Sunday, November 07, 2010

An answer to a NY Times article on italian wind energy

Dear Mr. Roncalli:

Thanks for sharing this correspondence. Below, see the note I had written Rosenthal, on September 29, a day after her article appeared, which I also sent to Stefano Allavena and then shared widely with people in this country and in Europe. She provided no response. As you can see, I'm also providing Rosenthal with a copy of this exchange, so that she may read Carlo Pinelli's excellent commentary, which the Times should publish but likely won't. Cheers!

Jon Boone

Ms. Rosenthali:

We have some things in common: our environmentalism (among other things, I helped found the North American Bluebird Society) and a long-time interest in the life and work of Roger Tory Peterson, whose Institute in Jamestown I've helped over the years, particularly assisting in the acquisition of a great deal of RTP's original art work. I greatly enjoyed your book on Peterson, and was sorry to have missed your talk about it in Jamestown (though Marlene Mudge gave me a good account).

What we evidently don't have in common is a mutual respect for wind "power," brought to a head by your paean yesterday regarding the wind project in Tocco da Casauria. In truth, wind is perhaps the silliest modern energy idea imaginable, at virtually every level of consideration. It is an antediluvian technology, with a fuel far too diffuse to be converted into modern power performance. It is typically inimical to demand cycles, and existentially destabilizes any grid, since its continuous flux unhinges the necessary match between supply and demand. In the process, it makes everyone and everything work much harder simply to stand still, subverting its ability to replace fossil fuels and abate greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the presence of over 100,000 huge wind turbines worldwide, not one coal plant has been closed because of those turbines--and there is no evidence whatsoever that there is less fossil fuel consumed as a direct consequence. I assure you that further investigation into the actual performance of the wind installation at Tocco da Casauria will reveal that what is really providing power to that community is more inefficiently operating coal and gas facilities.

After a conference at which I spoke last year in Palermo entitled Landscape Under Attack (the keynote speaker was former French president, Valery Giscard d' Estaing), one Italian journalist rightly characterized your "towering white wind turbines" as the leprosy of wind. Hundreds of people from across Italy came together to produce a document known as the Charter of Palermo, beseeching the governments of the world, particularly those in Europe, to come to their senses about this hulking presence over the countryside. More than half of the conference speakers were environmentalists concerned about the cognitive dissonance inherent in the idea of wreaking havoc on the environment in the name of saving it. Others addressed the genuine health issues surrounding wind technology, such as wind turbine noise syndrome, that Nina Pierpont, a New York physician, continues to study.

Puff pieces like yours, published on the heels of a push to require a national renewable energy standard for the country, do a disservice to the genuine discourse we should be having about the power needs for the future in an era of entrenched fossil fuel use. As it is, wind is an alternate energy source in the way that a blade of grass or a hangnail--anything in the material world--is an alternate energy source. The trick is how to convert energy fuels into sustained, manageable power. And there's the rub for wind, since it can only produce tail-wagging-the-dog power, which is why those wonderful Clipper ships today reside mainly in museums. Why not do a column featuring how gliders are now being incorporated into commercial air transport?

Those towering white turbines are totemic of ignorance and greed, not better energy policy. As is the case with ethanol, wind must be seen as the spawn of powerful economic interests within the energy industry itself (GE, AES, BP, FPL, Siemens, Goldman Sachs, even Areva), cynically using wind in Enronesque ways to enrich themselves while capturing government to make sure they get even richer. The success of PR spinners in creating a meaningless modern day melodrama, where wind technology is somehow transformed from a little shepherd boy into a fossil fuel slaying hero as the hook to sell more fossil fuel, is the real story. This cozy fable plays nicely on NPR. But it should be exposed for the grizzly corporate/government sleaze it really is, saving rate and taxpayers a bundle while restoring a modicum of intellectual integrity to the media.

I'd be happy to discuss this with you. Meanwhile, you might glance at some of the things I've written and done over the last eight years at this link: And I'm attaching my vignette painting of a bluebird on a hollyhock, symbolic of both hope and happiness and environmental history itself, which is essentially the chronicle of how adverse consequences too often flowed from the uninformed actions of the well intentioned. It is also a tribute to the indefatigable Arthur Allen, whose lab at Cornell and whose books and photos were, like the Peterson's, inspirational. Cheers!
- Show quoted text -

On Nov 7, 2010, at 2:02 AM, Fabio Tinelli Roncalli wrote:

On Sept. 26 2010 the New York Times published a misleading and deeply biased article by Elisabeth Rosenthal on wind energy ( Link ) . Here is the answer sent to the NYT from Carlo Alberto Pinelli, ( ), director, alpinist and renowned environmentalist ( founder of Mountain Wilderness International).
Fabio Tinelli RoncalliWebmaster Via dal Vento Link

Dear Sir,

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica publishes each week a number of the most significant articles appeared in the New York Times during the week, and I have just read an article by Elisabeth Rosenthal titled: Old Town in Italy has Wind at its Back. In order to complete the information I would like you to know that the increasing number of wind towers for the production of clean energy is one of the most serious dangers threatening the beauty and historic value of the landscape in our country. This is a large and barbaric aggression supported by the excessive and unjustified incentives granted by the government to the industry concerned.

Therefore, it is not surprising that criminal organizations such as Mafia, Camorra, Ndrangheta, Sacra Rota Unita, are deeply involved in this profitable business with illegal and dishonest operations bringing only negligeable advantages to the national community. All independent experts agree on the fact that in Italy the wind is not sufficiently constant for a consistent supply of energy produced by the eolic towers. Should the incentives granted in Italy be considerably reduced to the standard applied in Germany or France, the business with wind energy would shrink drastically.

The author of your article quotes the opinion of a Legambiente official, an association that, strangely enough, is deeply involved in favour of wind energy. In Italy, many environmental associations are strongly struggling against the way the wind business is growing like a leprosy in our country with disgraceful side effects, among others Italia Nostra, Club Alpino Italiano, Mountain Wildeness, Friends of the Earth, LIPU, together with a great number of local groups defending with all sorts of means the historical and aesthetic significance of their traditional landscapes. Surely the wind power turbines will not free us from the need of acquiring fossil fuels, nor will it considerably reduce CO2 emissions. If somebody in your office is able to read Italian, I wish to ask him to consult the site .I am available to supply any further detailed information, and I thank you for your attention.Carlo Alberto Pinelli, Honorary President, Mountain Wilderness Italia

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