Unfinished business

Wind farms, immigration reform, needle exchange, and arts funding
By EDITORIAL  |  May 3, 2006

Windfarm
CAPE WIND: only a first step, but a necessary one

The sleazy backroom deal engineered by Congressman Don Young and Senator Ted Stevens, both Republicans from Alaska, for the convenience of Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy — to kill the proposed 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound within sight of the Kennedy family’s sumptuously classic Summer houses — would do more than scuttle visionary plans to build the nation’s first offshore wind farm. It could also undermine plans to harness ocean winds as a source of alternative energy anywhere in the United States. That’s not just bad politics; it’s bad policy.

Even our narrow-minded president, George Walker Bush, a notorious shill for the energy industry, recognizes that the US is dangerously addicted to foreign oil — although he does little about it. Here is a chance to do more than jawbone. Here is a chance to show the nation — and the world — that environmentally conscious Massachusetts in energy-challenged New England is willing to do more than talk. The Cape Wind project is an exciting demonstration that Massachusetts is willing to lead, to employ its considerable brainpower and technical sophistication in the service of the 21st century for the benefit of future generations. It’s an opportunity that is being shamelessly squandered.

By itself, Cape Wind will not wean the nation from oil addiction or do much to ease the fear — current and anticipated — that energy costs will spike ever higher in this region and throughout the nation. But as the first of what could be a series of wind farms along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts, it — together with meaningful conservation, the development of alternative fuels like ethanol, and the adoption of so-called hybrid vehicles — could do just that. It’s time to translate these dreams into reality. Building Cape Wind is only a first step. But it’s a vital one.

This week, the price of gasoline hit a national average of $2.92 a gallon at the pump. That’s almost 35 cents more than it was last month and almost 70 cents more than it was a year ago. (It’s still only half of what European motorists pay, however.) Fallout from Hurricane Katrina and increased demand from rapidly industrialized nations such as China and India are responsible for much of that increase. But it is political instability, less than increased demand, in nations such as Nigeria, Iraq, and Iran that has experts worried. Since, thanks to Bush’s criminally inept foreign policy, international political instability is more likely to increase than decrease, we all have reason to worry.

Senator Kennedy cites a wealth of concerns — environmental, economic, military, and transportation related — in opposing Cape Wind. They are not without merit. But even if they are not illegitimate, it does not mean they are insurmountable. Massachusetts should be saddened not only by Kennedy’s intransigent opposition, but also by his backroom dealings on this issue, and we should be equally chagrined by the silence of his colleague, Senator John Kerry. We expect more from both of them.

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