Sunday, 19 February 2012

Steckle supports green energy

This Letter to the Editor of the Goderich Signal Star is from Mr. Paul Steckle, MP for Huron-Bruce from 1993 to 2008.
We need better, cleaner ways of producing power
Goderich Signal Star
February 15, 2012
Paul Steckle  Letter to the Editor
Dear Editor:

All communities will, from time-to-time stumble into an issue that causes division and I think it is fair to say that an issue currently dividing our community is the question of the size and appropriateness of building a sewage treatment plant. Questions of cost and the rate of anticipated growth in our community seem to cause much hand wringing and frustration for everyone. These are difficult questions and, as a result, people on all sides of the issue tend to speak with passion and apparent authority. I agree that expenditures of this magnitude require the utmost of scrutiny but I would also suggest that issues impacting on future ratepayers likewise require strict attention. Accordingly, it is not the treatment plant that has caused me to put pen to paper.

Today I would hope to weigh in on the subject of renewable energy, particularly wind power. For the sake of clarity, I make no claims to be the definitive authority on the subject but, I do believe that we must collectively look at our indiscriminate use of energy. If we continue in this pattern we must find better and cleaner ways of producing the power that we need to run our homes, cars and places of business. Sequestering of carbon is essential over the long term but, in the meantime, the current debate does nothing to bring us closer to understanding the issues at hand. Concerns, real or imagined, become real unless rebutted by reliable sources. I may or may not be that reliable source but, I wanted to take a moment to address a few concerns.

A) Wind turbines kill birds. I have heard this claim thousands of times but, the National Audubon Society tells us that wind turbines are, in all likelihood, responsible for the death of approximately two birds per year. More birds die on my kitchen window than that. When I was in Ottawa, I watched almost daily as birds met their end on the walls and windows of high-rise buildings. Are we to truly believe that windmills are that much of a threat?
B) Strobe light/flicker effect from turbine blades is bothersome. How do people in urban centres live with all the changing variations of light? From street lights and headlights, to neon and flashing signs, light is everywhere. Most reasonable people know that a wind turbine is no more offensive than any other source of light that we already see each day.
C) Turbines are noisy and offensive to the eye. In a word… rubbish. The setback requirement for current turbine construction is 550 metres based on a maximum allowable sound limit of 40 decibels (dB). I have personally visited a number of turbine sites and would concur that nothing close to 40 dB was audible at 550 metres. Aesthetics are a personal matter. I saw this in 1985 with the construction of a new power line from the Bruce Nuclear through Huron County. The plan had many people upset and, as the Warden of the County that year, I listened to every conceivable argument as to why we shouldn’t allow the lines through our backyard. Think for a moment, try and recall the last time someone spoke negatively about power lines in our community. The power lines haven’t changed, only time. Windmills are no different.
D) Turbines diminish land values. In response I would ask, based on what? Probably the best source of data on this would be the real estate people. In the Kincardine and Chatham-Kent areas (areas with a longer history of turbines), realtors will tell you that land values have actually gone up… including the land surrounding towers.
E) Negative health concerns. In October of 2009, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health issued a memo stating that, while some people may find the noise from turbines annoying, a comprehensive review of the relevant medical science found no evidence of noise induced human or health effects caused by wind turbines.

These are but a few of the arguments I hear regularly but, despite these contrary opinions, wind energy is strongly supported by all respectable polls. In July of 2010, IPSOS found that 80% - 90% of the population in Ontario felt that way. Of the remaining 10%, less than 5% strongly objected to wind turbines.

Empirical or casual knowledge is never the best premise from which to judge any issue, particularly one as complex as renewable energy. Wind power is here to stay and, like the power lines of 1985 which have been all but forgotten, we have choices to make. Let us see wind turbines as a positive step towards a greener future for our children. After all, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago but the next best time is right now.

A green energy supporter,

Paul Steckle
(Member of Parliament, Huron-Bruce, 1993-2008)
A Bluewater Taxpayer


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