I’ve had a number of thoughtful comments in response to my post, “Al Gore’s Shell Game,” which I used to write about the debate over a proposed wind power project in the Carrabasset Valley region of Maine.
A recent commenter, posting anonymously, brought up some issues I wanted to address. I think they are germane to the discussion and it also presents me with an opportunity to clarify a couple of my original points.
I made the point that the wind farm project should go forward, because it provided us with an energy alternative and one that would lessen our use of coal, or petroleum and not contribute to global warming. This person took issue and shared the following comment.
“This [the premise that wind doesn’t add to global warming] is just patently false. one does not just wave a wand and have the infrastructure appear. The raw materials for a wind farm and its transmission lines have to mined with machines; machines that invariably run on oil. The insulation that wraps the transmission lines is derived from petroleum. The cement required to seat the windmills on requires oil to manufacture and deliver. Ultimately all current and proposed components of alternatives to oil consumption are dependent upon oil for their manufacture to begin with.”
I would have to agree with this comment, as my enthusiasm for wind got the better of me. I know better and have written about those very issues, particularly last summer, when I was reading Jim Kunstlers, “The Long Emergency.” Kunstler delves into that very issue in the chapter about why there are no viable alternatives to oil, as a cheap and abundant source of energy.
Ceding a point to the anonymous poster, however, I’ll clarify my original point. While wind isn’t a “perfect” alternative, it is still an alternative that is worth trying. I have read extensively about peak oil and I’m aware of the issues that the end of cheap oil poses to our society and yes, our civilization. Anonymous goes on in his/her comments, “My own feeling is that the children of the future might actually be better served by just weaning off the industrial mammary altogether. Who actually proved that life is more fulfilling as a post industrial inhabitant compared to pre industrial standards? I've lived off the grid and in a less than permanent structure. It was the most difficult period of my existence. It was also the most rewarding. The drive to preserve as much of our current form of existence may actually end up obliterating the very set of conditions that allowed life to arise in the first place. I think it would be wiser to act to live on fundamentally less, rather than trying to preserve every fraction possible. For that, I say no to wind....”
This last part is where I have a concern and I want to speak to the need for every question to be settled by an “either, or” solution. I think this is dangerous and I believe that this tendency is where many of our current issues get bogged down.
I’m not sure how our society will ever “wean itself off the industrial mammary” without being forced to, either by the gradual decrease of cheap oil coming from the spigot, or government mandating that American consumers use less gasoline, build smaller homes and waste less petroleum by our current consumption-based societal model.
When faced with an "either, or" proposition like the one that anonymous presents, the average person, with little or no knowledge of peak oil, alternative options for energy, or experience living a simpler lifestyle, will reject the argument and continue their merry march to perdition.
We can choose to do nothing, which is where we are currently at, or we can begin to organize and bring the issues surrounding our current consumptive way of life into the public square. While I did take a cheap shot at Al Gore, maybe his movie will have the affect of making global warming a topic that ordinary Americans begin to think about and consider?
While wind and other alternatives, such as solar, are far from perfect, they certainly are superior to the members of the current administration, who are committed to having us revert to coal as an “alternative” to cheap oil. The damage that coal mining has produced (and continues to cause) to the environment (think Eastern Kentucky) is why we need begin to think outside of the box when it comes to producing energy.
I applaud those who have “gone off the grid,” however, not everyone is able, or willing to go to that extreme. I don’t think we have to demand that everyone cut their connections to their local public utility, or kill their televisions, to take steps in the direction of energy independence.
While thinking about the comments and pondering the “either, or” dilemma surrounding various discussions and issues, I came across an organization called Democracy Maine that sounds interesting. While I don’t know a lot about what they do, I did find their stand against extremism intriguing.
I plan on exploring the organization and hopefully, reporting back with more information.