The hypocrisy of power

Hubris, hypocrisy of RFK Jr. revealed in argument
Promoting LNG facility on one coast, stopping wind farm on this coast


By Michael Stubblefield

For an "environmentalist," RFK Jr. has some inconsistent views on how America should respond to the imminent threat of global warming that, according to the recent United Nations report, is both real and far worse than anyone realized.

While RFK Jr. is extolling the virtues of LNG as a "bridge" fuel out here on the West Coast, he's simultaneously spearheading the opposition to a carbon-free wind farm proposed by Cape Wind Associates LLC on the East Coast, even in the face of virtually categorical endorsement by most environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club's Massachusetts Chapter.

Cape Wind wants to build America's first offshore wind farm at Horseshoe Shoal, a shallow part of Nantucket Sound. On a really windy day, Cape Wind estimates that its project will produce up to 468 megawatts of electricity (the maximum expected peak demand is 454 megawatts), with absolutely zero emissions. On a typically breezy day, the project will produce about 170 megawatts, which is 75 percent of the 230 megawatt demand of Cape Cod and the islands of Martha's Vineyard. Does Nantucket Sound really need this energy?

The New England Independent System Operator says that it needed it by 2006! But RFK Jr. and his millionaire clientele who have summer homes in the area have fought Cape Wind for the last six years and it's still dead in the water.

Kennedy's position on the Cape Wind project is unequivocal: "What Cape Wind is trying to do is circumvent that whole regulations process and privatize a heavily utilized public trust resource and turn it into a private profit-making industrial facility. If you can do that offshore with a wind plant, why not build a hotel on stilts? Why not build a liquefied natural gas processing plant?" (Italics mine.)

Unfortunately, an LNG facility is precisely what RFK Jr. and Mati Waiya of the Wishtoyo Foundation propose for Venturans! It makes you wonder who they're working for.

As the longtime air quality chairman of the Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club and now as the newly elected chairman of the Chapter Executive Committee, what I find astonishing about Kennedy's statement is his hubris. He doesn't live here nor did he support us during the lengthy public hearings and public comment period.

Nor, apparently, did he do his homework. Reading his piece in The Star, I have to wonder just how much RFK Jr. actually knows about the energy industry. To wit:

"Mati's position recognizes the inescapable reality that America needs abundant energy if we are to give dignified, prosperous communities to our children." Huh? I studied the "we need more natural gas" position for months and found no support for this thesis, except from natural-gas companies. In fact, the state's Public Utilities Commission actually voted to give up some of our allocation of natural gas piped from west Texas because we just weren't using enough of the stuff.

The Border Power Plant Working Group has tracked our consumption of natural gas in Southern California for years, and anyone who looks at the evidence will conclude that natural-gas consumption is barely rising (about 1.4 percent a year) in some areas, virtually flat in others.

Not worth the cost

Does this sound like an emergency that justifies putting a garishly lit, noisy, ugly floating industrial facility next to a national park? An industrial facility that will spew 277 tons per year of carbon monoxide, 231.2 tons/year of nitrogen oxides and 47.7 tons per year of reactive organic compounds into our air shed, which is already designated as a nonattainment area for ozone by the state of California and by the federal Environmental Protection Agency? (These numbers are simply the projected estimates of the firm that prepared BHP Billiton's environmental impact report; the Environmental Defense Center of Santa Barbara's projections, which are probably more realistic, far exceed the ones you're reading here.)

RFK Jr. pronounces that LNG "can impose a relatively tiny ecological footprint and poses far less public health risks than grave injuries endured by workers and residents in coal communities (italics mine) ? ." Earth to RFK Jr.! We don't use coal-fired generators out here. Nearly all of our generating stations use natural gas.

In the end, Kennedy will be no more successful tilting at windmills in Nantucket Sound than he is at doing public relations for fossil fuels in Ventura County because his wishy-washy nonpositions have been pre-empted by the U.N. report of global warming, and unimaginative ideas like his are now, well, fossilized.
Michael Stubblefield, of Oxnard CA, is the longtime air quality chairman of the Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club and the newly elected chairman of the Chapter Executive Committee.

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