Exactly one year ago today a dilapidated single-hull oil tanker ran aground in Buzzards Bay off the coast of Massachusetts, dumping an estimated 55,000 – 98,000 gallons of oil into the bay, affecting more than 90 miles of coastline, contaminating shellfish beds and impacting a variety of wildlife, especially migrating birds. The Cape Cod Canal and Buzzards Bay remain a major transportation route for tankers and barges carrying oil throughout New England. In the following article, Mark Rasmussen, Executive Director of the Coalition for Buzzards Bay explains how a concerted switch toward industrial-scale wind power generation could be a major part of preventing such disasters in the future. – SolarAccess.comNew Bedford, Massachusetts – April 27, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] Exactly one year ago today a dilapidated single-hull oil tanker ran aground in Buzzards Bay off the coast of Massachusetts, dumping an estimated 55,000 – 98,000 gallons of oil into the bay, affecting more than 90 miles of coastline, contaminating shellfish beds and impacting a variety of wildlife, especially migrating birds. The Cape Cod Canal and Buzzards Bay remain a major transportation route for tankers and barges carrying oil throughout New England. In the following article, Mark Rasmussen, Executive Director of the Coalition for Buzzards Bay explains how a concerted switch toward industrial-scale wind power generation could be a major part of preventing such disasters in the future. – SolarAccess.com At the very root of last year’s Bouchard 120 Oil Spill in Buzzards Bay was our society’s dependence on oil – on the fossil fuels that generate our electricity, heat our homes and power our cars. Of course, the Bouchard Company and the rest of the dangerous fleet of single-hull barges, inadequate navigational systems and outdated pilotage and crew regulations are also to blame. These laws need to be changed and The Coalition for Buzzards Bay is dedicated to seeing that part of the legacy of the Bouchard spill is improved safety in the Bay. But behind all of this is oil consumption. The heavy #6 oil that spilled from the Bouchard 120 that day was on its way to the Mirant Power Plant in Sandwich. And the total cost we pay for this is much greater than the oil spill. Our health and the entire Buzzards Bay ecosystem is being degraded by the world’s reliance on fossil fuels for energy production. Consider these local statistics: – The nearby, coal-fired Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset destroys millions of fish each year through its water intake structures and through the discharge of heated water. Even more disturbing are the results of a 2000 study by the Harvard School of Public Health which shows that air pollution from the Brayton Point plant causes 100 premature deaths, 30,000 asthma attacks, and 1,100 emergency room visits each year, with a per-capita mortality risk nearly three times greater for those living within 30 miles of the plant. That’s all of us. – As much as 20 percent of the nitrogen pollution that is choking Buzzards Bay’s harbors and coves comes from acid rain that carries the byproducts of power plant and automobile emissions from throughout the northeastern United States. – An estimated 2,000 acres of upland may be lost along the Buzzards Bay shore by the year 2050 due to rising sea levels accelerated by fossil fuel-induced global warming. – Mercury from power plant emissions poisons our fish such that health warnings are now a part of our daily meal decisions. The scientific evidence is clear: we all pay a high price for our dependence on oil. In order to solve the pressing issue of fossil fuel use’s damaging effect on ourselves, our families, and our environment, we need to accept that the status quo must change and that to effect that change, the United States, and indeed countries around the world, must invest in the rapid development of clean, renewable energy sources that allow us to significantly reduce the use of coal, oil and gas. One of the most promising areas of renewable energy development is the potential offered by the free, abundant winds that dominate the New England coast. Wind development is the world’s fastest growing energy source with a global market expanding at more than 25 percent each year. It is truly exciting that coastal Massachusetts with our legendary offshore winds could be a leader in renewable energy production. Due to this potential, offshore wind farms such as that proposed for Nantucket Sound and smaller land-based wind turbines are being considered throughout the region. Three months ago I traveled to Denmark with 27 other concerned citizens from southeastern Massachusetts to learn how this small Scandinavian nation had become the world leader in the production of wind energy. Today, nearly a quarter of Denmark’s electricity comes from wind and the country has a national goal of harnessing 50 percent of their power from wind by the year 2030 (a goal that Danish engineers expect to beat ahead of schedule). In the process, the Danes are dramatically reducing their reliance on foreign oil and eliminating pollution. I went to Denmark also to see both land-based and offshore wind turbines first hand: to talk to people about living near wind turbines, to witness their scale in the landscape, to listen to them. If wind turbines may become a future part of our world here in southeastern Massachusetts – the landscape and Bay that I cherish – I wanted to experience these structures in person. What I saw was a landscape where slowly-turning wind turbines – in farmer’s fields and on the ocean – were accepted as commonplace and stand as symbols to a nation moving in the right direction on energy policy. I saw tourism kiosks arranged at wind farm sites describing how the turbines work and their benefits. I saw thousands of Danes employed in a clean industry producing wind turbines to meet the rapidly growing global demand. And I saw polluting power plants that are being ‘backed off’ due to the success of clean, renewable wind power. And when I stood on the beach looking out at the 80-turbine Horns Rev Wind Farm seven miles offshore in the North Sea, I thought about everyone here at home concerned about how windmills may alter their backyards. To me, the choice seemed clear and obvious: I’ll take wind farms over oil covered beaches, mercury poisoned fish and 100 premature deaths a year in southeastern Massachusetts any day. This article was originally published February 9, 2004 in the New Bedford Standard Times and reprinted on SolarAccess.com with the author’s permission.