In an interview shortly after the publication of his findings in the Journal of Raptor Research, Pagel told me that he and his colleagues have since documented additional eagle kills by wind turbines in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota. He refused to give a number but said “it’s quite a few.” There are now 14 states where the problem has been identified, he said, adding that more than half of the eagle carcasses have been found “incidentally” — that is, by people not out looking for them. And so the total of dead eagles is likely far higher than what Pagel and his colleagues are reporting.
Want yet more more outrage? Back in April, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a report saying flatly that “there are no conservation measures that have been scientifically shown to reduce eagle disturbance and blade-strike mortality at wind projects.” That is, the more turbines we build, the more eagles are killed. The gift to the wind industry followed only months after this report.
But the biggest outrage of all — and yes, I know there are plenty to choose from — is the claim by both the federal government and Big Wind that adding more wind turbines will have some salutary effect on climate change.
In its press release, the Interior Department maintains that the new permits will “help the renewable energy industry,” which, says Secretary Sally Jewell, is “vitally important
to our nation’s future.” Why it’s “vitally important” wasn’t spelled out; undoubtedly the underlying rationale relates to the issue of climate change.
For its part, the American Wind Energy Association in its press release once again repeated Big Wind’s Big Lie, calling wind energy “one of the cheapest, fastest, most readily scalable ways available now to address climate change.”
A bigger fib is hard to conjure.
As I wrote in these pages last month, wind turbines are nothing more than climate-change scarecrows. If we accept Big Wind’s claim that all U.S. wind turbines (whose total capacity is about 60,000 megawatts) are cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 80 million tons per year, then domestic wind energy is reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by a whopping two-tenths of 1 percent. That’s a burp in a hurricane.
The math is fourth-grade simple. Global carbon dioxide emissions are now about 34.5 billion tons per year. Since 1982, those emissions have been increasing by an average of about 500 million tons per year. Therefore, if we wanted to merely halt the rate of growth in global carbon dioxide emissions by using wind energy alone — and remember, this won’t displace any of the existing need for coal, oil, and natural gas — we would have to install about 375,000 megawatts of new wind-energy capacity every year. That much wind capacity would require setting aside a land area the size of Germany every year. The foolishness of such a scheme is readily apparent, and all the more so in light of the global backlash against the wind industry, from Australia to Wisconsin.
And to add one more dash of craziness to the insanity: The American Wind Energy Association is lobbying for an extension of the production tax credit, the 2.3-cent-per-kilowatt-hour subsidy given to wind-energy generators. A one-year extension of that subsidy will cost taxpayers $6.1 billion.
In short, the Obama administration wants to allow Big Wind to kill eagles even though one species, the bald eagle, our national symbol, spent three decades on the endangered-species list. This move comes after federal biologists have documented that the eagle-kill problem is increasing, and after the Fish and Wildlife Service itself has found no proven conservation measures that could reduce bird kills at wind projects.
Big Wind may be allowed to legally kill eagles for decades to come while doing effectively nothing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions or address climate change. Big Wind wants subsidies while it does so. And all of this is happening because no one — and I mean no one — on the green Left or in the Obama administration dares to do the math.
— Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His fifth book, Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong, will be published in May.