Lighten Up Energy Myths

Sept. 1, 2009
THOSE DAM GREENHOUSE GASES Most folks consider hydroelectric power to be clean and renewable and, in general, a good thing. But it turns out that all


Most folks consider hydroelectric power to be clean and renewable and, in general, a good thing. But it turns out that all the vegetation beneath the man-made lakes that usually accompany hydropower projects decomposes into methane in the absence of oxygen. And methane is said to be 21 times more effective at warming the atmosphere than CO2. In fact, it's estimated the world's 52,000 large dams release 120 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere annually, according to a study by the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research. The study also says that in India, dams account for 19% of that country's “warming emissions.” Some researchers estimate that the world's dams are responsible for 4% of the total warming impact of human activities.


Many people try to save money by closing HVAC registers to unused rooms so they are not heated or cooled. While this trick may have worked in the days of non-insulated homes, it doesn't work in today's modern homes with forced air heating and cooling, according to a study of California homes. The study, conducted by the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, found that the reduced thermal load from heating and cooling only part of the house is offset by leaks in the ductwork. (For more details, go to:


The U.S. Energy Dept., which tries to help Americans be more energy efficient, doesn't seem to follow its own advice. A recent audit discovered that the agency doesn't use programmable thermostats that could lighten the load on HVAC systems in the evenings and weekends when few people, if any, are working. If the department used the right thermostats, it could save $11.5 million annually on their $300 million yearly utility bill.


MYTH # 1: These wind towers aren't really THAT big.

Fact: Ecogen's 1.5 MegaWatt (MW) turbines will be nearly 400' high, 80' higher than the Statue of Liberty from the water to the tip of the torch. UPC's proposed turbines - designed for offshore, far from people - will be up to 440' high, as tall as the pyramids of Egypt. They will be visible for MILES, dominating the landscape, with flashing lights 24 hours/day.

MYTH # 2: These industrial machines don't make THAT MUCH noise.

Fact: Like the generator in your garage, they ARE very quiet - when they aren't working. But at their loudest, they generate up to 90dB of noise, equivalent to a tractor or a loud car stereo. The noise can be clearly heard (and felt) for 1000' and beyond, and much farther based on local conditions. And except on a still day, IT DOESN'T STOP.

MYTH # 3: There won't be THAT many towers here in Prattsburgh.

Fact: The two wind companies are planning for nearly 100 wind power generating towers - and that's just PHASE ONE.

MYTH # 4: These industrial towers will be safe to be around.

Fact: The rotating blades have tip speeds up to 180 mph, with the potential to throw ice at high velocity up to 1800'.

MYTH # 5: Besides ice throw, which would never happen in the Summer, there are no other potentially damaging health effects from close proximity to these wind towers.

Fact: At sunrise and sunset, shadow flicker can turn the 230' spinning rotors into giant strobe generators, which can cause seizures in susceptible individuals. Also, research indicates that the persistent extreme low frequency noise wind towers generate can cause neurological problems. “Wind Farms Make People Sick Up to a Mile Away”, Sunday Telegraph, January 25, 2004.


A recent Zogby poll of 1,000 Americans indicates that many citizens harbor some inaccurate beliefs about the use and abuse of energy and the environment.

  • 49% of Americans believe this country's major oil supplier is Saudi Arabia. Wrong. It's Canada, a fact only 13% knew. According to the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. imported 58.7% of its oil in 2007, but only 16.1% came from Persian Gulf countries.

  • 67% of the people believe the U.S. can meet future energy demands through conservation and efficiency. But historically, energy demand rises as efficiency increases The EIA projects global energy consumption to jump 50% from 2005 to 2003, and U.S. energy use to increase 11.2% from 2007 to 2030.

  • 63% think some deaths can be directly blamed on generating electricity from nuclear powers. But there have been no deaths in the U.S. attributable to that. And the 104 reactors in the U.S. account for roughly one-fifth of our electricity.

  • 63% think human activity is the largest source of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Hardly. Natural emissions dwarf those of humans. Burning fossil fuel, for example, accounts for 3.27% of the CO2 added to the atmosphere. The oceans, on the other hand, add 41.46%.

  • Only 30% or so are aware that the air quality in the U.S. has improved since 1970. In fact, the six most common air pollutants have dropped by more than 50%; toxins from large industrial sources are down 70%; and new cars are 90% cleaner. In that same time period, GDP has tripled, energy consumption went up 50%, and motor vehicle use almost doubled.

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