Climate Change – Is NIMBY to Blame?

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It takes one to know one...In my continuing effort to launch the CleanTechies community to the forefront of the clean energy debate – and perhaps, in some small part, because I am an insatiable gadfly – I dashed off the following letter to the New York Times yesterday.

It is tough to give much nuance to the argument in less than 200 words, but to me, there are clear connections and contradictions between the the two energy/environment Op-Eds they ran yesterday, one by Gregg Easterbrook, the other by Paul Krugman. The letter follows:

To the Editor:

Given the cataclysmic future that Paul Krugman outlines (Op-Ed, June 29) should our “betrayal” of the climate continue unchecked, I agree with Gregg Easterbrook (Op-Ed, June 29) that it is not “forward-thinking” to oppose even piecemeal progress on carbon reduction.

Yet, as a nation, we have prevented the expansion of nuclear power and the construction of hydroelectric dams. The recently-passed Waxman-Markey legislation keeps those technologies in purgatory. It favors wind, solar, biomass and tidal technologies that remain unprepared for the kind of large-scale, reliable, cost-competitive deployment sufficient to allow retirement of fossil fuel plants. Even looking longingly in the rear view, it is impossible to predict the level of US carbon emissions today if we relied on more hydro and nuclear in place of coal, oil or gas.

The legitimate concerns of abutting communities, local ecosystems, and native wildlife populations cannot be ignored. But, as we stare down double-digit temperature increases worldwide, it begs the question: what will be our priority?

Joe Walsh

Boston, Mass., June 29, 2009

In other words, this renewable energy revolution is about innovation, policy, political will, and investment.

But, it is also about deciding that the local skink population may need to take a backseat. You may have to see a new transmission line out your front door. I may have to hear a wind turbine hum when I’m in the backyard.

As Gatorade might ask: Is it in us?

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1 Comment

  1. Joe

    It was good – well, I say good, but you know what I mean – to read your piece this morning, and in a sense gratifying to know that it’s not just the UK that suffers from inherent Nimbyism.

    Here at Ahs Energy – we are one of the largest producers of wood chip biomass fuel in the UK – we have requested planning permission for a 4MW CHP plant, close to the centre of a quintessentially English village. http://www.ahsenergy.co.uk/News.html It is important to stress that this part of the country benefits from acre upon acre of woodland, much of it unmanaged with resulting diminution of biodiversity.

    Needless to say the local residents are up in arms – based on spurious claims about increased traffic and pollution therefrom, reduced air quality, visual blight etc etc. The firm is naturally worried that the weight of (badly-misinformed) public opinion will go against any of the benefits from producing green energy for about 6,000 homes.

    Within 50 miles, a 1940MW (yes, 1940) dual-fired (oil and coal, with a small amount of biomass) is currently being built. Apparently this method reduces the dependence on coal by as much as 10%. Wahey!! Not quite sure how this is going to improve the carbon crisis.

    It seems your comment about the need for “innovation, policy, political will, and investment” is spot on. Can I add “education”, and above all, “guts”?

    Ed Wilkinson

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