Beyond NIMBY: A Grassroots Strategy to Defeat Windpower
[Editor note: Tom Stacy of Save Western Ohio is a critic of the industrial wind lobby "using incomplete and misleading claims of energy, economic and environmental benefit ... to attract public funding far beyond the free market value of their product." This is his first post at MasterResource.]
It takes more than anger to fight against the political “green tide” of windpower. It requires courage backed by effective argumentation.
Many people throughout history have taken an unpopular stand. Most have been censored, or worse, but some have been responsible for breakthroughs in our grasp of natural science and other realms of human understanding. Galileo, Columbus, Paine, Lincoln, Edison, Wright, and Deming come to mind.
One historical figure named Reagan even went so far as to tear the solar panels off of the White House roof when he learned how much they cost and how little they produced. That same week he terminated the Federal Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit. And the walls came tumbling down. But we have no such constitutional leader today who, from the top down, would put a stake through the heart of the marauding beast we know as industrial wind—while simultaneously promoting sound policies that promote a genuinely competitive marketplace where contributors thrive and laggards languish.
Wind is a clever parasite, leeching our rural persona, making country people believe that it is one with their way of life, just another wind mill on a wind farm along a wind park—all beloved by peace-loving neighbors. BUT WE KNOW BETTER! We know it’s a sprawling industrial stampede using PR parlor tricks and old-fashioned political bribes to make people think black is white and pigs can fly. We know it’s a greedy tax avoidance scheme for large corporations to increase their bottom lines at our expense.
We know it’s engaged in “imagineering,” pretending to be an effective energy solution when it’s not. The truth is, it makes our energy situation worse, and our pocket books much lighter. Had our elected representatives remained neutral toward the limited liability wind companies forcing them to offer sound, scientific proof for their many claims, the wind projects would have never been born.
Ohio Senator Bill Seitz wrote the following to one of our ranks opposing the Buckeye wind farm: ”I think you all need to continue to be zealous advocates and to realize that your advocacy has been effective and that your community’s prosecutor and his staff are doing a thorough and commendable job.” While I cannot disagree with his kudos, I think our zeal must be exercised more carefully.
Our zeal needs far fewer annoyance complaints and one or two solid blows to the face of the industry itself. It needs less subjective rhetoric and more call for the facts to back the green movement’s claims. Our collective voice must needs delineate what’s right for America, instead of what’s wrong with placing windmills in my precious neighborhood.
Focusing on the local issues generally leads to a flash judgment in the mind of the American television viewer. It goes like this: American progress depends on wind energy’s success. A few selfish land owners want to stand in the way of progress.
Media Strategy: Beyond NIMBY
Local news media seldom, if ever, offer us the opportunity to add big picture perspective. Wouldn’t we prefer television media deliver a message that a greater audience can relate to? The first step in that direction is for us to provide that message, so every viewer can connect with it. Before I offer my suggestions, let’s survey the range of messages we might consider.
Should our message convey: “FOUL! I PERSONALLY AM GOING TO SUFFER AT THE HANDS OF WIND ENERGY!”? No, I believe this is fruitless. In fact, I contend many viewers may enjoy seeing a few suffer at the hands of what is assumed to be “progress,” as long as it’s not them. They love to shout back at their big plasma screen, “Come on! Suck it up, people! How lame!” Then they’d mutter something about “Those are just the kind of people who complain about their world constantly but never have a better answer. What nuisance could be more annoying than the sound of their constant complaining?”
Pretty brutal, I know. But I and my buddies have been on the front side of the TV before, and had similar retorts to other complaints aired on the news. And I submit that the NIMBY cry is the easiest thing for our opposition to contest. Whether or not we are NIMBY’s at heart is immaterial. Without showing how the end fails to justify the means – beyond our back yards, we have reduced ourselves to the common toddler tactic of trying to get our way by throwing a tantrum. Even if we go on to show that the benefits of wind aren’t substantial or proven, it’s too late. By then our message has already been tainted with personal bias–for wouldn’t we say almost anything to protect our back yard?
Let’s continue this line of thought. Here are the most common NIMBY cries we offer in fighting wind projects:
NoiseShadow … Flicker … Physical Illness … Mental Stress … Loss of Sleep … Loss of Bats … Loss of the character of this precious landscape … Lost property rights … Diminished property value … Slaughtered songbirds and raptors … Lost business revenue to my neighboring business … Lost options for future development of my land near the project, personal or corporate ….
But without the crucial punch line, each offers weak and scattered ammunition. I am coming to see them as no more effective than soon to be former Ohio Governor Strickland’s famous energy sound bite, which goes something like this: “Since there is no silver bullet to solve our energy crisis, what we need is silver buckshot.”
His words imply that regardless of how expensive or inconsequential an energy technology, it is worth funding into deployment and profitability. In fact, the less effective it is, the more support it should receive! Let me tell you, big government arrogance doesn’t get any more ignorant than that. No, I believe our punch line would have more punch without the local issues even being raised.
Imagine with me, as do the imagineers at GE, that wind energy is truly the answer for our dependence on foreign oil. And that
* it eliminates our need to mine and burn coal;
* negatively affects only a few rural homesteaders because it is so compact and produces so much energy on its modest parcels; and
* it helps reduce our unemployment woes and soon our electricity rates will stabilize, or even fall.
Imagine that! Just pretend all of that is true for a moment. Running through our list of complaints again, how do they stack up to this list of bona fide benefits to society? We wouldn’t stand a chance.
Now you begin to understand how blessed we are that these massive wind machines are powerless as a meaningful source of power. They can’t put a dent in our energy problems. They just don’t work as advertised. But, most Americans don’t know this! Most Americans have never heard the argument that the wind energy industry is a behemoth bunko scheme that is robbing their very own tax dollars. A bunko scheme is a swindle whereby the perpetrator promises much, charges a lot, and delivers virtually nothing.
And this is precisely what wind developers are doing. When we have a chance to tell them this, we just can’t afford to slip into a tantrum about our property rights! The people have guzzled the wind Kool-Aid, and believe that if a few rural families have to suffer, so be it.
As a chaser to our steady diet of “reality TV”, the wind flavored Kool-Aid goes down even more easily. Such incessant fantasy pounds us through our HDTVs, and opens up the viewer to the Yellow Brick Road of Windpower that we imagined a few moments ago. However misled, the tin man, the scarecrow, the lion, Dorothy, and the American television viewer all skip merrily along “because, because, because, because BECAUSE — because of the wonderful things it does!”
Viewers hardly notice as they acquiesce to a wish that only the Wizard of Wind can grant. Few of them ever suspect that the whole enterprise – especially the Wizard himself – is only a tail wag and a curtain tug away from being exposed. Both in Oz and here in Ohio.
So commiserate with each other, but please don’t do it in front of the media! We have to choose between trumpeting our personally valid issues, and stopping the monster in its tracks. You must agree that we’d be a lot further along if every television audience would take our side. But if they see us as impeding the march of progress, and bitching about it every step of the way, they won’t be inclined to join us, will they?
Getting on the Offensive
When a news anchor busts a story about a clerk defrauding the townspeople–stealing from the town’s kitty, doesn’t that get to you? What if it’s your tax dollars being swindled away? Wouldn’t you agree that the clerk should be arrested and tried for his crimes?
Subsidies for industrial wind have long since passed the $100 billion dollar mark—all from our tax dollars. That’s $333 from you and you and you and each one of us, even our elders and infants. For my family, it’s over $1,500. All raised from deficits to the federal treasury, which means services must be cut or else we all must pay more. This money is supposed to go toward reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and closing coal plants, but has no proof it can do so.
Point blank, the industry should be tried on charges of fraud. It has already created a great amount of adjustment by our grid system operators and the load balancing resources that support them. All that money. For nothing.
It’s more than a risky proposition–it’s classic bunko. Our lawmakers chase the votes. They too, not immune to greed. Polls tell them to be green or be replaced in the next election. “Live to fight another day” seems the prudent, if not the fiscally efficient, choice. Meanwhile our tax dollars are being thrown down the rat hole of wind, closing off opportunities for funding more effective ways and means of being cleaner and greener.
Don’t you think it’s time to demand accountability for our tax dollars, starting with the politicians who enable such rat holes? It’s time to change those poll results that have been scaring elected officials into going green at any price. Every media opportunity must be used to that end. We must expose and stop wind power across this nation, and our back yards will be defended incidentally.
The author wishes to thank Jon Boone for his help with this and other wind-related presentations.