Brian Dubie, serial propagandist

Our former Lieutenant Governor is continuing his all-out campaign against wind farms with his usual mix of overheated rhetoric and outright lies. As is customary with anti-wind activists, it’s a game of Whack-A-Mole: answer one argument, they quickly switch to another, and another, and another. No single argument survives scrutiny; they have to move the target and hope nobody notices. Dubie’s only been playing this game for a few months, but he’s already mastered the basics.

UFOTurbineHis latest foray was especially duplicitous: a claim that a proposed wind farm would be a hazard to aviation. Originally, he brandished a document from the Federal Aviation Administration that seemed to backstop his argument.  Turns out he was misrepresenting a routine FAA notice of interest in the project. The FAA has since ruled that the wind farm poses no risk to aviation.

That hasn’t stopped Dubie from pushing this discredited talking point, brandishing his “expertise” as a longtime airline pilot — which, I guess, makes him more of an expert than the Federal Aviation Administration.  Heh.

In a recent opinion piece, Dubie places the origin of his professional concern about wind turbines to an unspecified time during his tenure as Lieutenant Governor. Which looks like an attempt to rewrite history, since Dubie was a prominent advocate of wind energy — a position that put him at odds with Governor Jim Douglas, a wind-power skeptic. Dubie highlighted the need for more wind power as recently as January 2009, when he was being sworn in to his fourth term as Lite-Gov.

So when was his wind-power conversion? Apparently not during his government service. Indeed, he never raised a peep of concern about wind energy until last year, when he realized there was a plan to build a wind farm near his home.

How does he explain his belated concern? Not convincingly. The Times Argus:

“I’m not aware of any turbines proposed along ridge lines until just recently. I was contacted by residents of Fairfield who became aware that they had a wind turbine in their backyard and asked if I could help.”

Cough.

“…not aware of any turbines proposed along ridge lines until just recently”?

Hogwash.

It’s a long-established fact that the only viable sites for wind turbines in Vermont are on select ridgelines. So either Dubie was criminally misinformed about an issue he took a strong position on, or he’s bullshitting us now.

Two guesses, and the first one don’t dount.

This is only the latest in a series of bogus (or should I say Dubie-ous?) arguments from our former Lite-Gov. He’s been trotting them out one after another, hoping something will stick, since his coming-out as an anti-wind crusader.

In early October, Dubie jumped into the deep end of sound science. And, unsurprisingly, made a lot of mistakes that happened to bolster his case. This is nothing new; the anti-wind advocates have cherrypicked a small number of “scientific” studies that support their contention that wind turbines are really, really, really loud — especially when they can’t be heard at all. They ignore the overwhelming bulk of the real science.

In their tactics, they are much like climate change deniers or anti-vaxxers — ignoring the scientific consensus, and clinging to the handful of “experts” who side with them. Many of those experts, it turns out, have been funded by fossil fuel interests.

Dubie’s October commentary laughably compares wind turbines to chainsaws, over and over and over again. But here’s the thing: when you operate a chainsaw, you’re right next to the thing. Nobody spends any appreciable amount of time anywhere near a wind turbine.

He cites the research that supports his cause and ignores all the rest — just as he ignores the Federal Aviation Administration, for Pete’s sake, when it comes to evaluating hazards to air travel.

Also, he gets the acoustic science all screwed up. “Brian Dubie’s op-ed has multiple acoustical misunderstandings,” writes Isaac Old, senior acoustics analyst with the Resource Systems Group. One such misunderstanding causes Dubie to vastly overstate the noise of turbines compared to chainsaws. In reality, Old says, “it would requires ten turbines to have an equal sound power to the quietest chainsaw.”

Dubie also compares, wrongly, ridgeline turbines to “a line of airplanes that are holding for take-off… that have run up their engines to full power.” To test this assertion, Old uses two representative airplanes — the Boeing 737-400 and the F-16 fighter:

“For a wind farm to match the sound emissions of these airplanes, there would have to be 794 turbines [for] the 737-400 and 447 turbines [for] the F-16. … This is assuming that all the turbines could be located at the same place.”

The esteemed former Lite-Guv also makes hash of the facts regarding infrasound, the low-frequency sound that’s alleged to be the cause of many a wind-induced woe. Isaac Old:

Mr. Dubie is correct that… infrasound can be “detected inside homes as far as six miles away.” The issue is that it has only been detected at that distance by highly sophisticated acoustical measurement instruments. There has been no proof that infrasound, at the levels typically measured at residences around well designed and compliant wind farms, can be detected by the human nervous system and can cause direct health effects.

The operative phrase: “no proof” of health impacts from infrasound.

A handful of Vermonters (including one case covered recently on VTDigger with a big scary misleading headline) have reported feeling effects from nearby turbines. But there is strong evidence that these alleged maladies are largely psychosomatic. In 2013, Australian researcher Simon Chapman did a geographic analysis of all reported instances of turbine-induced health problems in his country. That was a total of only 131 reports over 20 years — covering some 51 wind farms with 1634 turbines. Of all the people who live close to Australian wind farms, only one in 87 ever complained.

But the really strange thing was this: almost all those complaints centered on a handful of wind farms that had been targeted by anti-wind protesters. The vast majority of wind farms received no complaints whatsoever. Chapman:

Many sites have run for years without complaint. Others, legendary for their vocal opponents even before start up, are hot beds of disease claims. So if turbines were inherently noxious, why do they cut such a selective path? Why do citizens of community-owned turbines in Germany and Denmark rarely complain? Why are complaints rare in western Australia, but rife in several eastern Australian communities?

The only explanation I can think of: “wind turbine syndrome” is a communicable disease — transmitted not by sound waves, but by opposition to wind farms.

In the first of Dubie’s series of anti-wind essays, posted in September, he rehashes many of the standard arguments of his cohorts: that wind turbines cause uniquely massive destruction to mountains, forests, wildlife, and water quality. This is a mashup of worst-case scenarios at odds with the established science. Dubie employs scare language about “interstate-sized roads” to access ridgeline wind farms (I-89? Really?) and wind turbines that are “‘War of the Worlds’ huge.”

Uh, Brian? “War of the Worlds” was fictional. And in the original novel, the Tripod attack machines were approximately 100 feet high. Turbines are, in fact, quite a bit bigger than that. But you’re not going for a factual comparison, are you? No, you’re aiming for maximum creepiness.

In that same opinion piece, Dubie called for a moratorium on new wind projects, based on his own boogeyman arguments. The truth is, the state of Vermont approached siting and construction standards for wind farms slowly, carefully, and with repeated studies of all potential impacts.

Well, aside form the impacts of true-believer anti-wind advocates who think turbines are the spawn of Hell. Those people will never be satisfied.

Dubie is a special case. With his political experience and connections, he can push the anti-wind cause at higher levels than his cohorts can. (See: his active collaboration with Guy Rouelle, Vermont’s top aviation regulator. And I have yet to see if Rouelle will face any consequences for using his official clout in the service of a personal agenda.)

The problem is, he is using his political and professional experience to slather as much lipstick as he can on the big ugly pig of his deceptive, mistaken arguments.

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