There we were; in the belly of the beast; conservatives waiting to be regurgitated by the liberal leviathan—lurking in its comforting lair. I sat with two friends at a round table in Burney Hall Ballroom A with about 100 others. Not surprising at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, a dozen or so young people were scattered about the room. We attended “A wind power workshop,” subtitle: “The Truth About Wind Power on the Coasts of North Carolina,” sponsored by the John Locke Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy think tank with a (shudder) conservative viewpoint.
The program had been publicized on the JLF website clearly stating that this event would “present an alternative view from that of environmental pressure groups, ‘Big Wind’ industry and self-interested state bodies going around the state trying to sell the public on the idea of allowing wind power plants along North Carolina’s coast.”(link) Three speakers made presentations followed by Q&A. Dr. Roy Cordato, JLF vice president for research, moderated the panel and several other Foundation staff came from Raleigh to support and record the program.
The first clue of opposition to this forum showed when two students handed out leaflets at the entrance to the building. The handout proclaimed that “the U. S. can learn from Europe” about “effectively using wind” to generate electrical energy; that North Carolina could “get over 100 percent of our electricity from offshore wind”; and that “Dirty Energy” has hidden costs because it has killed 16,000 people. Later, UNCW tactics turned more dramatic and emotional.
Dr. Cordato’s introductions were interrupted by a small band of students who moved in front of the speakers and unfolded a white sheet with large, hand-painted letters: “This Program Brought to you by the Fossil Fuel Industry” (or similar words). The demonstration was childish, rude and embarrassing, but not unexpected at a modern university. Activism has replaced civility and inquiry.
Of course, the speakers had no connection with the oil and gas industry. Daren Bakst is JLF director of legal and regulatory studies; John Droz Jr. is a Fellow with the American Tradition Institute; and David W. Schnare is director of the George Mason Environmental Law Clinic.(link) In fact, two of the men said that they were environmentalists. One had been a high-level regulator with the federal Environmental Protection Agency for many years.
Mr. Bakst spoke about Senate Bill 3, the ill-advised legislative act designed to drive up the cost of electricity, passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2007.(link) The others presented the many technical and economic problems with large scale, government-promoted wind energy. I’m a critic and the evidence showed that it’s worse than even I thought.
However, students, faculty and other activists were not there to learn about the negative side of wind energy, such as its excessively high costs, wasteful use of land, low value and inefficiencies that make it uneconomical unless subsidized heavily by government. Instead, they questioned the credentials of the speakers, their motives and how they were funded—classic leftist tactics: when they can’t make sensible argument, they divert attention by trying to discredit and demean the opponent (speakers weren’t paid for their attendance).
The panelists were men of letters (in academic jargon), and had strong backgrounds in science and engineering. They had long experience and objectivity on the issue (one said he didn’t like coal that provides most of our dependable, efficient electric energy). None of that mattered to students clearly ignorant and unwilling to consider the overwhelming evidence that promoting wind energy on a large scale is nonsensical. The facts could not shake their indoctrinated worldview of socialism and social “justice”—emotion rather than reality; unreasonable means to justify a destructive end—they refused to listen and learn.
A former Wilmington mayor, turned community activist, stated that he expected the program would present “both sides” of the wind energy issue. Dr. Cordato responded that promoters of wind energy had already made their presentations, and the purpose of this workshop was to counter their myths and show the problems associated with it.
Several students walked out before the speakers finished. Although they were restrained, several who demonstrated and spoke showed ignorance and disrespect. From my perspective as a spectator, faculty was responsible for the bad behavior. Rather than guide students to respectfully and with curiosity seek a valuable learning experience, they brought them to disrupt and discredit people whose only mission was to provide information and add to our knowledge. In my opinion, these faculty and students only dishonored themselves and brought shame on the university.
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