Skeptics of offshore wind energy are fretting about the wrong things. Instead of finding imaginary faults with wind turbines that will produce renewable energy for Long Island, they should focus on the real threats of fossil fuels.
Prices on local gas pumps give us a sense of the highly manipulated, rapidly escalating costs of fossil fuels. Some express concern that foreign countries like Norway and Denmark will be producing our energy. It seems they have never heard of OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Some of our oil comes from OPEC countries that don’t exactly wish us well. Example: Saudi Arabia and Russia have agreed to cut daily oil production by 1.3 million barrels through the end of the year, because they can. Consequently, oil now hovers around $90 a barrel, an increase of 40% since June. Escalating fossil fuel costs affect many aspects of our societal needs: food, trucking, clothing, gasoline, air travel and shipping.
Climate change is making the planet an ever-more-unpredictable home. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports 23 extreme weather events from January to August in America, causing $57.6 billion in damages. Climate news often leads nightly broadcasts: temperatures above 100 degrees for weeks in large parts of the country, wildfires in Canada bringing orange skies across the region, wildfires destroying parts of Maui, flooding in Greece. We live on an island, and we love our beaches and ocean views. But our geography makes us likely to suffer drastically from rising sea levels and increasingly potent storms — hundred-year storms that now happen every few months. The climate crisis is real and Long Island needs to do its part in this fight.
Sadly, wind skeptics focus their attention on what they see as pitfalls of wind turbines. Concerns such as the placement of cables carrying energy from turbines to our homes and businesses can be addressed, and impacts can be mitigated. But associating whale deaths with offshore wind is simply wrong. NOAA designated an “Unusual Whale Mortality Event” starting in 2016, long before any offshore wind siting work in America. Scientists who study these magnificent mammals say that collisions with ships, entanglement in commercial fishing gear, and underwater drilling for fossil fuels are the real culprits.
Recently, wind companies have revised their earlier construction cost estimates. The revisions were caused by the same factors affecting all of us, such as the rising price of steel and shipping. It’s the reality of where we are right now — not a case of wind turbine companies being greedy. Skeptics are wringing their hands about the future price of wind-generated electricity. In reality, the cost of shying away from renewable energy will be the increasing intensity of climate change and our continued reliance on manipulative oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia.
New York State has wisely chosen to sharply reduce our reliance on fossil fuel plants. The goal is an electric grid completely free of fossil fuel energy by 2040. That will not be easy to achieve under the best of circumstances. But without large amounts of oil-replacing energy from offshore wind projects, it will be impossible. Failing to reach our renewable energy goals would be a historic blunder.
Without aggressive pursuit of renewable energy, our continued reliance on fossil fuels will cause global temperatures and sea levels to keep rising, inundating beach communities like ours, and triggering freakish weather events with increasing regularity. That’s where wind skeptics should really be focusing their fears.
This guest essay reflects the view of Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.