A Free-Market Energy Blog

Dear Carl Pope: What About the “Cuisinarts of the Air” (Sierra Club term still part of the windpower debate)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- January 14, 2013

“Tension in the room mounted. The old man … pleaded with the [California] planning commission to protect his pigeons from ‘the Cuisinarts of the air’. The arrow went straight home, sending up a roar from the audience. A new image had been created, and the cameras flashed it across the country. Although often credited to staging by Cerrell and Associates, the term was conceived by the Sierra Club.”

– Paul Gipe, Wind Energy Comes of Age (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1995, p. 450.

“I once believed in the Sierra Club, until the CLUB ( an insular bunch of activists who aren’t looking at the entire picture but only at their own agendas) started fully supporting [windpower] …. Everything the environmentalists (including myself for 20 years) have worked so hard to protect, is now being destroyed or in jeopardy. Wind factories are industrial projects.”

– Jen Gilbert, Dear Sierra Club (Canada): I Resign Over Your Anti-Environmental Wind Support (June 7, 2011).

I am reminded of the Sierra Club’s all-too-brief War on Wind whenever I read either a piece by Carl Pope, former executive director and chairman of the Left environmental group, or more recent Sierra Club fare pretending that industrial wind turbines are “green.”

Pope’s Huffington Post piece last week, “The Lessons of the Battle Over Tax Increases for the Wind Industry,” praised the one-year extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for new wind construction on purely economic grounds. “Cheapness is not the only economic advantage wind and solar bring to the electricity sector,” he opined. “They are already generating huge numbers of new jobs and supply chains.”

Wind Economics

Cheaper? What about the high up-front infrastructure costs required to turn such a dilute energy source into electricity? According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), wind-generated electricity is substantially more expensive than  power generated from natural gas, and solar is much more expensive than windpower.

And don’t forget correcting for intermittency to put wind (and solar) on a quality par with conventional generation. A recent analysis for the American Traditions Institute puts the all-in wind costs at $0.15/kWh compared to the EIA’s wind estimate of $0.096/kWh.

And wind and solar on a per-kWh basis receive a multiple of government subsidies than do fossil fuels, a differential that cannot fall back on the argument that politically correct wind is an infant industry.

Windpower critic Kevon Martis takes Carl Pope to task with this following argument:

Mr. Pope’s case rises and falls on one sentence: “In 20 years producing power from amortized wind turbines will be even cheaper, because they won’t need fuel.”

But producing electricity from 20-year-old turbines won’t be cheap, it will be impossible. Why? They will be exhausted and out of service.

How do we know this? Michigan wind developer and operator DTE Energy’s engineer said so under oath:

Q: “What do you expect to be the average service life of the generator?

A. I expect the average service life of the generator to be 20 years.

Q. What do you expect to be the average service life of the other
miscellaneous components of the wind turbine generators?

A. I expect the average service life of the other miscellaneous components of the wind turbine generator to be 20 years.

Q. How did you come to that conclusion?

A. My conclusion about the balance of the equipment is based on the turbine design life of 20 years…”


So free “fuel”? Sure. Free turbine after 20 years? Certainly not, according to the wind industry itself.

So we must now ask the obvious question: If Mr. Pope of the Sierra Club does not know how long modern wind turbines are designed to operate, why have we wasted our time reading his pabulum?


And what about the bird carnage documented by Paul Driessen in his recent post, Killer Energy (Time to Apply Endangered Species, Wildlife Laws to Windpower?)? Driessen takes the “Cuisinarts of the Air” seriously and concludes:

Put bluntly, wind energy is unsustainable. It kills unconscionable numbers of bats, raptors, and other birds. It requires billions in perpetual subsidies – and billions more for (mostly) gas-fired backup generators. It impacts millions of acres of scenic, wildlife, and agricultural land – and uses vast amounts of raw materials, whose extraction and processing further impairs global land, air, and water quality.

Driessen welcomes a world without industrial wind as a better world, economically, environmentally, and politically. “A far more rational public policy would cut the crony out of capitalism and double out of standards,” he says. “Fair field, no favor.”

Is Pope or the new leadership at the Sierra Club listening to grassroot environmentalists who have turned against industrial wind from what they have experienced up-close? Do DC environmentalists listen to their sisters and brothers–or really care about the wilds remaining so?

Carl Pope, the Sierra Club, and other Washington, D.C. environmentalists should take to heart what Jen Gilbert wrote in his post, Dear Sierra Club (Canada): I Resign Over Your Anti-Environmental Wind Support:

I once believed in the Sierra Club, until the CLUB ( an insular bunch of activists who aren’t looking at the entire picture but only at their own agendas) started fully supporting the Green Energy Act (Canada).

[Such] is placing turbines everywhere and anywhere. This includes in pristine areas, in and around fresh lakes, on mountains, on ridges, on the Niagara Escarpment, near communities. Such activity is blasting, drilling, destroying the environment, and it has stripped away the rights of municipalities and the proper consultation of the public.

Everything the environmentalists (including myself for 20 years) have worked so hard to protect, is now being destroyed or in jeopardy. Wind factories are industrial projects. Every industrial project has had strict laws put in place to protect the environment. The Green Energy Act no longer protects those laws. Wind turbine factories are no different and should get no special treatment. Especially, when big greedy companies or individuals are the only people benefiting.


  1. Michael Spencley  

    Who is paying Pope and The Sierra Club to ignore the truth about the horrific impact of industrial wind turbines; or upon inspection, would the list of financial contributors show that The Sierra Club has gotten itself mired in a sticky web of accepting financial donations from “the developers”.


  2. Jon Boone  

    Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

    Here’s a few paragraph’s about Pope and the Sierra Club from an essay I wrote three years ago, which was posted on MR:

    More than a few Sierra Club members and local chapters have resisted the national organization’s encyclicals on wind precisely because such hulking intrusion seems inimical to environmental common sense. The chair of the Maryland Chapter’s Conservation Committee, one of the nation’s leading naturalists, resigned in large part because of this concern. In response to such dissidents, the Club’s national leadership insists that it, and not its member chapters, be the final arbiter of what wind projects meet its standards: “It is important for the Club to speak with a unified, clear voice in its reaction to wind energy projects. It will not be good for the Club if one chapter is focusing totally on concerns about impacts on birds while the chapter in the next state is urging the public to support wind projects as a crucial element in reversing the impacts of global warming.” The organization enforces its authority under threat of expulsion, as was the case when its executive chairman, Carl Pope, in the wake of another controversy, excommunicated the entire Florida 35,000-memmber chapter for four years.

    MBA types who wouldn’t know a bat from a bowtie now run the national Sierra Club. Their interest is in gaining membership and revenue. In a critique aptly entitled, Torquemada in Birkenstocks, Jeff St. Clair said this about Carl Pope: “[He} has never had much of a reputation as an environmental activist. He’s a wheeler-dealer, who keeps the Club’s policies in lockstep with its big funders and political patrons. Where Dave Brower scaled mountains, nearly all of Pope’s climbing has been up organizational ladders.”

    Environmental organizations that support wind technology by pretending that the ends justify the means, by falsely assuming that wind can do anything meaningful to alter our existing energy profile, are largely responsible for the depredations unloosed by the wind industry. Their imprimatur gives the industry a legitimacy it does not deserve. This “legitimacy” welcomes the industry’s trade association to a place at the government table, which then compels politicians to bestow upon the wind lobby political favors, given the political penchant for compromise.

    Science will likely continue to drive itself crazy as the foil for the stuff that dreams are made of…. Faith-based delusions like wind abound in our culture, one reason for the success of the Harry Potter phenomenon, which marries science, technology, myth, religion, childhood rights of passage, and, not least, slick marketing plans with the skill of a McDonald’s PR campaign. Wonkish wizards, indeed. Why not, then, fabulist wind machines, producing fantasy energy?

    In twenty years, the Sierra Club will have moved on to shore up another world crisis with yet another crusade, and all people will remember, as the countryside is littered with the wind mess, is its good intentions, especially since there’s no real accountability…. And it’s such hard work these days persuading people about the importance of protecting threatened habitat and species…. Far better to pursue the MacGuffin of wind. And scare the hell out of people about climate change.


  3. mk  

    Gotta love anti-environmentalist libertarian ideologues pretending to be environmentalists.


  4. MaineWind Concerns  

    It’s not just Sierra. All the name brand environmental groups choose not to do the math. Why? It feels better to feel good. The true environmental damage will stain their hands, because as these schills mindlessly trumpet the miracles of wind power, real climate and emissions reduction methodologies are left wanting.


  5. rbradley  


    The growing grassroot rebellion against windpower is not about “anti-environmentalist libertarian ideologues” but just the opposite. Secondly, I am on a listserve of some 80 ‘free market environmentalists’ who all consider themselves pro-environment. What we are not is anti-industrialization.


  6. Nadia Nichols  

    We use to support the Sierra Club until they began supporting industrial wind. It’s amazing how easily these supposedly “green” environmental groups will change their tune when a wind developer offers them a legal bribe. Crony capitalism at its most embarrassing.


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