The destructive forces of green energy

Our travels this weekend took us over the Altamont Pass, home of one of America’s largest windmill farms.  The children were amazed by the endless vista of spinning windmills, and my husband waxed rhapsodic about the clean energy.  Being contrary, I mentioned that the windmills kill lots of birds.  Indeed, I said, there was something of a conundrum, because people who care about birds also care about clean energy, and here they were, faced with a clean energy source that kills birds.

It seems I’m not the only one who’s noticed that conundrum.  With exquisite timing, today’s WSJ has an op-ed on precisely that topic:

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.


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.

On the subject of wind farms, a little imp also urged me to say that there must be a few other problems with them, since Teddy Kennedy refused to have them built anywhere within sight of his home in Hyannisport.  Mr. Bookworm first denied that this was true.  When I convinced him of its truth, he then said that it was perfectly reasonable for Kennedy to preserve his view and shift those ugly windmills elsewhere.  He did not concede that “elsewhere” might be less efficient or impair someone else’s view.  In fact, it’s perfectly possible that shifting them would be both more efficient and aesthetic.  I just enjoyed my spouse’s assumption that, if Kennedy said “no,” that possibility must be the reality.

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  • Tiresias

    It begins to become apparent that this is just another way for the federal government to glom onto money it might otherwise miss out on – if you can’t tax ’em any more, fine ’em!

    Pretty soon now the world has to make up it’s mind about its attitude to the collisions between humankind and everything else.

    Cambridge University did a study in England about twenty years back, in which they hunted down a small village – England still has lots of little villages with fewer than 150 or so residents – with a total pussycat population of 39. They gave every cat owner a supply of baggies, and told them to stick whatever the cat left on the back porch in the bag, and they’d pick up once a week. They explicitly told the cat owners NOT to follow the cats around – just give us what they bring home.

    At the end of the year, armed with a reasonable estimate of how many pussycats there are in all of England, from the mayhem those 39 cats committed on the small mammal and bird population in and around the village where they lived, the Cambridge scientists were able to extrapolate that the British domesticated pussycat, when it isn’t curled up in Granny’s lap, kills some 79 million moles, voles, chipmunks, squirrels, birds, mice, garter snakes, baby ducks, chicks, and geese, baby foxes, shrews, etc., etc.

    Why do we tolerate an animal that has absolutely no environmental niche, no place in nature – and comes equipped with night vision, extraordinary hearing and balance, claws, fang-type teeth, the ability to climb trees, and the urge to kill everything it sees? (Not to eat it, either – Granny feeds the bugger – but just because it enjoys mayhem.)

    And then we worry about windmills and birds? What is that hypocrisy about?

  • Charles Martel

    It must be hard being a greenie. Here you have a perfect Gaia-friendly energy source—the wind—and beautiful mills to harnass its energy. But, the windmills kill birds and the carbon footprint from the production, transportation and installation of their enormous structures probably extincts a lebenty zillion species per day.


    Then, if you want solar power, you have to cover thousands of square miles of Gaia’s beautiful, pristine deserts to get the same oomph that you can get from a coal-fired power plant. Not to mention the terrible carbon footprint from their production.

    You might take a look at the very clean, non-polluting, non-footprinting power source called nuclear, but such a look is forbidden. Scholarly studies like “The China Syndrome” and master builders like the Soviets have proven over and over again that nuclear plants are precursors to six-eyed babies and cattle shot through with glistening megaveins of marbling.

    No, mustn’t look.

    Mustn’t listen.

    No, no, I can’t hear you!


  • kali

    “cattle shot through with glistening megaveins of marbling.”

    Sounds like it would be good grilling . . .

  • Ymarsakar

    It was never about the birds. It was always about power, and not the electricity generating kind.

    People need power to protect the things they care about. The Left cares about enslaving humanity, so they need the requisite power to achieve that. We, on the other hand, need more power and strength to stop them.

    Wars will always exist so long as people love and fight to protect what they love. Understanding someone else’s pain will produce better communication, but it doesn’t mean folks will be in agreement.

    The unending cycle of war and hate is produced by people fighting for what they love. Some people love power, so they’ll kill off what others love to acquire power, which creates pain and hate is born of that pain. To kill what someone else loves is to cause them to hate you. To feel the pain of a loved one’s loss is to feel hate. Pain is even caused by people simply living, for ever action has a consequence of this sort.

    My solution to breaking this cycle is to kill off those that needlessly and aggressively create hate in this world for their own benefit. It is the only way to protect what I love. Find a better kind of person and you can help people overcome pain and hatred. Find a better class of people and they won’t go around killing what others love without trying their best to find a better solution to mutual problems.

