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Wind Power, Bats, and the Ecological Double Standard

“It’s high time that people’s safety – and truly devastating impacts on important bird and bat species – stopped taking a back seat to political agendas, crony corporatism, and folklore environmentalism.”

Georgia residents recently learned that a rare bat has stalled state highway improvements. The May 2012 sighting of an endangered Indiana brown bat in a northern Georgia tree has triggered federal regulations requiring that state road projects not “harm, kill or harass” bats.

Even the possibility of disturbing bats or their habitats would violate the act, the feds say. Therefore, $460 million in Georgia road projects have been delayed for up to eighteen months, so that “appropriate studies” can be conducted. The studies will cost $80,000 to $120,000 per project, bringing the total for all 104 road project analyses to $8–12 million, with delays adding millions more.

Bat Benefits … and Overreach

Bats have a vital ecological function that translates into agricultural and health benefits for us. A single colony of 150 big brown bats can consume up to 1.3 million flying insect pests per year, Dr. Justin Boyles and other scientists point out, preventing crop damage and eradicating countless mosquitoes. If Indiana bats are expanding their range from Tennessee into Georgia, that could be good news.

“White nose syndrome” is impacting populations of hibernating bats in caves all over the Eastern USA. The infectious disease is probably fungal in origin, these scientists say, and the loss of North America’s bats to WNS could cost farmers $4-53 billion per year – and let mosquitoes proliferate.

At first blush, then, the delay-and-study decision by the U.S. and Georgia Departments of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect these voracious furry flyers makes sense. (The FWS enforces the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and similar laws.)

However, the Georgia bat study action is akin to obsessing about a cut finger, while ignoring cancer. The schizophrenic decision underscores how environmental concerns, DOT actions and federal threats to impose penalties or withhold highway funds too often seem to reflect ideologies, agendas and politics, rather than science or actual risks of harming a species

It’s true that Peach State highway projects could conceivably affect bat colonies or daytime rest periods for these nocturnal creatures, to some small degree. But the road work will reduce accidents and crash-related deaths – and delays will likely result in more injuries and fatalities.

The Real Bat Problem

Meanwhile, other human activities are decimating bat populations all over America. But environmental groups remain silent, and state and federal wildlife “guardians” do little to stop the carnage. How is that possible?

The exempted activities involve heavily subsidized wind turbines that generate expensive, intermittent electricity and require “backup” hydrocarbon-fueled power plants for some 80% of their rated or “nameplate” capacity.

A U.S. Geological Survey report investigated the causes and consequences of bat fatalities around the world. Other analyses have addressed the violent effects that wind turbines have on bats, which are vulnerable because turbines are especially busy at night, when bats are everywhere but electricity demand is at its lowest. Bats are struck by blades traveling 100-200 mph at their tips or felled by “barotrauma,” sudden air pressure changes that explode their lungs, as explained in a 2008 Scientific American articleOn a wing and low air: The surprising way wind turbines kill bats.”

Supposedly “eco-friendly” wind turbines in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands kill tens of thousands of bats annually. The Fowler Ridge and Meadow Lake facilities in northwestern Indiana already have 475 gigantic turbines on 75,000 acres; an additional 150 wind turbines are planned; and all are in the middle of prime Indiana bat habitat.

Even worse, long after the slaughter began, the USFWS is evaluating whether to grant Fowler Ridge a 22-year “incidental take” permit, so that the turbines can continue decimating bats – and the operators can continue being exempted from laws and penalties that apply to everyone else.

Other Wind Mortality

Of course, bats aren’t the only victims. Numerous rare, vital and endangered bird species are also at risk from wind turbines – including whooping cranes, hawks, falcons, and bald and golden eagles.

To minimize public outrage over the eco-slaughter, Fish and Wildlife has changed its census methods for “whoopers” (to make it harder to calculate how many cranes have “gone missing” along their turbine-dotted Alberta-to-Texas migratory corridor); allows wind facility operators to use search methods that ensure that most dead and injured birds (and bats) will never be found; initiated a process to issue 30-year “incidental take” permits for killing bald and golden eagles; and refused to prosecute wind facility operators for annihilating birds and bats.

