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Our Toxic Relationship with Wind Power

Dead bird (Caracara)By: Christine Morabito – February, 2015

If clean, safe and efficient energy is to be our standard, then why use wind power at all?

When we examine the entire process, the construction and operation of wind turbines is a dangerous and toxic affair. It begins with the mining of rare earth minerals, a collection of chemical elements manufactured mostly in China. The ill-protected workers are exposed to hazardous materials like hydrofluoric acid and radioactive particles. These substances are then exported worldwide, for use in wind turbines as well as computers, cell phones, hybrid cars and energy saving light bulbs.

The process of refining of these elements leaves death and destruction in its wake, polluting farmland, killing livestock, seeping into waterways and poisoning drinking water. Besides the devastation to the environment, nearby villagers report significant health problems, like bone, respiratory and heart diseases. Some residents suffer helplessly while their teeth fall out. But, since all this is occurring in the Far East, Western environmentalists don’t seem particularly concerned.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the massive windmills gobble up valuable habitat, as do the roads needed to access them. These eyesores ruin otherwise picturesque landscapes, and are built with little regard for the migratory paths of protected wildlife. The deadly blades can reach speeds up to 170 mph, often chopping birds into pieces. Most recent data estimates that 600,000 birds and hundreds of thousands of bats fall prey to this “green” technology every year.

Just east of San Francisco lies a 58 square mile wind farm called the Altamont Pass. The turbines have reportedly killed some 3,000 golden eagles, putting their population in serious jeopardy.

In the 30-odd years that wind energy has existed, only 2 companies have been prosecuted for illegally killing protected birds. The first was in 2013, when the U.S. Department of Justice and Duke Energy, of Wyoming, announced a $1 million settlement related to the deaths of 14 golden eagles and 149 hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens and sparrows.

In January, 2015, Pacific Corp, also in Wyoming, was ordered to pay $2.5 million for killing 38 golden eagles and 336 other protected birds.

Under the auspices of fighting climate change, the Obama Administration is awarding wind-power companies a 30-year amnesty in the form of “take permits,” which allow the killing of endangered species. It’s ironic that our tax dollars are being used to study and protect endangered species, while simultaneously subsidizing an industry that is killing the aforementioned animals.

By working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wind producers can avoid creating killing fields. The key is to bypass well-known migration routes.

I spoke to Bob Johns, Public Relations Director at the American Bird Conservancy. When holding energy companies accountable, Johns says, “green energy is held to a different standard.” The problem is one of selective enforcement. Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines are voluntary and not enforced via regulation like those governing oil and electric companies. Johns stressed that “wind producers are not ‘mom and pop’ businesses, but large corporations,” with little incentive to follow mere guidelines. He believes regulations are needed to stop the egregious killing of birds and level the playing field. Deadly turbines are a worldwide problem, with wind farms in Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands, among others.

What exactly is the up-side? Wind energy is expensive, costing about twice as much as conventional power sources. And, since wind is heavily subsidized, taxpayers fund it before and after it is produced, as evidenced by the infamous Cape Wind project in Massachusetts, which is already $10 million over budget. Wind energy is not particularly efficient, producing only between 3 to 4 percent of our country’s electricity. Like other alternative energy sources, turbines must be backed-up by fossil fuels when the wind isn’t blowing.

Like all fledgling energy sources, new technologies, combined with regulations, will make wind energy safer, cleaner and more efficient. Through innovative filtration systems, we have made great strides in removing pollutants from fossil fuel emissions. The plastics we have come to rely on were once discarded waste products from oil refining, proving that the human race will continue to innovate – because that’s what we do.

While there is risk in producing every type of energy, the risks of using fossil fuels are greatly exaggerated; the benefits rarely mentioned. The well-funded, well-connected environmental lobby has an ideological, knee-jerk reaction to energy. In their world, fossil fuels = bad, alternative energy = good.

Massachusetts State Senator, Kathleen O’Connor Ives plans to introduce legislation to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Massachusetts. While carrying some hypothetical risk, fracking has the phenomenal ability to make America energy independent. Lower energy costs make us all richer, and we are sending billions less to our oil producing enemies – who, as we speak, are plotting our demise.

I know Senator Ives to be a reasonable legislator, and I’m hoping she and others will consider the pros and cons of every energy source at our disposal. In our quest for energy alternatives, facts should trump ideology. The earth and all its inhabitants deserve nothing less.

Related Articles:

Are Rare Earth Minerals Too Costly for Environment?

Impacts of Wind Energy Development on Wildlife

Wind farms vs wildlife

Wind Farms May Not Lower Air Pollution, Study Suggests

Will Newer Wind Turbines Mean Fewer Bird Deaths?

 

Christine Morabito

Christine Morabito

Christine Morabito is a psychiatric nurse, a resident of Haverhill, president of Protect Our Vote New England and the former president of the Greater Boston Tea Party. You can email Christine christine.morabito@hotmail.com

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10 Responses to Our Toxic Relationship with Wind Power

  1. Dan Reply

    February 24, 2015 at 8:18 AM

    Birds are killed because The Massachusetts Audubon Society and other non-profit organizations are too busy hammering the missing class population who don’t have the deep pockets that large wind-farm nonprofit corporations have.

