Avian Mortality: Union of Concerned Scientists’ Negin Debunked in Real Time
“I have no idea who Jim Wiegand is, but the Master Resource website is highly questionable….”
“Jim: My apologies. I was overreacting…. Perhaps you would be better served if you avoided that [MasterResource] crowd.”
So said Elliott Negin, Director of News & Commentary at the Union of Concerned Scientists, several days ago in the comments section of his Huffington Post piece, Wind Energy Threat to Birds Is Overblown.”
Mr. Negin is a serial user of the argumentum ad hominem. The Free Dictionary defines ad hominem as: “Appealing to personal considerations rather than to logic or reason: Debaters should avoid ad hominem arguments that question their opponents’ motives.”
In his piece, Negin takes on journalist and scholar Robert Bryce, whose exposés of politically correct renewable energy have clearly stuck a nerve with mainstream environmentalists whose embrace of industrial windpower is problematic.
Negin’s statements such as “Bryce … likely will continue to attack renewable energy at every opportunity on behalf of his benefactors” are a low blow indeed. Perhaps Negin would like to square off with Bryce in a public debate with media present to see who the real environmentalist is and who has the better facts and arguments.
My money is on Bryce, and not because he is necessarily an effective debater. He is. It is just that wind power is ecologically suspect beyond a best-of-evils forgiveness.
But just hours after Negin’s post went live, Kate Sheppard of the Huffington Post reported some big news: Duke Energy Renewables Guilty Plea Nets Big Fine for Bird-Killing Wind Turbines. “The company admitted killing 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds, including hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens and sparrows, at two sites in Converse County, Wyo., from 2009 to 2013,” Sheppard wrote.
“Wind energy is not green if it is killing hundreds of thousands of birds,” the American Bird Conservancy replied to the verdict (as reported by Sheppard). “The unfortunate reality is that the flagrant violations of the law seen in this case are widespread.”
Negin quickly added an update to his post with the development.
Here Come the Comments
A number of readers were not sympathetic to Negin, one noting how rated-design capacity of windpower was hardly indicative of what it can produce given its low capacity factors. This simple, well-known fact is routinely ignored by the American Wind Energy Association—and non-critical (crony) environmentalists.
Enter Jim Wiegand, of MasterResource import, who pushed back on Negin’s attacks on Robert Bryce with his comment:
Robert Bryce is not a wildlife biologist. But I am, and his article grossly understated the industry’s hidden bird and bat genocide.
The wind industry is set up to hide their horrific mortality problem. Some East Coast studies I have looked have concealed tens of thousand of fatalities. I recently looked over a 7 month study that I believe concealed over 25,000 bat fatalities and over 5000 bird fatalities. This was the estimated mortality from just 28- 2.5 MW turbines after making adjustments for their tiny search areas and other factors.
The study reported finding 262 bird carcasses and 706 bat carcasses. Searches for carcasses amounted to about 56% of a 50 distance from towers. These turbines had blades 50 meters in length and searches should have been 200 meters. These turbines are also located in the known habitat of the endangered Indiana bat.
How many of the unreported 25,000 bats were of this species? We will never know. From several different sources. I now have carcass distance data from hundreds of wind turbine fatalities that shows at least 90% of carcasses are launched and land beyond blade lengths. A turbine with 50 meter blades (2MW-2.5MW class turbines) should have search areas of 200 meters from towers for all these carcasses.
The “study” reported a mortality rate of just 6.4 birds/MW and 15.61 bats/MW. The public should be outraged by this because the industry is concealing millions of bird and bat fatalities each year with their bogus research.
The studies I cite in my blog are not industry studies. They were conducted by scientists and most of them were published in peer-reviewed journals. In any case, all energy technologies have drawbacks.
Nuclear and coal plants kill millions of fish annually, for example. And birds crash into their cooling towers, although I have not been able to find any studies estimating the numbers. Then there’s the threat of climate change to migratory birds. No energy technology is completely benign.
The wind industry has been hiding behind fraudulent studies and mortality monitoring for several decades. “Voluntary regulations” have created an environment with mortality impacts not being reported, or not being properly studied. When mortality is studied the wind industry methodology is rigged with search areas 10-25 times too small, improper search intervals, and many other tricks. None of this is scientific.
Also hidden has been the fact that these turbines are such prolific killers that in years to come these turbines will be the reason for the extinction of many species.
The blade strike slaughter applies to everything that flies that must share the same habitat with these turbines. This includes bees and other insects as well. For birds and bats the mortality footprint of every single turbine reaches out thousands of miles because of the migration patterns for these species.
My research into the wind industry indicates that the wind industry hides over 90% of their mortality with “their” studies.
Negin then went ad hominem in spades:
I have no idea who Jim Wiegand is, but the Master Resource website is highly questionable. The top “principal” listed on the site is Robert Bradley Jr., the founder and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research (IRE), a fossil fuel-industry front.
