Block Island Wind Farm, Rhode Island. Photo: National Renewable Energy Lab, Creative Commons License 2.0

The Biden administration unveiled a cool new plan Monday that would boost — or heck, create — the offshore wind industry in the USA. Multiple Cabinet departments will work together on fast-tracking permits and leasing of new offshore wind farms that should generate both a lot of clean electricity and good union jobs, too.

At the moment, the US only has one such wind farm, off the coast of Rhode Island; it generates about 30 megawatts of power. When completed, the planned projects along the east coast would generate a thousand times that much: 30 gigawatts by 2030. Gizmodo's Earther blog points out that would be both a big reduction in carbon emissions, but also a relative drop in the bucket:

The plan would save us 78 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, which is a small dent in our annual average release of over 5 billion metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide.

Fortunately, it'll be one of a lot of dents in carbon emissions the administration has planned.


Biden's national climate adviser, Gina McCarthy, wasn't exactly hiding her enthusiasm for the plan:

"We are ready to rock-and-roll," national climate adviser Gina McCarthy told reporters in a phone call Monday. She framed the effort as being as much about jobs as about clean energy. Offshore wind power will generate "thousands of good-paying union jobs. This is all about creating great jobs in the ocean and in our port cities and in our heartland," she said. [...]

Administration officials said they would speed up offshore wind development by setting concrete deadlines for reviewing and approving permit applications; establish a new wind energy area in the waters between Long Island and the New Jersey coast; invest $230 million to upgrade U.S. ports; and provide $3 billion in potential loans for the offshore wind industry through the Energy Department.

In addition, the plan will involve a cooperative effort between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a Dutch wind energy company, Orsted, to "study the impact of offshore wind operations on fishing operators as well as coastal communities."

The Post notes that the prospects for long-term jobs are also quite good, since offshore wind facilities need regular maintenance. "It holds significant potential for creating the kind of high-paying renewable-energy jobs promised by the administration, although the projects typically employ fewer people than major fossil-fuel pipelines." Mind you, most of the jobs in pipelines tend to be short-term construction positions; as we develop offshore wind, there are likely to be lots and lots of jobs in building the platforms, and then keeping the turbines turning. (Also, shut up, Texas, the turbines can be winterized; wind (both onshore and off) is a growing part of Norway's energy mix (which is already just over 95 percent from hydroelectric power).

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was on the call with reporters, too, and said the plan represented "clean-energy patriotism" that would boost the US economy and US workers, too. And Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo added that "clean energy" and "jobs" aren't in opposition: "That tired old view that you have to choose between meeting the needs of climate change and creating jobs is old-fashioned, failed thinking in the first place."

Compared to European countries, even the ambitious Biden plan is still just a first step; by the time these wind farms are all in service, Earther points out, they "would still only be producing about three-quarters of the offshore-wind-generated energy as the UK alone." Clearly, we have a lot of catching up to do — and a lot of jobs that will result from the transition. Are we hopeful the big offshore oil drilling companies will see the writing on the wall and get into the business of building wind farms? We'd like to be, but they've made so much money the dirty way that we'll believe it when we see it.

And of course, there will also be the NIMBY's; one of the projects that's moving toward an environmental impact study under the new initiatives, 15 miles off New Jersey, is facing opposition from residents who fear the wind farm will spoil views and hurt tourism. They have kind of a point, since reducing the area's reliance on fossil fuel generating stations will clear the air, making the turbines more visible.

But advocates such as Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said widespread misinformation exists about the potential impacts of the project. A massive wind farm just offshore can provide more reliable power to the region and better air quality, not to mention thousands of jobs tied to the industry, Tittel said. "The alternative for New Jersey will be more natural gas plants and more pipelines and more fracking," he said.

Some commercial fishing concerns are worried about the impact of the project, too, which to be sure has to be part of the environmental assessment. Fish are also going to be in greater world of hurt as climate change leads to ocean acidification, too, though that's a problem for the grandkids, now isn't it?

And of course, the usual trolls showed up in the WaPo comments to share Donald Trump's pretended concern about all the poor birds that will die, and then all the usual people who know things pointed out that cats kill something like 2.4 billion birbs a year, while the high estimate for wind turbines is only about 50,000; and the wind energy sector is working on making wind farms more bird-friendly, too.

Still, the bad faith arguments will continue. We have little doubt the GOP is even now preparing an ad campaign warning about the potential for catastrophic wind spills.

[Earther / WaPo / Photo: National Renewable Energy Lab, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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