Category Archives: Energy

VTDigger’s at it again

I was hoping maybe my recent post, “VTDigger is Biased Against Wind Energy,” would at least make the folks on the second floor stop and think.

I guess not. Because they’ve got another doozy today, entitled “Bird Advocates Concerned About Stiles Brook Proposal.”

The gist of the article is that an organization called the American Bird Conservancy has weighed in on the proposed Grafton/Windham wind farm with dire warnings about rising piles of bird and bat corpses.

“ABC questions whether the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of our shared ecologically important birds and bats justifies building any large, commercial wind energy facility in areas with seasonally high concentrations of birds and bats, like (Stiles Brook),” wrote Michael Hutchins, director of the conservancy’s “Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign.”

Okay, hmm. “Hundreds of thousands, if not millions” from a single wind farm? Sounds awful.

Too bad it’s completely false.

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VTDigger is biased against wind energy

Or so it would seem. Recent articles have been clearly slanted in presentation and sourcing. I’ve been hoping this would get better, but a story posted late Wednesday was the straw that broke my back.

It’s entitled “Searsburg Residents Gird for Wind Project Blasting,” which makes it sound like widespread panic over the potential devastation of a peaceful town. The particulars below; first, let’s outline the general pattern at work in Digger’s coverage.

It starts with the David-and-Goliath framing: aggrieved locals versus a big faceless developer. The locals are represented by a single complainer or, in the case of a continuing story, the same handful of folks. The vast majority of local residents who either favor a development or don’t much care are absent.

Never or rarely mentioned is the fact that a wind farm is a literal windfall for a town’s treasury, greatly reducing residents’ tax burdens and underwriting new programs and amenities. (With all our concern about Growing the Economy and Reducing the Tax Burden, you’d think that would be a compelling argument.)

An then there’s the extreme imbalance of outsiders. The same couple of anti-wind advocacy groups are routinely cited, while the numerous environmental groups that support wind energy are rarely if ever represented. A call always goes out to Energize Vermont or Vermonters for a Clean Environment; why not VPIRG or Vermont Conservation Voters or Wind Works Vermont or the Sierra Club or VNRC or The Nature Conservancy?

Finally, there’s space allotment. Within a story, opponents are given far more space than its supporters. Their arguments are quoted at length; supporters are allowed a token response.

That’s the pattern. Now for some examples in detail.

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On the VPR Poll

Must have been some soiled britches at VTGOP headquarters when the news came out: a new poll shows the race for governor is a statistical dead heat.

If it’s accurate, of course. Usual caveats apply. Doesn’t help that this is the only pre-election poll we’re going to get, since VPR is the only media organization putting up money for surveys this year.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume it’s reasonably on target.

There were reasons to believe the race would be close, but the almost universal assumption (me included) was that Phil Scott was the front-runner because of his name recognition, his inoffensive image, and Vermonters’ presumed post-Shumlin fatigue with liberal policymaking. Minter, by comparison, was known (to the extent she was known at all) mainly as a Shumlin underling, which meant she would struggle to create a profile of her own.

Instead, here we are, with Scott at 39 percent, Minter at 38, and a rather surprising 14 percent undecided.

So why is this race so close? Assuming, again, that the poll is accurate.

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Big Greenwashing

Dartmouth College has announced a new, lavishly-funded institute to study energy issues. Or, as the PR bumpf puts it, the institute’s purpose is “ato advance the understanding and knowledge of a resource that powers modern life and is directly related to society’s standard of living and success.”

Great news, right?

Well, not everybody thinks so. As the Valley News reports, “environmentalists within the Dartmouth community described [the institute] as a ‘horrific’ example of influence-peddling.”

See, the full name of the new body is the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society. That’s “Irving” as in Irving Oil, one of New England’s leading distributors of fossil fuel. The Irving family donated $80 million — roughly half the estimated cost of the thing, including a shiny new building to be erected on campus — in exchange for the naming rights and, some fear, a measure of influence on what exactly is studied.

This is a growing trend on college and university campuses: rich people with axes to grind putting up scads of dough to establish “institutes” devoted to studying questions of their choosing. And churning out “research” that, mirabile dictu, supports conservative and pro-business points of view.

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All’s fair in love and wind

There’s a lot of funny business afoot near the sites of proposed wind farms in Windham/Grafton and Swanton. And it’s not a product of those wily Spaniards at Iberdrola; no, it’s coming from local opponents of wind.

Which is par for the course. While the opposition is quick to cry “dirty pool” by would-be developers, they themselves are doing their best impression of the Iron Sheik, the great wrestling villain who did anything he could — up to and including blasts of “fire” — to assert his cartoonish dominance over his foes.

(He’s an entertaining Twitter follow if you can handle his frequent use of the F-word.)

Let’s take a look at a few of the Foreign Objects hidden in their trunks, shall we?

We’ll start in Windham, where non-residents are agitating for the chance to vote on the project. To which my immediate response was, “What The [Iron Sheik’s Favorite Word]?”

Whatever happened to “one person, one vote”?

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Shrine of the Holy Vortex Martyrs

Huh boy. Vermont’s anti-wind zealots appear to be establishing a Holy Place for their belief system of junk science and outright dogma. (Perhaps tax-free status as a religious organization is the next step.)

And where will this Medjugorje of the Muggles be created? Glad you asked.

The Therrien family property in Sheffield… will become a dedicated research hub to study the noise, vibrations and environmental impacts of 16 418-foot-tall nearby turbines known as Vermont Wind.

Ah, the Therriens, perennial poster family for the alleged hazards of wind. The anti-wind organization Energize Vermont bought their place at a tax sale, and now plans to use it as headquarters of the Vermont Center for Turbine Impact Studies — a name that seems to presage its findings. Because the overwhelming bulk of actual scientific inquiry has found little to no impact.

(Indeed, a massive study in Australia found a high correlation between reports of turbine-related sickness and protests over the construction of wind farms. Nearly two-thirds of all wind farms in the country had never received a single report of ill effects, while a handful of facilities that had attracted opposition was also responsible for the vast majority of health complaints. The conclusion: “wind turbine syndrome” is a “disease” spread by word of mouth.)

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State hires fox to guard henhouse

Your Tax Dollars At Work: the state of Vermont is offering $50,000 to a prominent anti-wind advocate to study the noise effects of wind turbines.

Great.

VPR had the details in a curiously understated article whose title, “State Funding for Research Into Turbine Noise Sets Stage for Vermont’s Next Wind Debate,” utterly fails to communicate the substance of the piece.

Which is this: in the late stages of this year’s legislative session, somebody slipped a $50,000 appropriation into the budget. The money goes to Lyndon State physics professor Ben Luce to buy sound-monitoring gear that he’ll use to study turbine-generated noise.

Fine so far. But Luce is a notorious critic of wind energy, having called ridgeline wind “a tragedy of inconceivable dimensions.” He sits on the board of Energize Vermont, a leading anti-wind organization.

And you say he’s going to be objective.

Riiiiiiiight.

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