Solyndra, a solar panel company that received federal subsidies from the 2009 stimulus bill, filed for bankruptcy in August. Solyndra executives cited a number of reasons for the business’s failure: aggressive competition from China; the high manufacturing cost of their innovative solar arrays; and depressed demand for the expensive arrays from the ongoing recession.
Conservatives saw things differently. Washington Post contributor Jennifer Rubin, in a September 5 blog post, said the failure of the company proved the “green-jobs fetish . . . was mostly hype.” When it was revealed that a billionaire Obama campaign contributor, George Kaiser, had invested in Solyndra, Republicans were quick to hail the downfall of “crony capitalism.”
Western New York disproves the notion that green jobs are just “hype.” In fact, our community is already reaping the benefits of green investment. The Steel Winds wind farm in Lackawanna brought jobs to our region with the help of government subsidies and currently provides enough energy to power 6,000 homes. As the fourth windiest city in the nation, Buffalo’s wind energy potential suggests those subsidies were not misplaced.
Granted, similar initiatives have not sailed through the democratic process. The Cape Wind project in Massachusetts faced public criticism from a small but extremely vocal “NIMBY” contingent. A 2010 poll by the Boston Globe revealed just 20% of those polled objected to the wind farm’s construction; in contrast, 68% approved. Still, the opposition has managed to keep the project tied up in state court.
Wind farms certainly affect other natural resources. New turbines are seen as eyesores by some, affecting the aesthetic value of coastal areas- particularly tourist hotspots like Cape Cod.
However, from a utilitarian standpoint we must consider the local benefits of wind farms. A community like Buffalo, sorely in need of jobs and cheap energy, must take advantage of the abundant renewable resources in our backyard. The net effect of moving toward green technology will make us better stewards of the environment than if we passively accept a world of high emissions and fossil fuel consumption.