Lee (whose Harvard program supports the Cape Wind project) suggests that, if the US is going to embrace renewable energy going forward, something must change: either the rules regarding transmission of the power, to enable the plant sites to be in sparsely populated areas, such as in North Dakota or parts of Texas, or the rules regarding the siting and permit process. “No developer wants to spend nine years getting permits,” and still face injunctions.
In a dispute this complicated — a Gordian knot of confounding alliances — perhaps it is best to ask, “Who benefits?” Or, in other words, follow the money.
So, here we go: Secretary Salazar admitted at the press conference, when he announced the Obama administration’s approval of Cape Wind, that “I don’t know the cost of the project, but I know it will be subsidized.” Um, okay, but no one can agree by whom. (Taxpayers?)
When Patrick was asked about the cost of the project, he went on the record saying, “I am not being cute with you: you need to ask the developer.”
Ball in Cape Wind’s court. Gordon told the Boston Herald: “We have no comment on the project’s costs.” Later, Gordon told National Public Radio’s Science Friday, “The people in Massachusetts . . . want to tie their future electric bills to wind. The price of wind is zero.”
But Congressman Delahunt notes a much higher price tag: “This will be the most expensive and most heavily subsidized offshore wind farm in the country, at over $2.5 billion, with power costs [consumer electric bills] to the region that will be at least double [current rates].”
According to the Department of the Interior Minerals Management Service’s “Final Environmental Impact Statement” on the Cape Wind project, “None of the [proposed] sites appear to be profitable at today’s electricity prices.”
The only certain winner, then, might be the United States as a whole, which is seeking to stress its clean-energy bona fides and compete with other countries.
“Cape Wind is . . . good for Massachusetts,” Patrick said after Salazar had made his announcement. “The United States is 20 years behind Europe on offshore wind, and China is pulling out ahead on offshore wind, as well. America now has a chance to turn that around . . . Siemens has already said it intends to locate its US offshore-wind operation here in Massachusetts because of the Cape Wind project.”
That same day, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu testified on China to the Senate Energy and Water Subcommittee that “America’s competitiveness is inseparable from our energy policy.”
Some might wonder if this marks the beginning of the end of a unified environmental movement, with energy environmentalists barreling full speed ahead over sacred territory, leaving naturalist environmentalists— land and animal folks — and their fellow opponents, including the Wampanoag, floating in their wake.
Valerie Vande Panne is a Cambridge-based freelance writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.