(See part 1.) To identify optimum tactics, we need to start with a clear idea of who the opposition is–and what are their strengths and weaknesses. A careful assessment of this situation will reveal the reality that citizen groups fighting alternative energy promoters are the underdogs.
Briefly, the opponents are:
1 – The Wind Industry [lobbyists (e.g. AWEA), manufactures (e.g. Vesta), developers (e.g. Iberdrola), installers (e.g. Horizon), investors (e.g. Goldman Sachs), and some utilities].
2 – Most large mainstream environmental organizations (e.g. Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Union of Concerned Scientists).
3 – Some labor unions and businesses.
4 – Many Academics (e.g. at Pace, Stanford).
5 – Many of our representatives and agencies: Federal (e.g. Congress, DOE, FERC); State (e.g. legislators, PSC, DEC); Local (e.g. county, town board, planning board).
6 – Some of their neighbors (e.g. lease granting landowners, well-intentioned environmentalists).
Their adversaries’ strengths are:
1 – Many more people
2 – A lot more money
3 – Better marketing/PR skills
4 – More media support
5 – More political power
6 – A cause that has intuitive appeal (“all of the above energy options”)
Rather daunting, right?
Well, for comparison, what chance did George Washington’s ragtag group of untrained, unfunded volunteer farmers and fishermen have against the largest, well financed, most professional army and navy in the world?
The only chance that an outnumbered, out-gunned group has for winning is to take the high ground, and to exploit the enemy’s weakness. Fortunately, Big Wind has a fatal deficiency:
There is no scientific proof that wind energy is a NET societal benefit.
For example, wind is not reliable energy, or economical energy, or an environmentally friendly source of energy. Wind does not reduce our dependence on oil, or replace conventional power plants, or significantly reduce CO2 emissions, or create net jobs, etc.
Groups that focus on effectively attacking this weakness will succeeded more than others who do not.
Note that I haven’t mentioned aspects like turbine setbacks. There is nothing wrong with hitting that issue (or others) — as long as they are presented as just a part of the REAL problem:
There is no scientific proof that wind energy is a NET societal benefit.
The understanding that needs to be fully grasped by all concerned citizens is this: even if a wind related issue important to them is reasonably addressed (e.g. large setbacks are granted), that does NOT then make industrial wind energy a good thing! All it would do would be to make industrial wind energy less bad.
This is so because such a change would only address a small part of the Big Picture. Such a “concession” would certainly not fix the fundamental deficiency that there is no scientific assessment proving that wind energy is a net societal benefit.
The bigger picture perspective is that we should be promoting “All of the Sensible” — in contrast to the inane “all of the above”. What defines “sensible”? Well that is the type of productive conversation we should be engaging it — as vs such absurdities like: where are the “best” offshore wind locations?
In my 30+ years of fighting for various environmental causes, I have found that:
1 — Many citizens will get engaged if the issue is presented to them in the right way.
2 — If enough citizens speak up constructively, almost all self-serving representatives will back down.
3 — Citizens will take action to censure or remove non-compliant legislators — as they are no longer “representatives.”
4 — Active media support and the assistance of other organizations can be very helpful.
To maximize their chance at success, a citizens’ group must:
1) be organized,
2) be on the same page,
3) clearly understand the issues, and
4) employ effective PR techniques.
Is this easy to do? No! It largely depends on the abilities of the group’s leaders.
I compare it to baking a cake from scratch. To have it come out right they need to follow all the directions, carefully. Periodically I hear from groups that are not doing too well, and they insist that they are doing everything I’m advocating.
But they usually are like bakers who wing it. When I look into their situation it turns out that they have only some of the ingredients. Additionally they did not combine them in the right sequence, or with the proper amount.
We have a formidable adversary, so doing things just right is essential to maximize the likelihood of prevailing.
Our network’s new website, WiseEnergy.org, is an extraordinary collection of resources to help make this battle less one-sided.
Make sure to print out, study and use What Not To Say, which summarizes what I believe is the optimum strategy to usually take. I also recommend seeing an apropos (and inspiring) movie: Amazing Grace.
If all else fails, U.S. citizens have a nuclear option, which is applicable in most cases: a federal 1983 lawsuit (see #5). Other countries may have similar recourse if they engage a competent and aggressive lawyer.
As John Droz states, the lobbyists are the number one opponent of those against wind power. Now let’s define lobbyist, a messenger with gifts/ money that grabs the attention of a politician.
The number two opponent given is stated to be conservations groups. Sad but true, these are groups that accept wind energy money while choosing to ignore detrimental impacts.
This is how truth, science, and real solutions are buried.
Let me to say it for you again John:
“There is no scientific proof that wind energy is a NET societal benefit.”
I have used your mantra as a parting shot while canvassing with petitions against greed energy developments.
Recently upon encountering a chap who regurgitated a daunting flow of green nonsense which I simply lacked the time to debate I instead asked where he found the information upon which he based his opinions. He stood, blinking, for several moments then replied, “I just know.”
I shoved a sWINDle sheet into his hand and strode off saying over my shoulder, “There is no scientific proof that wind energy is a NET societal benefit.”
Sadly even our own “allies” do not want to be seen to be against wind thus playing into the hands of governments which are then not brought to account for their lack of Science in policy-making.
It is difficult to find lawyers who might engage in class actions, because they take lengthy amounts of time to qualify as such, and are very costly for the lawyer who fronts them, and also in this instance, because so many thousands more turbines will be installed before courts may, MAY, alter the course of history. This is from two of the major legal players in Ontario.
I would submit, John, that there has been huge collaboration between international groups, and local groups, despite different ways of doing things. I think most groups have agreed that the fight is a local one, first. That is where the victories come home to roost and incubate other victories against wind. Maybe we are looking at this issue from different battle fields.
I personally do not find that groups or their leaders are like “bakers,” popping irregular ingredients into their mix. I do find most groups study up the victories of another’s, and build on that. I find they are incredibly smart strategizers, using small openings to launch firing pins, and, as one lawyer told us, use as many boats in the water as you can. “Carpet bombing is good.” Ultimately, the multiple and very gifted wind warriors have something the proponents do not have: the truth.
Thank you for your observations.
Sorry for any miscommunication on my end, but I was not advocating a class-action lawsuit in this article.
Additionally, I did not intend to say that “groups or their leaders are like bakers”. What I was trying to say is that (in my opinion) executing a successful strategy is like following a recipe: it needs to be done properly.
The matter as to whether every wind development fight is a local matter, is open to debate. For example, in your area, Ontario, a primary driver is the Ontario Green Act. In other words it comes down to a choice between fixing one larger issue, or fighting a hundred smaller battles. In my opinion, fixing one issue makes more sense.
If there is any question about that, simply look at the results. How many Ontario communities have lost the local fight so far?
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Jeremy Lifkin’s The Third Industrial Revolution explains how each house, business and factory can become their own micro energy producer Big industrial wind and solar factories do not work as they are a source of intermittant energy with no batteries big enough to level out and keep constant the energy needed.