Op-Ed: Wind power with no direction

Co-authored with Susan Reid.

Published in the Boston Globe, February 27, 2006

IN NEW ENGLAND and elsewhere, our fossil fuel gluttony is already taking its toll. Roughly 33 acres of Cape Cod's shoreline wash away each year due to sea level rise, and the rate of loss is accelerating. The estimated cost of damage from sea level rise over the next century tops $90 billion for metropolitan Boston alone.

Absent fundamental and prompt changes in local and global energy consumption, New England's natural heritage will witness devastating changes in the coming decades.

We cannot sit back and watch this devastation unfold. Significant technological advances have already brought clean, renewable, domestic energy resources within reach. Even the Bush administration sees renewable energy as a key to cutting our dependence on oil.

Massachusetts' political leadership should be eagerly leading the charge toward a renewable energy future. Back in 1997, the Bay State was one of the first in the nation to give marketable credits to power producers tapping such resources as wind and solar energy. Today, instead of giving us the bold leadership we need to get renewable energy projects built, Bay State political leaders are standing in the way of solutions.

The Cape Wind proposal presents us with a first-in-the nation utility-scale wind energy project off our shores, one that could provide up to 75 percent of Cape Cod's electricity supply while cutting both greenhouse gas emissions and costs to consumers. Renewable energy developers and concerned citizens throughout the country view this project as a barometer of the prospects for other domestic projects that would tap our abundant offshore wind resources. Yet several of our state's leading elected officials will not even allow the project a fair review.

Governor Mitt Romney has publicly opposed Cape Wind, proclaiming himself ready to do so using every tool at his disposal. As the top elected executive in Massachusetts, just whom is he purporting to represent? The citizens of Massachusetts, who support the project by a 6-to-1 ratio? Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey and Attorney General Thomas Reilly have also chosen to oppose the project rather than support a fair review.

In Washington, Senator Edward M. Kennedy's longstanding vocal opposition to Cape Wind defies his lengthy track record as a supporter of sound energy policies. His unwillingness to look beyond local aesthetics to a broader view of sustainable energy solutions is deeply disappointing. Ironically, the very coastline whose vistas he seeks to preserve is on the front line of the battle against climate change a battle we will lose if we dare not advance projects like Cape Wind.

Most recently, Bay State citizens should all be alarmed by the failure of our congressional delegation to stand up to a very direct attack on the Cape Wind project by Representative Don Young of Alaska. Congressman Young is pushing for an amendment to the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2005 that would cripple Cape Wind.

Introduced in conference committee to avoid debate on the House or Senate floor, the amendment would require the Coast Guard to prohibit offshore wind farms from being within 1 1/2 nautical miles of a shipping channel or ferry route.

Our elected officials in Washington must act swiftly to ensure that Cape Wind moves forward with its environmental review. Senator Kennedy and the rest of the Massachusetts congressional delegation should join Senator Kerry's 11th-hour call, this past Friday, to stop Congressman Young's abuse of the legislative process. We also look to the ongoing leadership of Senator Olympia Snowe from Maine, who should employ her critical role on the conference committee to further her legacy as a champion of renewable energy, rather than tolerating this misguided step backward.

To avert the ravages of climate change, we will need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 75 to 85 percent in the coming decades. To meet that challenge here in Massachusetts, developing our offshore wind resources is a pragmatic first step. Taking that step calls for strong political leadership.