A few years ago I co-wrote a book, with Wendy Williams, about a controversy centered on Nantucket Sound. The quasi-social comedy, called “Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Energy, Class, Politics and the Battle for Our Energy Future,” told of how, since 2001, a company led by entrepreneur James Gordon has struggled to put up a wind farm in the sound in the face of opposition from the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound — a long name for fossil-fuel billionaire Bill Koch, a member of the famous right-wing Republican family. His houses include a summer mansion in Osterville, Mass., from which he doesn’t want to see wind turbines on his southern horizon on clear days.
Mr. Koch may now have won the battle, as very rich people usually do. Two big utilities, National Grid and Northeast Utilities, are trying to bail out of a politicized plan, which they never liked, forcing them to buy Cape Wind electricity. They cite the fact that the company missed the Dec. 31, 2014, deadline in contracts signed in 2012 to obtain financing and start construction. Cape Wind said it doesn’t “regard these terminations as valid” since, it asserts, the contracts let the utilities’ contracts be extended because of the alliance’s “unprecedented and relentless litigation.” Bill Koch has virtually unlimited funds to pay lawyers, and imaginative rhetoric supplied by his pit bull spokeswoman, Audra Parker, to litigate Cape Wind to death, even though the project has won all regulatory approvals.
New Englanders are losing what could have helped diversify the region’s energy mix — and smooth out price and supply swings — with home-grown, renewable electricity. Cape Wind is far from a panacea for the region’s dependence on natural gas, oil and nuclear, but it would add a tad more security.
Some of Cape Wind’s foes will say that the natural gas from fracking will take care of everything. But New England lacks adequate natural-gas pipeline capacity, to no small extent because affluent people along the routes hold up their construction. And NIMBYs (not in my backyard) have also blocked efforts to bring in more Canadian hydro-electric power. So our electricity rates are soaring, even as many of those who complain about the rates also fight any attempt to put new energy infrastructure near them. As for nuclear, it seems too politically incorrect for it to be expanded again in New England.
Meanwhile, the drawbacks to fracking, including water pollution and earthquakes in fracked countryside, are becoming more obvious. And the gas reserves may well be exaggerated. I support fracking anyway, since it means less use of oil and coal and because much of the gas is nearby, in Pennsylvania. (New York, however, recently banned fracking.)
Get ready for brownouts and higher electricity bills. As for oil prices, they are low now, but I have seen many, many energy price cycles over the last 45 years of watching the sector. And they often come with little warning.
IS THE PROBLEM of terrorism at Charlie Hebdo, etc., Islam itself? Well, early Islam, as invented by the ambiguous figure of Muhammad, contains a mix of guidance that can be, by turns, edifying or horrifying in modern terms. But then, things were pretty brutal in Arabia in the 7th century; the trouble is that too many Muslims, looking for soothing certainties, decide to take literally what Muhammad and his early followers allegedly said.
But, you might say, even Jesus said: “I have not come to bring peace but the sword.” Happily, Christianity has mostly moved beyond a literal translation of whatever it is claimed that he said. And Judaism, the root of the other two religions, has almost entirely moved on from its original brutalities.
Religion, including its atheistic incarnation, such as communism, is always handy as a tool of people (generally young men) who would be psychopaths anyway. And they find willing financiers in such oil-gas centers as Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. (Another fossil-fuel problem!)
Is it an accident that so many Muslim countries are corrupt dictatorships that act as terrorism Petri dishes? Deconstructing causation and correlation can be arduous but it should be noted that Islam means “submission” — for some to 7th century barbarism.
SINCE I LEFT my job at The Providence Journal in 2013, people call me “retired.” In fact, I’m working as hard (if as unproductively) as ever. Americans still associate “working’’ with being at a big organization. “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” lives.
Robert Whitcomb (email@example.com), a former editor of these pages, is a partner in a health-care-sector consultancy.