Electric waves and chopped fish

It’s funny the way the press talks. Always with the negative spin. How often do you see a headline that says funding for or profit from x is up? (Leaving aside for now stories about oil companies.)

While the actual funding or profit might be greater than previously, the headline will say, “lower than projected.” An example from the Kansas City Star – Obama seeks funding cuts for wave, tidal energy research. In reality the funding proposed is far greater than it was under Bush.

This kind of thing used to be called yellow journalism, and once upon a time the piece would be clearly understood to have been written with a bias. It’s harder to tell now, as all pieces seem to take the same tack, i.e. it’s always worse than it used to be.

So tidal energy, is it a panacea or a Pandora’s box? It’s really expensive to find out which, and we can’t find out which until we spend the money.

There’s a tidal power project being studied right now off my own island, and in Oregon they’re planning one that uses ocean waves, but this is by no means limited to the Pacific Northwest. A project is well under way in Ireland and a test turbine was installed in New York’s East River in 2007, Scotland, Australia, and South Africa are all pursuing tidal projects.

There’s quite a lot of excitement over this new toy, but the jury is still way, way out on the environmental effects. Buried deep as a ocean floor turbine in each article on the topic is a small throwaway line such as: “Another argument against tidal energy tapping devices is the effect they might have on the aquatic life. The response is that such effects are nominal and that properly engineered devices could function relatively unobtrusively to the natural environment.” ( from PESwiki)

I have a little trouble with that statement. Some of these turbines are 80 feet across. An 80 foot spinning blade has enormous potential to produce power, but also a lot of sushi.

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