Mark Whitworth: Big wind’s public relations problem

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Mark Whitworth, who is the executive director of Energize Vermont.

Big Wind has a big public relations problem. A new WCAX poll shows public support for wind plummeting from 66 percent in 2013 to 50 percent now.

Wind developers may search for clues about this reversal of fortune in a UVM honors undergraduate thesis written by Neil Brandt. Mr. Brandt says that media coverage of ridgeline wind in Vermont dropped in favorability from 47 percent in 2003 to a measly 26 percent in 2012.

One of Gov. Shumlin’s aides didn’t need a university study to see this: “We are losing the water cooler debate about wind.” This may be why the governor’s talk of renewable energy now emphasizes solar, not wind.

(Of course, if Mr. Brandt were to conduct a similar study of solar, he’d find that poor siting choices are creating a backlash against solar that’s reflected in the state’s media. How long before that shows up in statewide polls?)

In carrying out his ridgeline wind study, Brandt collected 10 years’ worth of relevant news stories from the Caledonian Record, Burlington Free Press and the Associated Press’ Vermont bureau. He broke each of the stories down into individual statements and classified each statement in a variety of ways: who made the statement, what issue it addressed, and did it support or oppose wind.

He identified trends in Big Wind’s media messaging as well as trends in public attitudes.

For example, between 2003 and 2012, Big Wind stopped emphasizing energy independence. The argument must not have been working. Were Vermonters skeptical of the claim that small amounts of electricity produced at random times would make them independent? Was it David Blittersdorf’s pronouncement that he needed 200 miles of ridgeline wind in Vermont?

Brandt says that local economic gain was once the dominant pro-wind theme. Not anymore. Now we know that the wind jobs were temporary. And the good ones went to out-of-state specialists. Heck, even the driver that tipped over his tractor-trailer on his way to Lowell was a specialist from Texas. Any of my neighbors could have driven that truck off the road. I would have been proud to do it myself.

Brandt analyzed coverage of aesthetics. For years, Big Wind has tried to ridicule opponents by calling them NIMBYs (Not in My Back Yard) who selfishly imperil the planet in order to preserve scenery. Brandt dismisses the NIMBY characterization: “…local opposition to renewable energy development is multi-faceted and based on more than a knee-jerk NIMBY reaction.” Brandt says that aesthetics arguments were prevalent in 2003, but in 2012, only 12 percent of anti-wind statements related to aesthetics.

While aesthetics arguments were falling, human health arguments were rising. By 2012, 33 percent of anti-wind statements involved human health impacts. Interestingly, he found no statements about health impacts from state government. This is not surprising—both the governor and the Department of Health have been missing in action on wind’s health impacts. The department has met with neither turbine neighbors nor the doctors who treat them. But, that hasn’t deterred the department from announcing that negative health impacts result from bad attitudes and are thus the fault of the sufferers themselves.

Big Wind knows that their turbines create ill health because the U.S. Department of Energy told them so. A study conducted for the DoE from 1979 to 1985 investigated complaints of families living near a single 200-foot tall wind turbine. (Picture this pathetic little turbine amidst Lowell’s 459-footers.) The cause of the complaints was found to be infrasound.

Vermont turbines are not monitored for infrasound; only audible noise is monitored. And it’s not monitored continuously. Turbine operators can choose who does the monitoring; they only hire firms that will swear everything is ok. In Vermont, this is easy because the standards are so lax.

Big Wind uses audible noise as a red herring to divert attention away from infrasound. They compare turbine noise to rustling leaves. But neighbors describe turbine effects that cut right through rustling leaves — concussive, more felt than heard. That’s how it is with infrasound.

Brandt found that Big Wind has latched on to climate change in a big way and it now dominates their sales pitch.


Brandt found that Big Wind has latched on to climate change in a big way and it now dominates their sales pitch. It’s used in conjunction with a technique called “the fallacy of the excluded middle” – the oldest advertising gimmick in the book: Chew Clorets and have lots of fabulous lovers. Don’t chew Clorets and watch Gilligan’s Island — alone.

It’s the same technique that Texas Gov. Rick Perry uses to talk about immigration, terrorism, and Ebola.

Here’s how it goes: If we don’t convert our ridgelines into wind power plants, we’re going to get wiped out by another tropical storm Irene.

Whoa. This proposition excludes more than the middle:

1. We cannot reverse climate change just by reducing our carbon emissions.

2. Climate change or not, next big storm will come; industrializing our ridgelines will only worsen storm damage.

3. Healthy ridgelines are crucial for enabling climate adaptation and survival for a wide range of species. Our best response to climate change is to preserve essential wildlife habitat.

4. If we’re serious about reducing carbon emissions, we should first focus our limited resources on weatherization: bigger payoff, less cost, no environmental destruction, no disasters. No big money for Big Wind.

Do industrial wind turbines reduce carbon emissions? Can they even erase their own carbon footprints? During the last legislative session, one Senate committee entertained a bill that would have required developers to account for carbon emissions over the life of a wind project—from manufacture to decommissioning. Vermont’s leading faux-environmental group opposed the bill, calling it “anti-renewable.” I guess it wouldn’t serve the public interest to question industry propaganda.

Big Wind probably won’t just pack its bags and leave—there’s too much money to be made off Vermonters. The energy independence and economic growth arguments haven’t worked, so Big Wind will make its last stand in Vermont by turning up the heat on climate change.

Be on the lookout for the excluded middle — that’s where Big Wind hides its inconvenient truths.

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  • Don Peterson

    Two points to consider:

    1.) A poll only tests the public perception of a thing; it does not change the reality.

    In the case of Big Wind, no amount of polling changes the fact that Vermont has more renewable energy than it can comfortably absorb. Therefore, emitter credits must get sold to out-of-state generators of carbon dioxide.

    2.) The buyers of these emitter credits are purchasing the right to pollute.

    As long as Vermont allows “double counting” of Renwable Energy Credits, the whole idea of ridgeline development as a way out of global climate change is a cruel hoax that costs us our trademark landscape.

    • Paul Lorenzini

      That was awesome Don!

      You lost the herd with your common sense observation.

      Well done.

    • Don,

      Your statement is nonsense, based on the physics.

      When RE energy is generated in Vermont it goes into Vermont’s high voltage or distribution grid.

      From a bookkeeping point of view:

      The RECs associated with that energy are sold out of state by GMP and others to get about 5.5 c/kWh to reduce Vermont’s costs.

      That is coming to an end, as CT has passed a law CO2 emitters can no longer buy such RECs. Other states also will pass such laws.

      GMP and others will not be able to sell these RECs and Vermont’s cost will increase to give a truer picture of real costs; i.e., electric rate increases, kept artificially low by REC sales, will begin increasing at a greater rate.

      • Richard Ratico


        You wrote:
        “electric rate increases, kept artificially low by REC sales, will begin increasing at a greater rate.”

        Wrong AGAIN.

        GMP’s rates just went DOWN.

        • Richard, you fail to see the big picture.

          They would have gone down even more, if GMP did not generated expensive wind energy and engaged in other expensive RE follies.

          Some of the costs of Vermont’s EE follies are loaded onto electric bills as Efficiency Vermont surcharges.

          When the RECs can no longer be sold, the full brunt of the expensive wind and solar energy cost will be on Vermont ratepayers.

          • Richard Ratico


            It’s generous of you to concede prices went down, not up, as you claimed.

            Better to talk of your own EE follies.

