidy on petrol.

  • Re:Too True (Score:3, Interesting)

    by the argonaut (676260) on Saturday April 22, 2006 @09:28PM (#15182903) Homepage Journal
    I remember reading a report on wind a few years back saying that if the entire land surface of the earth was evenly coated with windmills (0.5 Km separation) we would meet approximately 20% of of our total power needs.

    I'm sorry, but you're talking out of your ass. I can counter your report with several more credible reports that say covering the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas completely with windmills would meet 100% of the United States energy needs, and that total wind potential globally exceeds global energy demand (cites here [stanford.edu] and here [nrel.gov]).

    Nuclear is the most environmentally friendly way to go.

    No, it's not. I'll concede that the designs of modern nuclear reactors and advances in fuel recycling have significantly decreased the negative environmental effects of nuclear energy, but not enough to declare it "the most environmentally friendly" energy source.

    Energy efficiency and conservation should be the top priority of any sane energy policy, beginning with improvements in generation efficiency and transmission. 67% of the energy output of power plants is lost in conversion to electricity, and another 9% is lost in transmission and distribution (graph [doe.gov]). Eliminating even a fraction of that loss could eliminate the need for new power plants for decades.
  • Re:Too True (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pnewhook (788591) on Saturday April 22, 2006 @11:56PM (#15183290)
    I'm sorry, but you're talking out of your ass. I can counter your report with several more credible reports that say covering the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas completely with windmills would meet 100% of the United States energy needs, and that total wind potential globally exceeds global energy demand
    Well I didn't write the report.
    No, it's not. I'll concede that the designs of modern nuclear reactors and advances in fuel recycling have significantly decreased the negative environmental effects of nuclear energy, but not enough to declare it "the most environmentally friendly" energy source.
    Yes it is.

    Wind is not practical as a sole energy source. It's great for augmenting but the wind just doesn't blow all the time. I live in Toronto on the Great Lakes and there is a huge windmill next to the water downtown. Not only is it ugly but is not operating a good 50% or more of the time. There just isn't enough constant wind here to make it viable.

    Fossil fuels are dirty and pollute, so they are not environmentally friendly.

    Solar is fine, but again only suitable for augmentation, not as a primary energy source.

    Hydroelectric I argue causes a huge negative environmental impact. Damming rivers causes flooding, blocking of migratory routes for both fish and land mammals and the destruction of large swaths of greenspace. The rotting greenspace also releases huge amounts of methane gas.

    In Ontario, nuclear now generates half of our power needs and weve been generating nuclear power for over 40 years. There are no emissions of greenhouse gases, acid gases, or particulate air pollution from a nuclear power plant - making it a truly 'green' source of energy. A nuclear fuel bundle is the size of a firelog and stores enough energy to power 100 homes for a year. The same electricity from a fossil station would require 400 tonnes (400,000 kg) of coal, or 270,000 liters (almost 60,000 gallons) of oil, or 300 million liters (10 million cubic feet) of natural gas. Contrary to popular misguided belief, storage of waste fuel is not a problem. Ontario reactors store all of their waste onsite, in an area a little bigger than a swimming pool. Over the entire lifecycle of the technology, nuclear is also the cheapest at 3 per KWh (coal at 4, gas at 7)

    I'd say that's pretty environmentally friendly.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton

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