The proposed New Era Wind Farm in Minnesota will likely kill 8-14 bald eagles annually. It is yet another example of serious environmental impacts overlooked in the quest to “go green” and meet state “renewable” energy mandates – as though this wildlife destruction is “sustainable” or “acceptable.”

Projects like New Era or Shepherds Flat in Oregon also mean a person could be fined or jailed for possessing a feather from a bald eagle decapitated by a wind turbine – but the turbine operator would get off scot free.

A 2012 Spanish Ornithological Society study and 1993 studies in Germany and Sweden found that a typical wind turbine kills 333-1,000 birds and bats annually in Spain, up to 309 birds per year in Germany, and as many as 895 birds and bats in Sweden. World Council for Nature chairman Mark Duchamp estimates that turbines kill twice as many bats as birds.

That means the more than 40,000 turbines operating in the United States, often in or near important habitats, could easily be killing 13 million to 39 million birds and bats every year!

Double Standard

And yet, most environmentalist groups say nothing, and the Fish and Wildlife Service does nothing.

However, Georgia taxpayers must pay millions for bat studies – enriching researchers and reducing taxpayer wealth – to ensure that road projects do not disturb the flying mammals. Meanwhile, the state’s drivers and passengers must wait years for safety and other improvements to their highways.

Ironically, Indiana bats that are to be studied and protected in Georgia could get chopped in half en route by “Cuisinarts of the air” that Uncle Sam considers so holy the turbines must be safeguarded against endangered species laws, regardless of environmental costs.

As summer approaches, Americans should also consider what life will be like when windmills cause bat populations to crater. Freed of their natural predators, mosquitoes will thrive, and they have a much more unquenchable thirst for human blood than do bats of folklore and Dracula tales.

It’s high time that people’s safety – and truly devastating impacts on important bird and bat species – stopped taking a back seat to political agendas, crony corporatism, and folklore environmentalism.

______________

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death. James Rust is a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute (www.Heartland.org), retired professor of nuclear engineering, and a noted critic of climate alarmism.

9 comments

1 Otter { 04.05.13 at 4:50 am }

Thank you, Paul, for all the links enclosed in your article.

Thanks to all who post here on wind turbines.

Were I live in Southern Ontario (Haldimand county), they are planning to erect the absolute Largest turbines yet- over 500 feet tall. Our home will be within two kilometers of three of them- with 6 more only a short distance further, and we’re just talking a few hundred meters…

My wife and I have joined into a group lawsuite, the 14th such in (Canada? Or just Ontario, not sure). We’re planning to write to several MPPs about this, as many other already have. Your links to research are very much appreciated.

2 Jim Wiegand { 04.05.13 at 11:27 am }

It does not matter what the species, the community, or the value of a particular ecosystem, this wind industry wants profits and will trample over anything to get them. They have shown this pattern of destruction over and over again. Some notable conservation groups actually support this path of devastation. I am well aware of the arguments and sales pitches given by their leaders for wind turbines. One of their favorites is that, “We will lose far more species from climate change”. But the problem with this idiotic argument is that wind turbines can never fix climate change. Only ecosystems can do this, the very same ecosystems being chopped up by the wind industry. In the meantime worldwide wildlife genocide is taking place by a runaway industry.

Part of the problem with all this is that these groups have also put themselves into position to receive undeserved mitigation money from wind projects. In other words there are financial rewards or payoffs for dead eagles killed by turbines and even more money if more than the agreed numbers of eagles are killed.

The insanity of it all is that they are actually being rewarded for their support of this ongoing destruction. They are supporting a slaughter from turbines they claim if far better for the world than if we were to not build turbines. There is also another disgusting side to these conservation groups; from not one of these groups do I hear a plea for the obvious, bird safe wind turbine designs.

