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What price, which environment?
Russell Degnan

There is an op-ed in The Age today by Ted Baillieu, the shadow planning minister on coastal wind farms. The basic thrust, that wind farms ruin their local environment. Mostly aesthetically, but also with surrounding infrastructure such as roads and power lines. The problem being, that the government and industry want to place them up and down the coast line where the wind blows best.

Now, obviously there is an environmental benefit to wind farms: they don't produce greenhouse gases being the main one. But the question is, what do we value more? Should we prefer a change - possibly negative - to the overall environment, and substantial degredation in the Latrobe Valley; or, significant changes and possibly damage along parts of the coastline environment; or, to even larger parts of our inland plains?

The 'market' can't decide. Not because it would be incapable, but because the integrity of the environment is not properly priced (an externality in other words). If it did, you would rarely develop on the coast. The supply of undeveloped coastlines is so low, and the demand for so high, that few, if any, projects would be deemed 'cost-efective'.

But what do you think, are our energy needs a purely political problem? Or is there a way to balance the environmental costs with the economic and social ones?

Environment 20th September, 2003 12:15:06   [#] 

Comments

No long term vision
Weeeell, certainly the state needs a sustainably viable form of energy production. The Latrobe Valley is so heavily polluted it just isn't funny. However, main arguement against the wind farms is their placement, which suggests that people aren't entirely focused on long term environmental protection per se'. Sure, we can keep digging up Yallorn ect ect for however much longer they care to, eating away at the fertile agriculture down there.
Wind farms don't do this. The only thing they eat up is 'precious' viewing space. It's a classic NIMBY situation really, and I don't believe that the Kilkunda tourist industry would suffer greatly from it.

Soooo, to answer your question, I'd be inclined to say that in this case, it's quite difficult to balance envi costs with economic and social ones due to the fact that our other main source of energy doesn't visibly impact on the landscape to such a degree as a beautiful windfarm would. Of course, when I say that, I'm making the assumption that the residents of the Latrobe Valley are used to seeing large amounts of chemicals pumped into the air everyday...


Tom  20th September, 2003 21:15:27  

I CONCUR WITH TOM
Yes boys you both raise a very valid point. Tell the fuckers to shut up I say and lets try and restore a tiny bit of what we have fucked up already.
Anthony  24th September, 2003 20:26:22  

Touche' Reg, touche'...
To elaborate on Reg's...firm...uh...statement, no one has long term vision. Or rather, their vision is obscured by the stupid notion that a nice view is more important than the well-being of the earth! Talk about stupid fuckers; can't see beyond their noses.

J.C. Thomas Anderson  27th September, 2003 18:36:18  

Mi piace tue vocabulare Tom.
In a more decent frame of mind today. I'm not sure but I think Russell was telling me on Friday that he thought I was saying that I endorse the compulsory aquisition of land for the wind energy projects. This is not the case. There seem to be many landowners in the area who are willing to sell their land in order to facilitate the developers which I have no problem with. I am interested to speak with one of the Environment students, Jason Carter, as he said in one of our tutes last week that he hadn't decided on his opinion of this issue because he felt that there were better alternatives for renewable energy. But once again I concur with Tom by saying that this is a fantastic step towards the well being of our earth.
Anthony  28th September, 2003 15:37:03  

?
What were these alternatives for renewable energy you speak of Anth? I heard something along the lines of Thermal Boring being explored as a use for energy...however I couldn't find much on the net about it...so it may have just been all a fancy dream.

Not a bad idea though.
J.C. Thomas Anderson  28th September, 2003 22:37:21  

Other renewable energy sources
Probably the greatest problem with renewable energy is that it is normally inconstant. The sun only provides power for half the day, windmills need wind etc. Because we have no way of storing large amounts of power for extended periods of time (and if we did, all our problems would be solved), we need production methods that are more constant and controllable. I wouldn't put a lot of faith in renewable energy as it currently stands solving our energy problems.

Ultimately, all our energy has to come from either the sun, or from gravity (or both, such as hydro-power). Both of which are quite diffuse sources by themselves, so the trick is to concentrate them. Some of the new methods are, as you noted Tom, geo-thermal power and, very recently, tidal power. Whether they can generate a lot of power remains to be seen. Australia is very limited with the former becase we don't have any active volcanic regions. I'm not sure if it is possible to generate power from great depth, because the steam will cool as it rises.
Russell  30th September, 2003 12:28:56  

NIMBYs and renewable energy
There is an interesting post on Crumb Trail on renewable energy and local environmental movements. One problem with that, that I see is that, when the government controls the transmission lines, and prices them equally, there is no economic incentive to produce power locally. Therefore, the best result environmentally is to have power produced anywhere but where you live!
Russell  2nd October, 2003 12:07:32  

NIMBY Lunacy
Moon Power

Putting the windmills under water to be driven by tides rather than wind solves two problems. The power would be constant and the generators would be invisible. NIMBYs have a useful role in society in exercising sensibility tests on policies proposed by advocates with narrow perspectives. Governments, corporations and environmental groups become wedded to their solutions and unable to consider the big picture. NIMBYs, being less invested in particluar solutions, tend to have better BS detectors.
back40  5th October, 2003 05:21:01  

Power Generation and NIMBYs
back40: I agree. And I think it actually emphasises my previous point. In a situation where there is no (or little) incentive to have the industry in your local area, the decision will be made purely on political grounds, rather than from local input. So, the locality with coal will recieve a coal-power plant, the coast will recieve wind and tidal plants, etc. etc. Unless they are in a marginal electorate, in which case the NIMBYs will have sufficient political power to keep the advocates at bay.

Ultimately, and agreeing with Anthony, it would be better if NIMBYs were more than a reactionary political force. But there needs to be sufficient local benefits to having that industry there for that to be the case. And, conversely, sufficient disincentives to having local industries that adversely affect the wider region.
Russell  7th October, 2003 12:49:14  


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