Friday, March 2, 2007
Amidst all the breathless reports about the potential for the United States to become one big field for ethanol are a growing number of other stories about alternative energy and land use. Some environmentalists are reconciling themselves to a revival of nuclear energy as a least-bad alternative. And wind power –- which offers energy on land without traditional pollution –- is becoming more and more attractive, despite some environmental concerns.
Virginia is considering a plan for its first significant wind farm, which would be placed on a ridge top in the mountains near the West Virginia border. As with any such project, birds would be killed by the huge spinning blades, noise would be generated by the colossal towers (400-feet high -– taller than the Statue of Liberty!), and nearby residents will complain about the marring of their landscape. These all are serious concerns.
But any source of energy causes harm to the environment. Coal-burning power plants impose huge smokestacks on the landscape, pollute the air, exacerbate the greenhouse effect, and use up nonrenewable resources. It should be the goal of government to rationally, cautiously, and soberly balance the various harms to land and environment with the amount of energy generated (historically, a drawback of wind farms), and to chose the methods provide the highest ratio of benefit to harm.