Conservation groups were involved with the “no net loss” scam. Wind farms can now get take permits to kill bald eagles if their “take” fits into the criteria of “no net loss” to the population. The “no net loss” game was created in Washington. Here is how it plays out. First bogus population surveys are conducted by shill biologists. Then population is estimated many times over. Then from their bogus numbers mortality thresholds are determined. Then they come in and say something like this….we expect the project to kill only 10-20 eagles a year. This is such a low percentage (within allowable calculated take thresholds) that the overall population will not be affected by the few eagles killed. They totally ignore that the local populations of eagles that will be slaughtered off by the wind turbines by lumping or diminishing their deaths into an imaginary population figure that covers a vast region.

One project at a time these groups sit back and accept this annihilation. The truth you will never hear from these groups is that wind turbines are so dangerous that there can never be a “no net loss” as long as these turbines exist in eagle habitat. “No net loss” is nothing but a shell game that was designed to get projects approved. The golden eagle is disappearing and is in a rapid state of decline because of the wind industry. Territory abandonment is taking place over tens of thousands of square miles in CA and hundreds of thousands of square miles in Scandinavia. The FWS and wind industry have deliberately been avoiding studies that could show these turbine related declines.

The 2012 and 2013 FWS counts for the declining whooping cranes are a cover-up. Several hundred whooping cranes are missing since 2006 the thousands of wind turbines were installed along their Central Flyway. Their 2013 count should and would have been well over 400 at 425-435. Instead the FWS stepped in to keep us guessing and to cover for the industry. They now claim that between 178 and 362 are still alive.

In a few hours with a pilot and a small plane, I could come up with a far more accurate figure then the FWS whooping crane count. In fact any competent and honest biologist could. But there is no outcry to be heard from any conservation groups. I strongly suspect these groups are bound by gag orders from wind industry money they have accepted or are fearful of their new source of funding (mitigation) will be cut off.

Support by the members of these groups is fading. I know because I receive their emails. Many are rightfully quitting. But still many do not know what is taking place. In time I believe the majority will see these conservation groups for what they really are, sell-out parasites.

3 JohnInMA { 04.05.13 at 11:50 am }

The intersection of any matter with politics will yield illogical or even irrational outcomes, at times. And certainly the problem in our modern culture is that there is scarcely an area (industry, societal, business, financial, etc.) that isn’t influenced. I see the value in steadily highlighting those areas of hypocrisy or irony or even corruption. It may even been fair to suggest that the ‘blind eye’ problem with wind energy and avian mortality fits into the latter category, and goes way beyond cronyism or being excused even in the name of ‘green priorities’.

The cabal appears to have grown so large, encompassing many of the more notoriously active environmental groups (or otherwise active – meaning except in this case), that perhaps my questions in earlier posts and other articles here answers itself. The definitive, conclusive study doesn’t exist due to corruption. Deliberate manipulation of techniques to observe and collect data, political sympathy from normally powerful resistance – perhaps even paid sympathy?? – and what I assume is denial of access to sites for independent study, all signal something much more sinister than simple hypocrisy to me.

My frustration increases when I see statements like, “The proposed New Era Wind Farm in Minnesota will LIKELY kill 8 – 14 bald eagles annually.” The cabal appears to be winning the debate through the ability to control the topic by pouncing on uncertainty in addition to manipulating the “official” science. It reeks of the same tactics as the ‘scientific consensus’ scream about climate.

Perhaps everyone is being too gentle in their effort to point out the truth? A little more condemnation may be needed. After all, somehow the relentless cries of inevitable catastrophe from nuclear power have neutralized to a degree. So in my ideal world (!!!!) I suspect there is a way to win in the opposite – meaning to bring truth to the exaggerated “positive” spin

4 Dr. James H. Rust { 04.05.13 at 3:16 pm }

Memo to Otter
As a nuclear engineer always obsessed with safety, I would move if faced with the possiblity of living within a mile of a wind turbine. The long term health effects on humans from turbine operations producing pressure pulses and low frequency noise is probably unknown. If you have pets, they will be in misery by the presence of operating turbines because of their superior natural senses of sound and feeling. They can’t speak up and tell you of the Hell you added to their lives.

