Monday, 26 November 2012

Rheese's pieces

Max Rheese is no friend of wind energy. What he is particularly fond is making claims that are recycled falsehoods. His latest piece, published in Online Opinion, picks out another handful of myths from the hat. This one focuses on attempting to characterise criticism of anti-wind lobbying as being itself based on mythology. He demonstrates that this is true by saying it several times, and not providing examples. 

Rheese blatantly attempts to emulate the language and terminology used in Mike Barnard's incredibly merciless critique of his propensity for myths. Unfortunately, he left out the 'making statements that are supported by evidence' part. 

Let us explore his claims. Bring your raincoat, my dear friends. This will be messy. 

"Landholders who host turbines are bound by gag claims in their contracts from speaking out publicly, which is why the public in general are not aware of the very real distress some turbine hosts are suffering. These gag clauses are denied by wind farm supporters, but are confirmed here by solicitors Slater and Gordon."

Confirmation that wind energy companies are intentionally making hosts sign contracts that stop them from speaking publicly about health effects? Dear lord! I will make you wait no longer - here is Slater and Gordon's full letter to The Australian:

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"James Delingpole asserts that Slater and Gordon have been responsible for "rigorous gagging orders" in favour of wind farm operators. This is wrong. We have acted for landowners who have been affected by the operation of nearby wind farms.

Any confidentiality clauses associated with some compensation claims have not been made at our direction. Such clauses are required by the wind farm operators and are typically required in these types of settlements. It is a decision for our clients as to whether they accept such clauses.
James Higgins, general manager, Slater and Gordon, Melbourne, Vic"
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So, Higgins' letter is about land owners taking action against wind companies, and the confidentiality clauses about those cases, not the initial agreement between the company and the leaseholder. 
I suppose, if you really wanted to call out 'gag-clauses' as being a myth, then all you'd have to do is demonstrate that a land owner has spoken publicly about health effects, without facing legal action from that wind energy company.

"Bravely, turbine host David Mortimer from South Australia was quoted by Lloyd saying, he would gladly return the money to have wind turbines removed from his property."
There we have it, ladies and gentlemen. Gag clauses prevent landowners from making public claims about health issues, except for when they make public claims about health issues. 

"Lloyd wrote of the paper published in October 2012 in the Journal of Noise and Health by three well qualified medical researchers linking wind turbine operation at two U.S. wind farms with ill health."
Ah yes, this paper. A handy-dandy dot point summary of the paper:
- The data used have been reviewed in two court cases, both of which found it did not constitute evidence of a causal linkage
- Noise data visually extracted from a graph, rather than measured
- The study found no statistically significant difference in physical wellbeing, and uptake of medication, between the 'near' and 'far' groups 
- The two wind farms are in areas of high anti-wind lobbying activity, a factor which isn't discussed at all in the paper. 
-  The paper references Nina Pierpont's self-published 2009 study, and isn't doing it ironically. 
Though publishing the data in a journal is a nice touch, the problems with the study are pretty significant. They're explored further here and here. Both make for pretty astonishing reading. Nissenbaum's paper does have merits, but the conclusions are, unsurprisingly, overblown.

"they spent their time querying the motives of community groups who are part of the community backlash over wind farms that is surpassing opposition to coal-seam gas mining according to Origin Energy last week."
Origin Energy! They're huge! Surely, their opinion must count for something. They must have HEAPS of wind farms. 
"Wind power generating capacity recently completed, under construction or under development"

Oh, right. Tristan Edis of Climate Spectator points out that they don't hold much sway. Out of curiosity, here are the search term results from Google Trends, comparing "Anti wind" to the anti-CSG lobby group "Lock the gate":
Or, comparing "Wind Farms" to "Coal Seam Gas":
As you can see, people searching for anti-wind information far outweigh people searching for anti-CSG information. Oh wait, no they don't. 

"In a decision recently handed down in an Ontario environment court it was declared "This case has successfully shown that the debate should not be simplified to one about whether wind turbines can cause harm to humans. The evidence presented…demonstrates that they can…the debate has now evolved to one of degree"."

Ah, that's more like it. Presenting a quotation to demonstrate a point, rather than simply making a sternly written remark. Just to be sure though, let's have a quick look at the original quote, without the ellipses:

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"This case has successfully shown that the debate should not be simplified to one about whether wind turbines can cause harm to humans.  The evidence presented to the Tribunal demonstrates that they can, if facilities are placed too close to residents.  The debate has now evolved to one of degree."
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Ah. So, the phrase 'if facilities are placed too close to residents' was not considered inclusion-worthy by Rheese. Curious. The ERT case has three enormous PDF documents included on the Ontario Environment Court's website, all of which are pointedly never linked to whenever this quote is used. I ponder why this is the case.

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"For the reasons that follow, the Environmental Review Tribunal finds that the Appellants have  failed to show that Suncor’s Kent Breeze Project, as approved, will cause serious harm to human health." 
Page 6, Environmental Review Tribunal Decision 'Overall Conclusion'
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Oh, that's why.


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