In western states where wind turbines proliferate, operators are exempt from penalties relating to eagles killed by the turbines. Snopes, a quick-and-dirty fact-check site for the slothful, failed to validate the story, but more digging found the Smithsonian Institute and the Institute of Energy Research, two powerhouses of respectability, offering these insights:
> In 2013, the Obama administration unveiled regulations allowing wind energy companies to obtain 30-year permits to kill eagles, peregrine falcons, owls and other species protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Treaty Act, without prosecution by the federal government.
> Statistics vary, as they usually do, yet the aviary mortality rate has increased noticeably as more wind turbines come on-line. During the past 5 years, an estimated 3 million birds have been killed by wind farm operations, and until recently the government’s lethargic enforcement division has shown little inclination for penalizing offenders.
> Fossil-fuelers don’t enjoy the luxury of the fed’s leniency, however, in view of the $100+ million in fines assessed BP for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill which tallied up an estimated 800 thousand bird kills. No question that BP's treasury deserved to be pillaged, but the enforcement disparity issue raises a political stench more toxic than the sludge washing into the marshes of south Louisiana.
Big carbon footprints, stand aside! Big Green is the new kid on the block. New is exciting and sexy and anything of verdant hue, which all translates to subsidies, tax abatements and high favorability ratings in the swamps of public opinion. Green, like the dollar, is good because it represents growth. Fossil-fuelers had their turn harvesting growth, oft-times at public expense. Now Big Green wants theirs, even if at public expense, too, because that’s the trade-off for sating the nation's bloated energy appetite.
Advocates for wind turbine energy are quick to point out household cats kill as many birds, if not more. What?! They kidding?! One thing doesn’t have to do with the other, but if industry proponents are going to rely on this as an argument it should keep in mind that felines are predators by nature, so what does that say about Big Green?
Two weeks ago, westbound on Katy Fwy on a routine shopping mission, a CofH electric-powered municipal vehicle passed me. On the rear of the car was a logo of an electric plug and cord, proudly bragging on “100+ miles per gallon!” If I was able to, I would’ve inquired if the driver knew the following facts about his vehicle’s mileage stats:
33 mpg – provided by coal-powered generation plants
32 mpg – electricity provided by natural gas-powered generation plants
20 mpg – all others (hydro, wind, solar, renewables, oil, etc.)
15 mpg – provided by nuclear-powered generation plants
Hmm, if we're truly committed to reducing CO2 emissions, we could reduce our driving by about 65%. But that requires a working knowledge of Math 101, so I’m not optimistic about reduced emissions any time soon.
How to fix our energy issues? We innovate, solve and lead by doing. That requires integrity, courage, accountability and backbone – all in short supply, of course. The golden eagle just got more company on the endangered species list.