            When you can come up with a better program than Efficiency Vermont’s, please let us know. It’s hilarious when a member of the 1% whines about a surcharge for an efficiency program while alternately boasting of their ability to pre-buy an entire years worth of propane to heat their inefficient house (by the Passivhaus” standards you like to tout).

        • Richard,

          You are slipping into ad hominem again. Stick to the topic, don’t digress into irrelevancies.

          EV, at $45 – $50 million per year, in a few years scheduled to go to about $85 million per year, could be eliminated, if Vermont had a strict energy code like Denmark, which requires all new housing to be net-zero energy BEFORE a building permit is issued.

          That would be the smart way to do it, plus give subsidies to needy households, so they too can enjoy energy efficient housing.

          Subsidized, double-wide, passivhaus-style, modular homes would be the way to go for low-cost housing in Vermont.

          Such housing would be so efficient it would not need heat pumps, as I have previously explained. See this article to learn all about it.

          • Richard Ratico


            When an individual relentlessly self promotes themselves as an “expert”; when that self promotion is accompanied by a condescending attitude towards others; when that individual, in spite of the above, has frequently been proven to be plain and simply WRONG, it is entirely appropriate to call attention to actions that speak much more loudly than words.

            Why not adopt a strict energy code like Denmark that requires users of more than 800 gallons of propane annually to replace their relatively inefficient house with an UNSUBSIDIZED, double-wide, passivhaus-style, modular home?

          • John Greenberg


            “EV, at $45 – $50 million per year, in a few years scheduled to go to about $85 million per year, could be eliminated, if Vermont had a strict energy code like Denmark, which requires all new housing to be net-zero energy BEFORE a building permit is issued.”

            What would such a code do for the EXISTING structures – residential, commercial, and industrial – in Vermont?? Since NEW structures are but a small fraction of the total, you appear to be suggesting that we can simply ignore the larger part of the fraction entirely.

            In addition, housing is only a fraction of our energy waste in Vermont and elsewhere. So your also appear to be suggesting that we simply ignore all of those other issues as well.

            I have no a priori objection to strict building codes for new structures, but the notion that they would eliminate all or even most of the energy waste in this state is facially absurd.

            Whether we address the totality of the issue through EEV or another means is an issue that can certainly be debated, but walking away from the vast amounts of energy wasted in existing housing, lighting, manufacture, retail, etc. is NOT going to hack it.

          • John,

            Vermont could set targets for the new doublewides (60′ l x 24′ w) I propose, say 5000 houses per year.

            At about $150,000 each (for that price they would be OFF THE GRID, it would take $750 million per year. See below article.

            At about 20% down, about 80% would be in the form of a 1%, 30-year mortgage.

            For households that are lower income, and/or have little equity in an existing home, part or all of the down payment could be a grant.

            Some people would sell their old, energy-hog houses and move into new ones. Others would be first-time buyers.

            At least 50% of Vermont’s housing stock could be candidates for replacement by such housing.

            This would greatly invigorate Vermont’s near-zero-growth economy and, especially, the housing sector, i.e., lots well-paying jobs and lots of tax-paying activities that would pay for the subsidies, and lots of annual savings by lower-income households on energy bills that they would spend on OTHER goods and services, and taxes and fees, or would save for a rainy day.

            What to do with the OTHER buildings? There is such a thing as deep retrofit, which I think should be a statewide activity promoted by grants and low-cost loans, as it is in Denmark and the rest of Europe.

            Now is the ideal time, as mortgage rates are at an all-time low, PLUS Vermont’s economy really needs the boost, and so do already-suffering households and businesses.

            The above would not involve any sordid EB-5 money.

          • Richard Ratico


            “At least 50% of Vermont’s housing stock could be candidates for replacement by such housing.”

            So, you’re really talking about replacing half of Vermont’s traditional architecture with “doublewide” modular housing? If wind turbines haven’t scared the tourists away (in fact, tourists seem pleased by them), that would certainly do it.

            As I’ve suggested previously, why don’t you commission a CUSTOM net zero home that evokes traditional design and PAY local trades people to build it. Put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. I trust none of your money is “sordid”

          • John Greenberg


            So let me get this straight.

            First, you want to ignore any energy efficiency issues that are not related to housing stock, such as food handling devices (refrigerators & freezers, residential and commercial), lighting, pumps and other mechanical devices, etc. For good or ill (that’s another question), these inefficiencies ARE currently being addressed by Energy Efficiency Vermont.

            Next, you want to lop off – by your own estimate – 50% of Vermont’s housing stock and ALL of its non-residential structures, all of which, again, ARE being addressed by Energy Efficency Vermont.

            Finally, you want to provide grants for substantial amounts of low-income housing down-payments, and you suggest that your plan, which addresses a tiny fraction of the problem, will cost LESS than the EEV electricity surcharge?

            This argument doesn’t pass the straight face test, Willem. There are certainly issues to be raised about EEV (which, by the way, also promotes high energy-efficiency standards for new construction both residential AND commercial), but your “plan” wouldn’t begin to address them.

          • Glenn Thompson

            Richard Ratico,

            “Why not adopt a strict energy code like Denmark that requires users of more than 800 gallons of propane annually to replace their relatively inefficient house with an UNSUBSIDIZED, double-wide, passivhaus-style, modular home?”

            Is that what the Denmark energy code states for *Existing* structures or does that apply to only new construction? Or is your wording….your proposal? “if a house exceeds ‘X’ gals of Propane…then it must be replaced with a more efficient home”.

            That proposal is beyond absurd. What happens during a colder than normal winter (like Vt. this past winter) where more energy is required and that ‘X’ amount is exceeded? Tear it down and start over?

            Some of the stuff I read here is bizarre!

          • Richard Ratico


            My suggestion was a mere rhetorical response to one of Willem’s ideas. I have no idea what the Danish energy code requires. I’m quite tickled you took it seriously.

            It was meant to be bizarre, just as bizarre as Willem’s.

          • Richard,

            From my above comment:

            “EV, at $45 – $50 million per year, in a few years scheduled to go to about $85 million per year, could be eliminated, if Vermont had a strict energy code like Denmark, which requires all new housing to be net-zero energy BEFORE a building permit is issued.”

            In your rush to slime and smear, you misread my comment, which said the zero-energy code applies to NEW housing in Denmark.

            Long-term, the whole world needs to move to zero-energy housing, as Denmark, a leader in RE, already clearly understands.

            Vermont could also be such a leader by starting with 5000 energy-efficient, 60 x 24 modular units, a.k.a. doublewides, each year.

            It would take several decades to replace 50% Vermont’s, by and large, energy-hog housing.


            You are dragging in OTHER EE issues of which there are many.

            With the proper energy codes covering THOSE issues, they too would be addressed, without any involvement of EV.

          • John Greenberg


            I am not “dragging in” other issues. Your suggestion was to replace Energy Efficiency Vermont, which addresses the issues you claim I am “dragging in” with a simplistic, unrealistic and highly partial plan for Vermont housing.

            “With the proper energy codes covering THOSE issues, they too would be addressed, without any involvement of EV.”

            Let’s assume – for the sake of argument – that Vermonters would readily accept Vermont energy mandates that effectively outlaw the purchase of non-compliant items, although that proposition is highly problematic for all kinds of reasons. How does that suggestion address the EXISTING stock of energy hogs?

