American Elephants

Hypocrisy in the Bureaucracy, and In the Courts As Well. by The Elephant's Child
September 8, 2009, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Energy, Environment, Law | Tags: , ,

The Wall Street Journal  has a story by Robert Bryce, that just knocked me out.  It is a splendid example of the utter dysfunction of today’s world.

On Aug. 13, 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.

ExxonMobil is hardly alone in running afoul of this law. Over the past two decades, federal officials have brought hundreds of similar cases against energy companies. In July, for example, 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.

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.

Altamont’s turbines, located about 30 miles east of Oakland, Calif., kill more than 100 times as many birds as Exxon’s tanks, and they do so every year. But the Altamont Pass wind farm does not face the same threat of prosecution, even though the bird kills at Altamont have been repeatedly documented by biologists since the mid-1990s.

“Somebody,” Mr. Bryce said Mr. Fry told him, “has given the wind industry a get-out-of-jail-free- card.  If there was even one prosecution the wind industry would be forced to take the issue seriously.”

The world’s environmentalists, and their bureaucratic enablers who expect to profit vastly from taxing carbon dioxide and raising the cost of energy on everyone ; are in love with the idea of “clean, renewable energy” from “free sources” like the wind and the sun.

But neither the wind nor the sun are free when it comes to generating electricity. In spite of the promises and posturing and platitudes, there is little evidence that either wind or solar can ever make a significant contribution to our energy needs.

The wind blows at the right speed only intermittently. When the wind does not blow, there must be backup from a regular power plant.  The effective locations for wind farms are usually far from urban centers.  Although the wind is free, making electricity from the wind and connecting it to a grid are very, very expensive.  The U.S. government subsidizes wind power at $23.34 per MWh. This compares with 25¢ per MWh for natural gas or 44¢ for coal.

Most people need more electricity at night when it gets dark.  The sun sinks beneath the horizon at night.  Solar panels require vast acreage to produce power in any significant quantity.  We are not able at the present time to store electricity in any sizeable amount.  Solar panel manufacturers are going out of business everywhere except here where they are being subsidized enthusiastically by our government.

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