Monday, May 21, 2012

A Few Environmentalists Cheer 2 PA Wind Farm Cancellations, Even Though More Pollution Is The Result

The cheering from a few environmentalists at the demise of two wind farm projects in Pennsylvania reminds that for some no energy source is pristine or clean enough, and causing more pollution by blocking clean options troubles not everyone.  Laura Jackson of Save Our Allegheny Ridges, an anti-wind power group, was quoted by Don Hopey in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on May 16th as saying:

"Ridges in this state are not suitable ecologically for wind or any other development.  The ridges are important flyways for raptors and birds, they're steep and therefore ecologically sensitive, they're forested resource and they provide habitat for endangered species."

Of course, endangered species surveys are a requirement for all development in Pennsylvania, including the 25 wind farms in Pennsylvania that are now operating or under construction.

Despite wind having among the lowest environmental impacts of all energy sources--no air pollution, no water withdrawals, no water discharges--a few environmentalists have attacked many of the proposed wind farms in Pennsylvania.

Fortunately, for the Commonwealth's environment and economy, these attacks generally have failed.  As a result, Pennsylvania will soon have nearly 1,500 megawatts of wind generation at 25 projects, with a boom in 2012, as projects are rushed to completion prior to the expiration of the production tax credit.  No matter what anti-wind crusaders think, Pennsylvania's air and water is made cleaner by wind; good jobs are created; and electricity prices are made affordable by the large additional wind supplies.

The two wind project cancellations that cheered Laura Jackson were largely the result of a combination of low power prices and the failure of the Congress to timely renew the production tax credit.

The misguided attacks by a few environmentalists on wind power underline how some refuse to recognize a basic law of electricity generation development: Saying No Also Means Saying Yes To Something Else.  Block wind or gas or nuclear, and something else will take their place in the market and electricity dispatch.

When environmentalists say "No To Wind," they are saying yes to more electricity generation from coal and gas.

And when environmentalists say "No To Gas," they are saying yes to more coal and oil usage.

When zero pollution or cleaner options like wind or gas are blocked, then energy alternatives that emit more pollution increase their market share.  Denying this reality is refusing to face facts as surely as denying climate science.

The substitution of technologies that emit massive amounts of conventional pollutants is exactly what is happening in Japan, where all 55 of its nuclear plants have been shutdown.  As fossil fuel plants replace the nuclear units, Japanese carbon emissions skyrocket and are now 15% above 1990 levels--a worse performance than in the USA.


  1. Concerned ScientistMay 21, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    John you nailed it here

    "Saying No Also Means Saying Yes To Something Else."

    "Denying this reality is refusing to face facts as surely as denying climate science."

  2. I agree that environmentalists are wrong to oppose wind projects. But saying "no" is not pure stupidity; it also provides benefits, like putting pressure on developers to make wind generation even more eco-friendly. The same is true for gas. Saying "no" to fracking is bad in the short-term since it has led to some drilling moratoriums etc., and has thereby increased our need for dirty fuels, but in the long-run we might be thankful for all of the anti-fracking hoopla if it results in safer and better regulated extraction practices.

    1. Concerned ScientistMay 22, 2012 at 12:53 PM

      This is a good point and I agree to some extent. But the problem with the anti-fracking hysteria is that some people's mental health is really suffering due to fear of something that is never going to happen. Why can't people go out and picket for strong regulation instead of insisting that fracking is going to give everyone cancer?