            Here’s just one example. EEV has a program to replace old, inefficient refrigerators with new ones. The feds already mandated that refrigerators must meet certain standards, so the new ones WILL be more efficient than the old ones (although Vermont could demand that they be more efficient than the federal standard, if it so chose). But even with a code in place and no EEV, why should homeowners even think about replacing their old fridges, much less, actually go out and do it? Most homeowners aren’t aware of the energy differences, and with lives as busy as everyone’s now is, aren’t likely to give the matter any thought. EEV’s incentive has provided the push needed to get people to actually focus on this one, particular decision. A code – which in this case is effectively already in place thanks to federal action – can’t and won’t.

            If the goal here is to minimize the waste of energy in Vermont – and my understanding is that you share that goal – the fact of the matter is that your suggestion will be ineffective in meeting that goal in a variety of areas, but most especially anywhere where an existing energy stock (to coin a phrase) is in need of replacement.

            EEV is not perfect, but at least it DOES address these issues and it does so at very low overhead.

  • Matt Fisken

    Thanks again, Mark, for adding more cohesive, thoughtful words to the conversation about industrial (BIG) wind in Vermont. As you explain, the momentum to build and promote these things is stalling and and the public is slowly but surely learning it’s a put on.

    It turns out that the pulsed audible and inaudible (felt) noise created by wind turbines is nothing like what scientists have found helps us sleep and remain healthy.

  • Vanessa Mills

    Though I often truly appreciate your perspective, Don, it’s about WAY more than our trademark landscape.

    Ask Don & Shirley Nelson….oh wait! we can’t! They were gag-ordered by Green Mountain Power after speaking out again & again at the statehouse and to the PSB, fighting for their health and their farm and a life’s investment in a dream, under the Lowell turbines.

    Thanks for nailing these issues, Mr. Whitworth.

  • Kim Fried Newark, Vermont

    I would like to thank Mr. Whitworth also for a well written, factual, and even humorous article about the travesties of industrial ridge line wind development. I would like to add that the human relation damage these wind developers cause in the towns and neighboring towns they target, should be considered criminal. The stress and financial costs these developers bring with them, their slick talk; misrepresentations, their lawyers and arrogant attitudes is just disgusting and not the “Vermont” way, or at least the past real Vermont way. Mix in the politics of this administration, the PSB and the DPS and the Health Department and you have the potential to ruin this state in a very short time. It appears that the tide over industrial ridge line wind is changing but we must be very diligent and make sure that these developers are shown the door every time they attempt to enrich themselves at the expense of our quality of life and environment.

  • Richard Ratico

    Though it’s always entertaining to to watch the anti-wind, pro-nuke crowd lather up, perhaps it’s time for another reality check.

    “To the judges presiding over the cases, evidence that wind turbine syndrome exists has seemed as wispy as the cirrus clouds that can herald a stiffening breeze.”

    “Fukushima nuclear disaster: three years on 120,000 evacuees remain uprooted”

    “Scientists Trace Extreme Heat in Australia to Climate Change”

    “The internet giant Google has announced it is to sever its ties with an influential rightwing lobbying network, the American Legislative Exchange Council, accusing it of “lying” about climate change.”

    • Annette Smith

      People who are opposed to ridgeline wind development come from all walks of life, political persuasions and beliefs. The idea that people who care about wildlife, their neighbors, and an honest energy policy are automatically pro-nuke or involved with ALEC is offensive in the extreme.

      I live off-grid with solar and have done so for more than 20 years, and personally have a very low carbon footprint. But because I oppose wind energy destroying Vermont’s values of community and environmental protection, I have been called someone who has never missed the opportunity to promote the fossil fuel industry (even though I led the fight against a billion dollar fossil fuel proposal). There are very good reasons to want to protect your community from the unethical, socially irresponsible wind industry.

      Attacking people who care about Vermont, calling them names, and lumping them in with the likes of ALEC seems like the only thing wind proponents have left, since all other arguments have failed, as Mark points out so well.

    • Mark Whitworth

      We owe a debt of gratitude to Richard Ratico. He has delivered a perfect example of the fallacy of the excluded middle: if you oppose industrial wind, then you must favor nuclear power.

      Thank you Mr. Ratico.

    • Vanessa Mills

      You are sapping your credibility, REV Ratico.
      You cannot lump people together and assume you know everything about where they are coming from.

      You obviously are making desparate attempts with desparate measures. You simply cannot everyone as pro-nuke, REV. You simply cannot. But you continue to do so. Got desparation?

      • Richard Ratico

        Annette, Mark & Vanessa,

        Ain’t got no “desparation”, whatever that is. But you all are certainly defensive enough to have felt somewhat guilty about your extreme positions and who you’ll caucus with.

        You all well know who and what I’m talking about. When the climate change deniers join in your backslapping, do any of you call them on it? Not a peep. When a “small modular nuclear reactor” is put forward as an alternative to wind energy do any of you protest. Silence.

        How many Vermonters have truly been bothered by wind turbine noise?
        Can they not be sited so people are not affected? “But we can see the red lights on the towers.” “They’ve blown off the tops of the mountains”. “The ridge line is gone”. “The watershed is destroyed”. Crazy talk, plain and simple.

        No one has been “gagged by GMP”. Someone apparently decided a price could be put on their freedom of speech and therefore decided to sell it.

        • Vanessa Mills

          Your head is in the sand and you like it there, sir. I don’t have to justify my position to you and neither does anyone else. And sorry, but I don’t have to attack anyone for their viewpoint, as you suggest I should do. I only defend when attacked. There is a wide-range of opinions out there, sir. And people are entitled. It’s not my job to “call people” on their opinions. That, you seem to think, is your job. And seems to me like you spend lots of time trolling around and stalking the comment boards, REV. Must be nice to get paid for what seems to come so naturally to you.

          And, REV, I don’t feel the least bit ‘guilty’ for anything you surmise. You have no idea WHAT you’re making claims about. and you are only discrediting yourself.

          I’m not pro-nuke and I’m 100% for RENEWABLES DONE RIGHT and to-scale for this small state, and I’m for sustainable local food production and conservation and watershed protection. You’ve got no way to make any claims about me. So stop.

          And further, the Nelsons, were surely impacted by the turbines of Powell’s Folly and GMP’s scheister job in aquiring their land. Go back thru all the records, REV. It’s all there. You and I and anyone can find it all.

          But in your position, I understand, REV, you HAVE to be the parrot mouthpiece. Over and over with the same old tired static. (yawn)

          • John Greenberg

            “I only defend when attacked. ”
            “Your head is in the sand and you like it there, sir. … But in your position, I understand, REV, you HAVE to be the parrot mouthpiece.”
            How do you reconcile these statements?

          • Richard Ratico


            REV Ratico???

            You’re welcome to your opinions. Just remember, you can’t vote until you’ve reached legal age.

          • John Greenberg


            You are confusing two completely different technologies.

            Small modular FISSION reactors have been “on the table” for a long time now and the DOE has been funding research and development for some time now.; The Gen4 reactor is one of many competing models. These are the reactors to which Richard Ratico referred above.

            The Lockheed reactor you’re referring to is a FUSION reactor, an altogether different kettle of fish. This is a completely different technology from ANY of the nuclear reactors with which we’re familiar (large or small, thorium, uranium, or whatever). Energy is produced by JOINING atoms, not splitting them. If Lockheed’s model really can be ready for demonstration within a year and for full-scale development in the next 10 years – as the articles I saw suggested – this new technology will be a significant new development in the energy area.

