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Category — Greenwashing windpower

PTC as Wildlife Terminator (environmental reasons to clean out tax code)

“The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and other experts estimate that well over 500,000 birds and countless bats are being killed annually by turbines. The subsidized slaughter “could easily be over 500” golden eagles a year in western states, Save the Eagles International biologist Jim Wiegand told me. Bald eagles are also being butchered. The body count for the two species could soon reach 1,000 a year.”

Extending the industrial wind production tax credit (PTC), in addition to its other problems, threatens eagles and other majestic birds in consequential ways. Do the Washington, DC environmentalists know this? Do they care?

Back in 1995, Paul Gipe’s book, Wind Power Comes of Age (New York: John Wiley & Sons) forthrightly dealt with the fierce, internal debate within the Sierra Club and other groups about the ‘avian mortality problem.” Christopher Flavin of the Worldwatch Institute even said in a foreword to Gipe’s book (pp. xiv–xv):

To its credit, Wind Energy Comes of Age tackles even the most nettlesome issues plaguing the wind industry, including the problem of bird kills, often referred to euphemistically as ‘avian mortality.’ Although the magnitude of the problem is not yet fully clear, Paul raises important warning flags about the dangers of not taking it and other environmental issues seriously. Unless the industry heeds Paul’s warnings, it will lose the environmental high-ground that helped get it where it is today. . . . Even those who feel stung by his criticisms would do well to remember the fate of the nuclear power industry, and others that chose to ignore early problems.

Well, 17 years later, we can say this major environmental problem is clear, and Big Environmentalism is giving Big Wind a pass, an undeserved pass. [Read more →]

July 30, 2012   7 Comments

The Sierra Club: How Support for Industrial Wind Technology Subverts Its History, Betrays Its Mission, and Erodes Commitment to the Scientific Method (Part III)

Editor note: In Part I and Part IIJon Boone set the stage for a final analysis of the Sierra Club’s current position in support of wind power. This conclusion to the series provides a discussion on the science, realities, and the unintended consequences that may be the result of current environmental movement thinking, which it typifies.

 Birkenstock Tales

MBA types who wouldn’t know a bat from a bowtie now run the national Sierra Club. Their interest is in gaining membership and revenue. In a critique aptly entitled, Torquemada in Birkenstocks, Jeff St. Clair said this about Carl Pope: “[He] has never had much of a reputation as an environmental activist. He’s a wheeler-dealer, who keeps the Club’s policies in lockstep with its big funders and political patrons. Where Dave Brower scaled mountains, nearly all of Pope’s climbing has been up organizational ladders.”

Environmental organizations that support wind technology by pretending that the ends justify the means, by falsely assuming that wind can do anything meaningful to alter our existing energy profile, are largely responsible for the depredations unloosed by the wind industry.  Their imprimatur gives the industry a legitimacy it does not deserve. This “legitimacy” welcomes the industry’s trade association to a place at the government table, which then compels politicians to bestow upon the wind lobby political favors, given the political penchant for compromise. [Read more →]

April 19, 2010   9 Comments

The Sierra Club: How Support for Industrial Wind Technology Subverts Its History, Betrays Its Mission, and Erodes Commitment to the Scientific Method (Part II)

Editor note: In Part I, Jon Boone traced the history of the Sierra Club from its inception in 1892 to today and commented on its evolution as an environmental body. Part II focuses on the realities of today’s wind power initiatives and its influence on Sierra Club beliefs. Part III concludes with a discussion on the science being used to promote its policies and the unintended consequences that may result.

 

Between the Gush for Wind and the Hard Place of Reality

The physical nature and enormous size of industrial wind projects has caused a lot of blowback. Between Maryland and West Virginia, for example, there is potential for around 2000 wind turbines, each nearly 500-feet tall; they would be placed atop 400 miles of the Allegheny Mountain ridges. About 20 acres of forest must be cut to support each turbine—4-6 acres to accommodate the free flow of the wind per turbine; one or more large staging areas for each wind project; access road construction; and a variety of substations and transmission lines. Cumulatively, about 40,000 acres of woodlands would be transformed into an industrial energy plant far larger than any conventional facility. Most of this montane terrain contains rare habitat and many vulnerable wildlife species.

