Land Greens vs. Energy Greens—Vermont Edition

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Less nuclear more of these - trade-offs are a bitch.

Three years ago with some schadenfreudesque amusement I reported that a conflict is brewing between the energy and conservation wings of the environmentalist movement. A wonderful example of this looming fight among Greens was highlighted by a cri de coeur op/ed in last Sunday's New York Times by Steve Wright, a former commissioner of Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. In his op/ed Wright denounces the building of a new wind farm on top of Vermont's mountain ridges: 

BULLDOZERS arrived a couple of weeks ago at the base of the nearby Lowell Mountains and began clawing their way through the forest to the ridgeline, where Green Mountain Power plans to erect 21 wind turbines, each rising to 459 feet from the ground to the tip of the blades.

This desecration, in the name of "green" energy, is taking place in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom on one of the largest tracts of private wild land in the state. Here and in other places — in Maine and off Cape Cod, for instance — the allure of wind power threatens to destroy environmentally sensitive landscapes….

It requires changing the profile of the ridgeline to provide access to cranes and service vehicles. This is being accomplished with approximately 700,000 pounds of explosives that will reduce parts of the mountaintops to rubble that will be used to build the access roads….

This project will set an ominous precedent by ripping apart a healthy, intact ecosystem in the guise of doing something about climate change. In return, Green Mountain Power will receive $44 million in federal production tax credits over 10 years.

The wind turbines that will soon decorate the Green Mountains are, in part, a result of a legislative mandate that Vermont get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2017. As it happens, Vermont legislators last year also voted to outlaw a significant source of no-carbon climate-friendly energy that already supplies more than one-third of the state's electricty—the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The plant's operators have sued to keep the plant open and are still seeking permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate the plant for another 20 years. 

Wright concludes that building the wind turbines…

…represents a profound failure to understand the value of our landscape to our souls and our economic future in Vermont.

Note that the landscape that Wright wants to protect is new in this century. As Vermont's farms have been abandoned over the past century, its forests have been expanding. As a 2011 history [PDF] of America's forest notes:

…in the 1850s, only about 35 percent of Vermont was forest, with the remainder primarily crops and pasture. Seventy-eight percent of the state had become forest by 2007.

In any case, does Wright come out in favor of keeping the nuclear plant open? Nope. That's part of the problem with a lot of enviromentalist thinking—they fail to understand that every choice involves trade-offs. One cannot have all "good" things simultaneously, e.g., renewable energy and tree-covered mountain ridges. 

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  1. Environmentalists are the opposite of Conservationists.

  2. The wind turbines that will soon decorate the Green Mountains are, in part, a result of a legislative mandate that Vermont get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2017.

    You’re being too hard on the green environmentalists, Ron. They simply yell a lot. Clearly, the blame should fall entirely on the opportunistic legislators that listened to them.

  3. That’s part of the problem with a lot of enviromentalist thinking – they fail to understand that every choice involves trade-offs.

    But, you forgot to account for the Unicorn Farts.

  4. “One cannot have all “good” things simultaneously”

    But that’s not fair

  5. “One cannot have all “good” things simultaneously, e.g., renewable energy and tree-covered mountain ridges. ”

    They can have renewable energy and pretty mountain ridges, but that renewable energy will have to be “scary” nuclear power. I’m amazed that the green movement continues to ignore the advice of Stewart Brand, who should have more credibility among them than anyone else (especially political hacks!).

    1. Nuclear isn’t technically renewable, although maybe they count it as such.

      1. Technically there are limits to all renewable energy. There is only so much wind in the world, so much space for solar panels (so much light), so many damable rivers, so much land to grow biofuel, etc etc etc

      2. The potential resources available to support nuclear electricity generation far exceed any projected demand. We don’t have to worry about using up nuclear power.

    2. [nitpick]Nuclear is not “renewable” energy- it is from the fossils of dead supernovas from more than 5 billion years ago.[/nitpick]

      That doesn’t mean that there isn’t effectively a gazillion years worth of proven reserves in fissionable materials if fuel breeding & reprocessing is used.

      1. [That doesn’t mean that there isn’t effectively a gazillion years worth of proven reserves in fissionable materials if fuel breeding & reprocessing is used.]

