Did we learn anything?

Published 12:33 am Wednesday, November 30, 2011

To the Editor:

Did we learn anything the last time some environmental opportunists showed up around here promising all manner of prosperity as the result of the ethanol facility they were proposing to build? For a couple of years, we fell all over ourselves welcoming them and seeing to their every whim. And what came of all that? Short answer: Nothing.

Now we have another group of environmental opportunists promising all manner of good things again. The big benefit we get out of the deal is a five-person maintenance staff to keep electricity flowing to others.

We need to do a better job of our due diligence than we did with the ethanol folks. We need to find out a whole lot more about these folks before we get all excited about welcoming them into our midst. If we do, I rather doubt that it will look like such a good deal. They apparently already have our economic developer and county manager on their side.

They tell us there are about 100 jobs associated with this project. Is that 100 person years, or does it mean that at various times during the construction 100 different folks will show to do whatever they do? Then they are talking about a five-person maintenance force to keep the wind farms running. Wow!

What of the reported 14,000 wind turbines around the country that couldn’t survive when they ran out of taxpayer subsidies? What of them? Probably not mentioned to our county manager on his trip to Chicago (or wherever they took him to be “impressed”).

How much of the reported $160 million estimated cost for this project is from real venture capitalists and how much is from faux venture capitalists (people willing to gamble only when using taxpayer money)?

We need to be really skeptical of these folks. They are “slick” — much more so than the ethanol folks, several of whom ended up in the slammer. And remember, the last time we fell for all this smooth talk and a lot of promises, Washington and Belhaven ended up with outrageous electric rates.

And how about the wildlife? Or do endangered or even protected birds not count for much when it comes to green energy — at least in the eyes of the faux venture capitalists? They didn’t seem to display much concern when they sited their proposed wind farm so near the Pungo Unit of the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife refuge. The Pungo Unit, created in 1963, is the wintering home of the largest percentage of tundra swan on the East Coast.

Several years ago, we took on the U.S. Navy and succeeded in keeping its OLF out of the area, but this time we may have a much more formidable foe — a company from Chicago (does the term “crony capitalism” ring any bells?) — and they are already spreading money around.

If I sound suspicious of these folks, it is because I am.