            One of the large questions which can’t be answered at this point is cost: without a working model, I suspect it’s completely impossible to even “guesstimate” the cost of power produced by these new fusion reactors.

          • Glenn Thompson

            John Greenberg,

            “You are confusing two completely different technologies.”

            I wasn’t confusing anything. My comments were on examples of small Nuclear reactor technologies. Perhaps I wasn’t clear in my statements?

            I did state this…..and after reading it again…I could have stated it better!

            “Lockheed isn’t the only company working on the technology. Just a matter of who and when develops it first and where!”

            Here is another company developing smaller Nuclear reactors!


        • Annette Smith

          When and where has a small modular nuclear reactor been proposed?

          There’s nothing to protest. Nobody is proposing it.

          Yes, the Nelsons have been gagged by GMP. Ask them. Oops, no they can’t talk about the lives for the last few years.

          How many Vermonters have been harmed by the wind turbines? Too many.

          • Richard Ratico



            John Mclaughry, Kathy Nelson, Paul Lorenzini all comment here regularly and have certainly not been shy about expressing their affection for nukes. I’m sure you’ve read their posts just as you’ve read mine.

            The fact that you would claim to be oblivious of that well illustrates the danger of your monomaniacal focus on shutting down a system of energy production that is more in sync with nature’s rhythms than any other but solar. You should try to get your head around that.

            The Nelsons accepted money, a lot of it, in their LEGAL AGREEMENT to stop their criticism of wind energy. I’m not criticizing the Nelsons, and I am sympathetic, however, they are not gagged by anyone. They’re free to sing like songbirds. They would just have to return the cash.

            A small handful of people seem to have been DIRECTLY affected by wind energy in Vermont. A significantly larger, and certainly louder bunch, you among them, who have not been affected, are doing almost all of the whining.

          • Glenn Thompson

            Annette Smith,

            “When and where has a small modular nuclear reactor been proposed?”

            To date…nowheres!

            This is the latest article on that technology! Lockheed isn’t the only company working on the technology. Just a matter of who and when develops it first and where!

            I rather see this technology developed opposed to filling the State of Vermont with Industrial wind and Solar!


          • Glenn Thompson

            Here is another company developing small Nuclear reactors. This one has some great technology information!


        • Melodie McLane

          Mr. Ratico,
          Apparently you have never tried sleeping in a house downwind and less than a mile from a wind project on a windy night. If you had, you would not be so quick to discount the quality of lives of those that do. I don’t think anyone really knows how many Vermonters have been “bothered” by wind turbine noise, but isn’t even one too many? It’s more than a “bother” to be hammered by noise for nights on end by the way. Sleep loss can become a serious health issue. You are welcome to visit our home on Georgia Mountain if you would like to experience the truth about noise.

          • Glenn Thompson


            I would bet the farm, Mr. Ratico will *not* take you up on your offer! What say you Richard?

          • Richard Ratico


            Apparently you are one of the FEW directly affected. That is most unfortunate. You have my sincere sympathy. I don’t like noise either. I won’t be visiting. Thanks though for your invitation. I did watch your video.

            A while back a proposal was made to develop wind energy in a national forest, far from any homes, so no one could be “hammered by noise”. I thought that made sense in the context of your situation. The anti-wind crowd went crazy. Go figure.

            Glenn, one of the MANY not directly affected, has some suggestions, for nukes, of course.

        • Vanessa Mills

          @ Ratico:
          Snappy, snarky, irrelevant comeback there, sir.

          Glad to see you are (seemingly) taking Melodie seriously, though. That’s, at least, something.

          I vote for renewables done right. It should be all about the three s’s. Scale, Siting, and Setbacks.

  • Jim Rademacher

    I especially aprreciate Mr. Whitworth’s point #4. The true bang for the buck in CO2 reduction is weatherization. And if you insulate Grandma’s house, Grandma will be happy too. Mr. Peterson is also right on. Through the fraud of selling RECs we are distroying our ridgelines and covering our spaces with solar panels to no avail.

    • Jim,
      “to no avail”

      The wind and solar energy does reduce CO2, but not as much as claimed by RE aficionados. So it IS to avail.

      It is only the REC shenanigans that is screwed up.

  • Mark,
    Great article.

    The expensive worldwide RE folly is affordable by only the richest nations, such as Germany.

    Adding 3.6% of worldwide RE required investments of $2.1 to $2.2 TRILLION from 2002 to 2013!!!

    Below are some data that show RE is an expensive folly yielding no meaningful results regarding reducing CO2 emissions, but yielding significant adverse results regarding economic competitiveness.

    World energy increased from 16,174 TWh 2002 to 23,127 TWh in 2013, an increase of 43%.

    – Near CO2-free, nuclear energy decreased from 16.5% to 10.2%
    – Fossil INCREASED from 65.0% to 67.9%
    – Hydro decreased from 16.7% to 16.5%

    After RE investments of about $1,700 billion from 2002 to 2013 (excluding investments for grid adequacy and capacity adequacy, about $400 – $500 billion):

    – RE increased from 1.6% to 5.2%, of which
    – Wind from 0.3% to 2.6%
    – Biomass from 0.9% to 1.6%
    – Solar (PV + CSP) from 0.0% to 0.6%
    – Geo from 0.3% to 0.3%
    – Marine from 0% to 0%

    Hydro + RE increased from 16.7 + 1.6 = 18.3% to 16.5 + 5.2 = 21.7%

    EIA: World Electricity

    Adding the 3.6% of RE required investments of $2.1 to $2.2 TRILLION!!! Ergo, the RE craze is an expensive high order folly that is affordable by only the richest nations, such as Germany, and certainly not by poor Vermont with a near-stagnant economy, shortage of tax collections, and already-struggling households which have seen DECLINING real incomes since 2000.

    Here are the REAL (inflation-adjusted) MEAN household income declines of the bottom 60% of US households:

    3rd quintile -8.4% since peak year in 2000
    4th quintile -11.1% since peak year in 2000
    5th quintile -15.9% since peak year in 1999

    Note: Taxes are excluded from the cost of living index.

    In Vermont, the sum of local and state tax burdens, plus government fees increases, plus quasi-government surcharges (such as for Efficiency Vermont) is increasing as a percent of household incomes, while those real household incomes are decreasing in a near-stagnant economy for the past 14 years. That is called hollowing-out the middle class.

    This website also shows how the top 5% of households has faired so much better than the rest.

    Within that top 5% are the politically-favored, multi-millionaires with lucrative, no-risk, tax shelters, who are benefitting the most from tax credits, fast write-offs, production tax credits and overly generous feed-in tariffs, to build solar plants (destroying meadows) and under-performing wind plants (destroying ridge lines) that produce energy at 3-5 times New England grid prices; a sure way to further decrease the competitiveness of an already near-stagnant Vermont economy.

    BTW, most of those wealthier multi-millionaires are Republicans who are being favored by Democrat-inspired RE programs that excessively waste scarce taxpayer money.

    Much greater CO2 reduction results would have been obtained, if all those investments had been used for only energy efficiency and life style changes.

    Regarding Vermont’s trivial 5.6 TWh, instead of struggling to get a small quantity of expensive, variable, intermittent, i.e., low-quality, energy from poorly-performing wind turbines on ridgelines, poor Vermont’s best bet would be greatly increased spending on energy efficiency.

    It would LOWER the energy bills of already-struggling households and businesses, make Vermont’s economy more efficient and more competitive, more able to support its bloated government, that, year after year, increases taxes, and fees, and mandates, on a near zero-growth economy for its “initiatives” and wasteful programs.

