Back when I was studying for my pilot’s license, I was fascinated by my textbook on meteorology, which was a good thing, since it’s kind of essential to understand weather if you’re going to fly planes. Call me dumb, but for the first time, I suddenly realized what wind was. I’d always thought of it as a force in itself, like those old drawings of a puffed-cheeked Zephyr blowing like mad. It had never occurred to me that wind was simply air in movement — a revelation that became an essential part of flying for me, of feeling the air.
I haven’t piloted a plane in years — I flew away all my savings in the year after I got my license, and have never regretted a single cent of it — but that sense of the power of wind, of air in motion, has stayed with me. Every time I see a modern windmill sleekly silhouetted against the sky, something in me wants to soar.
So how great to pick up the New York Times off my porch this morning (yes, old-fashioned me: I still have a porch, and still read print) and see that the lead front-page story (but strangely, only in the NYT) was that Google, yes Google, is investing in an extensive network of deepwater transmission lines for future wind farms off the Atlantic coast of the U.S.
Called the Atlantic Wind Connection, it’s a 350-mile underwater spine 20 miles offshore, running from New Jersey to Virginia — a 6,000-megawatt cable capable of carrying energy equal to the output of five large nuclear reactors.
Wow. Finally. Serious investment in renewable energy infrastructure — a system that will support not merely “a wind farm,” but a huge wall of windmills invisible from shore. So kudos to Google for taking this huge step forward. It’s huge A. environmentally (clean, renewable energy), B. politically (independence from foreign oil), and C. morally (see A and B).
Right now, offshore wind energy is about half again as expensive to produce as energy generated on land, but with an investment the size and scope of Google’s (the major investor along with Good Energies, an investment firm specializing in renewable energy), serious economies of scale will kick in.
But here’s the kicker. How come the US government isn’t doing this? How come it’s a business investment for profit? I’m not questioning Google’s commitment to green energy. But I am seriously questioning Barack Obama’s.
“Investment in infrastructure,” Mr President — isn’t this it? And “a spur to employment.” And “energy independence.” And “the audaciousness of hope” — all those things you kept talking about when you were running for office, and yet here it’s not your administration that’s taking this audacious leap forward, but Google.
Worse yet, with what could hardly be more perfect irony, your White House announced today that it has lifted the ban on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Wind power, Mr President: it doesn’t mean huffing and puffing like an old-fashioned Zephyr. It means stepping up and creating the infrastructure. If Google can do it, why can’t you?