In Our Backyard, Please

The Cape Cod Wind Farm Project cannot be delayed any longer

Traditional Cape Cod views are inching closer to a little exterior remodeling. The Cape Cod Wind Farm Project, which has been paralyzed in a heated debate between numerous advocates and a few notable protesters, is soon to win the added support of the Bush administration. With this increase in federal backing, the project has reached the point at which talk must end and action must start. Given that the project has been proven to provide a substantial amount of energy with limited environmental impact, the proposal put forth by Cape Wind, the company that would build this wind farm in Nantucket Sound, should be approved quickly.

Among the more serious complaints against the plant proposal was its potential danger of disrupting local bird and fish habitats, but recently, even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the wind farm will not be detrimental to either. Moreover, this has not been the only outside body to support this project: The Audubon Society, a national wildlife conservation group, has also given Cape Wind its backing.

But the real roadblocks to approving the wind farm have always had to do with bigger obstacles than the flora and fauna of the surrounding area. The biggest barrier has been a classic “not in my backyard” mentality. Many Cape Cod residents protested against the farm, arguing that these wind turbines will tarnish their ocean views, thereby lowering their property values. Although it is remains debatable how bad these views will be after the wind farm is built, it is besides the point: Citizens will have to make certain reasonable sacrifices if we truly want to commit to the cause of environmentalism and make changes in the way we are harvesting energy.

Others argue that this is an unfortunate time for any costly project, but it is shortsighted to ignore the positive potential for job creation and the need to invest in sustainable energy. From the economic crisis to our current dependence on foreign oil, it is undoubtedly clear that the United States needs clean, domestic energy. Estimates have shown that this plant will provide three quarters of the electricity needs for Cape Cod—relief that we need now more than ever.

Efforts to push this project forward require both state and federal support. On the state level, in the same way that Massachusetts has taken the lead in biotechnology, making Cambridge a hub in that field, a similar movement should take place championing sustainable energy. On the federal level, President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to make domestic sustainability a focus of his environmental policy, but even the outgoing administration should be given credit for offering its support to Cape Wind. Sadly, much still needs to be done from a bureaucratic perspective: The Coastal Zone Management has yet to approve the project, and the composite permit that Cape Wind is developing to expedite the process needs to be honored.

Perhaps one of the most depressing parts of this ongoing saga is that the laudable goal of clean and efficient energy production has been hampered in part by the ability of wealthy and powerful landowners at Cape Cod to lobby to keep this from reaching approval. Were they to succeed at halting this project, it would set a bad precedent for energy development to surrender to the interest of those with wealth, while the disenfranchised are stuck with wind and nuclear energy facilities in their midst. It is both fair and sad to say that if this project had been proposed for a poor neighborhood in Boston that the plan would have already gone through. The benefits and burdens of living in a more energy efficient manner must be shared by people from all parts of the socio-economic spectrum.

The wind in Nantucket Sound will certainly keep blowing; the only question now is how long it will be until we make use of it.

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