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What happened to Bill McKibben?

Letter to the Editor

In his 2008 book "Deep Economy", Middlebury College's Bill McKibben concludes that economic growth is the source of the ecological crises we face today. He explains that when the economy grows larger than necessary to meet our basic needs – when it grows for the sake of growth, automatically striving for “more” – its social and environmental costs greatly outweigh any benefits it may provide.

Unfortunately, McKibben seems to have forgotten what he so passionately argued just five years ago. Today he is an advocate of industrial wind turbines on our ridgelines: he wants to industrialize our last wild spaces to feed the very economy he fingered as the source of our environmental problems.

His key assumption is that industrial wind power displaces the use of coal and oil, and therefore helps limit climate change. But since 2000, wind facilities with a total capacity equivalent to 350 coal-fired power plants have been installed worldwide, and today there are more – not fewer – coal-fired power plants operating. (In Vermont, the sale of Renewable Energy Credits to out-of-state utilities enables them to avoid mandates to reduce their fossil fuel dependency, meaning that there is no net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.) At best, industrial wind simply adds more energy to the global supply. And what for? More! More energy than the grid can carry, more idiotic water parks, more snowmaking, more electronic gadgets, more money for corporations.

Why should we spend millions of dollars to destroy wildlife habitat, kill bats and eagles, pollute our headwaters, fill valuable wetlands, polarize our communities, make people sick, mine rare earth metals – just to ensure that we can consume as much or more next year than we did this year?

The costs of industrial wind far outweigh the benefits... unless you are a wind developer. Federal production tax credits and other subsidies have fostered a gold rush mentality among wind developers, who have been abetted by political and environmental leaders who want to appear “green” without challenging the underlying causes of our crises.

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