We’ve Got Global Warming Right Where We Want It

First, former Vice President Al Gore goes to Congress, winning converts to the cause of reversing man-made global warming, and support for his proposal to cap U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide at current levels, and begin cutting them back by 90 percent over the next 43 years.  The political trend gets noticed:

As Gore concedes, he is more salesman than scientist. But most scientists acknowledge that he is absolutely right on the fundamentals: Humans are artificially warming the world, the risks of inaction are great, the time frame for action is growing short and meaningful cuts in emissions will happen only if the United States takes the lead. An increasing number of business leaders and politicians outside Washington are moving his way.

Congress is paying attention to this shift. Representative Henry Waxman of California has signed up 127 co-sponsors for a very tough bill he proposed last week that seeks to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by midcentury, which is close to what Gore wants. When you consider that Gore and President Bill Clinton could not find five senators willing to ratify the far more modest 1997 Kyoto treaty – which called for a mere 7 percent reduction below 1990 levels, with no further reductions scheduled after 2012 – you get some idea of how far the debate has come.

But then, project-by-project, in states across the country, viable ways to actually achieve these kinds of cuts get blocked.  From today’s LA Times:

In a blustery stretch of desert two hours east of Los Angeles, where many of the world’s first power-producing windmills were built, a plan for more turbines has triggered a backlash that echoes a national debate over the merits of wind energy.

A proposal to build about 50 windmills next to Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument has aroused passions in a region already dotted with 3,000 windmills, with opponents charging that the wind energy industry has neither delivered the promised power nor spared the environment.

The industry, which was born in California, now has projects in 40 states and $8 billion in investments over the last two years, according to the American Wind Energy Assn.

Supporters say wind power has come of age and will help slow global warming, while critics contend that it has delivered only a quarter of its promised energy, proved lethal to wildlife and, in the view of many residents, blighted the landscape.

Around the country, Internet blogs and anti-wind energy websites hum with angry postings about projects on picturesque ridgelines, seascapes and farmlands from New England to Texas.

Politicians and celebrities have weighed in. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and his Nantucket Island neighbors have so far successfully fought installation of offshore turbines.

Their opposition, in turn, has prompted criticism that rich liberals are all for alternative power providing it doesn’t mar their views.

So, are we serious about global warming or not?  Wind power is not perfect. But locations like San Gorgonio Pass, where the wind blows constantly, are inherently scarce.  We don’t have the luxury of ruling these sites off-limits, even when there is some other environmental impact.  Local politics should not drive how the pros and cons are weighed.

If we were serious about global warming, there would be a national policy to encourage development of wind projects in locations where there is the highest potential to exploit it for baseline power. Perhaps we should require environmental impact reports for each site — with the burden of proof being shifted to advocates of the no-build option.

I know that Gore and Waxman probably see the coming battles to be about conservation, green industries, solar power incentives, etc.   And certainly that’s going to be part of it.  But a properly located wind energy site is one of the few alternative-energy methods now available that is even close to being cost-competitive with burning fossil fuels.  Shouldn’t we be looking there first? 

Also, why isn’t there more discussion of hydro power?  According to this site, there are 80,000 dams in the U.S.  Only 2,400 of them generate electricity.  Wikipedia’s entry on hydroelectricity articulate the case against the energy source.  But what about installing turbines in existing dams?  If the dams are already built, what’s the incremental environmental damage from doing that?

Gore needs to shift his salesmanship toward selling solutions. Rep. Waxman is following the old Clean Air Act model of setting high standards and forcing local areas to meet them or else face lawsuits and federal sanctions.  That’s great if your purpose is to grandstand against enemies of the environment.  But I’d prefer we try to depoliticize this issue, acknowledge (which Gore does) that it won’t be easy, and stop creating binds for ourselves by simultaneously pursuing two competing environmental goals.  In San Gorgonio, in Cape Cod and elsewhere, we need to make tough choices.

If’ we’re really serious.  

13 thoughts on “We’ve Got Global Warming Right Where We Want It

  1. You are saying that we should stand 410 ft. windmills directly in front of the North Face of Mt San Jacinto and the Snow Creek alluvial, at the entrance to the national monument.
    We should also put them in Yosemite, around Niagra Falls, the north shore of Kauai, Monterey Bay and your backyard.

  2. There are wind turbines all over San Gorgonio pass. I think they’re a blight. But in a trade-off against global warming, it’s a trade-off that must be made.

    What someone needs to do is create a U.S. wind-energy potential site map. I suspect it would become abundantly clear to you and others how few good sites exist. I’m sure a “your backyard” argument could be thrown up against all of them. If we’re serious about global warming, we’ll have to stop letting NIMBYs decide these things.

  3. Before you spout off Mr. Stodder, you should familiarize yourself with some facts about wind power.
    I have in hand 15 years of actual WE production records that show that all the windmills [4,000?] in the San Gorgonio Pass only generated less than 8 million kWh per year. Only 5% is generated at peak need times. If you think that that will save us from “global warming” [if that is even true] then you are indeed delusional. If you stop and think, since the wind is intermittent, when it stops… then what? The utilities will need the same amount of power from reliable and stable sources, that they always use, otherwise there would be blackouts. The ISO turns down hydro and gas fires turbines, so the “pollution savings” are negligable. While the envirironmental damage has been horrendeous. In order for an energy source to be viable it must be able to perform on demand, which wind cannot do. You have been sold and bought into a scam. The only transmission that has been going on is the $’s out of us rate and taxpayers pockets into theirs! And yes, I live in the Pass. So, I am offended that you have the nerve to call us NIMBY’s, by you know nothings and don’t even bother to educate youtselves on the facts and on how our energy supply works.