    • John Greenberg

      Willem writes: “The expensive worldwide RE folly is affordable by only the richest nations, such as Germany.”
      Apparently, China and India beg to differ: “India ranked fifth amongst top ten wind power producers in the world by adding 1,700 MW capacity in 2013, a report said.
      “China was the leading wind power producer by adding 16,100 MW capacity in 2013, followed by USA, Germany and Spain,” Renewables 2014 Global Status Report said.”
      So do Uruguay, Mauritius, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Nicaragua and Kenya, none of which qualify as being “the richest nations,” but all of which feature in the top 5 for one or another form of renewable energy investment in 2013. (Renewables 2014: Global Status Report Key Findings, p. 11)

      • John,

        The key number on which to concentrate is not nitpicking irrelevancies, but the $2.1 to $2.2 TRILLION invested in RE that moved the needle 3.6%, AND the fossil % increasing from 2002 to 2013.

        RE Investments


        Asia, Oceania…………….25.3………..29.5………………43.3 (incl. Japan, Australia, etc.)

        World Total……………279.0……….250.0……………..214.0

        – RE in Europe has collapsed (10% unemployment, near-zero economic growth)
        – World RE investment has declined in the last 2 years.
        – Other countries account for about 7% of RE total; irrelevant!!

        Had all that RE money been ADDED to the other EE money, the 2013 generation of 23,127 TWh would have been much less, say 20% less, assuming 1.5% reduction per year over 12 years.

        • John,

          Correction to above comment:

          Other countries category (also declining in 2013) accounted for about 14% of the total in 2013

        • John Greenberg


          By your own figures, China is larger in 2013 than either Europe or any of the other combinations of countries. By itself, it represents about a quarter of the investments in 2013, not 14%.

          China is not a “rich” country. Wikipedia provides a table consolidating a variety of estimates of national per capita income: China is in 82nd place (or higher) in all of them.

          How is it “nitpicking” to point out that the country making the largest investment in renewable energy in 2013 — by your own figures — is also NOT even close to being one of the richest?

          • John,

            You misread. The 14% applies to the Other category; 30.2/214 = 14%.

            The nitpicking irrelevancies occurred when you mentioned Uruguay, Mauritius, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Nicaragua and Kenya. Whatever THEY may do is irrelevant regarding GW.

            As I stated supra, the key number on which to concentrate is not nitpicking irrelevancies, but the $2.1 to $2.2 TRILLION invested in RE that moved the needle 3.6%, AND the fossil % increasing from 2002 to 2013.

            Remember, that RE investment produced 1193.5 TWh of electricity in 2013 at a COST of about 20 c/kWh, whereas its wholesale market sales price was about 5 c/kWh.

            Great RE investments, yielded expensive RE energy; a double whammy.

            China became the “largest”, only because of RE backsliding by Europe and the US, as the numbers show.

            China is catching up on RE investments. Backsliding is not an option.

            Whereas its per capita GDP is low, its GDP is greater than of the US, on a purchasing power adjusted, PPA, basis.

          • John/Mark, et al,

            Here is an interesting article. The states with the most wind energy generation also had the largest electricity rate increases!!

            Most independent power systems analysts, such as I and others, have been predicting this.



            Germany’s ENERGIEWENDE investments and energy costs are proof that more of expensive RE build-outs yields higher energy costs and much higher electric rates, especially for already-struggling households.

            Finally, the data is starting to come in for some US states as well. There will be more such data.


          • Glenn Thompson

            John Greenberg,

            “China is not a “rich” country”

            But it wants to be! And with current population at 1.26 billion, have you thought of how much additional energy resources will be required to make China a ‘richer’ county?

          • John Greenberg


            This “debate” is getting ridiculous.

            OF COURSE, I’ve thought about China’s desire to develop additional energy resources. Indeed, that was precisely my point: so has China! EVERY country, rich or poor, requires energy resources and Willem’s statement that only rich countries can or do invest in renewables is just malarkey.

            China and India are both poor countries with vast needs for energy if they are to develop into rich(er) ones. They both know that, and consequently have put major resources into renewables (AND other energy resources). Other smaller but also non-rich countries are leaders in investing in and developing specific renewable sources within their borders.

            Willem is just plain wrong: there is, in fact, little correlation between the countries who are leaders in investing in renewables and those which are leaders in per capita wealth or income. His own sources document that, but apparently, you guys still want to defend this absurd proposition.

          • John,

            “Willem is just plain wrong: there is, in fact, little correlation between the countries who are leaders in investing in renewables and those which are leaders in per capita wealth or income.”

            It would be good to select the 10 biggest economies in the world, based on GDP (PPA) and determine what each of these rich countries spent on renewables during the past 10 years.

            Here are the numbers for Germany’s energywende, based on historic, official government website data, which covers about 90% of Germany’s TOTAL RE costs.

            The total EEG-1 surcharges on electric bills increased from zero at start of 2000 to about 24.5 b euro in 2014, will be decreasing to zero by end of 2034.

            RE Capacity, Production, Capital Cost Summary, 2000 – 2014 period

            Below is a summary of RE systems capacity, production and capital cost for the 2000 – 2014 period. The values for end 1999 are used as a starting point and shown below. The values of each year thereafter were obtained from published sources, and summed. The summed values at end 2013 are shown below. The values for 2014 are estimated and shown below.

            End 1999………….Wind, onshore…..Wind, offshore…..Biomass……Solar…………..Total
            Capacity, MW……….4,435………………..0………………….250…………….70
            RE, GWh……………..5,528…………………0……………….1,200…………….42……………6,770
            Cap. Cost, b euro…….8.87…………………0…………………0.75…………..0.6……………10.22

            End 2013
            Capacity, MW……….34,250……………..520……………..7,150………35,692
            Energy, GWh………..53,400……………..722…………….42,600……..30,000……….126,722
            Cap. Cost, b euro…….68.50…………….2.13………………21.29……..107.37……………199.30

            During 2014
            Capacity, MW……….2,500……………….100………………100…………2,750
            Energy, GWh………..4,161……………….394……………….613…………2,409…………….7,643
            Cap. Cost, b euro…….5.0……………….0.42………………0.25………..5.5………………….11.17

            ADDITIONAL capital cost = (199.30 – 10.22) + 11.17 in 2014 = 200.2 b euro
            ADDITIONAL RE = (126,722 – 6,770) + 7,643 in 2014 = 127,595 GWh, or 20.14% of total generation.
            Total RE end 2014 = 151700, end 2013 + 7,643 in 2014 = 159,343 GWh, or 25.15% of total generation.

            The 200.2 b euro does not include the capital costs of additional balancing capacity build-outs, MW, and grid build-outs, estimated at about 40 b euro, which Germany should have made, but largely did not. As a result, Germany has to frequently use the grids of nearby nations to balance its variable wind and solar energy.

            The total EEG surcharge on electric bills was about 111.6 b euro, for the 2000 – 2014 period. About 1.5 million ratepayers (households, etc.), with PV systems, avoided buying some of their electricity from the grid, but the other 30 million households, without PV systems, mostly less well off, bore the full brunt of the surcharge.


            Note the growth of biomass energy:

            Costs During the EEG-1 Build-up and Wind-down Period:

            Surcharge during build-up from start 2000 to end 2014, b euro…………….111.6
            Surcharge during wind-down from start 2015 to end 2034, b euro…………275.8
            Total surcharge, b euro…………………………………………………………………..387.4
            RE systems build-out cost, b euro…………………………………………………….200.2

            Costs, such as grid build-outs, capacity adequacy, balancing losses, etc., are not included.

