Winds of Opportunity

Gusty profits are blowing in those bureaucratic breezes


College students are perplexed these days about selecting a career field that has secure financial possibilities in our changing technological society. No doubt they have failed to peruse trial-balloon documents from government agencies. If you want to find a "growth industry," one sure way is to check out what the bureaucrats are up to.

Take, for instance, a recent announcement sent to local government agencies by an arm of the California Energy Commission, the Office of Appropriate Technology (OAT). An astute reading of the announcement reveals the tremendous potential in studying, evaluating, and regulating "wind development."

In a letter addressed to "Dear Colleague," the OAT states matter-of-factly: "As more Californians are becoming interested in generating electricity using wind conversion systems, local governments will have to assume new responsibilities to establish a permit process that allows for safe and efficient wind development." This simple, seemingly innocuous statement crosses the threshold of a new energy frontier and promises an unlimited field of exploration for future government control and revenue.

The OAT has, of course, developed a "model ordinance" to be used "as a menu of issues from which the local agency can pick or choose." The state's role, says the agency condescendingly, is to act as an advocate for efficient wind development while providing local government with information on how "to protect the health and safety of their citizens."

This bold, innovative approach to a new field of government concern is pregnant with intriguing possibilities. Don Quixote was right—the windmill is a symbol of awesome power! How will government protect us from the evils of wind? The government's track record suggests the answer.

First, various consultants and study groups will be hired to determine "whither blowest the winds" and whether they are subject to interstate or intrastate classification. The Interstate Commerce Commission and subsequent federal grant funds could be involved. If it is determined that the winds are a national renewable resource, a Windmill Act to establish conservation and regional taxing districts could be drafted. Possibly a 160-acre limitation could be set up for wind farms that use national winds. Congress could adopt legislation setting up marketing associations and implementing redistribution from wind-rich areas such as Wyoming in order to "take the winds from those who have and give to those who don't."

The technology of wind would require the institution of a system of licensing wind operators. Possibly a national organization—the American Mill Association (AMA)?—could define the technical and professional standards, propound ethics, and set fees.

The wind field would no doubt generate a profusion of endowment and foundation funds for policy studies. Questions in search of answers include: Should propeller airplanes be subject to windmill regulations? Is wind energy or solar energy a more appropriate technology? Should vagrant winds be charged with a felony or misdemeanor? Can import taxes be levied on trade winds? The lush field of potential study and job opportunities boggles the mind.

And, as with most new technologies, vast research opportunities open up for the Ph.D.s (prophets of doom). Do the many, whirling vanes contribute pollution to the down-wind flow? How much wind energy does a kite consume? Will the revolving arms of the windmills cut the very-high-frequency television waves into small fragments as they pass through, destroying TV as we know it? Will the establishment of many windmills in a given area cause a cumulative "gyroscope" effect and tilt the axis of the earth? Would the profusion of national windmills facing in one direction, by virtue of their accumulated resistance, in effect slow down the rotation of the earth and cause a catastrophic greenhouse effect? How do we keep the selfish, multinational industries from developing a 30,000-foot-high wind generator and tapping the rich jet streams?

The potential solutions and the potential problems provide a fertile field for bureaucrats. It could be the greatest stimulant for government growth since the income tax!

So if you want to know where the bureaucrats of tomorrow are going to be entrenched, check out where the bureaucrats of today are extending their feelers. They can be counted on to have their eyes on some heretofore untapped revenue mine.

Max Koenig is the editor of a small newspaper in northern California.