And lastly get out from proposed turbine areas. You may end up with a house that is worthless once wind turbines are in operation

James Rust

5 Dr. James H. Rust { 04.06.13 at 9:14 am }

This news report from the London-based Oil & Energy Insider was posted on the Internet April 4, 2013. It contains disturbing news about wind energy as a “renewable” energy source. One problem is Mafia involvement in Italian wind farms.

“Traditionally the mafia controls operations in gambling,prostitution, protection, extortion, and loan-sharking; yet recent evidence in Italy shows they might actually be adding renewable energy to that list.” This is reasonable because of analogies of normal Mafia business activities to some features of promoting renewable energy sources.

Since the Mafia knows how to use good business models on investments in Italy, it makes sense sister-organizations in the United States may be making similar investments.

Renewable energy programs in the United States rely on government subsidies for construction and operation and government mandates that users of renewable electricity must pay higher rates for electricity. This is a business model the Mafia figuratively refers to “do as I say or we will use a baseball bat to break your legs”. Some times the model is enforced.

Wind and solar farms seem a good way to hide illegal money and this activity should be examined in the United States. One problem may be the U. S. government having sympathies with the Mafia because they support U. S. government activities. Through crony capitalism, the U. S. government promotes a reverse Robin Hood theory of taking money from the poor and giving it to their rich supporters.

6 JohnInMA { 04.06.13 at 11:57 am }

In reply to James Rust’s posting about Italy: Although the mob is more endemic in Italy, and certain regions have high Mafia land ownership rates making it easier (?) for them to take advantage of government wind and solar farm subsidies, I doubt there is a full analogy. Nothing about the nature of wind and solar farms are suspect for the same reasons, here.

However, it seems very fair to request a second (or first??) look at the ‘green investment’ funds, especially those who receive special regulatory and tax considerations. Look for the limited partnerships, LLCs, and even the non-profit label and you might be surprised by the count. Or maybe not. Their funding sources are often difficult to discern in sufficient detail. Many of these organizations/groups are singulary focused on investments with the greatest ‘green’ subsidies, but not just energy. It’s a very different scenario when compared to other venture and angel organizations who have a lot to lose from risky behavior in the legal sense. Both types of organizations chase the energy subsidy dollars here, but only the first groups’ finances seem potentially suspect. Perhaps the best place to start is in tracing the partnership/LLC trail to which Gore dollars flow….

Although crony capitalism is rampant and by no means unique to renewable energy, I think the greater danger is in the overall collusion and corruption and not the source of the funds. As this original post suggests, the apparently coordinated effort to hide truths and bend to ideological whims (as environmental groups have) is more ominous. There may be better places to start addressing cronyism to get more out of the effort. Banking, for example?

7 Jim Wiegand { 04.07.13 at 2:55 pm }

In the UK the RSPB is the equivalent of the Audubon Society here in America. Everyone should read this story ” RSPB makes a killing… from windfarm giants behind turbines accused of destroying rare birds”. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2305197/RSPB-makes-killing–windfarm-giants-turbines-accused-destroying-rare-birds.html

It is important for people to realize that these groups have also sold-out here in America. They profit off the rare and endangered species that are slaughtered at wind farms.

These groups are being rewarded for their support and silence about the ongoing wind turbine genocide. They are also lying to all their members when they claim it will be far better for the world to have these wind turbines than to not have them. The truth is that by supporting wind turbines, is it much more profitable for these groups.

People need to realize that the primary conservation groups have been hijacked and are nothing more than wind industry mouthpieces or pitchmen. One of the most obvious illustrations of betrayal by these conservation groups is their silence. Silent about the development of bird safe wind turbines, they do exist. These sellouts should be screaming about this as a solution to save the many species being slaughtered off by turbines.

8 Wind Turbine Ecological Impact On Bat Population : Wind Power for Home Zone { 04.08.13 at 12:02 pm }

[...] That means the more than 40,000 turbines operating in the United States, often in or near important habitats, could easily be killing 13 million to 39 million birds and bats every year! Learn more at the Master Resource. [...]

9 Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup | Watts Up With That? { 04.08.13 at 2:23 pm }

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