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COLUMN: Wind farms the worst idea since Cash for Clunkers

Remember Cash for Clunkers? That 2009 government program that spent $6 billion to save $1 billion? Imagine walking up to a person and saying, "I want to save some money; I'll give you six dollars if you give me one dollar back." Genius. Leave it ...

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Remember Cash for Clunkers? That 2009 government program that spent $6 billion to save $1 billion? Imagine walking up to a person and saying, "I want to save some money; I'll give you six dollars if you give me one dollar back." Genius. Leave it to Congress to devise (and enact) such brilliance.

There are dozens of government programs like these - all failures. The reason why is easy to understand: the government has no money of its own. It can only take from others and "give" some of it back. A full return is impossible, since this process of organized theft costs money itself. The end result is a net loss - regardless of how many jobs were temporarily created.

Wind farms is another such program. I didn't realize this at first when witnessing their construction near Tripp (and soon to be Bon Homme County, where I was raised).

I used to think wind farms were about electricity ... until I realized:

1. Few, if any, wind farms bring electricity to an area that does not already have it. It's too much work and money to build an entire electrical grid from the ground up. Wind energy is "supplemental," not essential.


2. Wind farms are subsidized by the government precisely because they generate a loss. Wind farms have to be paid to operate. People, uncoerced and unbribed, do not want wind farms because if they did, they would build them on their own like any other product in the free market.

3. Wind farms function as a tax deduction for the wealthy - which is why they are built in the first place. Warren Buffett says it best: "I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire's tax rate ... on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That's the only reason to build them. They don't make sense without the tax credit." Exactly. Wind energy is a siphoning mechanism that offsets taxes and puts federal money into political and corporate pockets. Electricity and lease-agreement royalties are only a byproduct (and a great public cover). Proof of this is that wind farm production nearly stops every time the production credit gets suspended or canceled by Congress.

I use to think wind farms were "green energy" ... until I realized:

1. Hundreds of thousands of birds (and even more bats) die each year from wind turbines.

2. At 450 to 500 feet tall, wind farms are a pilot's nightmare (recall the death of four air passengers near Highmore last year). Crop dusting has now become a risky and complicated agricultural venture.

3. Wind turbines are made of heavy gauge metal and concrete - transported across the nation with the heaviest gas-guzzlers of machinery. While not as bad as Al Gore's private jet, the carbon footprint is anything but green.

4. Local soils are depleted because of underground vibrations, audible and inaudible low-frequency noise ("infrasound") and electromagnetic radiation from power cables that drive away earthworms and other local organisms, the same way loud marine motors drive away fish.

5. Wind energy cannot be stored (e.g., batteries) and can only harness wind speeds within a tight range.


6. Chances are, there will be no incentive to remove the turbines once the temporary government funds disappear. Massive steel towers rusting over decades in agricultural fields are not very "green."

I used to think wind farms supported local energy ... until I realized:

1. A substantial percentage of wind farms are owned by overseas investors/corporations. This is not evident until the initial developers literally "sell the farm" after having built it.

2. Wind turbines are typically not built by local construction workers and materials.

3. Because of noise, adverse health effects (e.g., loss of sleep), visual pollution (bright red lights at night and shadow-flicker during mornings/evenings) and all other related liabilities (e.g., shoddy 30- and 65-year wind right contracts), wind energy is one of the most efficient ways of depreciating land.

4. Small communities are divided, not united, over wind farm projects. One only has to read the Avon Clarion editorials for March and April to witness such intensity and strife. This isn't to mention the deceptive methods of obtaining wind rights (wind developers put snake-oil salesmen to shame).

At the end of the day, it is not politics or science that determine how wind farms should develop. It is the right to private property. If some people don't care about the noise, shadows and flashing lights, no problem. But for those who do, they should be justly compensated to the extent that their rights are violated. As Supreme Court Justice Andrew Napolitano observed in "It's Dangerous to Be Right When the Government is Wrong," "If you lived in a very crowded area, would the government be justified in preventing you from blaring extraordinarily loud music at midnight, or at least requiring you to pay "damages" to your neighbors for doing so?

"Certainly, by playing obnoxious music, you are diminishing your neighbors' natural right to the use and enjoyment of their property. And over time, if you were habitually noisy, then most likely would decrease the market value of their property. Thus, although the government could not criminalize this kind of expression, it would be more than justified in making it actionable, or in other words, the basis for lawsuit."

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