            Now you do the same for the nine others.

  • There are no “public relations problems” — only bad products.

    Anyone who states the converse — that there are no bad products, only ineffective flacks — is a criminal and a shill, rather than a PR professional.

    Top PR professionals command top dollar to promote good products.

    Those outside that category are simply paid to lie. But there comes a point — as Mark points out — when the lies are no longer believed.

    Mark, I look forward to some future article of yours, when media support for Big Wind will have dropped to zero percent, i.e., total PR failure — as is inevitable with a bad product.

    At that point, the good people of Sheffield and Lowell will have besieged the First Wind and GMP headquarters brandishing chainsaws and pitchforks. They will have realized the value of a sylvan paradise, with clean air untainted by Ebola.

    Too bad nobody “sold” that to them.

    • Elin,

      Europe (with 10% unemployment, near-zero growth economy, lacking natural resources, dependent on international trade, engaging in geopolitical follies in Ukraine, etc.) has finally fallen out of love with RE after about 10 years of it, because it has led to a much lesser economic competitiveness.

      Here are some data about Europe’s RE investments; $billion.


      • Richard Ratico


        Your conflating Europe’s economic problems with its investments in RE makes as little sense as Ellin’s introduction of Ebola does to the discussion here. Birds of a feather… flock …?? Ellin, you’re a poet. How’s that go?

        Europe, pushed largely by misguided German policy, has for years, since the start of the current recession, pushed austerity programs that have utterly failed. Only in the last few weeks have there been signs that their central banks have conceded the fact and finally begun to reverse course.

        • Richard,

          It is Elin, not Ellin.

          Instead of deficit spending and quantitative easing, Germany has been insisting Spain, France, Italy, Greece, etc., finally start to restructure their economies for greater efficiency and less waste. I could tell some inefficiency stories about France.

          Germany did that at least 15 years ago, and has been reaping the benefits ever since. BTW, the Netherlands also did similar restructuring to remain competitive with Germany. Both have about 4.5% unemployment. The average for Europe is about 12%, and getting worse. Spain and Greece: avg; 25%, under 25; 50%,

          How do I know all this? I lived and worked in Europe, in various countries, for 26 years.

          Germany’s ENERGIEWENDE is finally, after 12 years putting a damper/head wind on Germany’s economic growth, because it produces energy at about 20 eurocent/kWh, which is sold wholesale at less than 5 eurocent/kWh. When RE was small, it had little impact, but now that RE is over 20%, and growing, it has had, and will have, a bigger impact.

          Europe is finally wising up and has been REDUCING its unaffordable investments in new-built RE. Here are some data about Europe’s RE investments; $billion.


          Germany’s CO2 emissions? They have been increased during the past 2 years, even though GDP growth was minimal, because so many COAL plants were built.

        • Richard,

          Germany PV solar new-built, MW, for the past 5 years.

          2014………1497.476, first 8 months of 2014

          * ENERGIEWENDE subsidies were reduced, i.e., Germans were green when subsidies were generous, and not so green when they were not, just like any other people.

          The headwinds of RE are being felt in Germany’s economy.

          When RE was little, headwinds were hardly noticeable, as in Vermont, but when RE increased to over 20%, it acted to slow Germany’s growth to less than it would have been.

          NOTE: Economic growth of the EU-18 (euro area) has stagnated since the start of 2014, even without any impact of sanctions. The GDP is in billion euro, the growth is in % from the prior quarter.

          ……………………..2013 GDP………4qtr2013……….1qtr2014………..2qtr2014

          Italy………………….1,560……………..0.1……………….-0.1…………………-0.2 (in recession)
          Rest of EU-18……..1,595
          Total EU-18………..9,579……………..0.2…………………0.2…………………0.0

          • Richard Ratico


            “The headwinds of RE are being felt in Germany’s economy.”

            That is precisely backwards Willem. The headwinds of the German economy are being felt by RE.

            The role of RE in europe’s economic problems is quite small. If anything RE has helped rather than hindered europe’s performance.

            Your numbers only serve to prove that Germany’s trading partners are no longer able to afford Germany’s industrial products. Less money from exports means less money for RE at home. It’s not rocket science.

            Germany’s wisdom with RE unfortunately is not reflected in the economic policies it has imposed on others.

  • Richard Ratico


    Forget the media support for wind energy. Just listen to the voice of the people:

    • Mark Whitworth

      As political mischief-maker Dick Tuck said, “The people have spoken. The bastards.”

      In Vermont towns, they’ve spoken over and over again. I know of 14 towns that have voted on wind since 2005. The tally is 2,188 against and 1,536 for. That includes the original Lowell vote, not the one that Mr. Ratico cites. (See Steve Wright’s discussion of these votes in his VTDigger commentary:

      My town of Newark voted 169 to 59 in favor of a town plan that declared industrial wind inappropriate for the town and inconsistent with its vision and goals. Newark townspeople went to extraordinary lengths to educate themselves on the issue, holding public information forums with wind developers, renewable energy experts, VELCO, representatives of the Shumlin administration, local legislators, and others. You can expect results like Newark’s when people become well informed.

      Perhaps the results of the recent WCAX/Castleton poll indicate that the public is becoming better informed about industrial

      • Richard Ratico

        Mark ,

        The two votes in Lowell, one of the very few towns that actually has wind turbines show an INCREASE in approval from 75% to 80%.

        • Annette Smith

          Yes, we know how much the voters in Lowell like the money that comes at the expense of the health and well-being of their fellow Lowell residents.

          • Kathy Nelson

            True, Annette. The Lowellites would also love to have a big chunk of taxpayer money to clean up the asbestos mine that they welcomed in. I wonder how long it will be before they are screaming for taxpayer money to help clean up the mess made by GMP when they walk off with their profits and snuggle back into Canada. I certainly hope they take the RATico with them.

    • It is Elin, not Ellin.

      Only a donkey stumbles over the same stone twice.

      • Richard Ratico

        My sincerest apologies to Elin. My mistakes. Both were made in a lapse of attention within an hour of each other.

        Not only donkeys. I don’t know about you, Willem, but I’ve stumbled over the same stone MORE than twice. Every human being has. But not you Willem? Often wrong, never uncertain?

      • John Greenberg


        If it’s “Elin,” then why is her comment of “October 16, 2014 at 12:26 pm” labeled “Ellin?”

        • Willem Post

          You are right it is spelled with 2 els.
          My apologies to Richard.

  • Mark Trigo


    Living in the Northeast Kingdom, I know all too well the impact wind turbines have had on our landscape.

    Nearly everything in life has its pros and cons – and wind turbines are no exception. If your intent is to argue that the cons outweigh the pros, it is important to be factually accurate.

    Specifically, your reference to the DoE study is likely to mislead.

    First, you failed to disclose that the study was conducted by the Solar Energy Research Institute and its subcontractors – competitors to industrial wind.

    You also failed to disclose that of the more than 1,000 homes in the 3km radius study-zone, only about 12 homes complained of noise related issues – equating to 0.012 percent of possible complainants. Only half of those 12 homes complained with any regularity – 0.006 percent.

    You further failed to disclose that the study found that the alleged source of the noise complaints was easily remedied by installing aerodynamic spoiling devices.

