Texas provides 28 percent of the nation's wind-generated electricity. Most of the state's wind turbines are located in West Texas, where the wind blows almost constantly. Anyone driving across the Texas plains has seen thousands of enormous wind turbines dotting the mesas and buttes. If you go west on Interstate 20 or Highway 287 at night, you will see thousands of lights blinking atop the ceaselessly turning windmills, installed, I suppose, to warn aircraft pilots that they’re flying over a hazardous area.
Some Texans are alarmed by the proliferation of wind turbines on the Great Plains. People who live on the plains are assaulted daily by the visual pollution of giant windmills that litter the horizon. Bills have been introduced in the Texas legislature to regulate the wind energy business and to assess its environmental impact on the Texans who live near wind farms.
Froma Harrop, a newspaper columnist and East Coast liberal, criticized Texas political leaders who want to get better control of the wind energy business. Texas Republicans are opposed to government regulation, she argues, so it is inconsistent for the Republican-dominated Texas legislature to put more regulatory controls on the windmills that pollute the landscape of the High Plains and the Llano Estacado.
Harrop doesn’t live in West Texas. She lives in New York City and Providence, Rhode Island. She’s not bothered by the ugliness of wind turbines that scar the landscape of West Texas. After all, she doesn’t have to look at them.
I have driven across West Texas dozens of times and have seen the giant wind farms that blight the plains. Texas is producing more than a quarter of the nation's wind-generated electricity. Isn’t that enough?
Almost everyone favors renewable energy development, particularly the liberals on the East and West Coasts. They might feel differently if they saw thousands of wind turbines from their living room windows.
Scott Momoday, a Kiowa and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in literature, grew up in southwestern Oklahoma, on the very edge of the Great Plains. He wrote about the landscape of the West from a Native American perspective and believed that this landscape contains many sacred places:
To encounter the sacred [Momoday wrote] is to be alive at the deepest center of human existence. Sacred places are the truest definitions of the earth; they stand for the earth immediately and forever; they are its flags and shields. If you would know the earth for what it really is, learn it through its sacred places. At Devil’s Tower or Canyon de Chelly or the Cahokia Mounds, you touch the pulse of the living planet; you feel its breath upon you. You become one with a spirit that pervades geologic time and space.
Scott Momoday and I grew up on the same landscape of western Oklahoma, a land of majestic views, blue skies, bloodred sunsets, and the Wichita Mountains shimmering improbably on the horizon. I agree with Momoday that this landscape contains many sacred places. Thus, it is a sacrilege to deface it or make it ugly.
As for Froma Harrop, she should live for a couple of years in Snyder, Texas, among the thousands of wind turbines polluting the Great Plains. Let’s see how she likes it, and when she’s completed her sojourn in West Texas, I would like to see her return to Providence, Rhode Island, and find thousands of wind turbines blotting out the seascape.
Texans should not permit more wind turbines in West Texas until a comparable number are placed off the coasts of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and the Hamptons. Let the coastal elites pollute their own visual environment before asking Texans to further desecrate the High Plains.