2010

Writing Contest: First Place - Creative Writing

Nailing NIMBY

Daniel Van Twisk, Hoover High School, North Canton, OH (Teacher: Rashmi Chopra)

It was the summer of 2006. The pavement was hot as me and my brother stood outside my Aunt Sue's sedan, enjoying whatever sun the parking lot of the local Stop and Shop had to offer on Martha's Vineyard. The goofy oldie still being emitted from the open window finally stopped, to present us with a message that was more of a plea than an advertisement. "Save the natural beauty of Nantucket Sound," it said, "Do not support offshore wind turbines." "Wind turbines, in America?" I thought to myself, having just realized that after all this talk about global floods and melting icebergs, I still hadn't seen any attempt at wind power across my slice of the Midwest or in New England.

My aunt took nearly an hour to push her way through the crowded store, lugging just two bags filled with some supplies for tomorrow's breakfast."Hey Sue," my brother asked, "What was that about wind power in Nantucket on the radio?" "Oh, ya heard about that! she smiled. "Lemme guess, they hate the idea?" We both nodded. "Well, you know all those rich guys; they just don't want anything mucking up their view!" She laughed. It was true; you'd be hard pressed not to find a few gated-off houses, home to posh celebrities or unknown millionaires. But by just looking at the islanders out and about, you really wouldn't suspect very many of them of such wealth. The sidewalks in Oak Bluffs were filled with elderly people, strolling or painting the scenery, most of whom you could imagine came straight off from living life on the sea, perhaps hardly able to pay for the food that has to be ferried to the island. If wind power could cut costs, it would indeed help them. Even if it didn't, clean energy could provide the externality of a cleaner environment and, well, the promise of keeping dry land close to the shore. Regardless, the wealthy were putting a huge value on their vacation viewing, even enough to pay for negative radio messages about the aesthetics of wind turbines.

The plan was doing well until Senator John Warner slipped in an amendment stating that wind turbines could jam the frequencies of small aircraft, and requesting tests to verify whether this was true or not, putting a stop to the new energy. Even the Kennedys, being major supporters of wind energy, compared placing turbines on Cape Cod to something like placing turbines at the Grand Canyon. It would ruin the natural beauty and kill wildlife.

That's fine. If placing wind turbines here would have so much opposition and administrative cost, we can simply move them to a place without a picturesque view and start our "green" future elsewhere.

Wrong. This cancelation of 130 wind turbines on Nantucket also seemed to halt the set-up of wind turbines around the Midwest. In Bloomington, Illinois, a plan for a wind farm that would have fueled a population of 120,000 was uprooted just because it would lower suburban property values. Despite recent research showing that property values actually increase slightly where wind turbine energy is used, and also concluding that these things would kill fewer birds than would choke on plastic and pollution in the water and from excess carbon dioxide in the air, a NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) attitude has closed all debates on the issue for awhile. But considering the high value of anything creating energy and purifying the environment, NIMBYists must learn to pay the penalty of their short-sighted selfishness or start to allow the sight of wind propellers within their view.

If President Obama truly believes that renewable energy is the future of this country, he should work to subsidize firms that research and set up wind energy to move turbines further offshore, make them quieter, and also make them more efficient. The social costs of dealing with the pollution caused by burning fossil fuels would soon close in on their benefits, making renewable energy even more attractive in the future. President Obama has already spent millions on renewable energy jobs, so this additional investment, although expensive, should at least jump-start the quest for more new sources of renewable energy, which would benefit research jobs as well as blue collar jobs in construction. Perhaps a subsidy for homes that are close to new wind turbines and show decreased property values might also encourage us to find a reasonable way to initiate the new wind turbines.

Granted, the government will have to risk a potentially high amount of money regarding this property-value subsidy, along with having to introduce proper guidelines describing exactly what a drop in value due to a wind farm entails. Despite turbines having a great externality, they may not be the cheapest way to get energy and, in the unexpected doldrums, a very bad investment. Any concerned policymaker would need to ensure careful consideration of these details.

I'm ready to start observing a few of these for farms that pop up around my area, and maybe along the breezy oceanfront soon as well. It's time that the wealthy start seeing the beauty in the harmony of the synchronization of the wind turbine blades, and time that the elderly get used to putting these in their paintings. I hope that someday they can smile at them and think that at least their grandchildren will be able to see the beauty too, even if a pole is a little in the way.


Bibliography

Ide, Jonathan. "Politics and NIMBY Stop Wing Farm Development." Past Peak. 13 June 2006. Web, 21 Jan. 2010.

Proefrock, Phillip. "NIMBY to YIMBY: The Aesthetics of Wind Turbines". "Ecogeek. 17 Aug. 2007. Web, 21 Jan. 2010.

Rubens, Craig. "Cape Wind: NIMBY vs. the Bottom Line." Earth2Tech. 15 Jan. 2008. Web, 21 Jan. 2010.

Russell, Ben. "NIMBYism Blocking Spread of Wind Farms." The Independent. 1 Jan. 2008. Web, 21 Jan. 2010.

Sagrillo, Mick. "Residential Wind Turbines and Property Values." Wind Energy Technical Info. 2004. Web, 21 Jan. 2010.