Wind is the big new thing in public power. It is also the growing target of environmental activists who have spent decades attacking fossil fuels.
No source of power will go unchallenged. Activists told us oil and coal are killing the planet. They demanded a shift to natural gas. When fracking unearthed a wealth of the clean-burning fuel, oil and coal critics turned on it with petitions and protests in the streets.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., told us a temporary gas rig near his vacation home marked the end of his Colorado dream. Anti-energy activists throughout Colorado plot ever-growing drill-free buffer zones. Fracking for gas, they tell us, causes global warming and earthquakes.
We are quickly transitioning to wind, which provides a dramatic divergence from conventional fuels. President Barack Obama, Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sen. Michael Bennet and other politicians advocate aggressive new federal and state laws that mandate a conversion to wind.
Turbines have produced energy for centuries, and are proving a viable and efficient means to power today's electric grid. In neighboring Kansas, wind generates more than a quarter of all electricity. Colorado and other states are catching up. The process involves no significant mining. If mining and drilling are the problem, we should be jumping for joy.
Not so fast. Wind objections are picking up, with controversies similar to those surrounding oil, coal and gas. Not long after turbines appeared on the landscape, objections surfaced about the occasional blade whacking an eagle in mid-flight. After a few turbine workers fell to their deaths in Europe, windmill critics claimed the industry had taken more lives than all domestic nuclear plants combined. The politically dynastic Kennedy family of Massachusetts, which had long advocated renewables, protested a turbine project off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 2006. That and other conflicts inspired aesthetic concerns about turbines.
Wind controversies are brewing all over the country, with activists threatening to out-complain the anti-fracking crowd as turbines proliferate.
After NextEra Energy, Inc. turned on 145 turbines east of Colorado Springs last fall, trouble quickly ensued. An April 17 Gazette article tells of residents near the project complaining of serious illnesses caused by windmills. Symptoms include headaches, nausea and dizziness. They blame low frequency "infrasounds," which are so quiet they are considered inaudible, for their conditions. Ranch owner Kory Feick said the new turbines have her taking "so much medication you can't even believe it." The misery sounds worse than anything reported by neighbors of drilling and mining operations.
Society cannot embark on progress without causing unfortunate and unintended consequences. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, meaning all progress manifests burdens and displacement.
We need all viable, efficient forms of energy unless and until they no longer make social and economic sense. We need oil, gas, coal, solar and wind. We may even benefit from small-scale nuclear, as incentivized by Obama's Clean Power Plan.
Human survival requires energy exploitation, which disrupts humanity, wildlife, earth and sky. In harnessing and exploiting the raw power of the universe, we play with fire and manipulate atoms, rotted dinosaurs, solar radiation and the wind. Just as a beaver's dam changes the landscape, our cause — our need for energy — has an effect.
When we harness energy, we should do so with the utmost care and concern for disruptions it will cause. We are morally obligated to act as good and compassionate stewards. But let's stop demonizing and rejecting the energy assets we have, pretending the next investment will do no harm. That will never be true. Proceed with caution, but by all means proceed.
REPRINTED FROM THE COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE