Putting wind to work 

Arkansas has a ways to go.

click to enlarge BIG BLADES KEEP ON TURNIN': These are from the LM Glasfiber.
  • BIG BLADES KEEP ON TURNIN': These are from the LM Glasfiber.

Texas got the oil and Arkansas didn't, and now Texas is hogging the wind too. We see again that life is not entirely equitable.

As the world heats up dangerously, and America remains dangerously dependent on foreign oil, there's a great demand for renewable, non-polluting energy sources here in the homeland. Clean wind is more appealing than dirty coal, and it turns out there's a Wind Belt in America, a place where, experts say, the wind blows heavily enough and often enough that the potential for energy production could match that of Middle Eastern oil fields. Arkansas barely touches the eastern fringe of this belt, which extends from Texas north, up through the Plains States.

U.S. Rep. Mike Ross of Prescott looks at the maps and says that Arkansas can't count on wind for large-scale energy production. Arkansas will get Clean Coal before it gets Big Wind, Ross believes.

Environmentalists say that Arkansas's wind potential has not been reliably measured, that it could be considerably greater than the standard studies show, and that in any case, the state must make the most of energy sources such as wind and solar because the burning of more coal would be intolerable. They don't believe in Clean Coal.

And then there are some who leave the question with, and put their faith in, a higher power. This would include the congregation at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Springdale. The church has installed three wind turbines on its property, called the Trinity Wind Project. (See cover). The wind provides only about 10 percent of the church's needs. That's still a savings, the pastor, the Rev. Pamela S. Morgan, notes, but the fact is, the turbines will likely wear out before they repay the $42,000 it cost to put them up. Morgan can accept that. The three turbines, one 60 feet tall and the other two 45 feet tall, have symbolic value, expressing the Trinitarian faith. And, as the church's web page says, “Wind has long been regarded as a sign of the presence of God's Spirit upon the earth.” Mainly, the turbines are there, Morgan says, “to show that we care about the earth's resources, that we're interested in sustainable energy.”


A few weeks back, environmental groups called a news conference at the Dunbar Community Center in Little Rock to show off a wind turbine they've installed at the center and to announce the results of a poll. They said the poll showed that “81 percent of Arkansans support a renewable electricity standard, which would require utility companies to generate a certain percentage of energy from clean, renewable sources such as wind and solar,” and that Arkansans also supported policies to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions. “All three policies are included in the American Clean Energy and Security Act, recently passed by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee — though committee member Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR4) voted against the landmark bill,” a news release said. 

Ken Smith, director of Audubon Arkansas, elaborated: “It is clear Arkansans are engaged and supportive of new climate and energy legislation. We need members of Arkansas's congressional delegation to play leadership roles in this crucial debate. We are disappointed that Rep. Mike Ross would not vote for this critical legislation, despite Arkansans' support for increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy and reducing global warming.”

Disappointment in Mike Ross is not limited to Ken Smith. The NRDC Action Fund, a national environmental group, recently ran a large ad in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette saying that by voting against the American Clean Energy and Security Act, “Mike Ross said No to better jobs and lasting opportunities for Arkansas.” The ad urged Arkansans to call U.S. Reps. Vic Snyder of Little Rock and Marion Berry of Gillett and tell them “that they can do better.” Evidently, the NRDC doubts that Arkansas's other congressman can do better. The ad didn't mention Rep. John Boozman of Rogers, the only Republican in the delegation.



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