        Let’s not use exaggeration. Current known supplies of uranium and thorium will last somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 years, assuming it provided 100% of current energy demand.

        1. And practical fusion is just 10,000 years away, so we should be all set.

    3. Nuclear power isn’t renewable.

      1. Nor is solar, by the same technicality.

        1. There’s a meaningful distinction, as our use of fissile material now affects the availability of nuclear fuel later. Solar energy that we don’t capture, however, is just wasted.

          1. How much later are you expecting to use this fissile material? Because current data shows it will probably last at least that long.

      2. Breeder reactors are as renewable as geothermal power if you consider fissile isotopes to be the resource.
        Since breeder reactors produce more fissile material than they consume, and the supply of fertile nuclear material on Earth is so vast that breeding it all would give us 2 million years worth of total energy we receive from the Sun, the fissile material is renewable.

    4. They are digging up a mountain in an identical fashion to a strip mine and getting less energy from it.

  6. They also want hydro dams dismantled and are complaining about repairs to Irene washed away roads that involve digging the gravel back out of flooded streambeds, It never ends.

  7. In any case, does Wright come out in favor of keeping the nuclear plant open? Nope. That’s part of the problem with a lot of enviromentalist thinking – they fail to understand that every choice involves trade-offs.

    “Economic choice? Bah, humbug! Don’t talk to me about no stinkin’ economic choice! People should live with nature, not against it!”

    Like the “original affluent society” I would fancy… Sheep-skinned, hunger-stricken ghosts chasing after squirrels. That is what the greenies want for us.

    1. Sheep-skinned, hunger-stricken ghosts chasing after squirrels. That is what the greenies want for us.

      White Idjit is a greenie?

  8. “In any case, does Wright come out in favor of keeping the nuclear plant open? Nope. That’s part of the problem with a lot of enviromentalist thinking – they fail to understand that every choice involves trade-offs. One cannot have all “good” things simultaneously, e.g., renewable energy and tree-covered mountain ridges. ”

    Yes WE can!!

  9. […] they fail to understand that every choice involves trade-offs.

    How ironic, Mr. “Temperature Anomaly.”

  10. Libertarians are so dumb!!! They don’t realize that nuclear power is bad because ______________!!!

    HAHAAHAHAHA LIBURTARIANS HAHAHAHAHAH!

    Oh, and I also like the new CAFE standards

    And I suck balls

    /Statist environmentalist

    1. There is talk about putting CAFE standards on commercial trucks because apparently commercial trucking companies never thought about fuel costs or try to be more efficient and need the governmental coercion to try and cut the biggest portion of their operating costs.

      Yes, people really are this stupid.

      1. I hope to God the next administration utterly skull-fucks the CAFE standards into nonexistence. It;s so insidiously, mind-numbingly ridiculous, it’s not even worth joking about.

        “need the governmental coercion to try and cut the biggest portion of their operating costs”

        Guns kill people, the Iraq War was fought exclusively for oil, FDR fucking rocked, and OMG NO BIG SEDANS LETS ALL SWITCH TO EUROPEAN CLOWN CARS TO SAVE THE PLANIT, right?

        It’s all the same cabal of shitheads. How do we fight these people?

        Also, the Lincoln Town Car was discontinued this year. What the fuck?

        1. The Lincoln Towne car will be replaced by Ford’s Theater…

          1. Now that’s a play I’d like to attend…

        2. Hey! Some of us drive little cars to save money. Conservation has real benefits too.

        3. Somewhere Commander Cody is crying.
          (I know, not the same car)

        4. Also, the Lincoln Town Car was discontinued this year. What the fuck?

          A truly execrable vehicle that should have been put out to pasture twenty years ago. Good riddance.

    2. Nuclear power is bad because Japan occasionally has really big earthquakes. Therefore, no one should ever build a nuclear reactor. QED.

  11. Not exactly the form-factor that we have been waiting for, but here’s another “jet pack” for your amusement.

    http://www.youtube.com/v/WgdIE2t8QkM?

    1. Yo, what’s up kinnath?

  12. “That’s part of the problem with a lot of enviromentalist thinking – they fail to understand that every choice involves trade-offs. One cannot have all “good” things simultaneously, e.g., renewable energy and tree-covered mountain ridges.”

