GREEN, AT WHAT PRICE ?
Ask almost anyone on the planet about the need to develop alternative energy sources and I predict an overwhelming number of those questioned would say it’s a great idea. After all, deriving power from wind and sunlight present a much prettier image than coal-fired power plants, massive dams or nuclear reactors.
However, ask the same interviewees about putting a wind or photovoltaic farm in their backyard and many more negative responses will be elicited. Even more negative would be the response of a worker at an existing coal-fired power plant if he or she feared the loss of their job. All of these issues are swirling across the globe as companies move to claim their stake in the developing renewable energy market.
GREEN, AT WHAT RENEWABLE ENERGY BRINGS CONTROVERSY, In Spain, the home base of many wind power and photovoltaic (PV) energy companies, at issue is an academic report that concluded that for every renewable energy job created it would cost 2.1 existing jobs. The report formally titled, “Study of the effects on employment of public aid to renewable energy sources,” has become known as the “Calzada report,” after its research director Gabriel Calzada, Ph.D. The report was quickly pounced on by critics of the Obama administration in the United States, notably Fox News, in yet another attempt to discredit the policies of the president.
The controversy then moved to Washington in July where at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on green jobs the issue was broached.
Committee Chair Senator Barbara Boxer introduced a study by the Spanish government contradicting the Calzada report that included a letter from Teresa Ribera Rodriguez, Spain’s Secretary of State for Climate Change. Among other facts she hurled at the Calzada report were employment figures showing the renewable energy field employed 73,900 direct workers as opposed to the 52,200 direct and indirect jobs listed in the Calzada report.
In addition, the ISTAS-CCO (labor union institute) projects more than 270,000 direct jobs in 2020, based on a 2 percent annual growth rate in the renewable energy field. Critics of Calzada also suggest that it is important to follow the funding sources of Calzada that include a number of corporations, including Exxon Mobile. other issues swirling are military security concerns and scenic-tourist values.
The security concerns are coming from the western United States, where that country’s army and air force control large amounts of air space that is used for test flights and other research activities. The military claims that wind turbines distort the radar used to track and evaluate flights. Clusters of wind turbines, it is claimed, appear like “storms” on radar. These military concerns have already delayed the installation of wind turbines in these “wide open spaces”.
Another issue that is raised specifically about wind turbines is their location in scenic regions that attract tourists. Should wind turbines be placed near the Grand Canyon or perhaps on top of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor or in the Washington Mall? Most people would probably reject these ideas but in northern New York State in an historic scenic region called the 1000 Islands, Spanish firms proposing wind power farms in the region has divided towns, families and friendships.
The lifeblood of the region is the fourmonth summer when part-time residents return to live in their summer homes on the shores of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario or on one of the 1,862 islands that lie both in the United States and Canada. The islands are divided between Canada and the United States. The proposal is not to place the turbines in these areas but on farmland that sets in from the river in places carrying names such as “Horse Creek.”
The farmers owning the land are overjoyed about signing leases for the wind farms, bringing them economic gains that are sparse in this rural area. However, the part-time residents, most of whom enjoy higher incomes than the locals, oppose the wind turbines, even though Canada has moved aggressively ahead with wind power on a large island on its side of the border in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, and these wind turbines are seen by all.
Recently, local governments rejected a proposal by the New York Power Authority to put wind farms on the shores of Lake Ontario. The argument as voiced at a local forum goes straight to the point of this column, “some said they are not against wind power but are against this project because it would kill the economy of the area, which is heavily dependent on fishing and recreational boating.”
It is part of my life experience that change is difficult in life in any dimension and most people have quite a difficult time in adjusting to “situational crises.” However, as nonrenewable energy sources continue to decline, the need to utilize the sun and wind to meet the world’s needs is likely to push aside other concerns, perhaps even in your backyard.
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