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Wednesday, 28 October 2009 20:16

The Naturalist's Corner

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The rush to be green is making me blue

Let’s see, automakers can get CAFÉ (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) credits for making gas guzzlers like Chevy’s suburban that can run on ethanol. That way they can rate one of those gas-guzzlers that gets 13 mpg at 23 mpg.

Oh, and say goodbye to roasting ears. If we’re gonna get the congressionally mandated amount of ethanol (36 billion gallons) by 2022, it will take all the corn grown in the U.S. today. And not to be outdone, Indonesia and Central and South American countries are losing around a football field a minute of rainforest to biofuel production.

Here in Western North Carolina, wind energy proponents want you to believe they can create 1,000 MW (megawatts) of electricity by scratching out, in an environmentally sensitive way, of course, an acre here and an acre there along our ridgetops to place giant, 20-story high wind turbines. They know the fallacy of that scenario because they understand the jargon. The 1,000 MWs is wind-speak for “rated capacity.” The actual electricity produced (capacity factor) from 1,000 MW of wind-speak is around 300 MW. So if you wanted to produce 1,000 MW of real, usable electricity you would have to scratch out three times as much ridgetop.

The newest green rush is blue light. LED (light emitting diode) lighting is widely touted as the newest greenest energy saver when it comes to all your lighting needs. The problem, according to the International Dark-Sky Association, is that LEDs are blue. In a recent press release, IDA pointed out some of the drawbacks of using LEDs for outdoor lighting.

“The rapidly expanding use of bluish-white outdoor lighting threatens visibility at night and jeopardizes the nocturnal environment worldwide. This surge is fueled by the promise of energy savings and reduced lighting maintenance ... Unfortunately, bluish light produces high levels of light pollution with significant environmental impact. These lights are known to increase glare and compromise human vision, especially in the aging eye. Short wavelength light also increases sky glow disproportionately. In addition, blue light has a greater tendency to affect living organisms through disruption of their biological processes that rely upon natural cycles of daylight and darkness, such as the circadian rhythm. For only a modest improvement in outdoor lighting efficiency, these new sources dramatically escalate the environmental damage caused by artificial lighting.”

I can see it all now. My daughter Izzy’s daughter is getting ready for a family outing to the great outdoors. She loads everyone up in the nice roomy ethanol burning SUV. It’s twilight and the LEDs are just beginning to produce a beautiful blue glow across the horizon. They trek out through the vast cornfields till they come to a wide paved road that seems to follow roadside transmission lines up to a nice cleared ridgetop. There they sit and watch the bluish light reflect off the bright white blades of the magnificent wind turbine and revel in the seemingly inexhaustible beauty of the natural world.

Don Hendershot can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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