Unintended consequences of the federal government’s energy policy are nothing new. Think about ethanol. The United States is now committed to using 9 billion gallons of ethanol in 2008, which will rise to 36 billion by 2022. No one thought it would be responsible for pushing 30 million people into poverty. No one thought of the adverse effects ethanol policy would have on the environment.

Now, Americans are quite literally feeling the unintended consequences of wind energy. While wind is often touted as a green, renewable source of energy, Dr. Nina Pierpont of Malone, N.Y., asserts that wind has its downsides, too. She calls it wind turbine syndrome. According to Pierpont’s medical research:

[L]ow-frequency noise and vibration generated by wind machines can have an effect on the inner ear, triggering headaches; difficulty sleeping; tinnitus, or ringing in the ears; learning and mood disorders; panic attacks; irritability; disruption of equilibrium, concentration and memory; and childhood behavior problems.

Is this a legitimate threat? Maybe. Her message hardly seems politically motivated. In her testimony, Pierpont says she’s an advocate of renewable fuels. Sure enough, as soon as the people drove away from the wind turbines, the symptoms ceased. In fact, eight of the 10 families in Pierpont’s study moved out of their homes. While she doesn’t claim that these effects happen to everyone living near wind turbines, it’s something to consider if the country decides to take on massive wind projects.

These problems aren’t unique to the wind industry; the solar panel industry has had its troubles as well. For instance, Solar Inc., the world’s largest solar company, recently told investors that its largest market, the European Union, may ban its solar panels because they contain toxic cadmium telluride.

But generally, it’s the nuclear industry that’s fending off claims that its energy is harmful to human health. Just a few days ago, actor Alec Baldwin wrote a piece called “The Misperception of Nuclear Power,” claiming that nuclear poses a significant health risk.

He said, “[…] no level of exposure to ambient radiation produced every day at utility sites is healthy for humans, particularly pregnant women and young children.” It’s true that nuclear power plants emit radiation, but there’s a good chance one will intake more radiation from smoking a pack of cigarettes than living near a nuclear power plant. This chart is quite telling of how dangerous a nuclear power plant really is. In truth, the radiation from nuclear power plants is well under the legal safety limits set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and there is no scientific evidence that local populations have been ill-affected from commercial nuclear power plants.

The reality is that all three of these clean sources of energy could have a role to play in America’s energy profile. The central criteria should be that they are safe, affordable and able to compete without any subsidies, mandates or other federal handouts from government.

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