Letters: December 15, 2006


Wind farm is actually a boondoggle
Editor:

This is in response to the article entitled “State May See Nation’s First Offshore Wind Farm” in the Dec. 1, 2006, edition of Coastal Point and two letters in the Nov. 29, 2006, edition of The Wave, all of which praise the notion of a wind farm off the Delaware coast. The Coastal Point article noted that this “could be the solution to all the area’s energy needs” and one of the letters actually called it a “NO BRAINER” (in capital letters no less.)

I have never written a “letter to the editor” and hesitated before posting this one because it is difficult to discuss this issue without sounding like a hysterical crank and I am not a crank. (See what I mean, this is already starting to sound a little like one of Nixon’s last speeches, isn’t it?)
At any rate, I am really bothered by the disingenuous snow job we are getting from Bluewater Wind LLC and various other wind power scalawags. I know this is “slower lower Delaware” but do these folks really think that we are that gullible?

At first blush, the idea of a “wind farm” sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? A renewable energy source that reduces greenhouse gasses and cuts our reliance on foreign oil. What could be wrong with that? I am a “tree hugger” from way back, myself, and I sincerely believe that wind power is an important alternative to fossil fuels.

Deep-sea wind power technology is maturing rapidly and should be ready to implement by the time the permitting process for the Bluewater project is completed. According to MIT, floating, deep-sea wind farms will be 66 percent more efficient than near-shore facilities and would actually provide economical electricity. This alternative is the one Bluewater Wind should be trying to sell to the people of Delaware. There are serious problems with near-shore wind farms, however, and we need to deal with them before folly turns into disaster.

First of all, a “wind farm” is not a “farm.” What we are really talking about here is a huge industrial complex. If this goes forward, 200 of the biggest wind turbines ever built are going to be planted a few miles off the coast of a major resort area that is also the home of three state parks and a national wildlife refuge. These towers will be stretched out as far along the coast as possible because with turbines installed directly into the seabed, the farther away from shore you go, the more expensive it becomes to build them.

If this facility is constructed in a single offshore location with turbines “roughly a half-mile apart,” as stated in the Coastal Point article, it will occupy approximately 65 square miles of ocean space. Keeping them a “roughly half-mile apart” and, at the same time, minimizing construction costs means that they will probably be strung out seven rows deep along the entire Delaware coast. Try to imagine a 65 square mile factory that extends across the entire horizon from Rehoboth to the Maryland line and you will get the picture.

When the blades of these turbines are at their highest point, they will rise over 400 feet above sea level (the height of a 40-story building.) with a turning radius larger than the area of a football field. These massive machines are installed by pile driving them 80 feet into the ocean floor. They are then connected by hundreds of miles of high-voltage electric cable that is dredged into the seabed, creating what amounts to a 65-square-mile electromagnet.

The impact of a wind factory this size on marine wildlife and the rather delicate ecology of the coast is unknown, but humans living in the vicinity of high-voltage electric transmission lines show a higher incidence of cancer and the underwater noise generated by offshore turbines is known to affect the bio-sonar of porpoises. Although almost no peer-reviewed scientific research has been done, Bluewater Wind’s Web site indicates that no harm to wildlife will come from this facility. I wonder how they know.

In addition to the turbines themselves, there will be a large number of constantly blinking lights, because these 40-story structures are a hazard to aviation, and foghorns, because they are a hazard to marine navigation. There will also be at least one 10-story, 100-by-200-foot transformer facility resembling a North Sea drilling platform and housing 40,000 gallons of oil, 1,000 gallons of diesel and topped off by a helicopter pad.

Take a guess where all that oil is going to end up if this structure is breached by a storm or, heaven forbid, a plane crash or shipwreck. Before long, instead of seashells, we will be picking up airplane parts, dead porpoises and the pieces of wrecked ships on our beaches. An evening stroll down the beach will be like taking a walk down the Vegas strip.

As to whether the cumulative noise produced by this facility will be bothersome, your guess is as good as mine since a wind farm with 200 towers has never been constructed. That’s right, this will be the biggest wind farm in the world.

Bluewater Wind’s assertion that, at 7 miles away, 200 of the biggest wind turbines in the world will resemble a row of toothpicks “half the size of your thumb nail” is, at best, disingenuous. On the empty canvas of the ocean, 200 toothpicks half the size of your thumbnail will be a massive visual obstruction. Rather than a row of toothpicks, imagine an Iron Curtain on the horizon. This thing is going to be big, and it is going to be obtrusive.

By the way, just to set your mind at ease, you should also note that Bluewater Wind LLC has never built an offshore wind farm. So, what we have here is the biggest offshore wind farm in the world being built by a company that has never built an offshore wind farm. If this doesn’t strike you as either hubris or madness, or maybe a bit of both, then you should consider the fact that construction of this project will be supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers. These, of course, are the same folks who supervised construction of the levees down in New Orleans.

The U.S. Department of Energy rates potential wind power locations using a seven-level scale, with Class 1 being “generally not suitable” and Class 7 being the best. Overall, the Delaware coast is rated Class 3. In the summer, when energy demand is highest, the Delaware coast is rated Class 2. Would you seriously consider locating the world’s biggest wind farm in an area rated 2 or 3 out of a possible 7? The Energy Department certainly wouldn’t. Their “candidate” list of the 35 most promising wind power sites in the U.S. does not include any site rated lower than Class 4.

The reason why Delaware “may see the nation’s first offshore wind farm” is that there has been significant opposition to this method of power generation in the only other coastal areas where it has been formally proposed in the U.S.: Nantucket Sound, Mass., and Long Island, N.Y.

Similar in many respects to the one being proposed for Delaware, Nantucket’s wind project merits a close examination. The Nantucket Sound area includes the coastal resorts of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Think Rehoboth, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island (though not necessarily in that order).

About 6 million vacationers show up at these Massachusetts beaches annually and the economy is heavily dependant on tourism and recreation. This is comparable to the Delaware coast’s annual 5 million visitors and tourism dependent economy. The Nantucket Sound wind turbines would be installed between 4.7 and 13.8 miles from the affected beaches (an average of 8.2 miles). Again, this is roughly comparable to Delaware wind farm’s 7-mile distance from shore.

\Even though the Delaware project is actually more than 50 percent bigger than the complex proposed for Nantucket (200 towers versus 130), comparisons between the two are valid. If anything, with 70 additional towers, the impact on the Delaware coast will be greater, not smaller.

So, what’s going on up there?

Well, in 2003, a study conducted by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston concluded that the Nantucket wind farm would cause property values in the area to decline by $1.35 billion, cost the region more that 2,500 permanent jobs and produce a reduction in tourism revenues of $250 million per year. By the way, residents living near wind farms in other areas of the country are often financially compensated by the developers of these facilities for reduced property values and a diminished quality of life.

So, how much are the developers going to compensate the citizens of Delaware for devastating our economy? You guessed it: “we the people” are going to be compensating the developers by providing them with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tax credits and other subsidies. Without such subsidies the internal rate of return for offshore wind farms is so low that private financing would be impossible to secure. If offshore wind farms weren’t such a great tax dodge, they would make no business sense at all.

In a study released in September 2006, the U.S. Department of Defense concluded that that wind farms can “degrade target tracking capabilities” because they cause shadowing and clutter on radar, that turbine blades can produce “hole(s) in detection” for military radar systems and that large turbine blades can “appear to a radar as a ‘moving’ target of significant size if they are within the radar line of sight.”

In February 2003, the U.S. Coast Guard opined that the Nantucket wind towers would negatively impact search and rescue operations in the area “due to the higher helicopter and fixed wing search altitudes required.” The Coast Guard went on to state that the probability of detecting small vessels or people “will be decreased due to the presence of the wind farm” and that “the presence of the towers and their rotating blades will significantly diminish the ability to hoist victims by helicopter in the area of the wind farm.”

So, if this project goes forward, we Delaware residents can look forward to having our very own 65-square-mile “Bermuda Triangle” right off the coast, not to mention a 65-square-mile radar shield for terrorists, illegal immigrants, drug runners and other assorted smugglers, buccaneers and miscreants. Oh, and don’t forget that some trigger happy fighter pilot could accidentally shoot down one or more of these “moving targets” or the transformer facility sending 40,000 gallons of oil you know where.

If it were up to the people of Massachusetts, the Nantucket Sound “wind farm” would be dead in the water (so to speak.) The project was opposed by the governor of the state (a Republican), the senior senator (a Democrat) and a host of other Massachusetts officials. The Chambers of Commerce of seven towns within sight of the wind farm opposed it, as did the city governments of the towns themselves. In a 2006 referendum, 66 percent of Nantucket voters were opposed to this wind-power project.

The people of Massachusetts, of course, are not in control. The Nantucket wind farm will be located in federal waters, meaning that Congress is in control and lobbyists for the developers have managed to keep this project afloat even though a majority of the people most closely affected by it are opposed to it. You know, if we Delawareans play our cards right, we can have our very own “bridge to nowhere.”

A wind farm off the Delaware coast does not make aesthetic sense, it does not make environmental sense, it does not make economic sense, and it poses a safety risk. But the wind farm will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our reliance on foreign oil, won’t it? Not likely. This project would not eliminate a single land-based power generator, because wind power is so unreliable (especially Class 2 or 3 wind power) that backup generators must be kept on line.

There are also serious questions whether manufacturing the steel and other materials needed to build these towers and the actual construction process would generate more greenhouse gasses than the project would save over its lifetime. And, since only 2 percent of the electricity in this country is produced by petroleum-fired generators, this project would not reduce our dependence on foreign oil one iota. So, will we go forward with the program here in Delaware? Given all the boondoggle money at stake, what do you think?

I know I will be accused of taking a “not in my back yard” approach to this issue, but I would like to remind everyone that our back yard has already been devastated by shameless, profligate overdevelopment. What we are talking about here folks is our front yard.

Ocean City, Md., clearly knows which side of their bread the butter is on and rode a similar bunch of wind-farm carpetbaggers out of town on a rail a couple of years ago. We should do the same thing and add a little tar and feathers in response to their cavalier disregard for the pristine horizon of what I think is one of the most beautiful “front yards” in the country.

As I mentioned earlier, deep-sea wind power technology is maturing rapidly. We should go forward with that technology and kill this other thing before it crawls out to sea and eats the horizon. Everyone needs to remember that “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

E. M. Whitaker
Bethany Beach

Editor’s note: Bluewater Wind will present information on the proposed “wind farm” project at the Bethany Beach Town Council meeting tonight, Dec. 15, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Family thankful for support of community
Editor:

We would like to express our sincere thanks to our family and friends for the cards, flowers, food and donations to the Ella I. Floyd Trust Fund in memory of our daughter, Wendy Warren Floyd.

Milt and Geri Warren and Family
Selbyville

Event a huge hit for community, cause
Editor:

Where do I begin to express my gratitude to the people and organizations that helped make this year’s Caribbean Christmas a success?

Not too recently we started a venture to build Justin’s Beach House for families struggling with cancer in the Bethany Beach area. Since the idea first surfaced, after our Justin’s death in June of 2000, we have been blessed with an outpouring of support from area contractors, builders, suppliers, artists, artisans, restaurants, church groups, newspapers, businesses and citizens of “the beach.”

The Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce and their Charitable Foundation have also given us an opportunity to become more visible in the area and for that I’m extremely grateful.

My family and I have been coming to Bethany Beach for over 20 years and have always felt at home here. Recently, my husband, Craig, and I retired here and are devoting our efforts to build Justin’s Beach House. To say we could not be where we are in the planning and soon to be building stage of this endeavor without the help and support of this community is an understatement.

In the quiet times when I reflect on where we are and what we are trying to do, I can’t help but want to reach out and give a collective hug to all who have made this possible. My heart is full of love and gratitude to everyone who has helped us along this road. At this time of year, when we are all running about taking care of our loved ones, you all have taken care of us with the gift of your time and talents. We are grateful beyond words.

Mary Ellen Nantais, Chairwoman
The Justin W. Jennings Foundation Inc.

Thank you for supporting dinner
Editor:

On Tuesday, Nov. 21, a free Thanksgiving dinner for senior citizens was held at the Cape Henlopen Senior Center. This first-time-ever social and fellowship gathering was made possible by anonymous donors.

A thank you is not enough for all that you do, staff, volunteers and anonymous donors. Thank you for your thoughtfulness, dedication and commitment to our senior center.

Please accept our expressions of deep admiration and gratitude for being a giver and supporter of our many requests. And thank you for making a difference in the lives of those who benefited from this special day.

It is the support of caring, and considerate people like you that make our senior center so special.

Fran Hale, Outreach Coordinator
Cape Henlopen Senior Center

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GUEST COLUMN

It’s that time of year again: family gatherings, special meals, generous giving and special memories, peace on Earth, good will toward — well, not so fast there…

It seems that in 2006, at least, the holiday season has been filled with at least as many examples of people’s ill will toward each other as the heart-warming stories we’d probably prefer to hear.

First, there was the bizarre case of the homeowner’s association president in Colorado who not only failed to see that a peace sign might actually be appropriate for the season when we often adorn our cards with doves and wishes for peace but who felt so strongly about quashing someone else’s ability to wish others peace that he fired his entire architectural committee when they disagreed with him. (Remind anyone of one of our own governmental bodies ignoring their advisors?)

Then there was the discerning citizen who spotted a group of Arab-American Muslims praying and discussing the war in Iraq, and decided they simply had to be terrorists. Add to that mix an airline flight crew who didn’t ask any deeper questions once they got the guy’s note that the Muslims (clerics, even) were “acting suspiciously,” and just booted them off their airplane, in handcuffs, for security authorities to deal with.

Next we had Michael Richards jaw-dropping, N-word laced rant at his comedy-club audience. That came on the heels of Mel Gibson’s inebriated anti-Semitic tirade this summer, making it pretty clear to everyone that Hollywood isn’t the cohesive cradle of liberal political correctness that Republicans like to paint it. Heck, racism and hatred are apparently as alive and well out there as they are anywhere else in the country.

Then a D.C.-area radio host proposes — just after Thanksgiving, to give you that warm and fuzzy holiday feeling — that all Muslims in the U.S. should be identified with a crescent-shaped tattoo or a special armband.

The big shocker there wasn’t that he suggested the idea but that the bulk of his callers supported the notion, or took it even further — one caller suggesting that internment camps, like those Japanese-Americans were sent to during World War II, were an appropriate measure.

The only good news from that incident (beyond an outraged first caller) was that the radio host had pulled a fast one on his audience and didn’t really support the idea himself. In fact, he was about as horrified by the calls of support as I was and laid into his audience for having even believed for a second that he’d support those ideas.

“Because basically what you just did was show me how the German people allowed what happened to the Jews to happen ...” he was reported as having told them after revealing his hoax.

As I write this column, former Congressman and KKK member David Duke is speaking about his trip to Iran to take part in a conference this week on the Holocaust with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust ever happened. Duke says he doesn’t hate Jews, but that Zionist interests control the U.S. media and Israel is to blame for the U.S. being in Iraq.

And under continued pressure from conservative Christian groups, Wal-Mart announced that it’s giving up any attempt to be inclusive with its holiday greetings, officially telling employees to wish customers “Merry Christmas,” no matter what their religious persuasion might be or whether the given day is actually another religion’s holy day.

This week, we had the issue of the Christmas trees in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which were first removed after a rabbi complained that they were there without a companion menorah and then restored after the rabbi said he was more offended by their removal and promised not to sue over the lack of a menorah.

Notably, the rabbi during the intervening days got quite a few of what his lawyer called most politely “odious” comments, apparently from Christians who were also offended by the trees’ removal and offended enough to say to a rabbi things that his lawyer would only describe as “odious.”

Ah, yes… Peace on Earth, good will toward men. Unless their political beliefs might differ from yours, or they pray toward Mecca five times a day, or have a different skin color, or happen to be Jewish… The list goes on.

Basically, it seems that many Americans just don’t like people who are different from them, no matter how lovey-dovey they want to appear to be.

Don’t think that’s you? Well, someone’s answering the polls that indicate a significant portion of Americans are even willing to admit to their prejudice.

Some 39 percent of Americans who answered a Gallup poll earlier this year supported a special I.D. requirement for all Muslims in the U.S., including American citizens — that’s two out of five people. Yes, look carefully to either side of you… A quarter of those same people said they wouldn’t want to live next door to a Muslim, and a third of them said they thought Muslims in America sympathized with al Qaeda, even after 9/11.

This week, the Paula Zahn program on CNN took its inspiration from the Richards incident to examine racism, and showed a Texas woman in an all-white town saying she wouldn’t mind being friends with a black person but that she didn’t want to be forced to eat alongside them. I guess she felt she was enlightened.

And those are the people who are willing to admit to their feelings. What about those of us who won’t admit it publicly — or feel that way subconsciously and can’t even admit it to ourselves.

Well, there’s one way to check yourself for some subconscious feelings: a Harvard-based study is analyzing how people really feel about those of different races, religions, genders and sexual orientations. They’ve got a set of online tests available now at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/, if you’re ready to face your inner self.

There are surprises in store for many people there, and probably some heavy thinking to do. I’ll admit that even I was surprised by my results on some of these tests — if not in the ways I’d expected I might be.

But the bottom line for me from all of these incidents is that we not only have to consider whether we appear to be prejudiced — the politically-correct factor — but whether we even subconsciously act in ways that unfairly judge against others because of things that have nothing to do with their value as human beings. Is there a monster hiding inside?

Do we avoid our neighbor because they’re Muslim? Do we vote against an otherwise solid political candidate because they’re Jewish? Do we lock our car door as the young black man passes by? Do we consider the Guatemalan woman suitable to clean our house but not to invite over for dinner?

Do we pass over the gay man for a job, in favor someone who’s straight? Do we forget when we put up our community displays that not all of our neighbors are Christians? Are we among those people who really think a crescent-shaped mark on drivers’ licenses is the right thing to do?

The Christmas tree incident was a conundrum for me this week. Who’s prejudiced here? The airport authorities who put up Christmas trees for 20 years without considering that many perceive them as (shocking, I know) symbols of Christianity? The rabbi who complained about the lack of symbols of his faith? The self-proclaimed Christians who perceived a threat to their predominate faith so serious in the removal of the trees that they would threaten a rabbi?

Maybe a little fault lies in all quarters on this one. Maybe the rabbi should have been a little less aggressive with the threats of a lawsuit. Maybe the airport authority should have taken him up on his offer of a menorah, rather than taking down the trees.

Maybe some of those Christians who decided hostility toward the rabbi was their first order of business might have instead told the airport authorities they were open to displays from all faiths. Maybe someone at the airport should have thought of adding some other faiths as this nation continues to debate inclusiveness in the holiday season.

And while we’re looking at maybes, maybe Mel Gibson should have acknowledged that he was raised to be prejudiced and that maybe he hadn’t yet exorcised that belief system from his subconscious.

That’s one concern amongst all the others that particularly troubles me. In America’s melting pot, where we still find bitter herbs amongst the wondrous mélange, what are we teaching our children?

I fear for the grandchildren of Fred Phelps, whose obsessive hatred of gays is now being taught to a second generation and extends its focus to military men and women. I fear for those, like a young California man who was sentenced to 90 years in prison this week for a brutal attack on a Hispanic teen, whose parents either taught them to hate or failed to teach them the things that prevent them from acting in hate.

And I fear for the children who will in turn grow up expecting to be feared, hated and discriminated against.

I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the problems of “political correctness” — that being “PC” is just a superficial control on speech to avoid offending others, that it’s disingenuous. But I think the true spirit behind that label is the goal of really eliminating prejudice, with the self being the primary target of that goal.

It’s a lesson Gibson and Richards seem to just be learning. Normal, respectful fellows on the surface, they’ve shown themselves in extremis to have feelings inside that most of us reject. But they’re not the only ones, as has been amply demonstrated in recent weeks.

At this time of year, we’d like the cockles of our hearts to be warmed with giving, generosity of spirit and openness to our fellow human beings, no matter their differences. But I’m having a hard time getting past all of the divisiveness that I’ve seen in recent weeks.

Efforts like St. Ann’s community-wide gift-giving effort for needy families and children sure put a warm glow on things for me. But as we look at ways to help our fellow man, I think it also would be wise for all of us to think of ways in which we can embrace and include those who are different from us, to consider whether we’re a part of the problem or a part of the solution.

There are plenty of inspirations in this holiday season to remind us that the best gifts we can give are our love, respect and understanding. Let’s hope that recent lessons are enough to remind us all the importance of giving those gifts of good will to all mankind — and maybe hope for a little peace on Earth, too.