Editorial: Tilting at windmills
Oil became king, as predicted in 1918; and decades later, in the 1970s, America faced an energy crisis as oil-producing countries jacked up prices and limited supply.
So, in that long-ago decade, the nation started to think about alternative energy. The present reflects the past. Here are excerpts from an editorial that appeared in the Gazette-Journal on Sept. 16, 1976: "Will Windmills Help?"
"The rising cost of importing foreign oil and the tremendous expense involved in building nuclear generating plants adds urgency to the need for developing alternate sources of energy." (2010 note: Urgency? Ha!)
"Government and private sector scientists are working hard on development of solar heat, which systems have proved feasible in some areas…much hope is being held out for its ultimate development into a workable, practical system." (2010 note: Still expensive.)
"Now comes another proposal to which serious attention is being given. Windmills, a source of water power for centuries, are being talked of as a hope of the future. That it is being taken seriously is evidenced by an announcement that the Energy Research and Development Administration will construct the largest windmill ever build at a cost of $7 million…designed to generate sufficient power to supply more than five hundred homes."
Of course, oil became cheap again and all the dreams of clean, renewable power faded from the public’s priority list. Those who urged solar and wind power were, well, tilting at windmills…fighting unwinnable battles.
If only solar and wind power had been the subject of continuing research and development, they would be efficient, cheap and reliable sources of power today. But decades after that first energy crisis, we are still waiting for widely adopted, reliable alternatives to oil…and preparing to drill for petroleum off Virginia’s beautiful coastline. Is this progress?