I just finished Cape Wind, a polemic describing the battle between a Boston energy developer and entrepreneur, James Gordon, and the Alliance For Nantucket Sound (aka Save our Sound, aka “SOS”, a well-funded, well-connected group (Kennedy, Warner, Mellon, Koch, Egan, Romney) opposing Gordon’s proposal to build a wind farm of more than 100 large turbines in federal water about six miles southeast of where I write this.
When the news of Gordon’s project became first known in 2001, I was reflexively opposed, even vehemently opposed given my love for Nantucket Sound, and in particular the area where the turbines would be sited, Horseshoe Shoal. It seemed to be a unanimous reaction in Cotuit and other environs, nearly everyone I knew was opposed to the project for a variety of reasons. My opposition came down to what I knew of the California wind farms constructed during the Carter administration when tax cuts made wind power a less-than-reputable tax dodge that left the state with little more than a cliche of a backdrop for many a movie. Those turbines, most of which were frozen in place, can be seen around Palm Springs. My fear was that if Gordon’s company went bankrupt, an immense amount of marine construction infrastructure could be abandoned offshore. As a fisherman, I tried to imagine the negative impact, but realized the bases of the turbines would probably act as artificial reefs.
As a sailor, I knew the place was not a great place to sail. Treacherously shallow, marked with a steep chop, too far from shore for a race or a particularly adventurous day sail.
I wrote a letter to my state representative, Matthew Patrick, and flamed him for supporting the project when he represented a town like Cotuit which seemed so opposed to it. Patrick wrote back, and we volleyed a civil debate for a few weeks.
Then I met the people at the Conservation Law Foundation, a non-profit in Boston which is not a bunch of tree hugging/dirt worshipers, but a collection of attorneys devoted to due process on environmental actions. The argument of the CLF was not for nor against the wind farm, but for allowing the project to be thoroughly reviewed by the permitting agencies and courts to establish a strong precedent for future projects. Because a precedent did not exist, the CLF argued it was only proper to permit Gordon’s Cape Wind proposal to proceed rather than be shouted down. Others, like Rick Burnes at Charles River Ventures, and Don Law, persuaded me that the US needed to show some credibility in renewable energy policy before it could begin to adopt a high-handed attitude with energy starved and environmentally unfriendly countries like China. In other words, the US needs to get its own backyard in order.
Today I am 100 percent in favor of the wind farm. The fact that the New England power grid is over-taxed, that fossil fuel prices continue to soar, that Cape Cod has some of the worst air pollution in the country thanks to its downwind status from New York City, New Jersey and the Rust Belt … and the fact that wind is a proven technology in Europe, delivering significant portions of their energy needs. It took me a while to get to this point of view, but like Walter Cronkite, I’ve changed my mind, going from outraged opponent to outraged proponent in six years.
The book is great. It won’t change any mind, its going to piss off a lot of people in the local yacht clubs and country clubs, the people writing the checks to oppose the project so it doesn’t ruin the view from their waterfront McMansions.
And I owe Matt Patrick an apology. The guy took a tough but courageous stand and withstood a challenge to his re-election due to people like me voting before thinking (he won by a mere 12 votes) .