Over the last decade or so, IER and its political arm, the American Energy Alliance, have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from ExxonMobil; the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry’s trade association; the Center to Protect Patient Rights, a secretive nonprofit group linked to Charles Koch and his brother David, the billionaire owners of the coal, oil and gas behemoth Koch Industries; and the Charles Koch-controlled Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, one of a handful of Koch family funds. (For more info, see here.)
Another principal on the list is Marlo Lewis from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which until recently was one of the most-cited climate change denier organizations. Over the years CEI also has received significant funding from ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers’ foundations. For more on CEI, see here).
I wouldn’t trust anything Mr. Wiegand has to say.
Mr Elliott [Negin] stated below “I wouldn’t trust anything Mr. Wiegand has to say”.
What Mr. Elliott failed to point out is that I have posted articles and scientific facts about wind turbine mortality all over the world. Why did he not attack everyone? The Master Resource site is just one of many.
I encourage readers to search the internet for all this information and remember no one pays me. I work for Nobody. I am only trying educate the public so protected species can be saved from this terrible industry.
If another industry in some way benefits from my research I can not help that. Maybe it is as simple as other industries and people caring about eagles. All I really care about is that the wind industry stops slaughtering off our precious wildlife, especially eagles. I have studied eagles for decades.
As for the news below about Duke Energy being prosecuted, I believe dozens of wind projects could be prosecuted for rigging mortality studies and hiding the deaths to rare and endangered species.
Negin then backtracked:
Jim: My apologies. I was overreacting to the fact that you published your story on a site run by Koch- and ExxonMobil-funded climate science contrarians, which I immediately found suspect. Perhaps you would be better served if you avoided that crowd.
In any case, I appreciate your passion for protecting birds. But what I have to go on is the peer-reviewed literature — which you apparently dismiss. It shows that the number of birds killed by other manmade sources dwarfs the number attributed to the wind industry. That is not to excuse the wind industry, mind you. But I wanted to put this problem in context, which was sorely missing from Robert Bryce’s columns.
Have you published peer-reviewed studies yourself that contradict the conclusions of the some of the studies I cite? If so, please post the links.
As for Duke prosecution, as I mention in my blog, Fish and Wildlife was investigating 18 turbine-related bird death cases and referred seven of them to the Justice Department. I assume the Duke case was one of those six. When I get a moment I will post an addendum to my blog mentioning the Duke settlement.
To which I can now respond to Negin:
- I was attacking the economically unjustifiable, ecologically damaging wind power industry back at Enron (see here);
- There is a strong moral case for the most abundant, affordable, and reliable energies;
- Dense, reliable energies are better for the environmental than dilute, intermittent energies (wind and solar);
- Marlo Lewis, the present writer, and others that I know on the free-market side of the energy sustainability debate are not bought-and-paid-for, as Negin asserts.
Getting back to ad hominem argumentation, I stated elsewhere:
the basic thing about free marketeers is that we have arrived at what we feel is the intellectually correct, moral, utilitarian position–and then we seek funding. We do not just sit back and decide to go with the highest bidder.
Richard Belzer added:
there is a serious simultaneity bias. One cannot easily tell if funding influenced the research or research influenced the funding. One’s first priority should be addressing the merits. If and only if an argument fails on the merits should one delve into whether funding might explain why.
The reason is that all funders have agendas, including (and often especially) the government. There are many competitive government-funded research programs for which compatibility with the agency’s agenda is a transparent criterion for funding eligibility.
For some reason, those who object to “industry” funding seem not to object to this. I find this especially ironic given that the prevailing view among free-market types is that “industry” is intensely non-ideological because profit is neither Blue nor Red. Because profit is as easily located in productive activity as in rent-seeking, it is a rare policy issue in which “industry” cannot be found on both (all?) sides.
Mr. Negin, the ball is in your court. I leave you with this quotation that gets to the heart of the matter:
Truth is what gets results…. Continual questioning and brainstorming … is what we call a challenge process.
The quality of this process depends on a willingness to respectfully engage in open, honest, and objective debate, to challenge the status quo, and to consider humbly any challenges to our own beliefs, proposals, and actions. This applies just as much to challengers as to those being challenged….
“As the philosopher, economist, and Anglican bishop Richard Whately observed: ‘It is one thing to wish to have truth on our side, and another thing to wish sincerely to be on the side of truth.’”
This quotation comes from page 115 of Charles Koch’s The Science of Success (Wiley & Sons, 2007: reviewed here). If you dare read this book from your declared dreaded enemy, Mr. Negin, you might just start a long, agonizing process of self-questioning that just might make you less of a climate alarmist, statist, and “PR hack”—and more of a scholar and free-market, pro-consumer, pro-taxpayer advocate.