Author urges wind power at renewable energy conference

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(Host) A leading environmental author says Vermonters have a moral imperative to develop clean and safe sources of electricity. Author Bill McKibben told a Burlington energy conference on Wednesday that climate change threatens to disrupt the planet on a massive scale. He says wind energy will reduce greenhouse gases and that global warming is much more of a threat than the aesthetic problems posed by huge wind turbines.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Host) Vermont is seeing a wind energy boom, with five projects on the drawing boards that would produce a combined 135 megawatts. The wind turbines are about 330 feet tall and would be built on high mountaintops. They face opposition in some areas by neighbors concerned about the visual impact of the large-scale projects.

But author Bill McKibben says wind energy must be developed if the planet is to avoid environmental catastrophe. In 1989, McKibben wrote the “End of Nature,” the first book to detail the threat of climate change. He’s now a scholar at Middlebury College and spoke at a renewable energy conference in Burlington.

McKibben says that unless global warming is slowed, New England will be as warm as Georgia. He says the colorful maples will disappear and the ski industry will vanish.

(McKibben) “Every single feature of the landscape that you see outside, aside from the general geology, the general shape of the hills, will be profoundly altered in the course of 100 years. There’s not a species that lives here that won’t be affected.”

(Dillon) McKibben is a celebrated environmental activist. And he tries to inject a dose of realism into the debate over wind energy.

(McKibben) “Environmentalists, like everyone else, should be careful what we wish for. After 30 years of every single Earth Day speech that everyone ever gave, demanding more renewable energy at every Earth Day – when it’s finally arrived and staring us in the face, they decide it’s not quite what they wanted. And so people say things like, wind farms kill birds. And of course it’s important to design things that they don’t and people have begun to do that work. But compare it with the kind of extinction event that accompanies a temperature rise of five degrees world wide.”

(Dillon) Most of the wind energy projects in Vermont are a year or two away from state environmental review.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Burlington.

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