    This is why the Green movement comes off as misanthropic. They so into finding a perfect solution that the only explanation for their attitudes rationally is a sinister hatred for their fellow man, otherwise you cannot take them seriously.

  13. We need a plan, a central plan.

    Everybody gets one lightbulb and has to charge their I-pods from generators rigged to their bikes.

  14. Still doesn’t beat the opposition to desert solar because of turtles.

    But it’s close.

  15. If TANSTAAFL were taught from Kindergarten on up, I don’t think any of our problems would be problems.

    My experience with Greens is that cognitive dissonance is a way of life, until they can’t ignore it any longer, then it becomes a way of life…in terms of fighting what they previously thought was cool.

    It’s just NIMBYism, we all know that. But the depth to which most Greens will sink when condemning some policies over others astounds me.

    My husband and I are hunters, fishermen, wilderness lovers, campers, and all around supporters of keeping some environments wild. We give money to private charities like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (and Habitat for Humanity) in order to keep wild places wild (and help people find a way out of poverty). Because we value both of those things, among others, we find it worth our while to fund their efforts. Yet some of my Greenie friends condemn my contributions to RMEF, because they, ya know, allow elk hunting (a feature IMO). Same with the wind turbines, or dams, or growing biomass for fuel (leading to monoculture and decreased biodiversity). Can they never look objectively, scientifically, at their plans?

    Nuclear de-activists focus on Three Mile Island and the idiotic film China Syndrome to inform their rhetoric. Can’t we get beyond the last 20-40 years and come up with some current and correct information to inform popular thought?

    1. The answer to both your questions is a Superman-powered no.

      If idiots looked objectively/scientifically at their plans/views, there wouldn’t be idiots in the world, because they’d stop believing the bullshit.

    2. Unlike, say, Tea Partiers holding “HANDS OFF MY MEDICARE” signs while demanding cuts in govt spending.

      1. Non sequitur.

      2. Seeing no mention of Tea Partiers…I assume you are just trolling now.

        1. My point in response to this article is that it’s stupid to act as if this attitude is unique to environmentalists. So the Tea Party’s behavior is quite relevant.

          1. Quick, Tulpa! Change the subject!

      3. Can you provide a link to a photo of this? I never seen a picture or any proof that there were such signs. I would like to see some.

        1. photo 1

          photo 2

          I would keep going but Reason’s spam filter won’t let me post more than two links.

        2. How about this one, or maybe this one.

          I would keep going but Reason’s spam filter won’t let me post more than two links.

        3. Reason’s spam filter isn’t letting me post the links. Just Google “hands off my medicare” under image search and you’ll get several.

          1. I see the pictures. But one, there is no proof of the veracity of them. Who is to say it wasn’t a counter protester there to discredit the Tea Party? And two, most of the signs that come up in the search seem to be saying “don’t cut medicare to pay for Obamacare” which is hardly an incoherent message.

            1. Jesus John, give him this one. You know damn well that there are plenty of hypocrits in the Tea Party movement who think SS and MC are sacrosanct (not to mention military spending).

              1. Every movement has dumbasses. If that was the only point Tulpa was making, then he was clearly just trying to change the subject.

    3. Hunters are the real environmentalists (in a good way). I love pointing out to people that in Africa, the only places which are successfully preserving and growing large animal populations are private game preserves where monocle wearing fat cats pay big money to shoot elephants and rhinos and such. Owners of such parks have tremendous incentives to protect their large animals and stop poachers. Park rangers employed by shitty kleptocratic governments, not so much. Laws don’t conserve the environment. Making the environment worth money to people conserves it.

  16. For those interested in the Vermont Yankee issue, Merdith Angwin, a Vermont local, has been campaigning to keep VY open with her blog, “Yes Vermont Yankee”

  17. I thought coal destroyed mountain tops, turns out wind does too.

    1. Yes, young grasshopper, there is always more than one way to destroy things. Now you are ready to go out into the world.

  18. OK, my mind is on the blink. What were the names of the two Berkley profs who advocated chaos and economic collapse as a means of social transformation?

    1. In the 60’s…husband and wife team.

    2. The ____ – ________ strategy.

      1. Disregard. My memory came back. Cloward-Piven.

        1. The same Piven who was invited to debate Friedman on Free to Choose. She could barely contain her seething anger at the atrocities that Friedman committed in Chile (see: economic growth) long enough to discuss the subject at hand.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..re=related

    3. Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward.