    Finally, you failed to disclose that the study did not establish causation between impulsive noise disturbances and the self-reported negative physical effects. This is especially important given that the bulk of scientific research suggests that we are dealing with a nocebo affect rather than actual illness. Especially compelling are studies that have found a correlation between community acceptance of wind turbines (or lack thereof) and alleged illness from the turbines.

    Again, I think we have not been sufficiently critical of the installation of these turbines on our ridge lines. What may make sense on the plains or offshore does not necessarily make sense on our ridges.

    But if we expect the proponents of these turbines to not engage in deception – opponents should practice what they preach.

    • Mark Whitworth

      If you’re suspicious that the Solar Energy Research Institute can’t study wind turbines, then why would you trust GMP to hire the people that monitor the Lowell turbines? Would you trust the State of Vermont (or might the state’s infatuation with industrial turbines compromise it)?

      By the way, the Solar Energy Research Institute is a part of a group that has managed the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. They think that wind is a form of solar energy.

      As you know from reading SERI’s report, they understand full well why some families were affected by turbine-generated infrasound and why some weren’t. It’s largely a matter of topography, wind direction, rotor speed, turbine orientation, and distance.

      The turbines in Lowell, Sheffield, and Georgia differ from the one in the study in a number of regards. For example, the turbine in the study had two blades, not three. The area described by the blades was .7 acres. Lowell’s blades describe an area of 2.4 acres.

      The SERI study shows that turbines can produce infrasound that disturbs neighbors. Other studies have shown that infrasound is a health hazard.

      Wouldn’t you agree that industrial turbines in Vermont should be monitored for infrasound?

      • Mark Trigo

        That’s a nice soundbite, but no, I do not expect a utility to incur the expense of monitoring when the best study you had shows that only 0.006 percent of households have regular complaints.

        I also don’t expect it when the overwhelming scientific consensus is that the cause of illness is the nocebo effect.

        You are also absolutely incorrect when you say that the study found causation and not just correlation.

        As I mentioned earlier, there are legitimate problems with wind turbines on our ridge lines. That’s why I don’t see the need to grossly exaggerate and/or make up problems.

        • Mark,

          The below noise article was reviewed by three nationally known acoustics consultants. I asked them to review it, because I wanted to make sure to get it correct.

          Their studies and professional experience indicates they disagree with you.

          One of them testified before the PSB on Lowell. He left shaking his head! He thought they were completely ignorant of the subject of wind turbine sound. The PSB likes to believe its own consultants, and came up with a noise code not worth the paper it is printed on.

          You, being a layman, have no standing. You are typical of people who mouth whatever comes to their uninformed mind.

          • Richard Ratico


            You are a curious fellow, so hypersensitive to well warranted criticism of your own self declared, but false, “expertise”, so tone deaf to the “slurs” (your term) you constantly direct at others.

          • Richard,

            Try to stay out of the gutter and no one will be offended, unless you willfully make outlandish claims. All you achieve is dirty yourself in the eyes of others.

            In Vermont, the nuclear issue is dead. It does not need to be raised anymore, certainly not for scare-mongering purposes.

            As you do not have a nuclear engineering degree, it is best not to comment too much on the nuclear topic, so as not to look too silly.

          • Richard Ratico


            The only thing worse than not having an engineering degree while expressing an educated opinion, is having an engineering degree and failing in your duty as an engineer.

    • Mark Trigo,

      You need to go back to grade school.

      12 out of 1000 = 1.2%, not 0.012 percent as you stated!!

      • Mark Trigo

        Doh! Thanks for the correction. The point stands, though.

  • John,

    I could not find an earlier reply button.

    Here is the big picture, rather than the narrow-minded, parochial, shilling/smearing/sliming approach of defending a wasteful, unnecessary, expensive EV at all costs.

    It has been my experience, living and working for 26 years in Europe in different countries, that strict energy codes work. The EU in Brussels keeps itself busy trying to standardizing those codes for all EU countries.

    No EV is needed to create these codes (professional engineering associations are entirely capable of doing that), or encourage their implementation, because manufacturers have to comply and those are the products, whether they be coolers for food stores, appliances for houses, the houses themselves, cars (such as your Toyota Prius, the best-selling hybrid in the world for more than a decade!!!), machinery, etc., that appear in the European and world markets.

    Europe imports a large percentage of its energy and other resources. It HAS to be energy and resource efficient. As a result, it now has these energy and resource efficient products that are in demand all over the world, i.e., decades of trade surpluses despite energy and resource imports.

    The US has, and still has, an abundance of low cost energy and many other resources. So energy and resource efficiency was almost always on the back burner, i.e., decades of trade deficits because of RELATIVELY unsuitable, energy hog products.

    For the US, and certainly Vermont, to be energy and resource efficient, similar to Denmark or Japan, a good place to start is to require all NEW buildings to be net-zero-energy buildings, as is the case with housing in Denmark, which is a leader in energy efficiency, RE, and very low energy/$ of GDP.

    In the future, all buildings will HAVE to be net-zero-energy, or energy-surplus, if electric vehicles have to be charged by these buildings. Vermont should be a leader in that area.

    Such buildings could be OFF THE GRID, with adequate electrical and thermal storage, and engine-generator backup for emergencies, all as described in this article.

    THAT approach would be noticed all over the world as a good thing for Vermont, whereas unnecessarily destroying ridge lines for wind turbines and destroying meadows for solar plants has been noticed all over the world as a bad thing for Vermont.

    • John Greenberg

      Willem: “Here is the big picture, rather than the narrow-minded, parochial, shilling/smearing/sliming approach of defending a wasteful, unnecessary, expensive EV at all costs.”

      Gosh, it’s a good thing you’re not into ad hominem attacks.

      For the record, I do not and never have supported EV at “all costs.” I have defended EEV against false and outrageous attacks from you and from others.

      As to your substantive comments, I’ve answered them twice. New buildings are a fraction of Vermont buildings; buildings are a fraction of Vermont’s energy use.

      In “the big picture,” I believe we need to address ALL of Vermont’s energy use, which EV at least tries to do and your “plan” would not.

      You’ve failed completely to provide any substantive answer to my critique, so I assume that’s why you’re now sinking into attacking me personally. Have at it! Knock yourself out.

      • Willem Post

        I already mentioned the OTHER parts of EE should be covered by strict energy codes as well, as they are in Europe; no EV input is needed to implement it, etc.

        It just so happens, I have several decades of experience dealing with codes in the US and several other countries. so I am familiar with what works or not. Based on that, I judge, EV is not required.

        It may be required for political reasons, but not for technical reasons.

        • John Greenberg


          “It may be required for political reasons, but not for technical reasons.”

          But that’s the point. Thank you for finally grasping it!

          We don’t live in Europe. Fossil fuels in Europe are expensive, and Europeans do not share our obsession about what amounts to the freedom to pollute. Just think about the obsessive whining when the US decided to ban inefficient incandescent light bulbs, something which had been done YEARS (if not decades) prior in other countries. Europe has taxed gasoline for decades at amounts which would cause an armed insurrection in the US.

          Unlike Europeans, Americans appear to believe that they have the RIGHT to cheap energy and to wasting vast quantities of it. The notion that we will simply pass energy mandates to achieve our efficiency goals is, accordingly, highly unlikely to happen in the US.

          Accordingly, policy makers must choose the options available which actually CAN work, not just technically, but also politically.

