The Cape Wind Controversy: Counter-opposition
The Cape Wind Project, a proposal to construct the United States' first offshore wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, has generated significant controversy from a very vocal minority of (mostly wealthy) Massachusetts residents. Opponents worry that the project will cause "aesthetic pollution" in and around Nantucket Sound and that area residents will be stuck with increased electricity costs.
Perhaps Residents will see Increased Energy Costs, but by how much?
As it turns out, estimates vary, depending on who you talk to.
Cape Wind's contract with National Grid fixed a price for energy generation at 20.7 cents per kilowatt hour, which is 5.14 cents/kWh higher than the current average price of electricity in Massachusetts (15.56 cents/kWh). Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a non-profit environmental organization leading the anti-Cape Wind campaign, claims that this increase will lead to an increased consumer price tag of $23 million for the first year of Cape Wind energy generation, and $442 million over the lifetime of the 15-year Cape Wind-National Grid contract.
Mark Rodgers, Cape Wind's director of communications, is quoted on capenews.net as saying "I have no idea where Audra came up with her $442M figure."
Cape Wind's fact sheet predicts a much more modest cost increase of about $20 per household electric bill, over the course of the first year (or $1.59 per household, per month). If every household in Massachusetts paid an additional $20 per year for electric costs, this would translate into a total cost increase of approximately $49 million per year, a full order of magnitude less than Parker's estimate.
The increased cost from 15.56 cents/kWh to 20.7 cents/kWh also includes a portion (6.7 cents/kWh) designated to cover Renewable Energy Certificates, which will help the state of Massachusetts meet renewable energy mandates, and which the state (i.e. taxpayers) will have to pay for somehow, whether the amount is bundled with their electricity costs or not. Think about it this way: if you lived in Massachusetts, would it be worth $20 per year to you as an individual to help make your state a leader in clean energy production? According to a poll conducted by the Civil Society Institute, 81 percent of adults in Massachusetts and 61 percent of Cape residents say yes.
Re: Cape Wind will Disturb the Peace and Beauty of Nantucket Sound
Another common anti-Cape Wind argument has to do with an anticipated "aesthetic pollution" and a potentially negative effect on real estate values of property on Nantucket. This line of argument was parodied by The Daily Show in a segment that, admittedly, seems less tasteful now, after the death of Ted Kennedy. The segment suggests that some prominent politicians' opposition to the Cape Wind project is motivated by their ownership of high end property on Nantucket or the nearby Martha's Vineyard, and a consequent preoccupation with real estate values in those places. This category of politicians includes John Kerry, Mit Romney, and the Kennedy Clan.
Given that only 14 percent of Massachusetts residents oppose the Cape Wind project, the conflation of personal and civil priorities for wealthy Massachusetts politicians raises some serious ethical issues that Robert Whitcomb and Wendy Williams have taken on in their recent book. Cape Wind: Celebrity, Energy, Class, Politics, and a Valiant Battle for Unobstructed Ocean Views on Nantucket Sound is "a cautionary tale about how money can hijack democracy while America lags behind the rest of the developed world in adopting clean energy."
Photo credit: newamericanworker.com