With the recent discussion of proposed electricity-generating wind turbines in Schoharie County there has been a virtual hurricane of nasty lies and disinformation blowing around. Given what we know about wind power battles in other communities, the disinformation campaigns are most likely going to get a lot uglier.
Ironically, the main argument against wind farms is that they are bad for the environment. People who make this claim and/or buy into it are misguided at best. We've all heard the claims that wind turbines will spoil those scenic mountaintop vistas that we all know and love. However, as an industrialized society we need to generate power. Even those of us living in remote, rural locations use electricity (much of the energy we take from the grid is generated in someone else's backyard). Of the options for generating power that we currently have before us, wind power is not only the least-polluting, but it also has the smallest impact on its neighbors and the surrounding environment. Some may object to living near windmills, yet what of those who have had coal-fired plants, nuclear plants, or incinerators sited near their homes or in their communities? Can we take seriously the complaints of exurban homeowners about diminished views when so many children living in inner cities experience skyrocketing asthma rates due to traditional electricity-generating power plants? The impact of windmills both in terms of actual measurable effects and visual impact is minimal by comparison.
Many also complain that wind turbines are unfairly subsidized compared to "other businesses". Well, wind power is subsidized, as it should be! So many of the costs and subsidies of other forms of energy, like oil, are well beyond measure. You will never see a protestor with a sign saying "no blood for wind". Subsidies for wind power help to encourage green companies that might actually put silly things like saving the planet over the bottom line. Do you think that garaunteeing access to middle eastern oil doesn't require "subsidies"? How much will we spend in the future to ensure access to oil in the mid-east? The numbers are quite staggering. According to some estimates as much as a third of the 300 bil dollar defense budget is needed just to protect our access to mid-eastern oil (http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2001/october24/energyvantage-1024.html). And people want to bitch about wind power companies making payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) instead of paying taxes directly.
Most of the arguments against wind power are not very rational. Instead, what most opposition boils down to, is nothing more elegant that good old American NIMBYism and a myopic fear of lowered property values. Many people in rural areas also have an instinctive resentment of outsiders coming in and changing the landscape.
I urge all residents to take an honest look at their conscience and their own energy consumption and consider the long-term effects of oil consumption on our economy and our environment. Any honest evaluation of the pros and cons of wind power should have wind power on top. If you can't see that, then you need to become better informed. Hopefully wind farm opponents will quit their scare tactics and realize that wind turbines are our friends!