How can such a looming industrial presence be reconciled with the goals of maintaining choice natural habitat while reducing the impact of human activity? For the Sierra Club, the answer is: The use of siting guidelines and wildlife assessment studies that would restrict limited liability wind companies from placing their huge machinery in the most sensitive places and away from rare and threatened species of plants and animals. If the war on carbon is to be won, and if skyscraper-sized wind turbines are part of the price for winning that war, then accommodation must be made. In the words of one wind developer, “some will have to sacrifice if we’re to have the clean, green energy from the wind” replacing coal and putting a stop to mountaintop removal coal extraction practices.

More than a few Sierra Club members and local chapters have resisted the national organization’s encyclicals on wind precisely because such hulking intrusion seems inimical to environmental common sense. The chair of the Maryland Chapter’s Conservation Committee, one of the nation’s leading naturalists, resigned in large part because of this concern. In response to such dissidents, the Club’s national leadership insists that it, and not its member chapters, be the final arbiter of what wind projects meet its standards: “It is important for the Club to speak with a unified, clear voice in its reaction to wind energy projects. It will not be good for the Club if one chapter is focusing totally on concerns about impacts on birds while the chapter in the next state is urging the public to support wind projects as a crucial element in reversing the impacts of global warming.” The organization enforces its authority under threat of expulsion, as was the case when its executive chairman, Carl Pope, in the wake of another controversy, excommunicated the entire Florida 35,000-memmber chapter for four years.

To “manage the negative environmental impacts of wind,” the Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, the American Bird Conservancy, Greenpeace, and the Audubon Society all recommend guidelines that, if followed, provide wind projects with their environmental seal of approval. Even on public lands. And with no evident sense of irony for the Sierra Club—since this is a policy taken from Gifford Pinchot’s playbook. John Muir is likely turning in his grave. [Read more →]

April 18, 2010   5 Comments

The Sierra Club: How Support for Industrial Wind Technology Subverts Its History, Betrays Its Mission, and Erodes Commitment to the Scientific Method (Part I)

Editor note: In this three part series, Jon Boone traces the history of the Sierra Club from its inception in 1892 to today and comments on its evolution as an environmental body. Given this organization’s prominence in environmental thinking today, this is an important and informative essay on the merits, possible motivations and effects of such movements. Part II will focus on the realities of today’s “Gush for wind” initiatives and its influence on Sierra Club beliefs. Part III concludes with a discussion on the science being used to promote its policies and the unintended consequences that may result.

“A lot of good arguments are spoiled by some fool who knows what he’s talking about.”

~ Miguel de Unamuno

In the Beginning

By the dawn of the twentieth century, European sensibilities and burgeoning technologies, filtered through the American experience, had brought a close to the vast North American frontier. A centuries-long march to the beat of seemingly inexhaustible abundance was replaced by a dawning recognition of limitation, of natural resources ravaged and lost. Passenger pigeons, once the most common bird in colonial America with numbers in the billions, had become extinct, along with several other species. Many more were on the edge of extinction. The bodies of millions of native songbirds dangled around fashionable ladies’ millinery. Miners even used birds to assess air quality in coal shafts.

Habitat for much of our native flora and fauna had also been transformed or eliminated. Most of the Eastern hardwood forests had been timbered while millions of acres of wetlands had been built over, such as the sweeping Klamath marshes in Oregon. Industrial development, including incipient factory farming practices, had already altered much of the natural agricultural landscape. Coal, steel and railroads combined to forge giant cities like Chicago out of virtual wilderness in only a few decades. Electricity, refrigeration technology, and the internal combustion engine would soon conspire to bring new settlement in places so environmentally sensitive that most wildlife could not survive the intrusion.

John Muir’s new Sierra Club, founded in 1892 “to make the mountains glad,” was, from its beginning, caught between the growing power and expansive ambitions of the United States and its ongoing paradoxical relationship with nature, torn as it continues to be between celebrating the natural world and ruthlessly subduing it. Muir, the Club’s first president, understood the concern that drives much of contemporary environmentalism: Wherever human beings are, there’s much less of everything else. And he vowed to protect the remaining wilderness. [Read more →]

April 17, 2010   7 Comments