Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Views vs. windmills

With apologies to Al Gore's environmental documentary film, it's truly an inconvenient truth: Americans must accept the need for change in their energy habits and be willing to support and sacrifice when change comes.

Changes are imperative to reduce permeating the atmosphere with poisonous emissions and to develop clean new sources of energy.

The fabled Kennedy family set a poor example when opposing wind power, one of the most promising major sources of electricity generation. They tried to block a windmill farm in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Cod because the towers' giant propellers might spoil their view.

Now the same argument has cropped up in the Idaho Falls area, where a wind power farm of 150 towers is being stoutly opposed by a group of residents who complain their views would be interrupted and wildlife dispossessed by new roads.

Whatever real or imagined impact the 300-foot towers might have, they surely are negligible. The towers would be built on only 60 acres among 18,000 acres leased by a Seattle-based wind farm developer. Farming, ranching and timber activities would continue under and around the towers, which would provide electricity for 600 to 800 homes.

These towers must be erected where there's wind, not located out of sight for the convenience of homeowners.

Meanwhile, Idaho Power is showing the way toward acceptance of change. Despite new demands of the state's increasing population, Idaho Power has announced plans to de-emphasize construction of new coal-fired plants, and as a first step will probably build a new plant in southern Idaho powered by natural gas.

At the same time, Idaho Power will explore developing wind power, of which there is an ample supply in the state.

Coal, because of its polluting qualities, is facing more grassroots public opposition. At least 16 U.S. plants have been cancelled in recent months, while another three dozen have been put on hold because of opposition.

Global warming caused by fuels that poison the atmosphere and trigger unwanted climate change is no longer a myth. The public in growing numbers now accepts warming as a fact.

However, the obstacle is resistance to change—consumers and corporations failing to replace the familiar with the new.

And change is on its way. Pristine views won't exist in a tattered world reeling from the effects of a hotter climate. Ordinary people and power generation companies alike must stop being part of the problem.

Future life on the planet depends on today's willingness to embrace change. If that means windmills on ridgelines, so be it.

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