Earth Day Activists Ignore Big Wind ‘Slaughter’ for Eagles

Earth Day comes and goes on April 22 without portraying themselves as environmentalists and their allies in the media who devote much, if any, attention to the damaging effects of wind power on wildlife habitat, particularly for eagles.

There is nothing on the official Earth Day website that identifies him, in part, as “the world’s largest recruiter for the environmental movement, working with more than 150,000 partners in over 192 countries.”

There is no mention here of any of the environmental impacts of wind turbines in what The Washington Post has identified as its climate journalists’ “best stories” of the past year. They must have had plenty of time.

First: Wind power comes with pros and cons, like all other technologies and energy resources.

Politicians, however, routinely distort the cost-benefit analysis of choosing wind over other energy sources. They have shored up wind with subsidies and are dishonest and deceptive about the environmental costs of wind. The eagle’s death is a cost; overuse of land is another.

The winds enjoy a “green” political sheen, especially on Earth Day, but there’s so much more to the story.

The idea that green energy is not entirely eco-friendly, apart from being economically unhealthy, does not fully fit the Earth Day narrative. That narrative is largely built around virtues called renewable energies, such as wind and solar.

In a report for The Heritage Foundation last fall on the life cycle of energy sources, fellow Andrew Wheeler, who was the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2019 to 2021, wrote:

Without a full understanding or debate of the problem, decisions made today will create future environmental problems. …Today, the Biden administration and Congress are working overtime to encourage the use of renewable sources, but they are not proposing solutions for dealing with renewable waste.

Recent action by the Department of Justice against ESI Energy LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources Inc., a “diversified clean energy company,” makes it hard to refute what wildlife biologist Jim Wiegand describes as “sustainable slaughter.”

ESI Energy pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act based on the “documented death of a golden eagle due to blunt force trauma,” according to a Department of Justice press release. The trauma, the agency said, was the result of “being struck by wind turbine blades at certain facilities in Wyoming or New Mexico, where ESI did not apply for the necessary permits.”

ESI Energy “acknowledges that at least 150 bald eagles and golden eagles have died in total since 2012, at 50 of its 154 wind energy facilities,” the Justice Department release said, with 136 of those bird casualties “caused by eagles being struck by lightning. wind turbine blades.”

The court ordered ESI Energy to pay $27 million over a five-year probationary period to support initiatives designed to minimize falcon deaths.

The company will also pay more than $1.8 million as part of the plea deal and more than $6.2 million in damages. It sounds terrible, but Wiegand says he’s skeptical the effort will make a big enough difference.

“Except turning off the turbines, there is no way to prevent eagle deaths from wind blades,” wildlife biologists observe on the Master Resource blog, a platform for energy policy discussions, adding:

The industry and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are well aware of this because wind turbines have been culling eagles for decades. It is common knowledge that the American Wind Industry Association has now been dancing for a decade or more.

Given the time and history behind us since the first Earth Day in 1970, it’s natural to ask what the opportunity cost of dire predictions of a catastrophe never materialized, versus the time and effort that could have been spent tackling the actual challenges.

Kent Lassman, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank dedicated to economic freedom, suggested that it was time to retire from Earth Day.

“His history is littered with big slogans, speeches, and statements—but not with much environmental improvement,” Lassman wrote in an op-ed published by The Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. “Every year Earth Day gets its share of pageantry and more than petty propaganda. It was time to let him rest. ”

A little history about wind turbines.

Wiegand has spent years drawing attention to the relationship between the wind industry and poultry mortality in the Altamont Pass in Northern California. He wanted to know “where the true environmentalists are in this debate,” says the wildlife biologist.

Apparently, they are not affiliated with the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group that recently became part of the American Clean Power Association. In a press release issued August 19, 2011, the American Wind Energy Association claimed that Fox News was “absurd” in reporting birds flying into wind turbines.

That claim doesn’t really hold up 10 years later.

In a recent post, Master Resource carefully dissects and disassembles the association argument. Back in 2011, the wind group acknowledged that Altamont Pass “had a significantly higher loss rate of golden eagles than any other US wind farm.” But it also points to “complete studies” showing no real impact on breeding populations.

Master Resource expresses skepticism about this claim, while asking questions relating to the relationship between wind lobbies, government agencies, and efforts to prevent other studies.

Again, conservatives don’t need to be out swinging wind energy as a technology. However, they certainly have to fight policies and politicians that distort the electricity market and obscure real costs.

By the way, it wasn’t just the bird population that fell victim to Big Wind. The federal Production Tax Credit for wind power got its 13th extension last year from Congress, further exacerbating costs for taxpayers.

As an added insult, taxpayers are effectively subsidizing the damage to wildlife habitat that Earth Day activists say they are fighting for.

The Daily Signal publishes various perspectives. Nothing written here should be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.

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