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Green Energy's Future in Scrap Salvage

Green innovations have become the tattoos of the energy economy. Tattoos look good at first and people complement you on how "awesome" you've become, even if hardly anyone gets close enough to study the clever etchings on your body parts. Then you wish you hadn't. And one fair day, after another embarrassing swim in the neighborhood pool, you start figuring how to make them go away.

There is still a business etching the torsos of the young and guileless and printing indelible roses on the ankles of just-divorced matrons. But fashion changes, and there already is a big business in removing the magenta signs of disillusionment.

So it goes with windmills for generating electricity. It was only yesterday that they were the dazzling promise on the horizon. All you had to do was burn railroad loads of coal and oil, and mine vast pits of ore, to have them manufactured and erected above the mere human scale environment of the countryside. Then off they went, making their unearthly whooshing sounds, flap-flapping the heads off migrating endangered species birds, and slightly denting the peak energy needs of power companies whose corporate enthusiasm had been greased by crony government subsidies. But nowadays the controversy is less how to build them, more about how to tear them out.

Already there are some 14,000 wind turbines idle and rusting on America's hillsides alone--to the relief of eagles and the owners of farmhouses with single-pane windows. There's a bright future today, my boy, in windmill salvage.

Is there anywhere more worried about the environment and the high cost of energy than Hawaii? Maybe so, but paradise now has more monuments to the Gods of Sustainability than tiki totems for the old fertility gods. Some 37 recently were removed.

Is there anywhere more self-reverently Green than California? But today its mountain passes echo to county council screams about unsightly wind turbines and who will pay to extirpate the monsters.

Is there anywhere more famously cheap than Scotland? There the government despairs at choosing to pay to remove the decommissioned windmills or to pay with environmental degradation and lost tourism revenue by leaving them up. And the power produced is not as powerful as expected.

Its easier and less painful to remove tattoos.

You can email brucechapman@discovery.org

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