A famous British politician once said that Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing – that is, after we’ve tried everything else.
So how many roads do we have to go down before we start to do the right thing?
The strongest possible wind power, solar and biomass energy programs are needed. Let’s be clear about that.
Yes, there are issues surrounding wind turbine siting and the impacts on wildlife. There are issues about the release of scientific data and the lack of public research underway. And there are issues about public review of siting and licencing decisions that are very troubling. We don’t want to lower the bar on environmental regulation, by any means.
Yet, on balance, these problems are utterly dwarfed in comparison to the dirty, dangerous paths leading to more coal and nuclear energy. Far more wildlife is harmed by acid rain and mountaintop removal. Far more latitude is given the oil and coal industries in siting and permitting. Far more danger is inherent in the power of nuclear radiation to eventually end all life on earth.
Americans are demanding the expansion of renewable energy sources. They want to build a sustainable future for their children and grandchildren.
Support for renewable energy is off the charts, at 75 to 85 percent of public opinion, with Republicans often showing more support than Democrats (to the apparent surprise of Republican strategists).
Meanwhile, support for new coal and nuclear power is in the basement. Given the choice – and we, in a democracy, are supposed to have a choice – the vast majority of Americans prefer renewable energy.
Poll after poll has shown this so convincingly, and with so much clarity, that only a willfully ignorant person could pretend otherwise.
Speaking of which, it is fair to say that Duke, Dominion, AEP, TVA, and the other utilities have ignored conservation and renewable energy. As a result, we are not prepared for a transition to renewable energy. That that’s one reason why there are so many questions about wind power today. Research that should have been done decades ago has been sidetracked.
There are even instances where utilities are shutting down renewable energy research programs. TVA, for example, is closing the door on decades worth of biomass energy research. Scientists have already been laid off and a building is being sold. To do such a thing, at this moment in history, must rank among the most reckless and pathetically irrational acts of government we have ever witnessed.
And yet there are so many other reckless acts we hardly know where to begin. The plan to build 150 new coal fired power plants in the US is strangely out of touch with both political and environmental reality.
The fact that the Appalachian Regional Commission is assembling an energy plan that does not include renewable energy would be laughable if it were not so sad.
Worst of all, the ongoing destruction of the Appalachain mountains for a little cheap electricity (not to mention the enrichment of a few coal executives) ranks as a grotesque monument to collective failure. Nothing so precious has been sold so cheaply since Essau’s birthright.
What road will we go down? A sustainable future means our grandchildren will have a chance. And what is the alternative? Imagine a flat, blighted moonscape where the dust piles up in drifts over what was once the Appalachians.
The answer, one way or the other, is blowing in the wind.