Mar 31, 2009

Wind energy whips up dissent

by Elisabeth Garman

Recycling, renewable energy and reusable grocery bags — the green trend is in full swing. Some may feel strongly about their responsibility toward the earth, while others just want to be trendy (thought they might not admit it). Even the CW television network runs a public service announcement campaign about not “going nuts” when going green.

There are some people, however, particularly those in rural areas, that would rather their area to not be so “green.” There has been a recent backlash against the placement of wind farms by the concerned homeowners in the area, according to a High Country News article, www.hcn.org.

In theory, wind seems like it would be the ideal form of energy. It is sustainable and has the ability to provide a large amount of energy without the dependence on foreign oil. President Barack Obama has jumped on the green bandwagon by adding portions of the stimulus bill for alternative energy. Currently, the United States leads the world in wind energy. Last year there was enough produced to power 7 million homes, as reported in hcn.org. It still only accounts for 1 percent of total energy in the country.

However, there are negatives to this form of energy. Though wind would seem to be “free,” there is no such thing as a “free lunch.” Wind, like bottled water, costs money. Last year, hcn.org reported that federal subsidies totaled $800 million, plus tax incentives at the state level. Besides the initial cost to build wind farms, the nearby residents complain that it lowers property value. In a study two years ago through the National Academy of Sciences, some have reported to suffer from health issues such as nausea, insomnia and dizziness. They also complained of the lighted towers at night, the noise and vibration and the remote chance that a wind turbine may hurl a piece of ice.

What those in Washington and activists around the country may not realize, is that even though wind farms provide energy on a national, even global scale, the effects are felt on local people who live next door. Wind farms are usually placed in rural areas so they do affect less of the population, but it makes sense to have laws put in place to regulate how close they can come to residential areas.

Some of these people, such as farmers making a living, have lived in the area for decades and moving on is not an option for them. For these people, some sort of amends needs to be made for the inconvenience, such as tax credits and reimbursement for medical expenses caused by the wind farms.

Still, wind is renewable, so it will reduce expenses in the future. So for those of us who are not up at night, nauseous and dizzy, worrying that a chunk of ice will hit our windshield when driving by a wind farm, wind power sounds like a good solution. In spite of that, there are those who do have to deal with those issues, so Congress and activists alike need to be respectful when addressing this surprising controversy.
We need to remember that “change” and “believing” is all well and good … as long as a wind farm is not moving in next door.

Contact Elisabeth Garman at
ejgarman@liberty.edu.

 


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