As the U.S. Congress hashes out Green Energy legislation at the prompting of the Obama administration, Americans may feel a certain sense of pride and accomplishment. Don’t be too quick to pat yourselves on the back. It happens that the U.S. is behind the curve on this one, has been for years. The sort of legislation that might come out of this session of Congress might equal the sort of rules, incentives and investments that China has had in place for over two years now. If we’re really lucky, it might even begin to look something like what smaller European countries have been doing for years, now. There’s no question, though, that the U.S. is bringing up the rear when it comes to alternative energy.
You may balk at this notion, citing that China is just now becoming a larger buyer of wind turbines than the U.S. But China has been doubling their wind power capacity each of the past four years, and is already heavily invested in solar farms and burning waste to generate electricity. Moreover, they’ve got six huge projects under way in their deserts — each with a greater capacity than 16 coal-powered plants. Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Energy is blocking the building of more coal-burning energy plants. Coal may still be their primary fuel for electricity, but that still puts them heads and shoulders above us.
Perhaps more telling is this: Across the U.S., the “not in my back yard” complaint arises any time a wind farm is suggested. “It just won’t look the same,” life-long residents complain, if they hear of a wind farm being proposed for a ridgeline. We here in the States still haven’t quite figured out what the European Union (EU), which is also dependant upon other nations for their oil and gas, has long understood. Last winter’s gas outage while Russia squabbled with the Ukraine was not the first time they have been without heating fuel during Europe’s harsh winters. This quote sums it up well:
“‘The Europeans see offshore wind turbines as sentinels,’ Mandelstam told me, ‘protecting them from energy domination by foreign powers. When you put that against a few winter days of seeing turbines on the beach as you walk your dog, I think that’s a very easy trade-off.’”
Another adage suggests that if we can’t change something then we should change the way we look at it.
Perhaps it’s time we got serious about alternative energy and started adopting that perspective, seeing wind turbines as sentinels guarding our independence, instead of seeking out more oil and gas so we won’t have to look at those “ugly” wind turbines.