The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Wind turbines generate superstition, nuttiness

The Chicago Tribune has a story this morning about the controversy blowing through DeKalb County (about 150 km west of Chicago) because of wind turbines:

Ben Michels' friends say he may have the worst of it. Five turbines stand in a line behind his home, the nearest 435 m away; the county restricts turbines from being any closer than that.

Michels, who has raised goats for 20 years and averaged one death per year, said nine have died since December. Autopsies didn't reveal anything physically wrong with them. But he said veterinarians told him the goats may have suffered from stress. "Common sense tells me, it's got to have something to do with the turbines," Michels said. Other farmers say the turbines have spooked their horses and other animals.

I don't think we've seen a better encapsulation of the public policy reasoning of many voters in a long time. First, a spike in something coinciding with something else. Then, an appeal to common sense. Finally, an anecdote about unnamed but similarly-situated people that reinforces the original opinion.

The Tribune doesn't make explicit a clear pattern that emerges from the people who they interviewed: the ones most opposed to the turbines don't own them. At least the article notes "each turbine, which takes up about 1.2 ha total, pays...about $9,000 per year.... That compares with the going rate of about $73 per hectare per year to lease farmland in DeKalb County, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

Ah. Yes. Goats dying and migraine headaches caused by other people profiting from the goat-killing headache machines. (I commend to the reader the chapter in James Davidson and Mark Lytle's brilliant textbook After the Fact on the economic situation in Salem, Mass., in the 1680s.)

I especially enjoyed the top sour-grapes quote of the article:

Yet not everyone who could have profited from the turbines did so.

Ken and Lois Ehrhart originally agreed to allow NextEra to run a power line through their property in Shabbona but then changed their minds. Leasing part of their 320 acres would have provided money to pay off a large hospital bill.

"I says nothing doing," recalled Ken Ehrhart, who raises soybeans, wheat and corn. "We're not the highfliers for all the modern ideas."

In other words, "Get your damn turbines off my lawn, you young whippersnapper!"

Such is progress. Imagine the outcry if someone tried to put a nuclear plant in DeKalb County. Or a coal one.

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