    The Leftist power brokers and the evil people like Edward Kennedy trample on people’s lives, their loves, and their important people. America has already broken the cycle of violence that has plagued nations and empires for millenniums untold. The Left seeks to reinstate this cycle once more. They think the law can give them the power, in this nation, to kill what they wish, when they wish, and in as many numbers as they would wish for and be free from the consequences of being hated. THey think this, but they are wrong.

    It is not just birds they slaughter in the train loads to fuel their mad ambition, megalomania, and mass murder wannabe ideology. It’s people, human beings. Human potential is stifled and destroyed by the Left. They do so on purpose. It is nothing but collateral damage to them, except they don’t even seek to reduce it. The Left is also cruel, in that they will kill everyone you ever cared about, and then leave you to live with the memory. As they did in Vietnam.

    They think they are free to do so, because the law in America and the US Constitution protects them, so long as they keep it under the radar (Ayers) and dupe the Mr. Bookworms of the world into following a messiah (The Golden Lion Kennedy and the Black Halo of Barack).

    Hate is not kept under control that easily; the cycle of hatred and pain and war is not kept under control as a permanent feature of human nature. It is easily reverted and resumed. All it takes is a nudge in the right direction at the right time.


    Book, the next time you get into a ‘hot air’ discussion with Mr. Book, just starting humming the melody.

    When I convinced him of its truth, he then said that it was perfectly reasonable for Kennedy to preserve his view and shift those ugly windmills elsewhere.

    Like a circle in a spiral
    Like a wheel within a wheel
    Never ending or beginning
    On an ever-spinning reel
    As the images unwind
    Like the circles that you find
    In the windmills of your mind

    Charles (no white shoes) Martel.

    Puns are not beyond the reach of the WSJ

    ExxonMobil is hardly alone in running afoul of this law.

    Final observation.
    It’s California, the very same place where migration (legal or illegal) flying or walking has no repercussions.

    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.

  • Bill Smith

    There are so many things wrong with Wind and solar power. What does Mr. Book have to say about the need for a 100% backup source for wind farms — for when the wind isn’t blowing hard enough, or at all? What about the need to maintain these beasts, and replace them way, way before 30 years?

    Wind and solar are fine for the boonies, and for cruising sailboats, but they are hideously inefficient, and totally impractical as a real source of power.

  • David Foster

    Every now and then, helicopter pilots and crews (including police and emergency services) are killed because they run afoul of low-level obstacles such as power lines, unlighted towers, etc.

    For the money that would be spent on bird-safe wind turbines (assuming that such a thing would even be possible–it’s hard to imagine how) we could probably provide proper lighting for all these hazards and hire enough extra FAA inspectors to make sure they actually stay lit–or, alternatively, purchase obstacle-avoidance technology for every helicopter in the country.

    Haven’t seen nearly as much interest in helicopter safety as in bird safety, though….

  • kali

    Bill, as a friend of mine who is an engineer at a nuclear power plant tells me, Greens don’t understand the concept of base load.

  • Bill Smith


    Right. The problem, as with much of Liberalism, is that it is not about the problem; it is about the Liberal. All that matters to them is that they be SEEN to be brilliant, morally superior beings who are thereby inherently possessed of the right, even the DUTY to bash lesser, um, lights. All that is necessary for them to get a fix of this drug is to “do something.” It matters not that these things are totally impractical and inefficient. What matters is that they will light a lamp, and toast a piece of bread. “There! You see!!” Then they’re off to their next superiority fix like “green jobs.” Since it is ALL about THEM, such things as practicality, and efficiency go right past them. They honestly don’t know what you are talking about. I speak of the useful idiots here, not those who seek absolute power over the rest of us. The latter types cannot, of course, be convinced; they must simply be stopped.

  • BrianE

    This may be the wedge needed.
    It is the environmentalists that have been pushing the alternative energy bandwagon. They have hitched their Prius’s to it and are still pulling for all it’s worth.
    Maybe when they are confronted with a reality of their own making (trading clean wind energy for birds) some of the harder compromises can be extracted.
    I continue to power my own personal wind turbine with wishful thinking in the meantime (I’m not holding my breath).

  • David Foster

    Every kind of energy production involves some inherent problems. Prior to the industrial revolution, *wood* was the primary fuel, and it was also used for a lot of other things, such as the construction of ships. Forests were rapidly being denuded, and the crisis of “peak wood” was solved only by the large scale use of coal. This, in turn, brought its own problems.

