Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Rotten BANANA of the Environmental Movement

After getting to know the folks who make up the fierce opposition to wind power projects, Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post puts her finger on the larger problem when it comes to building new energy infrastructure:

The problem plaguing new energy developments is no longer NIMBYism, the "Not-In-My-Back-Yard" movement. The problem now, as one wind-power executive puts it, is BANANAism: "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything." The anti-wind brigade, fierce though it is, pales beside the opposition to liquid natural gas terminals, and would fade entirely beside the mass movement that will oppose a new nuclear power plant. Indeed, the founders of Cape Wind say they embarked on the project in part because public antipathy prevents most other utility investments in New England.

Still, energy projects don't even have to be viable to spark opposition: Already, there are activists gearing up to fight the nascent biofuel industry, on the grounds that fields of switch grass or cornstalks needed to produce ethanol will replace rainforests and bucolic country landscapes. Soon the nonexistent "hydrogen economy" will doubtless be under attack as well. There's a lot of earnest, even bipartisan talk nowadays about the need for clean, emissions-free energy. But are we really ready, politically, to build any new energy sources at all?
Good question. But as our readers already know, a number of communities are clamoring for the chance to host a new nuclear reactor (click here and here for examples). For more on the opposition to the Cape Wind Project, click here.

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Don Kosloff said...

But when a community supports nuclear power, five or six "activists" will make a tremendous amount of noise and call in support from the tiny nationwide percentage of anti-nukes spread throughout the country. Their noise is then amplified by the press and electronic media, who are biased in their favor and encouraged by the reality that controversy sells their product.

Nick said...


This is true. It's also true of wind: the great majority of wind projects are welcomed by their communities and neighbors. The small minority of projects which are opposed by a minority of neighbors get all the press.

Even Cape Wind is more popular with the local community than you could tell from most articles. Off shore wind is very popular in Texas.

Sadly, this is a good example of one the real problems for energy planning in this country: media that don't do their homework...

Stewart Peterson said...

Although you have to admit that nuclear power plants don't involve randomly spinning blades or leveling the rainforest, and actually provide a positive return on energy investment with a useful amount of energy.

We should really just let them help us.

Nick said...


"randomly spinning blades"

What are you referring to? I'm aware of blades flying off of early wind turbines, and I know that wind turbines are normally off-set from other things by roughly 2x turbine height in part because of the theoretical risk of such things, but I'm not aware of any actual incidents in the last 20 years.

"leveling the rainforest"

I assume you're talking about Brazilian sugar-cane based ethanol. I agree, that's a problem.

"actually provide a positive return on energy investment with a useful amount of energy"

I assume you're talking about ethanol again. I understand wind as generally considered to have a E-ROI of about 80 to 1.

Anonymous said...

It's highly misleading to imply that there is more opposition to wind power than there is to new nuclear reactors. Two or three nuclear "company towns" who would accept another unit for more jobs doesn't a groundswell make.

Ken said...

Here is a source for wind turbine accident data:
This is from an anti-wind site so take it for what it is worth. I do know that the cited events in Germany where a blade was thrown and penetrated a house was a notable accident. Apparently blades continue to detach at a relatively regular rate.

Also, relative to the above post, it isn't "2 or 3 company towns", it is virtually every one of the 50 or 60 areas where operating nuclear units are now located. You'd be hard pressed to find a community with real experience with a nuclear plant that wouldn't welcome another.

Jim Hopf said...


Let's not hype up trivial problems associated with wind or other renewables. We all know how we feel when the same is done to nuclear. All this does is energize and solidify our opposition. We can accomplish much using a combination of both nuclear and renewables, both playing a significant role, and both being vastly preferable to any fossil fuel.


What Ken said...

I believe a recent poll covering ALL of the local areas around our (65) nuclear sites showed that 75% of the local population supports adding a new reactor to their local site.

For the industry's purposes, this is all the "groundswell" they need, as 65 sites is enough, and they don't have any plans for reactors on new sites for the foreseeable future, if ever, perhaps.