What the Massachusetts Governor Will Not Admit
Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is an intelligent man, very intelligent. People do not receive a Harvard Law School diploma by being dumb. In my opinion Governor Patrick is a decent man, an ethical man and a man truly concerned for the well being of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. However, he has been snookered into becoming one of Cape wind's leading cheerleaders. While it is hoped that he will not be offended by this article's title, he can only be described as gullible in the matter of wind power generally and Cape Wind in particular. Why else would he continue to support such a disastrous plan? In order to believe that he has not been fooled, deceived and swindled one would be forced to conclude that he is either stupid or intellectually corrupt. In my opinion he is neither. But he is certainly myopic.
Wind power has a certain undeniable allure. Gleaming white cylinders rising above the landscape, or water, with enormous blades, sculptural masses of fiber glass and white paint rotating gracefully in the wind are the very picture of technology, art and human ingenuity combined into a useful enterprise...clean power from an inexhaustible and free source: the wind. Clean, quiet, cheap, harmless and wildly profitable for the developer of wind facilities.....what is not to like?
Then there is another way to describe commercial scale wind turbines: hulking, noisy mechanical beasts that mar the landscape, shower a light mist of oil around their bases, kill migrating birds and bats by the thousands, produce intermittent power and thereby raise havoc with the electric distribution grid, produce electricity that costs twice as much or more as conventional power generation sources and suck up in their aggregate billions of tax payer dollars in the form of federal subsidies to the benefit of a very few wealthy individuals. As an executive of one of this country's largest electric generators said recently (direct personal conversation at a recent energy conference), "If utility scale wind is such a good idea why do you suppose my company isn't doing it?" Apparently he and his fellow executives are less gullible than Governor Deval Patrick. But then, his certainty about wind's true characteristics is based on decades of power industry experience while the Governor's support for Cape Wind is based on political agenda and a wide-eyed "WOW!" as he listens to the snake charmer's flute played so seductively by Cape Wind's Jim Gordon.
Governor Patrick is far from alone in his misguided support for Cape Wind. He travels in the company of other notable and otherwise intelligent lemmings as he and they race toward the cliff of certain catastrophe, dragging the rest of us with them. From the President of the United States on down Cape Wind has snookered the very best and, we thought, the very brightest. But now, after nine long years of skillfully managed deception, the truth is out: Cape Wind's power will cost more than double what the conventional generation mix costs. In spite of this undeniable fact Governor Deval Patrick continues to support Cape Wind. How many more sudden and irreversible changes in the developer's bogus claims will it take before he sees the light?
The power purchase agreement (PPA) between National Grid and Cape Wind as originally presented to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) was a curious document. It was full of innovative and tricky schemes with obvious political overtones. It called for Cape Wind to be paid 20.7 cents/KW, more than twice the rate currently being charged for the standard mix of electricity sold at retail. Moreover, this price would rise automatically at an annually compounded rate of 3.5% and an additional simple 4% would be added to each monthly bill as a way of reimbursing National Grid for the alleged costs it would incure by transmitting renewable energy. It is stunning to realize that National Grid could have purchased wind power from the TransCanada company's operation wind farm in Kibby, Maine at nearly half this rate and be delivering clean energy to its customers years ahead of Cape Wind's anticipated completion.
There was an interesting quirk in a recently enacted Massachusetts law, the Green Communities Act, which required any renewable energy subject to a Massachusetts PPA to be generated in Massachusetts. This cleverly designed scam guaranteed Cape Wind would be the only respondent to the RFP issued by National Grid for renewable energy. However, its clearly unconstitutional intent was quickly challenged in court and ruled impermissible. Perhaps it is merely coincidence that the Massachusetts House speaker at the time the Green Communities Act was being written was a man, now indicted for crimes in office and resigned in disgrace, who is known to have had a very close and longstanding personal relationship with a partner and friend of Jim Gordon, Cape Wind's CEO. Even their wives were friendly with each other. This Gordon friend is a major marine contractor and appears to be part of joint venture called Kiewitt, Weeks & Cashman, A Joint venture (AJV). The members of this combine are Peter Kiewitt and Sons, Inc., Weeks Marine, Inc., and Jay Cashman, Inc. Bostonian Jay Cashman is a known associate of Jim Gordon (and contemporary at Boston University) and the three firms as a joint venture recently filed as interveners to prevent further discovery of information by the Massachusetts DPU in their deliberations regarding the Cape Wind/National Grid PPA.
Another problem with the made in Massachusetts ploy is the simple fact that for all intents and purposes the Cape Wind facility will not be in Massachusetts waters. Jim Gordon altered his original layout for the wind farm to avoid being in Massachusetts waters. It appears that Cape Wind will pay no Massachusetts taxes: sales tax, excise tax, income tax. So, it would appear that Cape Wind's PPA with National Grid did not comply even with a crooked law.
Back to to Governor Gullible: it is clear that no matter what changes are made to this project's costs and consequences Governor Deval Patrick will not relent in his support. Two Harvard degrees and several years employment at the highest levels of major corporations (including a major oil company) have not dulled his oh my gosh readiness to accept clean energy cons. Innocence is a virtue, to be sure, but it is no excuse for being so utterly wrong and such a price....the heart of Nantucket Sound.
When Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that she had negotiated a revised draft of the proposed PPA she seemed nearly giddy at the price reduction: 2 cents/KW, a 10% reduction. Of course, no one has yet explained why Cape Wind could afford to build its project and sell its generated power for 18.7 cents/KW instead of the originally offered 20.7 cents/KW since Jim Gordon and National Grid had claimed that the 20.7 cents was the very best deal they could offer and that it was actually good for ratepayers. Coakley had asked for additional cost/profit information from both Gordon and National Grid but when they refused her request she blinked, she backed down. My personal opinion is that both Gordon and officials at National Grid suffer from genetic defects which make being truthful nearly impossible.
The Cape Wind project as approved by Slick Salazar was to have commenced construction by the end of 2010 and been completed by the end of 2012. It would comprise 130 Siemens 3.6MW turbines covering and area of twenty-five square miles in the heart of Nantucket Sound and the complete project would be constructed in one go. Now, under terms of the new draft PPA the project tells a very different story. It comes close to saying that the entire project will not be built all at once but in phases and that completion of the full project could take until the end of the year 2016. This means that instead of coping with two years of marine construction activities those who rely on Nantucket Sound for so much will be forced to endure six years of barges, tugs, jack-up cranes, pile drivers, helicopters and service boats. Neither Governor Gullible nor the mighty Boston Globe has discussed this significant change in the project. Could it be that these changes are sufficiently substantive that they void the federal government's Environmental Impact Statement?
Chapter Two of Gullible's Travels will look at the Byzantine financial structure of this incredible Cape Wind Deal. It is very clear that neither Governor Patrick nor Attorney General Coakley has clue #1 about the shenanegans and manipulations of fact being practiced by Cape Wind. As for Slick Salazar, I still say his hat is too tight and it is cutting off blood flow to his brain.
Copyright 2010 By Peter A. Kenney