    The failure to recognize that life involves tradeoffs and compromises demostrates the extreme immaturity of so many “progressives.”

    And if everything can’t be perfect, well, why not destroy it all and dance on the rubble?

    “The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they seemed to become with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier for them to see that something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle’s eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn. Well, they were going to destroy it again, were they – this garden Earth, civilized and knowing, to be torn apart again that Man might hope again in wretched darkness.”

    –Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz

  • Danny Lemieux

    Let’s not forget bats. Many bats are disappearing. According to a study published about five years ago, the cavitation in the air caused by the turbines causes very sudden pressure drops that cause bats’ lungs to explode. Bats are also critical to environmental balance.

    I fail to see how the wind turbine farms on Altamont Pass are any less unsightly than a coal power plant, especially when measured in terms of output per acre.

    Book, does Mr. Book truly exist or is he a literary figure created to provide the perfect foil to your clear, conservative thought process? Some of his reactions that you describe seem almost to be, dare I say, too caricaturistic of the Left?

  • Bookworm

    Danny, he is a real person and, believe it or not, I never need to exaggerate his responses and views. He works with young liberals so, as I’ve moved right, he’s moved left. Neither of us is where we started, but he still masquerades under the same political label as of old.

  • Ymarsakar

    Book is still the queen. And queens must deal with bothersome individuals.



    Let’s not forget bats. Many bats are disappearing.

    Ahh….but the Ding species seems to be thriving. 😉

  • Charles Martel

    My question about bats is simple: aluminum or wood?

  • Danny Lemieux

    I think it was the moon-kind. Uh, wait…that’s good, right? Say…OK, then, keep building them wind farms.

  • Gringo

    From Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects , published by the National Academies Press.

    Having said the above, we provide here estimates summarized by Erickson et al. (2005) and estimates reported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS 2002a). Those sources emphasize the uncertainty in the estimates, but the numbers are so large that they are not obscured even by the uncertainty. Collisions with buildings kill 97 to 976 million birds annually; collisions with high-tension lines kill at least 130 million birds, perhaps more than 1 billion; collisions with communications towers kill between 4 and 5 million based on “conservative estimates,” but could be as high as 50 million; cars may kill 80 million birds per year; and collisions with wind turbines killed an estimated 20,000 to 37,000 birds per year in 2003, with all but 9,200 of those deaths occurring in California. Toxic chemicals, including pesticides, kill more than 72 million birds each year, while domestic cats are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of songbirds and other species each year. Erickson et al. (2005) estimate that total cumulative bird mortality in the United States “may easily approach 1 billion birds per year.”
    Clearly, bird deaths caused by wind turbines are a minute fraction of the total anthropogenic bird deaths—less than 0.003% in 2003 based on the estimates of Erickson et al. (2005).

    Information can be useful.

  • Bill Smith


    And the number of people deaths from nuclear power plants in responsible Western countries is an infinitely small fraction of deaths by drowning in vehicles of senators opposed to nuclear power — and wind power if it affects their view.

    Wind energy is a lousy source of energy, right up there with ethanol. ALL of its benefits are about NOT being things the Left has demonized. Take that dubious benefit away and it fails miserably and laughably.

    It’s about QUANTITY of RELIABLE power generated per land AREA per $$ etc. etc. Why are those not the criteria?

    Why is it that the Left only seems to feel GOOD about themselves when they are fraudulently bashing things that work well, and have done so for decades?

  • Gringo

    The cost of wind energy according to one presentation, went down from 40¢/ kwh in 1979 to 3-5¢/ kwh in 2004. A presentation in 2007 put it at 8-10¢/kwh, competitive with other sources. These come from the American Wind Energy Association, so there may be some bias. Nonetheless, the claim that the cost of wind energy has gone down drastically in the last 3 decades with improved turbine design, is a valid one. Precisely what the cost is now, can be debated.

    Texas is the largest wind energy producer in the US, with about 30% of installed capacity. My humble abode is powered by wind energy. A bill that left-wing tool Dubya pushed through has a lot of responsibility for that.

    There will be a need to construct long distance transmission lines to bring wind energy from the wind tunnels in the Great Plains to the population centers that use the energy.

    There will be no one answer for energy. Wind is but one possibility. Nuclear should definitely be pushed. ∅bama’s shutting down the plan for the storage facility in Nevada for nuclear waste did not help.

  • Gringo

    While we have a “free market”, it is taxed and regulated by the government. The issue of subsidies applies not only for wind energy, but for ethanol, coal, nuclear , and petroleum.

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