Continuing to survive primarily on federal handouts and subsidies, the wind energy movement has recently come under fire. While it is typically seen as a “clean” and “eco-friendly” alternative to fossil fuels, as the bird carcasses accumulate, the movement is starting to see closer scrutiny. According to Robert Bryce of the Wall Street Journal:
Over the past two decades, the federal government has prosecuted hundreds of cases against oil and gas producers and electricity producers for violating some of America’s oldest wildlife-protection laws: the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Eagle Protection Act.
But the Obama administration—like the Bush administration before it—has never prosecuted the wind industry despite myriad examples of widespread, unpermitted bird kills by turbines. A violation of either law can result in a fine of up to $250,000 and imprisonment for two years…
Last June, the Los Angeles Times reported that about 70 golden eagles are being killed per year by the wind turbines at Altamont Pass, about 20 miles east of Oakland, Calif. A 2008 study funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency estimated that about 2,400 raptors, including burrowing owls, American kestrels, and red-tailed hawks—as well as about 7,500 other birds, nearly all of which are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—are being killed every year by the turbines at Altamont.
…Bats are getting whacked, too. The Pennsylvania Game Commission estimates that wind turbines killed more than 10,000 bats in the state in 2010.
USA Today reports that, on the other hand:
ExxonMobil pleaded guilty in federal court…to the deaths of 85 birds [not eagles] at its operations in several states, according to the Department of Justice. The birds were protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and Exxon agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and fees. In July, the PacifiCorp utility of Oregon had to pay $10.5 million in fines, restitution and improvements to their equipment after 232 eagles were killed by running into power lines in Wyoming, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
That is far fewer than the estimated 10,000 birds (nearly all protected by the migratory bird law) that are being killed every year at Altamont…
Despite the deleterious effect that the windmills are having on wildlife, the wind industry is pushing to keep both its carte blanche and generous subsidies. According to Eric Glitzenstein, a Washington D.C.-based lawyer who wrote a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “It’s absolutely clear that there’s been a mandate from the top” not to prosecute the wind industry for violating wildlife laws. “To me,” he said, “that’s appalling public policy.”
In 2011, wind energy was the second-largest recipient of the government’s $24 billion in energy subsidies. According CNN Money, proponents say that, “while renewable technologies may be more expensive now, federal support provides a crucial market and…given time and economies of scale, renewable technologies will eventually be able to compete with fossil fuel.”
Watch the LA Times report on the Altamont Pass:
And NBC’s report on the dangers posed to golden eagles by wind turbines: