Wall Street Journal manages to criticize NIMBYs and wind power in one fell swoop

We recently wrote about the New York Times blog post by Stanley Fish, who didn’t want wind turbines near his summer home in New York.

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a short, four paragraph editorial that writes off wind power as a “bit player” even as it criticizes the Kennedys for opposing a wind farm near Cape Cod that would obstruct their view.

Reasonable people can disagree on the merits of putting turbines on Nantucket Sound, as proposed by a private company. Though costs have come down to 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour from 6.1 per KWH in 1999, the technology is still not balancing out as cost-effective for some areas. Last week, Long Island scratched its plans to build a wind energy center in the Atlantic when costs were running up toward $800 million. Projects in windy Texas have also been scrapped over cost considerations.

But advocates often tout renewable energy not for its economics, but because it’s virtuous. Many of those who are willing to impose the costs of various environmental schemes on other Americans based on “ideals” suddenly have started looking more closely at the tradeoffs when something they hold dear would have to be sacrificed, like a nice view. Wind energy is never going to be anything but a bit player in meeting the world’s energy needs. The Nantucket tempest is useful mainly as a real-world test of whether some of the world’s most privileged liberals wear their ideals all the time, or only when it suits them.

Businesses get wise about energy efficiency

Energy efficiency isn’t just a feel good story about “helping the planet.” It’s also all about saving money and reducing expenses. Who doesn’t like that?

Indeed, businesses are learning how increasing energy efficiency can cut costs and help the bottom line, according to this article in the Wall Street Journal.

Now, with oil, gas and electricity prices soaring, companies are beginning to realize that saving energy can translate into dramatically lower costs. And that means higher profits and happier shareholders — not to mention a cleaner planet.

Even companies with longstanding energy-saving programs are redoubling their efforts in light of rising fuel costs and greater pressure from the public to address global warming. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. — which by some measures is the world’s second-largest energy purchaser after the U.S. government — has undertaken a multiyear campaign to retrofit older stores with new lighting and air-conditioning systems. Company officials boast that many of these energy projects pay for themselves within two years.

The potential savings from such projects are enormous. A recent study from the International Energy Agency showed that energy use in heavy industry could be reduced by 18% to 26% just by applying best practices and available technologies. That savings is equivalent to about one to one-and-a-half times Japan’s annual energy needs, the agency said.

Light industries, like retailing and the food sector, could cut energy use by an even greater percentage — up to 50% — because they haven’t always made efficiency a priority, says Paul Waide, an energy-efficiency analyst at the Paris-based IEA.

The article also included this short video clip about carbon offsets, which really isn’t the main subject of the story.

China, the industrial revolution so big that it’s shattering all pollution records

 Photo courtesy of Flickr.

If you want to read a depressing account of China and the environment, look no further than this long, comprehensive New York Times article about the toll that China’s industrialization is taking.

There are so many astounding facts that it’s hard to choose what to quote from the story, so I’ll just make a bullet point list of quoted facts from the article.

Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.

Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says.

Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union.

For air quality, a major culprit is coal, on which China relies for about two-thirds of its energy needs.

Chinese industry uses 4 to 10 times more water per unit of production than the average in industrialized nations, according to the World Bank.

Chinese steel makers, on average, use one-fifth more energy per ton than the international average. Cement manufacturers need 45 percent more power, and ethylene producers need 70 percent more than producers elsewhere, the World Bank says.

Chinese buildings rarely have thermal insulation. They require, on average, twice as much energy to heat and cool as those in similar climates in the United States and Europe, according to the World Bank.

All these new buildings require China to build power plants, which it has been doing prodigiously. In 2005 alone, China added 66 gigawatts of electricity to its power grid, about as much power as Britain generates in a year. Last year, it added an additional 102 gigawatts, as much as France.

New York Times NIMBY editorial post about wind power

Stanley Fish attacks wind power on his New York Times blog, when the possibility arose that developers were going to install wind turbines near his summer home in Andes, NY.

Like many of the other towns targeted by the wind turbine industry, Andes is a rural community that over the years has lost its economic base. At one time the hills and valleys were home to many small dairy farms, but most of them are no longer in operation, and no industry, light or heavy, has taken their place. Now the area relies for its revenue on retirees and second home owners who are educated, relatively well off and tend to be teachers therapists, lawyers, artists and social workers. In short, liberals. They are all soldiers in Al Gore’s army, into organic foods, hybrid cars, clean air, clean water, the whole bit.

They are also against wind power.

Their reasons are the ones always given by those who wake up to find the wind interests at their door. Even if large wind farms were in place throughout the country, the electricity produced would be a very small percentage of the electricity we use. Because the turbines are huge, 400 feet or more, installing them involves tearing up the ridges on which they are placed. Once in operation, they cast shadows and produce noise. Their blades cause a “flicker” effect, kill birds and interfere with migration. The outsized towers ruin scenic views and depress real-estate values.

As you can imagine, the comments left on his blog post aren’t very sympathetic with Mr. Fish.

Cool your attic while you heat your pool

I love gadgets that do two or more practical and environmental things at once. Thus, I present to you a gadget that cools your home while it heats your pool. News.com reports,

SolarAttic sells a system–the Pool Convection System 2–that sucks hot air out of the attic of your house and pumps it into a heat exchanger to heat your pool. In the summertime, the temperature in your attic can get up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, says SolarAttic vice president James Kantorowicz.

“It also helps cool down the house by transferring that heat out of the attic,” he said.

Check out the SolarAttic website for more info on this innovative product.