          Personally, I am open to any plan to achieve energy efficiency which addresses the totality of the problem and does so in a way which can actually achieve results. I’ve long thought that there are better ways to do this than EEV has so far attempted, but until someone puts a better scheme on the table and actually gets buy-in for it from large numbers of Vermonters and Vermont politicians (in either order of precedence), I’ll continue to support the program we have. It’s not optimal, but it IS working, and it’s reasonably efficient. It is, in other words, a step in the right direction.

          To be perfectly blunt, I don’t think your plan to impose stringent mandates on new buildings is likely to be accepted by ordinary people OR by political leaders. I don’t see any particular reason why it couldn’t be made TECHNICALLY workable, but if it can’t be implemented, then that really doesn’t matter.

          Additionally, as I have pointed out repeatedly, it solves only a fractional portion of the energy problem. Replicating the mandate model to solve the other parts of the energy problem would be considerably WORSE from a political point of view: what Europeans accept as a matter of course would foment a revolution in the US. (Indeed, it already has: The Tea Party).

          • “Replicating the mandate model to solve the other parts of the energy problem would be considerably WORSE from a political point of view:”
            MIC/fascists/political point of view, is the point John! All we need is a fraction of caring people to raise their awareness and foment revolution (wage nonviolence) for zeropoint to be available to ALL.

            You see John, you do have the capacity to see the big picture.

          • John,

            Your explanation seems rational, but is not. It is a standard US litany for more or less doing BAU, which it is the politically easy way out.

            The strict energy codes in Europe did not happen without much controversy and opposition, as was, and still is, the case with the Brussels’ CO2 and RE mandates.

            The unseemly, hasty, grasping at subsidies, and avoidance of strict energy codes by Vermont’s political leadership is a weak-kneed, abdication of responsibility to make the more rational, tougher decisions. As such “courage” spreads to other economic activities, Vermont’s near-zero economic growth can readily be explained.

            Because future CO2 reduction will HAVE to come from efficient energy systems (which use less energy AND less other resources), such as zero-energy buildings and energy surplus buildings, if EV are to be charged by them, it is imperative to have that as number one on the to-do list, with the others a distance behind, because number one is so important and will have:

            – The biggest CO2 reduction effect,
            – The least environmental effect,
            – Cost the least amount of money,
            – Save people money.

            See my below comment to Richard about my neighbor’s energy-efficient, modular home.

          • John Greenberg


            I can’t resist the temptation to paraphrase you: “Your comment “seems rational, but is not.”

            First, you can call politicians all the names you want (“unseemly, hasty, grasping at subsidies, and avoidance of strict energy codes … weak-kneed, abdication of responsibility”), but that doesn’t make your argument any more convincing. And it certainly isn’t geared towards making decision-makers more prone to listening to your message. Quite to the contrary!

            Politicians respond to their constituents, and in this case, my guess is that they have responded in a manner which follows BOTH of the 2 implicit guidelines they hear: namely, on the one hand, do something about energy waste and rising energy costs and on the other, no more government mandates. There are centuries of American tradition behind this second point, which do not exist and never have existed in most parts of the European Union (The UK is a bit more like the US in that regard).

            Second, there’s nothing “irrational” about the EEV approach. It actually makes perfect sense: a private non-profit entity with exceptionally low overhead is charged with managing a program for the state and its efforts are monitored and regulated. It certainly makes more sense than having the utilities trying to sell efficiency, which they were before EEV came into being.

            Third, mandates work in Europe because they are AT LEAST national, and in many cases, cover the whole EU. Vermont is one of 50 states, and not a large one. Unlike CA, which has a huge market and can, for example, effectively force manufacturers into responding to its mandates, Vermont has no substantial economic power. Manufacturers can simply walk away from Vermont and ignore our market, and they would suffer very little for doing so. Vermont’s economy is the smallest in the US, — about .1% of total US economic activity.

            I could go on, but I won’t bother. National energy mandates MIGHT be a workable solution, if there were any way they could be enacted. If you’re delusional enough to try, I wish you the very best of luck. Truly.

            But I believe we have a serious problem requiring our immediate attention, and that such an effort would – in the very best of scenarios – take MANY years to enact, and in the far more probable scenario, will never be enacted. Consequently, as a very pragmatic person, I support initiatives, like EEV, which at least move us in the direction we need to go.

            As I said above, there are clearly things which EEV could do better, largely by taking a more comprehensive and systematic approach. But even efforts like those I want to see are very likely meet with resistance in some quarters, and perhaps in enough of the population that they couldn’t succeed either. That’s a proposition I’d be happy to see tested.

            Your notion of US energy policy by mandates, I’m afraid, is pure fantasy, and used as you too often do, merely an excuse for doing nothing. I’ll take the baby steps EEV is taking rather than none.

  • Willem Post

    New buildings are a fraction of Vermont’s buildings is true, but that is why we need to build 5000 modular houses, double wides, each year.
    A neighbor of mine did build such a house.

    It cam from Pennsylvania on three trucks, very energy efficient.

    It was on his basement foundation in about 5 days, ready for inside finish work. Total cost $ 80,000 for the house, $12,000 for the basement.

    He just added an 8 KW solar system on two poles in his meadow.

    I am working with him to put in battery and a thermal storage systems so he can be off the grid.

    He already has an engine – generator for emergencies.

    • Richard Ratico


      I hope you enjoy the work. That’s a large off-grid system. Very exciting. Please Keep us informed.

      • Kathy Nelson

        Why would you wish to be kept informed about an off-grid project, Richard? Such things detract from your worship of those who make so much money from exploiting ratepayers. I sincerely doubt you will get paid for that comment.

        • Kathy,

          Don’t be too, too hard on Richard.
          See my below comment to Richard.

        • Richard Ratico


          You wrote:
          “Why would you wish to be kept informed about an off-grid project, Richard? Such things detract from your worship of those who make so much money from exploiting ratepayers. I sincerely doubt you will get paid for that comment.”

          Quite a few of my clients are off-grid, Kathy. I’ve installed many systems myself and have upgraded or repaired many systems installed by others. Off-grid is a larger part of my solar business than grid-tie. I find it interesting and challenging. When someone new gets involved, as Willem just has, I think it’s exciting. I’m sure he and his neighbor find it so.

          No, I won’t get paid for that comment. Unlike you, apparently, I don’t get paid for any of them.

          Your comments are ALWAYS priceless. Keep it up.

      • Richard,

        I am pleased to have a positive discussion with you about an issue you are familiar with.

        The reason for the larger capacity, MW, solar system, as I pointed out in my article, which you should read, is to be in OFF GRID mode to provide adequate solar energy to the house and lead-acid batteries, and to electrically heat DHW in the winter.

        In case that is still not enough, the engine-generator provides the energy.

        As I noted in my article, expensive, 100% foreign heat pumps would be overkill and thus are not required.

        All is pretty straight-forward. It is all existing, true and tried, technology. Many Vermont contractors and tradesmen can do such work. Efficiency Vermont was not “consulted”, as it was not necessary.

        The key thing is to START with a medium-size, modular, very energy-efficient housing unit, so the systems will be inexpensive and small in capacity.

        Compared with the, old, energy-hog house he was living in, he will save about $4000 in heating and electricity costs, equivalent to about $5500 of taxable income.

        Doing this with energy-hog housing units, 90+% of Vermont’s housing, would be irrational, and expensive.

  • Rand Stowell

    Similar poll results here in Maine. The more people learn about Big Wind, the less they tolerate Big Wind:

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