Sunday, 22 December 2013

Politically Correct Bird-O-Matics (i.e., Wind Farms)

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Remember the old Dan Aykroyd skit on Saturday Night Live about the Bass-O-Matic? “Catch a bass, remove the hook and drop the whole fish into the Bass-O-Matic,” said Aykroyd as he switched on the blender. “There’s no waste. You’ll never have to scale, cut or gut again.”

The updated version is the Bird-O-Matic, a no-spoof description of how the gigantic spinning blades on wind farms are chopping up tons of birds, including eagles.

In “Wind farms get pass on eagle deaths,” May 14, 2013, Dina Cappiello, the national environmental reporter for The Associated Press, reported the following regarding PacifiCorp, a utility headquartered in Portland:  “At least 20 golden eagles have been found dead at the company’s wind farms in Wyoming, according to data obtained by The Associated Press. It’s the not-so-green secret of the nation’s wind-energy boom: Spinning turbines are killing thousands of federally protected birds, including eagles, each year.”

A study published in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin estimates that 573,000 birds — including species protected by federal law and including 83,000 hunting birds such as eagles, hawks and falcons — are killed each year by way of collisions with wind farm turbines and the number could double to over a million per year by 2030.

Cappiello reported in May 2013 that “companies operating industrial-sized turbines … that are killing eagles and other protected birds have yet to be fined or prosecuted — even though every death is a criminal violation” — and even though the “Obama administration has charged oil companies for drowning birds in their waste pits and power companies for electrocuting birds on power lines.”

The way the Obama White House plays favorites, in short, birds killed by politically correct green companies are swept under the rug while bird killings by politically incorrect fossil fuel companies are judged to be prosecutable. In 2010, BP was fined $100 million for killing and harming migratory birds.

For a knowledgeable summation of this double standard, Cappiello quotes Tim Eicher, a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife enforcement agent based in Cody (a town named after William Frederick Cody, known as Buffalo Bill, a nickname based on his own assessment that he killed 4,280 buffalo in under two years), Wyoming: “What it boils down to is this: If you electrocute an eagle, that is bad, but if you chop it to pieces that is okay.”

The double standard seemed to be lessening when the Obama administration, for the first time, took legal action against a wind project under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The settlement, announced on November 22, 2013, required Duke Energy Renewables to pay $1 million in fines and restitution to an array of conservation groups for killing 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds with its wind turbines in Wyoming from 2009 to 2013.

On December 6, 2013, however, things dramatically changed with the Obama administration announcing wind farms could obtain permits to accidentally kill or injure legally protected bald eagles and golden eagles without penalty for up to 30 years.

“As a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s energy plan,” explained a report on PBS Newshour, ”the White House has championed wind power, a pollution-free energy intended to ease global warming.”

The decision to fight global warming by sacrificing eagles occurred the same week that newly analyzed NASA satellite data from Antarctica revealed the two coldest temperatures ever recorded on Earth — minus 135.8 degrees Fahrenheit in August 2010 and minus 135.3 degrees Fahrenheit in July 2013.

 

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.