As leader of green economy, Obama should back Cape Wind
August 29, 2009
AS PRESIDENT OBAMA vacationed on Martha's Vineyard this week, he had many occasions to look at the horizon. And if he didn't realize that he was looking at the site of a major dispute over offshore wind power, activists on both sides journeyed to the island to remind him. He should also understand that he can play a key role in resolving it.
Neither Obama nor his administration has yet weighed in on Cape Wind, the controversial 130-turbine wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound that could supply the electricity needs of more than 300,000 homes on the Cape and Islands. If Obama's pledges for a greener economy are to be kept, his administration should not delay any longer the arduous process that began in 2001 to develop this clean energy source.
The proposed offshore wind project has sustained more than seven years of heated debate; political maneuvering, including some by the late Senator Edward Kennedy, a project opponent; and environmental review. It now awaits a decision from the Department of the Interior - the last major regulatory hurdle its developers must clear for the project to move forward. As the country's first proposed commercial offshore wind farm, and the only project of its kind this far along in the approval process, Cape Wind could open the door for developers to harness the vast wind energy resource along the nation's eastern seaboard. The approval could make Massachusetts the trailblazer of a power source that is an essential part of the country's strategy to address global warming and to achieve energy security.
In January, Interior's Minerals Management Service, the federal agency charged with assessing Cape Wind's potential impacts on the environment, published a detailed report that found the wind farm would pose little harm to fisheries, birds, and other wildlife. The agency also concluded that developers could readily address any navigational concerns for ships and planes posed by the 440-foot turbines.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is now responsible for issuing a decision on the project. Salazar, like Obama, has spoken publicly about the importance of offshore wind as an energy source, but has not indicated whether the administration plans to approve Cape Wind.
The wind farm would slightly alter the view of the ocean from certain points on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket; developers predict that the turbines would be visible from Edgartown, for example, as distant white smears on clear days.
Obama may have had time to enjoy the pristine view from the beaches near Edgartown this week, but Americans have run out of time to stick their heads in the sand when it comes to global warming. The administration should not wait any longer to show its support for Cape Wind, a project consistent with the president's pledge to support clean energy and open a frontier for harnessing wind power.
Boston Globe on Saturday, August 29, 2009.