Who Needs Economic Development? (certainly not San Miguel County)

I am not a believer in wind and solar power as our economic or environmental salvation. That said, the federal government has subsidies in place for wind power and those who wish to build wind farms are looking for wide-open spaces with strong, constant wind, to build their farms. Construction of these farms will generate short-term jobs and the leases for the land on which these projects are built will generate some long-term revenue…sounds like a winner, right?

Well, not in San Miguel County, New Mexico. According to news reports, the citizens of San Miguel County are nearly united in their opposition to this modest form of economic development. It’s not as if San Miguel County doesn’t need the jobs or income boost. According to Census data, the County is far more impoverished and has far lower income levels than the rest of the state of New Mexico (a relatively impoverished state).

Said one local of the proposed project “I don’t want to see turbines out there wrecking everything.” Now, I know environmentalists (and the NIMBY crowd) are pretty weak on property rights, but it would seem to behoove us all if we recognized that the owners of a particular piece of land should be able to do with it as they please as long as their is no direct, negative impact on their neighbors — and I’m sorry, but having a windmill within eyesight is not a “direct, negative impact.

There is no doubt that this NIMBY attitude is harmful to San Miguel County’s economy. Remember how difficult they made Val Kilmer’s efforts to create a few jobs? That said, this is a real problem for the future of wind power. If you can’t get the locals to believe that having a windmill nearby is benign, how are you going to make wind a viable power source?