Friday, January 27, 2006

Wind energy can help save America's environment

FarmWeek: "Perspective -- Wind energy can help save America's environment
Friday, January 27, 2006

The winds of change are blowing through the United States, starting in Massachusetts. For too long, acid rain has showered its shores and beaches, and residents of Cape Cod and nearby islands have inhaled toxic air from dirty power plants.

The people of Massachusetts know firsthand the drastic effects of an oil spill — the 100,000-gallon spill in Buzzard’s Bay in 2003 soiled coastlines, closed shellfish beds, and killed nesting shorebirds and seals.

We are all feeling the pain of our country’s reliance on foreign oil. Offshore wind will be an important step toward putting all that to an end, and that is why Greenpeace strongly supports America’s first offshore wind farm.

For 30 years, Greenpeace has worked to protect the world’s oceans. We successfully campaigned to end dumping of radioactive and industrial wastes at sea, helped create a moratorium on commercial whaling, and have played a crucial role in the development of other laws and policies that safeguard our oceans.

It is with this background that we began our work in support of offshore wind in Europe and now in the United States.

The Cape Wind project is undergoing a comprehensive and thorough review process that looks at all aspects of the proposal. A draft environmental-impact statement was released late last year, two years in the making and more than 4,000 pages long.

Initial analysis found that the environmental, public health, and economic benefits of Cape Wind far exceed any minor short-term environmental costs that may be associated with the project.

Let me say unequivocally that if Greenpeace had any concerns that this project would have long-term consequences for the marine ecosystem of Nantucket Sound, we would be the first to oppose it.

We have opposed wind farms both on and offshore in the past, and we will continue to do so when projects are ill-sited or improper in size and scope.

Cape Wind, however, is the right project, in the right place, at the right time.

Unlike opponents of Cape Wind, Greenpeace has firsthand experience with offshore wind. In the United Kingdom (UK), where Greenpeace worked to develop the country’s first offshore wind farms, initial fears that the projects would lower property values, decrease tourism, or harm the environment were completely unfounded.

In fact, because of broad public support, the UK now plans to build additional offshore wind farms that will supply one in six UK households with energy from this clean renewable resource. Europe is proof of the benefits created by offshore wind; now that opportunity is coming to Massachusetts.

The wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound would provide 75 percent of the cape and islands’ energy without emitting asthma-causing pollution, spilling oil in the water, or producing any of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

In addition to protecting the environment, the wind farm will benefit the cape’s economy by creating jobs and attracting tourists.

Now Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who opposes Cape Wind, is trying to push aside air quality safeguards to allow power plants to burn oil if there is a natural gas shortage this winter.

Nobody would be talking about lowering health standards in the state if Cape Wind were up and running, yet the governor continues to oppose the project.

The opponents of Cape Wind would have you believe that to protect the environment, we need to oppose the wind farm.

In fact, the opposite is true. Global warming poses significant risks for the area.

From more frequent and severe red tides to rising sea levels and more intense storms, a warming planet is a big problem for the same beachfront homeowners who oppose Cape Wind.

The environment that is so important to our way of life is in jeopardy, and projects like Cape Wind are the solution.

John Passacantando is executive director of Greenpeace USA {} . Readers may write him at Greenpeace USA, 702 H St., Washington, DC 20001.