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The subject of windmills killing birds has been discussed occasionally on the web for several years. Every time the subject gets popular, it suddenly seems to drop out of vogue to discuss. The argument is always that the bird fatalities are a fraction of other human activity and therefore not significant.
There is little doubt that windmills kill birds and bats. Their remains are found at the foot of windmills on a regular basis. Robert Bryce, the author of “Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of ‘Energy Independence‘”, “Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron“, and “Cronies: How Texas Business Became American Policy– and Brought Bush to Power” recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the wind energy industry is being held to a different standard than other energy companies.
It does seem true and plausible that “green” groups that love to go after oil and coal companies would turn a blind eye to “one of their own” such as wind farms. We all know that the courts are used to serve the self-interest of organizations as opposed to just being used to fairly apply the law. The real travesty here is that federal investigators that get pushed to pursue one energy company aren’t pushed to pursue all forms of law breakers.
A few interesting clips from the Wall Street Journal article:
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On Aug. 13, ExxonMobil pleaded guilty in federal court to killing 85 birds that had come into contact with crude oil or other pollutants in uncovered tanks or waste-water facilities on its properties. The birds were protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which dates back to 1918. The company agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and fees.
ExxonMobil is hardly alone in running afoul of this law. Over the past two decades, federal officials have brought hundreds of similar cases against energy companies. In July, for example, the Oregon-based electric utility PacifiCorp paid $1.4 million in fines and restitution for killing 232 eagles in Wyoming over the past two years. The birds were electrocuted by poorly-designed power lines.
Yet there is one group of energy producers that are not being prosecuted for killing birds: wind-power companies. And wind-powered turbines are killing a vast number of birds every year.
A July 2008 study of the wind farm at Altamont Pass, Calif., estimated that its turbines kill an average of 80 golden eagles per year. The study, funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, also estimated that about 10,000 birds—nearly all protected by the migratory bird act—are being whacked every year at Altamont.
Altamont’s turbines, located about 30 miles east of Oakland, Calif., kill more than 100 times as many birds as Exxon’s tanks, and they do so every year. But the Altamont Pass wind farm does not face the same threat of prosecution, even though the bird kills at Altamont have been repeatedly documented by biologists since the mid-1990s.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, the industry’s trade association, each megawatt of installed wind-power results in the killing of between one and six birds per year. At the end of 2008, the U.S. had about 25,000 megawatts of wind turbines.
Why aren’t wind companies prosecuted for killing eagles and other birds? “The fix here is not easy or cheap,” Mr. Lee told me. He added that he doesn’t expect to see any prosecutions of the politically correct wind industry.
This is a double standard that more people—and not just bird lovers—should be paying attention to. In protecting America’s wildlife, federal law-enforcement officials are turning a blind eye to the harm done by “green” energy.