Providence Journal Editorial - Sunday, January 20, 2008

ProjoA big Cape win


In a major victory for cleaner air and energy independence, the federal Minerals Management Service has given preliminary environmental approval to Cape Wind, the proposed wind farm for Nantucket Sound. Final approval is expected later this year. The MMS, the key federal unit in determining whether the project gets built, found that there would be no significant environmental problems with the project. It is still unclear whether political pressure from the powerful and rich people opposing the project explains the long delay in getting this preliminary approval. Those noxious coal plants go up much more quickly . . .

There will certainly be environmental problems if it doesn’t get built. These include continued very high emissions from burning fossil fuel in the area’s power plants, particularly the Mirant and Brayton Point plants. New England needs alternatives to oil, coal and gas — and it needs them soon. Cape Wind would use energy in which New England is rich — coastal wind. This would not only help reduce air pollution in southeastern Massachusetts — the worst in the state — it would improve the reliability of the electricity for all of New England, which must now import virtually all its energy. Hopefully, Cape Wind will be a model for other coastal wind projects in the region. And there are probably some lessons in this story for purveyors of solar, wave and tidal power, too.

The backroom ways in which Cape Wind has been held up have been a scandal. You could have generated a lot of electricity from the hot air put out by the opposition, organized and financed by a small group of very rich summer people, who kept repeating absurd environmental claims about the project. But their opposition in the end came down to the fact that they didn’t want to look at them from their seaside mansions or yachts. Oddly, many opponents to this day have yet to actually see an offshore wind turbine — though they have been going up off northwest Europe for years with great success.

Jim Gordon, the chief executive of Energy Management Inc., the company behind Cape Wind, drolly summed up the preposterousness of the opposition to the project when commenting on the agency’s report that the wind farm would have a “moderate” impact on the Figawi Race, that annual yacht jaunt from Hyannis to Nantucket much beloved by Sen. Edward Kennedy and his plutocratic pals. Mr. Gordon said he and his EMI colleagues “plan to talk to the organizers [of the race]” in hopes of finding the proper balance between the race and “the energy needs of the nation.”

But the Osterville-Hyannisport rich folk and their representatives, such as Congressman William Delahunt, an ever-loyal lieutenant of Senator Kennedy, will try to make sure that the sense of entitlement of the elite continues to be well cosseted. Consider that just last fall Mr. Delahunt and an Osterville summer person, Lamar Smith, wrote the Federal Aviation Administration in an effort to sabotage Cape Wind by bringing up the sort of bogus air-safety concerns that the Oyster Harbors Club crowd has pressed to protect members’ idea of the perfect summer view from their houses and yachts. Mr. Smith is a rich Texas congressman.  - Providence Journal. welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on