Sunday July 29, 2012

As seen in this paper almost daily, the debate over on-shore, wind-generated electricity spins on and on. It does so for one simple reason: the proponents of wind, including the governor, refuse to deal in facts.

Responsible engagement on vital (and costly) public issues like energy policy requires objective information, supported by real accounting and rigorous, independent science. It requires an apples-to-apples comparison of alternatives. Don’t tell us what something will do. Show us what it will do, how it will do it, and what it will cost. Offer proof.

The Lenox Wind Energy Research Panel, of which I was a member, serves as a rare exemplar of how to tackle a complex and divisive public issue. Finding smart renewable energy is the great challenge for our time. At its outset, one of the panel’s members, described our charge as a cost/benefit analysis, and that is how we proceeded. For the most part, we set aside our emotions and engaged in a fact-based investigation of the positive and negative impacts -- to the town’s economy, its environment and its citizens’ health -- of siting wind turbines on Lenox Mountain for the purpose of generating electrical power for the town. The result of the analysis was a disappointment to some and a victory for others, but its adherence to facts mitigated further controversy. The town decided instead to proceed with a solar field which will take care of all our municipal energy needs.


Advertisement

It is not enough for the governor or anyone else to say that on-shore wind-generated pow er needs to be in the energy mix; they must prove it. The proponents of wind, especially the governor, must prove, definitively, to the citizens of Massachusetts that the enormous, taxpayer-supported subsidies our state offers to wind-power developers make economic sense and are worth the vast impacts to the ecology and scenic value of our ridgelines. Show us the numbers. They must prove, definitively, that there are siting standards that will protect human health. They need to prove, definitively, that the governor’s plan will reduce global warming, pollution and the destructive extraction of fossil fuels. Show us the science.

The sacrifices being asked of the public are enormous -- and not just the public threatened with living near wind turbines. All of us are required to support wind turbine development with untold millions of our tax dollars. Without real proof that this is a good idea, that our money is being spent wisely, that the huge costs are offset by even larger benefits, the fight against wind is sure to grow, perhaps resulting in police-citizen standoffs like those seen at turbine construction sites in Vermont.

Our governor should be embarrassed by the non-transparent, non-objective DEP/ DPW process which culminated in a biased and unscientific report. Bring facts to the debate. Real facts. Try to convince us instead of dictating to us, instead of creating legislation that fast-tracks wind and manipulates the concept of local control -- and instead of characterizing opponents as "misinformed." Misinformed by whom? There is a large, informed, engaged and unified portion of the electorate in Berkshire County and state wide asking for facts from our government and getting none. We hear a lot of propaganda from the proponents of wind, but, so far, they have offered no objective proof to back up their words.

Which, of course, leads one to wonder if they can.

CHANNING GIBSON

Lenox

The writer is a Lenox Selectman.