Tuesday, June 05, 2007

For The Birds

There is a move afoot in Congress to require new wind turbine project developers to do envionmental impact statements on potential bird kills by turbines and to monitor wind sites for bird deaths.

The Energy Policy Reform and Revitalization Act, a wide-ranging energy bill introduced this month, would create new standards for the placement and construction of turbines and mandate post-construction monitoring of their effects on wildlife.

Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for Cape Wind Associates, the Boston-based firm proposing 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound, said his company already has performed much of the due diligence contemplated in the bill.

But he said he was concerned about a provision that would forbid construction of new turbines until the Department of the Interior drafts the regulations prescribed by the bill.

"Any kind of de facto moratorium on renewable energy at a time we need to take action on global warming and energy independence is blatantly poor public policy," he said.
How is this bill a de-facto moratorium?
The legislation, introduced by Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, calls for development of the regulations within six months of passage of the bill. But wind energy industry officials say they are skeptical that federal regulators will move that quickly.

Supporters of the bill said careful regulation is important with a relatively new industry.
So just how important is it to prevent bird kills from wind turbines? Here are some numbers that accompanied the article:
Human-caused bird deaths

Domestic cats: Hundreds of millions a year

* Striking high-tension lines: 130 million - 1 billion a year
* Striking buildings: 97 million to 976 million a year
* Cars: 80 million a year
* Toxic chemicals: 72 million
* Striking communications towers: 4 to 50 million a year
* Wind turbines: 20,000 to 37,000

Source: National Research Council
So how bad is it? Let us go with the low end numbers for each category mentioned. Rougly 500 million bird deaths a year due to human additions to the landscape. Let us say bird deaths from several thousand wind turbines is 50,000 a year. That comes out to .01% of the total.
A recent study released by the National Research Council found that fewer than 0.003 percent of human-related bird deaths are caused by wind turbines — a fraction of the deaths caused by house cats allowed to roam outside. The council is part of the National Academies, which also comprise the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology and health policy advice under a congressional charter.

Gregory Wetstone, senior director of government and public affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group, said the wind industry takes the issue of bird mortality seriously.

But the wind provisions of the Rahall bill could scare away investment, he said. "This would strangle wind power in the United States," Wetstone said.
We are currently erecting about one nuke plant equivalent of wind turbines every year in America. With the building rate increasing at such a furious pace that in three or four years we will be installing two nuke plant equivalents of wind every year.

So who might be trying to kill the wind power industry in America? None other than that great protector of the environment Senator Ted Kennedy
The list of opponents is a regular lawn party, starting with our own senior senator - and alleged ardent environmentalist - Ted Kennedy. His nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. , who has made a career out of tree-hugging is also violently opposed.

Also aligned with the innocuously named Alliance To Protect Nantucket Sound, according to the book, is longtime Kennedy pal Bunny Mellon, the Listerine heiress who jets back and forth to her Osterville estate all summer in a gas-guzzling Gulf Stream; her former son-in-law, Virginia Sen. John Warner, who was once married to Elizabeth Taylor; ex-Gov. Mitt Romney, doing the bidding of top GOP fundraiser Dick Egan; U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, doing the bidding of the Kennedys; Former Reebok head Paul Fireman, who has a summer place on the Sound in Osterville; and a deep-pocketed bunch of Fireman’s neighbors including, oil baron Albert Kaneb, Cape Cod Times publisher Peter Meyer, who has a $1.2 million house on Wianno Avenue and whose newspaper led a jihad against the project, and oil heir and ex-America’s Cup winner Bill Koch.

“The sight of them bothers me,” Sen. Kennedy is quoted as telling retired utility exec - and wind farm supporter - Jim Leidell.
So why does the sight of wind farms bother Senator Kennedy?
When told that most of the time the turbines - which would generating enough energy to power Cape Cod during peak usage times - would be either invisible or barely visible from the Kennedy Compound, Ted reportedly replied, “But don’t you realize, that’s where I sail.”
Being a sailor myself I'm all for sailing. I'm currently short a yacht at this time. If some one wanted to rectify that I'd be eternally grateful.

In any case it really looks like another case of the rich and powerful depriving the little people of a clean source of low cost (considerably lower than natural gas fired power turbines) energy all over the country in order to protect their little corner of the world. You can read Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for Our Energy Future on Nantucket Soundto find out more of the details.

H/T Instapundit who has some thoughts and more links.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


linearthinker said...

*Human-caused bird deaths
Striking high-tension lines: 130 million - 1 billion a year
* Wind turbines: 20,000 to 37,000

Source: National Research Council

It's nice to know we're so well looked after...but could NRC be overfunded and under worked?

Snake Oil Baron said...

Yeah, but given that decisions about whether or not to allow wind turbines are being made over such info it is a good thing someone is collecting it.

If it makes you feel any better, they probably count a couple and then estimate based a good guess. But Hell, for all I know they may have a file somewhere in the National Archives where all these billion plus birds are stored as backup for these studies in which case Sandy Berger has his work cut out for him.

linearthinker said...

Snake Oil,

Would it surprise you to learn your not far off in your bird storage archive guess?

The US Forest Service Washington Office established an official eagle feather repository back in the halcyon days of Bill Clinton. Its purpose was to enable Native Americans to access the feathers of the sacred eagle without having to go out and bag a few.

Slightly off topic, but worth mentioning is an encounter with a few Native Americans who met with us on the ground back then to determine if we could perhaps disturb an area where the staff archaeologists had found some midden soil, indicating it had been camped on sometime in the last thousand years or so. The district ranger was being ever so politically correct and kept using the term Native American. The nice feller who was chief at that time finally had enough, and interrupted her, saying more or less that "...y'all can call us what ever you want to, but we just call ourselves injuns."

Michael McNeil said...

Hi, Simon,

Good posting. (I'd intended to reply to this before, but may as well do it now.)

In addition to the information presented, an article in the journal Nature discussing the recent report by the National Academy of Sciences (based on 14 good-quality studies) on the environmental effects of windpower projects (Emma Marris and Daemon Fairless, “Wind farms' deadly reputation hard to shift,” Nature Vol. 447, Issue No. 7141 (10 May 2007), p.126), notes that “the average death toll attributable to an average wind turbine” is 3% of a bird per year (!) — that is, “it takes 30-odd turbines to reach kill rate of one bird a year.”

Michael McNeil