    Massachusetts Audubon Society helped with a million dollars deceptive, TV advertising, practices campaign years ago that left many of the working poor without food and income for home heating fuel. They helped to convince the public to stop the pro-active management of wildlife in Massachusetts. Today, with their high priced lobbyist, they are keeping unsafe wildlife condition here. Although professional wildlife biologists are voicing that a change in the law is needed.

    Legislators are listening to extreme members of animal rights organization not the professional wildlife biologist. Furthermore, according to reports, the new Senate President is saying, Legislators are looking for the public to flood their e-mails and telephones calls before the do the right thing while, I guess for now, birds, wildlife and pets will die.

    • Christine Morabito

      Christine Morabito Reply

      February 25, 2015 at 8:38 AM

      Thanks Dan. Just sent them a link to this article with a plea to reconsider their support of wind technology, at least until there are better regulations that will protect wildlife.

  2. michael veves Reply

    March 1, 2015 at 9:33 PM

    Christine,
    If was great to see someone at the Valley Patriot take such an interest in birds as well as the environment! For a hard core right wing conservative monthly paper, I was very impressed you should see the importance of preserving our environment, protecting people (especially the most vulnerable), and your feelings about protecting birds was truly commendable. Can’t wait to read another article from you about the importance of protecting the environment and people. Usually, wild life protection is the last thing on the minds of Tea Partiers. Congratulations!
    MIKE

  3. Rich Cowan Reply

    March 5, 2015 at 1:37 PM

    The legislation preventing Fracking that I have seen also prevents the disposal of Fracking related waste in Massachusetts. Before you are quick to dismiss the initiative of Ms. Ives, be aware that over 15 counties in NY have banned the the use of brine from fracking as a road deicing agent because it has toxic chemicals like benzene in it. Do we really want that stuff dumped on our roads in Massachusetts? NO!!

  4. Christine Morabito

    Christine Morabito Reply

    March 8, 2015 at 9:27 PM

    Thank you Michael for your comments. It may surprise you to know that this Tea Party member was also a zookeeper for 13 years. I and many others like me care very deeply about both people and the environment. We are not the fire-breathing monsters our opponents and the mainstream media make us out to be.

  5. Christine Morabito

    Christine Morabito Reply

    March 8, 2015 at 9:41 PM

    Rich, while I’m not well versed about fracking waste being used on roads, I take what New York does with a huge grain of salt. Keep in mind that New York also thinks it’s ok to ban salt in restaurants and sugary drinks over a certain size. All I’m saying, is let’s not throw out the baby with the fracking water (sorry, couldn’t help myself). We can solve many of these problems if we put our minds to it. We should to weigh the pros AND cons of every type of energy. There’s a lot at stake here.

    • michael veves Reply

      March 11, 2015 at 9:19 PM

      Wonderful Christine. I think the image people still have of Tea Partiers are from years ago…you know…the ones who were spitting at legislators, threatening both R and D. That image is old. This is definitely the new Tea Party from what I can tell. Do the Tea Party locals permit pro choice people or are they ‘verboten’? What about people who are not ‘believers?’ I do feel affinity with the Tea Party and how strongly they favor the working man and woman. It’s what makes me think of attending meetings. Working people are overburdened. Their sweat helps keep the very wealthy living their lavish lifestyles, don’t you think? I still can’t believe how low wages are for the American worker. Do you expect to do any writing on the importance of higher wages for American workers?

      Regarding salt and sugar. Hey, if someone wants to destroy his health, who am I to tell him not to! It he wants to drink a 48 oz. size of coke with lunch, it’s his choice. If he does that a few times a week over 20 years and get diabetes, that’s his fault and I shouldn’t have to have my health insurance premium go up because others don’t take care of themselves. I AM NOT MY BROTHER’S KEEPER! Right?

      Interested in your valued opinion!

  6. Tennis Lilly Reply

    March 21, 2015 at 4:48 PM

    I wonder if Dan would explain what he means by “pro-active wildlife management”.

  7. Christine Morabito

    Christine Morabito Reply

    May 15, 2015 at 11:17 AM

    Dan, it’s interesting you should mention Mass Audubon. Although I am a member, I was horrified to learn of their complete 180 in support of wind turbines, despite the hundreds of thousands of bird and bat deaths for which the industry is responsible. My next column will be about that very subject.

  8. Christine Morabito

    Christine Morabito Reply

    June 24, 2015 at 5:03 AM

    Cape Wind Project: A Tale of Crony Environmentalism (Part 2) Did Mass Audubon Sell its Soul to the Wind Industry http://valleypatriot.com/cape-wind-project-a-tale-of-crony-environmentalism-part-2-did-mass-audubon-sell-its-soul-to-the-wind-industry/

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