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Another windmill just what Paris needs?

An experiment to test wind turbines resembles modern art.

“At first, I thought it was going to be ugly,” said Terence Marshall, a retired American professor who has lived in Paris for over 30 years. “I did fear it would be one of these huge Aeolians.”

On his way home one afternoon, he decided to stop for a closer look — and listen — at the site since, as a neighbor, he had witnessed the project’s evolution from idea to installation. They’re not a terrible eyesore and produce little noise, he decided, but he was not convinced that the benefits would ultimately justify the costs.

“It’s a nice story,” said Marshall, 67, emphasizing that a tale about the environment may be heartwarming at best but it is not much more.

Energy from the windmills might cover only 2 percent of the city’s electricity needs, he said. Furthermore, about 80 percent of France’s energy is nuclear, unlike in the United States, which worries about nuclear waste disposal, he said, and the bulk of Paris’ pollution comes from cars.

Marshall, who as a lecturer on political philosophy and American politics often debated these issues with his students and colleagues, noted another influencing element at work: politics.

“Ecology is a political party here,” Marshall said. “Governments can stand or fall by virtue of their support.”

As a case and point, the Socialists and the green party joined forces last month to hand the ruling Union for a Popular Movement party (UMP) a handsome defeat in the regional elections.

And governments, Marshall said, are looking for that support.

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