Saturday, May 17, 2014

Wind Power in Maryland

Maryland governor Martin O'Malley has vetoed a bill that would have blocked a new wind farm on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The fight over this small wind farm has been interesting because the main opposition has come from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, across the Bay. At NAS Pax River they worry that the windmills will interfere with the radar network they use, among other things, for testing the stealth capabilities of new aircraft and drones. They were able to mobilize a whole raft of politicians to oppose the wind farm by threatening that if it is built they might have to move their aircraft testing program to another base, taking thousands of jobs with them.

People say that O'Malley wants to be President, which I consider wildly improbable, but anyway most commentators have interpreted the act as part of his strategy to be the most environmentalist potential candidate. I wonder if maybe he just thinks it is a good idea.

O'Malley's environmentalism represents an interesting change that has overtaken America, because as a former mayor of Baltimore he is strongly associated with bringing back America's big cities. Not so long ago big cities were the biggest sources of pollution, and their leaders, committed to protecting factories and sparing their voters the cost of cleaning up their sewage, were mostly found on the anti-environmentalist side. But now the urban factories have all closed, legally mandated sewage infrastructure is largely in place, and the environmental fights have moved out into the suburbs (highways, chemical-soaked lawns) or the farms. What cities have to offer potential residents is a lifestyle, and especially for young people a big part of that lifestyle's appeal is the reduced environmental impact. Living in a city and using public transportation or walking requires a lot less energy than living in a big house in a sprawling suburb and driving everywhere.

I have to wonder about these so-called sophisticated radar systems they have at NAS Pax River. If a wind farm 10 miles away interferes with them, how sophisticated can they be? Across a lot of the world there may soon be a wind farm every 50 miles, so if our radar doesn't work under those conditions then maybe we have a big problem.

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