Green Weenie of the Year: The Wind-Talkers

Green Weenie 1 copyConnoisseurs of environmental lore may recall the time Fred Hartley, the then-chairman of Union Oil, was skewered for his comment to a Senate committee in the aftermath of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that “I’m amazed at the publicity for the loss of a few birds.”  He was widely skewered for his insensitivity to nature, at a time when Americans were shocked and outraged at the front-page photos of oil-soaked birds washing up on the sunny California shoreline.

The only trouble was that Hartley didn’t say it as it was reported.  His full remarks before the Senate Public Works Committee reveal a different context and meaning:

I think we have to look at these problems relatively.  I am always tremendously impressed at the publicity that the death of birds received versus the loss of people in our country in this day and age.  When I think of the folks that gave up their lives when they came down into the ocean [in an airliner crash] off Los Angeles some three week ago, and the fact that our society forgets about that within a 24-hour period, I think relative to that, the fact that we have had no loss of life from this incident is important.

Okay, perhaps not the most effective perspective to offer, but it is worth keeping in mind when taking note of the decision of the Department of the Interior this week to grant permission to wind power operators to continue the mass slaughter of bald eagles and other birds (and bats) large and small from windmills for the next 30 years.  As the National Journal headline puts it: “Extensions Would Allow More Killing of Our National Bird.”

The Interior Department appears close to finalizing a controversial permitting rule that authorizes wind farms to kill eagles for decades.

The White House Office of Management and Budget signed off Wednesday on the heavily lobbied rule, which would boost the available permit period from five to 30 years, records show.

In typical bureaucratic doublespeak, the new regulation is advertised as being designed to “ensure the preservation of eagles.”  Yeah, and Obamacare is going to lower everyone’s health insurance premiums, too.

The AP reports:

An investigation by The Associated Press earlier this year documented the illegal killing of eagles around wind farms, the Obama administration’s reluctance to prosecute such cases and its willingness to help keep the scope of the eagle deaths secret. President Barack Obama has championed the pollution-free energy, nearly doubling America’s wind power in his first term as a way to tackle global warming. . .

“This is not a program to kill eagles,” said John Anderson, the director of siting policy at the American Wind Energy Association. “This permit program is about conservation.”

Yeah, right.  There’s a basic rule of PR crisis communications: you don’t use the phrase “this is not,” because that’s a sure tip off that it is.

Green Weenie Hot Dogs copyAll of this is worth remembering the next time an offshore oil spill kills a large number of birds, which occurs about once every 20 years.  The total annual bird kill from windmills is likely orders of magnitude higher than the number of birds killed from oil spills.  There’s a reason I’ve referred to windmills as “Cuisinarts of the Sky.”

Perhaps it won’t matter, as the wind rent seekers may be about to break wind over Capitol Hill for the last time.  The Hill reports that there is growing sentiment in DC to let the wind power tax subsidies expire, without which the industry simply cannot expand.  And the Los Angeles Times this week published a remarkably even-handed story about how California’s electricity grid may become increasingly unstable with more wind power:

Energy officials worry a lot these days about the stability of the massive patchwork of wires, substations and algorithms that keeps electricity flowing. They rattle off several scenarios that could lead to a collapse of the power grid — a well-executed cyberattack, a freak storm, sabotage.

But as states, led by California, race to bring more wind, solar and geothermal power online, those and other forms of alternative energy have become a new source of anxiety. The problem is that renewable energy adds unprecedented levels of stress to a grid designed for the previous century. . .

Green energy is the least predictable kind. Nobody can say for certain when the wind will blow or the sun will shine. A field of solar panels might be cranking out huge amounts of energy one minute and a tiny amount the next if a thick cloud arrives. In many cases, renewable resources exist where transmission lines don’t.

“The grid was not built for renewables,” said Trieu Mai, senior analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

It’s hypocrites (and Green Weenies) all the way down.

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