Windmills Kill Birds...Lots Of Birds

Back in 2008, ExxonMobil pleaded guilty in federal court to killing 85 birds that had come into contact with crude oil or other pollutants in uncovered tanks or waste-water facilities on its properties. The birds were protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which dates back to 1918. The company agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and fees. That comes out to $7,058.82 per bird.

In July 2008, the Oregon-based electric utility PacifiCorp paid $1.4 million in fines and restitution for killing 232 eagles in Wyoming over the past two years. The birds were electrocuted by poorly-designed power lines. This comes out to $6,034.48 per eagle.

Yet there is one group of energy producers that are not being prosecuted for killing birds: wind-power companies. And wind-powered turbines are killing a vast number of birds every year.

A July 2008 study of the wind farm at Altamont Pass, Calif., estimated that its turbines kill an average of 80 golden eagles per year. The study, funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, also estimated that about 10,000 birds—nearly all protected by the migratory bird act—are being whacked every year at Altamont.

By 2030, environmental and lobby groups are pushing for the U.S. to be producing 20% of its electricity from wind. Meeting that goal, according to the Department of Energy, will require the U.S. to have about 300,000 megawatts of wind capacity, a 12-fold increase over 2008 levels. If that target is achieved, we can expect some 300,000 birds, at the least, to be killed by wind turbines each year.

Why do I bring this up?

Besides the unfair practice of fining traditional utilities and giving the windmill folks a free pass, I can't think of a reason for bringing this up. I like the environment and the fresh air and all that stuff.  I do not like to be forced to spend more money than I should on an inefficient system that is more harmful to the environment (birds) than we are led to believe.

Grow up, folks. Traditional utility power is cheaper, even when you factor in the $6,000 - $7,000 fine per dead bird that the windmill people don't have to pay.

No comments: