2009-04-15 / Op-Ed

The future is today

By Lloyd Cuttler

Windmills and renewable energy have once again taken center stage in the Western Mountains.

Endless Energy has approached the Town of Carrabassett Valley with a request to annex lands that it owns in Redington Township. This is the same wind power project that went through years of engineering and environmental studies that was reviewed and approved by the professional staff at LURC, only to be overturned by its politicallyappointed commissioners.

By having the land become part of Carrabassett Valley, the permitting will fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environmental Protection and the town's planning board and citizens. This by no means assures the approval of the project. It will allow the project to be reviewed by engineers and scientists, rather then politicians. Politics, as we all know, will still be a major part of this process as we proceed through numerous public hearings. If a project does not meet state environmental standards it should not be allowed to go forward, but to allow environmental groups and others to use their political muscle to dictate what "they" feel is best for the rest of us would be a travesty.

What has happened in the past with this project, and other renewable energy projects, is that selfserving environmental groups use their political power to redefine science. The Appalachian Trail Club (and it's spinoffs), the Audubon Society and the National Parks Department have all testified at one time or another against renewable energy projects. All these groups have done good work in the past at making us aware and sensitive to the environment we live in, so why is it that they are so opposed to renewable energy projects?

These groups are quick to make proposals that will benefit their own self-interests, but show no support when it comes to environmental proposals, which they feel, infringes on "their territorial rights."

We don't seem to notice coal and oil power plants, cell towers on mountains, telephone poles dotting the lands everywhere, but when it comes to renewable energy projects that will actually help save our environment, there is always the same opposition. Is it possible that all of these projects are planned for the worst possible site imaginable, or is it just that all of us in some way or another are in denial about the environmental and energy crisis that is coming? No single source of renewable energy is going to solve our problem, but it is the first step in a long journey to energy independence and preserving the environment that has become so endangered.

As we work our way through our current economic crisis, we must not loose sight of the importance of preserving our environment for those who will come after us. Is it any wonder that some of the strongest proponents of renewable energy are school children and young adults? Are they just naive, or is the real answer that they know that this crisis will affect them far greater than those of us that have allowed the country to continue down the road of fossil fuel reliance.

Our insatiable appetite for energy continues to grow, even as our natural resources that support that growth continue to dwindle. I don't believe that those opposed to renewable energy projects are completely wrong, but if they have another way to get us out of this crisis, I have not heard it. We must change the way we power our world.

There are many new and emerging technologies on the horizon that need time to develop to replace our current need for fossil fuels. Whether it is nuclear, tidal, wind, solar or some energy form not even invented yet, we have to be ready to embrace these changes and understand that the benefits far out weigh the risk of doing nothing. Renewable energy does not "take" from the environment; rather it uses the environment's natural properties (wind and sun) and converts them to electricity —much the same way our ancestors used water and wind in the past.

I don't believe that wind and solar will ever replace the fossil fuels we use to power our world, but it will slow down the rate at which we are destroying our environment due to our reliance on fossil fuels. Given that extra time, we will see the emergence of energy sources that only our greatest scientists can envision today. We need to get to this point in time, and it is going to take compromise by all of us to make it a reality. If wind and solar are replaced years from now it is simple to remove those sources from the mix. (In fact, projects approved today must have decommissioning costs just for that reason.) If we continue to attempt to "drill our way out" of this crisis the environmental damage may be irreversible.

Many of us may never see the "new" sources of energy that will be invented to power our world in the future. The decisions we make today, will give the environment time to heal, and future generations the opportunity to develop energy sources which will allow them to enjoy the quality of life that we hold so dear.

The future starts today ... because tomorrow is too late.

Lloyd Cuttler is a resident of Carrabassett Valley.

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