By Jay Vincent,
Senior Vice President for Energy, The Saint Consulting Group
LOL. Sorry. I’m laughing because the inevitable has occurred. Opponents of the wind energy industry are now comparing them to the tobacco industry. Cathy Taibbi writes in Wildlife Conservation Examiner.com an account of birds, bats and animals “massacred” by wind farm turbines. If only all who toiled for tobacco got a referral fee every time a “Big Industry” anti used it as an evil analogy to benchmark companies seeking to make a profit and secure policy support from government. It’s enough that most of their conversations can’t end without a solicitation to critique Thank You for Smoking (great movie by the way).
As a non-partisan in the energy production and distribution debate, our firm is a service provider to all energy interests (wait a minute..does that make us part of the do-it-all “kitchen sink” policy crowd?). But I think the comparison to the tobacco industry is weak. However, there seems to be a coordinated push recently via media, blogs and the like claiming that wind power progress is simply a shining example of bad politics over good policy and resorting to the old power of influence criticism.
Besides the fact that affiliates of the American Lung Association are in favor of wind (see last week’s post on this), here’s the difference in my view: wind energy is benefitting less by high-powered lobbyists (well, maybe a few) than serendipitous high times for renewables.
One of my favorite sayings is “life is timing,” and in many ways I feel that wind has impeccable timing. You might say they have the timing trifecta – public attitudes and awareness about climate change, Oval Office and Capital Hill support, and a tangible “think global and act local” grassroots constituency that’s hit its stride. The unfortunate irony for the anti-wind folks is that the wind industry is not “green” politically and they know it.
There are similarities between the anti’s strategy and that taken by anti-smoking advocates years back, however. They faced a brick wall at wholesale anti-tobacco legislation at the federal level. State level too. So they took their experts on the road to every city and town they could find in an attempt to write anti-tobacco local ordinances against the industry. It’s a death by a thousand cuts strategy, but that would be a bad comparison here (whoops, too late). And now we see Nina Pierpont, Jon Boone and others submitting official testimony opposing wind farms across the country to local elected officials that make land use siting decisions and organizing residents to oppose them at public hearings. In many cases, the ire of anti-wind NIMBYs and special interests is based on suggested local impacts to wildlife and residential health and welfare. Take a look at this Indianapolis Star story by Jeff Swiatek for example: http://bit.ly/kPs55
Let’s see how the anti’s strategy plays out. I’d be remiss to point out, after the advent of federal FDA regulation of tobacco, that with time the tables do turn. That brings us to opposition delay tactics. But that’s for another post.
Jay Vincent is senior vice president for energy for The Saint Consulting Group, email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 312.970.5770 Ext: 7502