      1. But if you actually mention those two, you’re just a Glenn Beck-listening racist TEABAGGERZ.

  19. That’s part of the problem with a lot of enviromentalist thinking – they fail to understand that every choice involves trade-offs.

    That’s part of human nature, not environmentalism in particular. Seriously Shikha, what did environmentalists do to you? Your posts on these issues are always laced with attacks against the character of your ideological opponents.

    I’ve never had a think tank junket, I’m just a regular guy, so it’s not my place to criticize I guess, but it seems better to assume good faith on the part of your opponents while attacking their arguments. Flies, honey, etc.

    1. …assume good faith and intelligence on the part of your opponents…

    2. The ad hominem attack is viewed by too many as the apogee of argumentation.

      This place is rife with one particular application of the ad hominem approach to argumentation: take my ball an go home.

    3. Time out, Tulpa: you would be surprised how many people who have not taken Econ 100 fail to realize the deep, fundamental (but tautological) truth that things require trade-offs. Her saying they “fail” to understand something is not an insult; it’s a factual description.

      1. You mean that they have no concept of opportunity costs?

      2. As I said, most people don’t consider the negative side effects of getting their way on their pet issues. Shikha’s pronouncement that this is true of environmentalists would be like a leftist writing a multi-paragraph screed about how libertarians’ feces smell bad.

        1. Mine don’t; mine smell like ice cream.

        2. I have no idea what the 2nd sentence is supposed to mean.

          Shikha points out that environmentalists refuse to analyze choices on a cost-benefit basis, instead relying on a whimsical absolutism. They are therefore counterproductive to their stated goals of saving the environment. This is not a trivial criticism, as you suggest.

          1. Shikha points out Ron dubiously asserts that environmentalists refuse to analyze choices on a cost-benefit basis, instead relying on a whimsical absolutism. They are therefore He claims without evidence that they are counterproductive to their stated goals of saving the environment. This is not a trivial criticism as, as you suggest presented.

            Sloppy FIFY.

            1. You have no idea what “trivial” means. It does not mean “unsubstantiated”, as you seem to believe.

              P.S. I’m not paying you for the non-douchey parts of your wordsmithing.

            2. Also, Ron did not make his claims “without evidence”.
              He cites the environmentalist writers’ rejection of both windfarms and nuclear power over landscape concerns.
              You cite nothing.

  20. It ain’t easy being green.

      1. The rainbow connection is unicorn farts.

  21. on one of the largest tracts of private wild land in the state.

    “Hey, you plutocratic asshole, what makes you think you are involved in this decision-making process?”

  22. Can’t we just build the awful wind turbines somewhere else? You know, somewhere ugly, like…the south with all its overweight racists and tea parties and birthers? I doubt there are beautiful mountains in Arkansas or Kentucky or Tennessee, what with the KKK and corporations in charge.

    1. The people harvesting federal (aka tax money) for wind farms have already ruined ridge tops in the south. Google “Boone_GIS” and look at the photos of clearcut, bulldozed ridgetops. With the raptor and bat deaths, it’s just another example of the hypocrisy of the Sierra Club et al.

  23. In the name of conservation, we should continue blowing up mountains and destroying coastlines.

    1. (checks calendar…oh shoot, I was hoping it was Thursday.)

  24. Even if Tea People did hold signs saying Mitts off my Medicare, so what?

    They paid for it over a lifetime and won’t be getting the services or a reimbursement. That’s not the same as asking for a handout while decrying govt. interference.

    But you already knew that.

    1. Actually, it is. Fuck those people. Why should I, at 24, have to pay for them to get free shit for the rest of their lives just because they were retarded and trusted the government with their money? Pay for your own retirement.

  25. One of my favorite VT ski areas has a wind turbine, and it didn’t detract one damn dime from the fucking epic conditions I experienced earlier this year.

    1. Yeah but how many birds of prey does it mulch?

      1. I can say with absolute certainty that no bird has ever been mulched by a wind turbine.

        1. I guess you missed the 6 (found, so just an absolute minumum) Golden Eagles “taken” by the LA DWP wind farm in Southern California.

