Kansas is ranked second in the nation behind Montana for wind energy potential, a fact which should have environmentalists jumping for joy. Instead, they’re trying to block the construction of transmission lines to wind farms in south central Kansas and north central Oklahoma.
Why? Well it all has to do with the lesser prairie chicken. According to a story by the Hutchinson News in February of this year, ranchers and wildlife officials in the area are teaming up with groups like the Sierra Club to block the construction of the lines, which would apparently run through prime breeding territory for the bird.
Environmental groups, which are as quick to fang each other as they are dirty polluters, are lining up in opposition to the lines and to wind farms in general. In fact, they’re lining up against most current sources of renewable power: the Audubon Society hates wind farms because the blades kill birds and bats; hydroelectric covers up large swaths of land and releases “greenhouse gasses” when decaying material is exposed to the air; the Sierra Club has opposed solar plants in the Mohave. Apparently, even geothermal creates toxic waste no one wants.
Environmentalists tend to favor new energy technologies such as wind and solar as long as they’re purely theoretical. Once they start to become real, it turns out that these technologies, like everything else in the world, have drawbacks, and hence, while the in-theory approval may continue, practical deployments are fought.
The creation of a large and affluent middle class has been very largely a function of the availability of plentiful and reasonably-priced energy. The “progressive” war on America’s energy industries, if it succeeds, will mean for most Americans an increasingly dismal economic outlook.
In my previous Powering Down post, I quoted the Fabian socialists Beatrice and Sidney Webb, reflecting circa 1928 on history and on the contributions of what they called the Machine Age:
The manual-working population of the cities was, in fact, mainly composed of laborers who were lifelong hewers of wood and drawers of water whilst that of the vast stretches of farmland and forest outside the cities was as devoid of art as of letters. And the proportion of merely mechanical work in the world’s production has, taken as a whole, lessened, not increased. What a multitude of laborers quarried the stones, dragged and carried the stones and lifted the stones of the cathedral walls on which half a dozen skilled and artistic masons carved gargoyles? From the building of the Pyramids down to the present day, the proportion of the world’s work of the nature of mere physical digging, pushing, carrying, lifting and hammering, by the exertion of muscular force, has almost continuously diminished…. And it must not be forgotten that, in “Western civilization to-day, the actual numbers of men and women engaged in daily work of distinctly intellectual character, which is thus not necessarily devoid of art, are positively greater than at any previous time. There are, of course, many more such workers of superior education, artistic capacity, and interesting daily tasks in Henry Ford’s factories at Detroit than there were in the whole city of Detroit fifty years ago! Along side of these successors of the equally exceptional skilled handicraftsmen of the Middle Ages there has come to be a vast multitude of other workers with less interesting tasks, who could not other wise have come into existence, and who represent the laborers of the cities and the semi-servile rural population of past times, and who certainly would not themselves dream of wishing to revert to the conditions of those times. It may be granted, that, in much of their daily tasks (as has always been the case) the workers of to-day can find no joy, and take the very minimum of interest. But there is one all important difference in their lot. Unlike their predecessors, these men spend only half their waking hours at the task by which they gain their bread. In the other half of their day they are, for the first time in history, free (and, in great measure, able) to give themselves to other interests, which in an ever- increasing proportion of cases lead to an intellectual development heretofore unknown among the typical manual workers. It is, in fact, arguable that it is among the lower half of the manual workers of Western civilization rather than among the upper half, that there has been the greatest relative advance during the past couple of centuries. It is, indeed, to the so-called unskilled workers of London and Berlin and Paris, badly off in many respects as they still are and notably to their wives and children that the Machine Age has incidentally brought the greatest advance in freedom and in civilization.
It is precisely the “working people,” about whom the “progressives” claim to care so deeply, who will suffer the greatest pain from the putting of the Machine Age into reverse.