One of many elephants in the living room

Posted June 11th, 2011 by kcorliss. Comments (7).

Gov. Jerry Brown in April signed into law a mandate that a third of the electricity used in California come from renewable sources, including wind and solar, by 2020. The new law is the most aggressive of any state.”

So states a paragraph from a June 6 article in the LA Times titled, Wind power turbines in Altamont Pass threaten protected birds. The story talks specifically of golden eagles but it could apply to many many species of birds and bats.

It goes on…The fate of the Bay Area’s golden eagles highlights the complex issues facing wildlife authorities, wind turbine companies and regulatory agencies as they promote renewable energy development in the Altamont Pass and across the nation and adds urgency to efforts to make the technology safer for wildlife, including bats, thousands of which are killed each year by wind turbines.

And therein lies the uncomfortable truth of wind power everywhere: it is far from harmless, far from “green,” far from being the knight-on-a-white-horse saving us from evil carbon.

The reason wind continues to be held in such high regard by enviros everywhere is quite simple: It’s not big oil. That’s it.

North Dakota "bird choppers"

Wind power will never deliver us from dependence on carbon fuels, and shouldn’t. But that doesn’t stop the trumpeting of its so-called merits from every pair of ill-informed lips.

Big Oil, though? Well, they’re just evil, vile corporations existing only to gouge the public of every last dollar in a quest to dominate the world, pollute the earth, and make lives miserable. So they tell us. And they target Big Oil with lawsuits, stand in the way of oil developments, and curtail any effort to expand domestic drilling.

Oil companies (and I include natural gas producers here as well) factor a certain level of litigation settlement money into their yearly budgets, so relentless are attorneys targeting them. Some birds land in oil and die? Wham, lawsuit. And dollars are extracted from the evil corporations (aside: how many of us have Exxon or BP in our mutual funds and don’t know it? Just wondering). But if wind turbines kill birds there is not a peep from lawyers, not one sound.

Again from the article: So far, no wind energy company has been prosecuted by federal wildlife authorities in connection with the death of birds protected by the Migratory Bird Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act or the federal Endangered Species Act.

Surprised? I’m not.

Finally, here’s a few quotes to chew on:

“With the right subsidies, wind could become a viable energy source. And, with the right subsidies, gasoline could be made free, and 2-carat diamonds could be given away in cereal boxes. How is it that wind, with a 4000-year head start, is such a small player in the energy scene? Could it be — just possibly — that the answer has something to do with physics instead of economics and politics?”– Dr. Howard Hayden, Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Connecticut

“In the end, we remain convinced, the entire state [Va.] will see clearly that wind power … is wrong for our mountains and that those who pursue it are driven not by concern for the environment, but by the opportunity to pocket huge profits offered by huge taxpayer subsidies. When the smoke clears, there can be no other conclusion. Whether reason will triumph over the leverage of powerful special interests remains to be seen.” –Editorial Staff, Roanoke Times

Wind farms are “environmentally damaging money wasters whose large scale use increases power demand. The New Age dream of a world operated by wind farms will remain a dream because the laws of physics do not allow it in an industrialised world. If wind power were economic then oil tankers would be sailing ships.” –Dr. Richard Courtney, internationally recognised expert on energy and climate change

(thanks to DL for bringing this article to my attention)

7 Responses to “One of many elephants in the living room”

  1. Andrea

    I’d be interested in finding out what percentage of lawsuits against oil companies are brought by the government, and what percentage are brought by other groups like “the enviros.”

    Likewise with wind power. It might be true that the feds haven’t prosecuted for the death of birds, but other groups have filed suit on environmental grounds (for example, against the Cape Wind project, the Backbone Mountain project in Maryland, the Spring Valley Wind Energy Facility in NV, etc.). In many of these cases, it’s the government that is being sued for granting the permit in the first place.

    At the end of the day, it’s really about trade-offs. Nothing is perfect . . . but one option or group of options will be better. I just wish folks looked at the whole picture before they condemned a project – whether it be oil, natural gas, wind, or whatever.

  2. Wanna B Sure

    I would like to know exactly how much each wind turbine costs, how much energy is used in the manufacturing of same, and how many years does it take to balance to zero. Also what is the realistic life expectency of each turbine.

  3. Wanna B Sure

    PS–Probably need to know annual maintenance dollars vs output dollars also.

  4. kcorliss

    Andrea, is there a place for wind? Maybe. But I would like to see it stand on its own economically sound merits instead of the astronomical subsidies needed to keep it alive.
    WannaB: I’m not convinced, when everything is factored into the equation, that wind EVER makes dollar sense.

    • Wanna B Sure

      I can see one limited application; When a powerline has to be strung hundreds of miles to a very small remote settlement. But they provide power for those communities now with diesel/gas generators. Very common in Canada.

    • Andrea

      Fair enough – I say the same thing about ethanol. I can imagine a (hypothetical) situation where the subsidies for Energy Source A are less than what the government spends cleaning up after Energy Source B. I can also imagine a (hypothetical) situation where Energy Source A directly kills hundreds of birds and bats, while Energy Source B indirectly kills thousands. I’m not arguing for wind or against oil; I actually own shares of BP and XOM, and I lease my mineral rights to an oil company. I guess my real point was that decisions about which source to use probably can’t be based on one single pro or con.

  5. kcorliss

    Don’t get me started on ethanol…I go out of my way to fill up my car with NON-ethanol fuel. Another boondoggle.