    2. When they close Vermont Yankee and you are in an unheated cabin, we’ll see how epic those conditions are.

      1. I’m not in favor of closing Yankee. And I stay in a hotel in Stowe when I go there.

        *confused*

        1. My wife and I will be leaf peeping in the Stowe are this weekend.

          1. We’ll be staying at the Top Notch Resort & Spa. We have tired of The Stoweflake.

  26. The same people who oppose drilling for oil on a hundred acres of arctic wasteland are perfectly okay bulldozing (with diesel powered bulldozers I assume) thousands of acres of the most beautiful forests in North America.

  27. I’m surprised the arson at Vermont Yankee’s office got very little mention.

  28. That’s part of the problem with a lot of enviromentalist thinking – they fail to understand that every choice involves trade-offs. One cannot have all “good” things simultaneously, e.g., renewable energy and tree-covered mountain ridges.

    The thing about this drone from Ron Bailey on this point is that it fails to recognize that the idea of “no-free-lunch” is central to environmentalist thinking. The trade-offs are at the core of how environmentalists think…they focus on those trade-offs. Most of the trade-offs that Ron cites in these articles are ones that environmentalist have done the work to discover and describe. In a very real sense environmental thinking is analogous to economic thinking…it just has additional parameters of value included in the calculus.

    1. “the idea of “no-free-lunch” is central to environmentalist thinking.”

      Good joke. Remember the whole “green jobs” thing, where environmentalists could save the environment while driving the economy full-solar-panel ahead? Free lunch!

      And in terms of trade-offs, environmentalists refuse to let go of their their nuclear hysteria (I know there are exceptions) to support the best bet for a long-term alternative energy supply. Maybe that’s a trade-off they can make that will win my sympathy.

    2. “In a very real sense environmental thinking is analogous to economic thinking…it just has additional parameters of value included in the calculus.”

      Cite? Cite? Can’t seem to find it.
      Unless the ‘compromise’ includes, oh, reducing the population by some huge number.

      1. Cite? Cite? Can’t seem to find it.

        Ignorance is easily remedied.

        The four laws of ecology

        1. Everything is Connected to Everything Else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all.

        2. Everything Must Go Somewhere. There is no “waste” in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown.

        3. Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system.”

        4. There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. Exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms.

        Barry Commoner, 1971

          1. ” Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system”

            So I suppose you eschew electricity, vaccines, computers, heated homes, etc.

            Hypocrite.

            1. Nope. The point he makes is that…wait for it…there are trade offs. You get one benefit, but there is an associated cost. Doesn’t mean the benefit is not worth it. But recognizing the cost is the first step towards minimizing it. You can’t balance a cost-benefit sheet without recognizing the costs.

  29. Years ago I ws hiking in Pyramid Mtn. Park, and on seeing ruins of roads and farm bldgs., I realized how much of our land, because it was no longer needed for agriculture, had gone back to wilderness, and so easily.

  30. I am always having to explain the massive reforestation of the northeastern US over the past century and half to numbskulls who insist that we are “losing our wilderness.” Since I live in rural western MA the evidence is right there every time they open their front doors, yet they persist in their delusion.

    Anyway, the fight over wind turbines on mountain ridges is a regular feature of life here in the Berkshires as well, providing me with a near constant stream of entertainment. Self justifying letters to the editor abound, all about how we need wind power, but there are scientific reasons that its generation should not take place here in our (entirely not) unique ecosystem, plus greedy corporations making money. There is an additional layer of fun to be had by reflecting on the fact that much of the opposition comes from wealthy transplants and second home owners from NYC who seem truly unaware of the large, local blue collar population who’d just like to see someone, anyone, locate their industry here and replace some of the thousands of jobs that GE moved overseas 15 years ago. Watching a culture clash that only one side is actually aware of can be a real laugh riot.

  31. Lowell is one town over from my parents’ house. I actually have hiked that ridge while hunting. Believe me, the area has enough wilderness to spare. Also, if I remember correctly, the residents of Lowell are going to be getting a significantly reduced tax burden because of this project.

    And I stay in a hotel in Stowe when I go there.

    Yuppie.

    My wife and I will be leaf peeping in the Stowe are this weekend.

    Even worse, a flatlander. Were you part of the cause of the stupid amount of traffic on 495/95 today? That was insane.

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