Guest Column

Donn Dears

Just the Facts, Ma'am


Ever wonder about the claims made by environmental groups? TSAugust, staffed by volunteers, sets the record straight.

Environmental issues affect everyone and have a significant effect on Virginia’s economy, but environmental news is often inaccurate or misleading. Peddled by extremists and organizations with an axe to grind, much of the news about the environment is merely regurgitated by reporters who are short on time and in need of an interesting story.


Nothing is more frustrating than reading an article yet knowing that the contents are factually inaccurate.


This frustration led to the establishment of a nonprofit, TSAugust, whose sole mission is to bring factual information about the environment and economic growth to Americans using the Internet. The quirky name was selected to make it easy for people to remember the web address, The name itself is derived from “The Second of August” which is when most delegates signed the Declaration of Independence.


The unlikely location of this non profit is Reston, better known for its liberal, activist history. Reston, a planned community in Northern Virginia, was founded by Bob Simon, who had a vision of a community built around village centers where people could live where they worked. The idea appealed especially to liberal activists, and the community has been a haven for them ever since.


TSAugust continues in this tradition. Although some would describe our philosophy as considerably to the right of Reston's pioneers, we think of ourselves as conservative in our use of the facts. If it happens that these facts counter much of the commonly accepted environmental wisdom, we let the chips fall as they may.


Since its founding in 2002, TSAugust has published weekly news stories and thought provoking papers on subjects such as wind power, hydrogen and economic growth, and endangered species.


The endangered species issue is very timely in Virginia. The Commonwealth maintains a list of endangered species that complements the federal list. Most people think of furry animals or beautiful birds when they think of endangered species. In truth, many endangered species are insects and mollusks.


Last year, for example, Virginia designated four insects as endangered species and two as threatened. The endangered bugs included:

  • Buffalo Mountain mealybug

  • Mitchell's satyr butterfly

  • Hollinger's cave beetle

  • Virginia Piedmont water boatman

The threatened bugs included the:

  • Northeastern beach tiger beetle

  • Appalachian grizzled skipper (a small butterfly)

Listing species such as these can result in private property losing its value and can affect economic growth. The news article didn’t comment on whether these insects deserved to be listed but merely brought to people’s attention that endangered species cover a much wider swath than commonly thought.


Another hot environmental issue in Virginia involves wind farms. Wynergy LLC has proposed building 150 wind turbines, each rated 3.6 megawatts, three miles off the coast of Virginia, stretching along Cape Charles southward to opposite Virginia Beach. Although wind turbines have not yet been proposed for the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia, they have been proposed in West Virginia and Maryland.


While calling for greater use of renewable energy sources such as wind power in the abstract, environmental groups have criticized wind farms wherever someone actually wants to build them. In one instance, more than 25 environmental groups and individuals called on the Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, to investigate the impact of wind turbines on migratory birds.


Other people have decried the visual impact of 400-foot-high towers with rotating blades flashing in the sunlight.


Advocates also claim that wind power is only slightly more costly than electricity generated by fossil fuels. In fact, wind turbines can generate electricity only when the wind is blowing, and not blowing too hard, so on average they only produce 30 percent of the turbine’s rating. It is like going to the store to buy a quart of milk but only getting 1/3 quart of milk in the bottle. In addition, traditional steam- or gas-powered generators must be kept on line as spinning reserves, ready to step in when the wind stops blowing; this adds to costs, which by some estimates, doubles the cost of wind power.

Virginians will pay these added costs, one way or another, as wind power is developed.


At present, TSAugust, a 501 (c) 3, uses volunteers for all its activities. Volunteers with expertise in the subject matter research and edit the articles. Volunteers have developed and maintained the website. Until now, the operation has received no contributions from corporations, although assistance would be accepted if offered.


TSAugust is a grass roots organization that continues the Reston tradition with a new activism based on education and facts.


-- August 9, 2004




















Donn D. Dears is president of TSAugust.