  4. Further, you have also been sold a bill of goods if you think the wind always blows here in the Pass. What the WE developers do is give you “average wind speeds” which have nothing to do at all in wind generation in order to dupe gullibles like you. What they do is take the annual wind speeds from 0-50mph and divide by 365. In actuality, the wind is only good enough for them to generate power 25% of the time or less and mostly at night when we don’t need it. This is how easily you all are fooled by these charletons!

  5. If the decision on the viability of the San Gorgonio site was made on the basis of energy yield, cost/benefit and environmental criteria that would be applied across the board, and the project was found wanting, I’d of course accept that.

    But that’s not what’s going on. It’s a local political matter. You can’t get around the fact that the wealth of you and your neighbors is the primary obstacle to this project.

    You throw a lot of straw men into your case, arguing against statements I never made, which takes you down a few notches for credibility. Of course I know wind is “intermittent.” Of course I don’t believe wind power, alone, solves global warming. I also know that the turbines in San Gorgonio pass are 25+ years old and much less efficient. Their performance is not the benchmark for the new project.

    Beyond that, I don’t have any independent way to verify your numbers, but answer me this: If an independent study showed that this wind project was going to be three times more productive than you’re saying, would you change your position? Didn’t think so.

    The fact is, local property owners have a massive conflict of interest, and if they have the wealth to wage a procedural battle, they will probably win it because your local politicians are afraid of you.

    Maybe you’re right about this project. But are all wealthy homeowners or yachters always right about these projects? Obviously not. But like you, they can throw all kinds of impressive statistics around to give local politicians a fig leaf to cover their capitulation to raw political power. So I don’t apologize for my skepticism about your advocacy here, or for terming it NIMBYism.

  6. Indeed I can back up my statements, I have 15 years of wind energy’s production records [from Edison]that I will be more than happy to send to you, if you give me your FAX number. But, since you are so thrilled with Wind energy, just answer this… when the wind stops blowing… then what?
    It seems that common sense and logic is no longer taught..
    Answer: The utilities will need the same amount of power that they always do to supply demand. Wind is a DUPLICATION of power that they already have to have available to avert black outs!
    Since I don’t check your site very often, if you want to see the records… e-mail me directly at bobweit@msn.com.
    Only the Kennedy’s have the yachets, we’re a small, mostly poor little community, fighting not to have our property values devalued by these rich predators called WE developers! Ever check their bank accounts?

  7. Dear Mr. Stodder,

    And you call yourself a “journalist? You make assumptions with NO facts in hand. You have no idea as to how our energy supply works and still you spout off with no knowledge of the subject. Further, you also assumed that we are wealthy? What ever gave you that idea? Show me some of your facts instead of trying to disparage me, I’m ready to comapre your’s with my actual documentation.
    I have mine already to go.

  8. Mr. Stodder,

    I still have had no response from you. Further, you must be aware that we have had a very COLD and snowy winter. Snow and cold in regions that haven’t had any before. What if all you Global Warming idealists are WRONG, and in fact, as some scientists are saying that we are entering a cooling period that lasts as long as a century? That windmills don’t work that well in cold or hot weather. That farmland will be frozen. Check it out.
    You are all so afraid of 1 degree change that you are imposing all kinds of EXPENSIVE feel good non-solutions. But, if this winter is any indication… you too may be foraging for food under 10 feeet of snow and no energy available to keep you warm. Think about it. While you think you want to “save the planet” [while its been heating and cooling for billions of years] you are truly scary, after convincing the politicains to imopse these drastic changes. I hope you buy extra blankets and canned food [don’t forget pet food] if the mid west is covered in ice.

  9. CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
    Another Worker Indicts Executive in Billing Case
    April 15, 2006 | John Spano, Times Staff Writer
    A second worker has identified Fleishman-Hillard Inc. executive John Stodder as the man who issued instructions to falsify public relations billings to the city, a federal jury was told Friday. Candice Campbell, who worked in the international public relations firm’s Los Angeles office for 10 years, testified Friday against Stodder and his former boss, Douglas Dowie, who are on trial for conspiracy and fraud.

  10. John Stodder back in L.A. and working
    By Kevin Roderick | January 9, 2012 9:28 PM

    John Stodder, you may recall, reported to federal prison authorities last February to serve a term for his part in the Fleishman-Hillard episode of a few years ago. John has now served his inside time — a month in Kern County jail, two months at the federal prison in Taft and seven months at the Lompoc Satellite Camp — and just before Christmas was transferred to a halfway house in Los Angeles. He’s now allowed to telecommute to the job held open for him at the Dolan Company, a Minneapolis-based publisher of business and legal newspapers, and is back on Facebook. If all goes well he’ll switch over to home confinement at some point, then go off that and onto probation around March 19.

  11. John Stodder back in L.A. and working
    By Kevin Roderick | January 9, 2012 9:28 PM
    Share on printfriendly Share on linkedin More Sharing Services
    John Stodder, you may recall, reported to federal prison authorities last February to serve a term for his part in the Fleishman-Hillard episode of a few years ago. John has now served his inside time — a month in Kern County jail, two months at the federal prison in Taft and seven months at the Lompoc Satellite Camp — and just before Christmas was transferred to a halfway house in Los Angeles. He’s now allowed to telecommute to the job held open for him at the Dolan Company, a Minneapolis-based publisher of business and legal newspapers, and is back on Facebook. If all goes well he’ll switch over to home confinement at some point, then go off that and onto probation around March 19.

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