I’ve been covering the Cape Cod Wind Farm project since day one, almost very literally: my first story ran on August 10, 2001, two days after I first spoke to Jim Gordon — the man who, depending on your standards, is the savior of us all, for he wields the mighty power of the wind like Fujin the Japanese wind god; or a greedy capitalist demon whose pitchfork spins in a light breeze and generates enough power to fire up a standard 75-watt lightbulb for the low low cost of $20 per minute.
(I’d have worked in a crack about how his pitchfork is also lethal to any seafaring birds within a one-mile radius, but I already had one hell of a run-on sentence going.)
Over the years I’ve been asked dozens, perhaps hundreds of times: What do you think of the wind farm?
My answer has always been a very sincere “I don’t really have an opinion. I’m waiting until all the facts are in.”
It dawned on me last week that I will never have an opinion unless I lower my standards, and lower them a LOT; I am convinced that no one will ever have ALL the facts, and even if we do, none of them will be 100 percent concrete, unassailable, unquestionable, unchallengeable. It won’t happen.
I say this because of the ponderous epic story I wrote last week about the economics of the project. This topic is what you might call a fractal, in that every time you get closer the picture becomes more complex; every answer only reveals two new questions.
I lay the root cause of this probelm at the feet of the two main parties involved with this always-hot topic: the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound and Cape Wind Associates, the Tom and Jerry of offshore wind energy. Watching them go at it on any given issue is an object lesson in conversational physics: for every claim there is an equal and opposite counter-claim.
CAPE WIND: The turbines will be invisible from shore.
ALLIANCE: Are you kidding? They’ll be visible!
CAPE WIND: No they won’t. We’ll paint them blue to match the sky.
ALLIANCE: You won’t be able to match the shade properly.
CAPE WIND: We’ll give ‘em stealth technology…you know, like the alien had in “Predator.”
ALLIANCE: They’ll glow like radioactive fuel rods! They’ll be visible from space!
CAPE WIND: Only if you squint through the HubbleScope.
ALLIANCE: Or are standing at a reasonable distance…like, in Long Island!
CAPE WIND: Lying wench!
ALLIANCE: Snake-oil salesman!
CAPE WIND: I hate you!
ALLIANCE: I hate you more!
(Smoldering looks are exchanged. Passionate kissing ensues.)
And so it went with my research for my story. I’d speak to one side about the Charles River Associates report, they’d contradict its findings; I’d go to the other side, they’d contradict the contradiction; back to the first side, where they claimed the opposition’s “expert” was paid off to say what he said; back to the other side, who claimed their foe’s expert got his degree out of a box of Frosted Flakes, ad infinitum.
Trying to throw the brakes on this proved nigh-impossible, because I’ve yet to find a resource who is well-versed about this situation yet so neutral and objective and beyond reproach by either side that his word is law and all must bow before his Solomonian wisdom. After working on this for a few hours (yes, I am that crazy) I staged a strategic withdrawal before my mind imploded under the increasing weight of constantly contradictory “facts.”
I say “facts” because both sides insisted their data were accurate and truthful and the other was wrong, wrong, oh so very wrong — and damned if I could figure out who was right. I’m told ISO-New England, the great faceless entity that dictates the cost of our electricity from on high, could provide a solid answer or two, but you know who told me that? The Cape Wind folks. That, in the eyes of the Alliance, taints the process and invalidates the answer.
You don’t think so? Hey, man, I’ve been to this dance before, it was just a different band playing; I spent many a long night in the early part of the decade listening to people furiously attempt to discredit studies of the Pave PAWS radar facility in Sagamore, often on the flimsiest of pretexts. All it took is for anyone involved with the study to have the vaguest and most distant of connections to the military and, in the eyes of the hardcore skeptics, all credibility went poof. The US Air Force is funding the study? DISQUALIFIED! One of the scientists involved with the study works for a company that had contracts with the military? DISQUALIFIED! The secretary transcribing the notes once owned a G.I. Joe doll? DISQUALIFIED!
I was grateful to be pulled off that assignment because I was starting to feel like Sisyphus with his recalcitrant rock, and damned if I’m not having a heavy deja-vu flash right now.
I know, you might be thinking, Hey dude, Ken Salazar is going to make a decision by April, it’ll all be over soon.
Are you new around here?
If Salazar says nuh-uh, this thing ain’t happenin’, then yeah, MAYBE that’ll be the end of it. But what I’m expecting is that he’ll give Cape Wind the long-awaited thumb’s up, then I get to spend the next decade writing about the endless string of obstructionist lawsuits…and if there is one thing I do not want to be, it’s an entrenched reporter in a litigious war of attrition.
So, what’s my opinion of Cape Wind? My opinion is that if Jim Gordon could harness the power of rhetoric he could light up the eastern seaboard like frickin’ Times Square. That is a truly bottomless resource.
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.