Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Literary Corner: Bird Graveyard

Wind farm off the Aberdeenshire coastline, visible from the Trump International Golf Links in Balmedie. Photo by Nigel Mowat via BBC.
By somewhat popular demand:

Tremendous Fumes
by Donald J. Trump

We’ll have an economy based on wind. I never
understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much.
I’ve studied it better than anybody I know. It’s very expensive.
They’re made in China and Germany mostly — very few made here,

almost none. But they’ve manufactured tremendous —
if you’re into this — tremendous fumes. Gases
are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have
a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe.

So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything.
You talk about the carbon footprint — fumes are spewing into the air.
Right? Spewing. Whether it’s in China, Germany, it’s going
into the air.  It’s our air, their air, everything — right?

So they make these things and then they put them up.
And if you own a house within vision of some
of these monsters, your house is worth 50 percent
of the price. They’re noisy. They kill the birds.

You want to see a bird graveyard? You just go.
Take a look. A bird graveyard. Go under a windmill someday.
You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen ever in your life.
You know, in California, they were killing the bald eagle.

If you shoot a bald eagle, they want to put you in jail
for 10 years. A windmill will kill many bald eagles.
It’s true. And you know what? After a certain
number, they make you turn the windmill off.

That’s true, by the way. This is — they make you turn it off
after you — and yet, if you killed one they put you in jail.
That’s okay. But why is it okay for these windmills
to destroy the bird population? And that’s what they’re doing.

I do like it when the text divides itself into these loose-limbed elegiac quatrains.

Needless to say, our poet has not studied wind turbines very much, or indeed at all. What he knows is the Quixotic (tilting at windmills?) six-year battle he fought against them with the Scottish government under then First Minister Alex Salmond, which ended ignominiously in November when he was forced to pay the government (now headed by Nicola Sturgeon) $290,000 in court costs:
Trump wrote in a 2013 op-ed in the Scottish Mail on Sunday that he had instructed his lawyers to launch an “all-out challenge” to “Mad Alex,” as he called Salmond, to fight the wind farm in the country where Trump’s mother was born.
“I am going to fight him for as long as it takes — to hell if I have to — and spend as much as it takes to block this useless and grotesque blot on our heritage,” he wrote.
Judges on the U.K. Supreme Court unanimously rejected Trump’s legal challenge in 2015. In February, the Trump Organization was ordered to pay the Scottish government’s legal bills. But the issue was not resolved for several months because the Scottish government said that the Trump Organization had not agreed to an amount.
As you know, wind power is not "very expensive" but in fact one of the most cost-effective power sources there is, and getting cheaper all the time. Lots of wind turbines are manufactured in the US, especially by GE Renewable Energy, with 22,000 employees, the third largest maker in the world (after Siemens in Germany and Vestas in Denmark; Chinese companies Goldwind and Sinovel are listed as nos. 7 and 8 respectively). American wind energy has been growing fantastically: as of the second quarter of 2019, according to the American Wind Energy Association,

“American wind power’s record growth continues to accelerate with over 200 wind farm projects underway in 33 states,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. “Our industry’s success strengthens the U.S. economy because access to affordable, clean American wind power is a competitive advantage in the eyes of business leaders. And when those businesses invest in U.S. wind energy, it directly benefits the people living and working in our country’s farm, factory, and port communities.”
The record 41,801 megawatts (MW) of U.S. wind capacity currently under construction or in advanced stages of development represents a 10 percent increase over the level of activity this time last year. The wind project pipeline grew 7 percent in the second quarter with 7,290 MW in new construction and advanced development activity announced....
Earlier this year, AWEA’s 2018 U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report highlighted the significant economic benefits that grow along with wind power capacity. Wind farms pay more than $1 billion a year through state and local taxes plus lease payments to landowners, helping preserve the rural way of life in farming and ranching communities across the country. The wind industry also supports a record number of U.S. jobs, over 114,000, with substantial room to grow as the industry continues to scale up in the heartland and offshore. Roughly a quarter of those careers are found at over 500 U.S. factories manufacturing or assembling wind turbine components.
I imagine Energy Secretary Rick Perry could have told his boss something about all this if he hadn't been so busy with his amigos cutting friends in to the Ukrainian market for all the US-produced natural gas we don't need any more:
Ukraine awarded the contract to Perry’s supporters little more than a month after the U.S. energy secretary attended Zelenskiy’s May inauguration. In a meeting during that trip, Perry handed the new president a list of people he recommended as energy advisers. One of the four names was his longtime political backer Michael Bleyzer.
A week later, Bleyzer and his partner Alex Cranberg submitted a bid to drill for oil and gas at a sprawling government-controlled site called Varvynska. They offered millions of dollars less to the Ukrainian government than their only competitor for the drilling rights, according to internal Ukrainian government documents obtained by The Associated Press. But their newly created joint venture, Ukrainian Energy, was awarded the 50-year contract because a government-appointed commission determined they had greater technical expertise and stronger financial backing, the documents show.
(Selling gas to Ukraine eases their dependence on Russia, and I'm for it, but I thought we were supposed to be helping them root out corruption, not contributing to it.)

Apparently the wind turbine industry really has had horrible effects not from the making of turbines, but from the mining of rare earth elements like neodymium in Inner Mongolia, but it's a local problem there, not in Germany, even though the "world" is definitely a lot smaller than the universe, and in any case one that had been solved for the wind energy industry by 2017, per AWEA:
Many people think rare earths are also a necessary component of wind turbines, but the facts find otherwise: only about two percent of the U.S. wind turbine fleet uses them, and that number shouldn’t change much in the years to come.
The vast majority use conventional electromagnets made of copper and steel, and companies that have used rare earths in the past are actively working to reduce their levels of use.
As Trump has taught us, what "many people" think can be wrong. Needless to say, Trump hasn't called for getting rid of iPhones and flat-screen TVs, which still depend on Chinese-mined rare earths (which are exempt from the Trump tariffs).

One recent study finds wind farms have no appreciable effect on property values within a distance of ten miles. And, AWEA adds, may tend to increase them over the long term:
Wind projects benefit all local property owners by driving economic investment and tax revenue. These funds improve roads, schools and community services, while also keeping local taxes low-- that all factor into property values.
On the subject of birds, let's just say that Trump Tower kills more than the worst windmill you've ever seen:
Though it's hard to say for sure how many bald eagles fall victim to wind turbines, the devices do kill approximately 234,012 birds in the US every year, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
But for comparison, collisions with glass buildings — like the ones Trump has made a career stamping his name on — kill 599,000,000 birds every year. That's 2,559 times more birds than turbines.
USA Today review of [one comprehensive study] noted that collisions with cell and radio towers cause an estimated 6.8 million deaths, while cats kill a staggering 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds a year.
It's apparently true that turbines were shut down ("turned off" is not the correct expression) in a very early wind farm in the Altamont Pass in Alameda County in response to deaths of golden eagles (not bald ones, which don't seem to be particularly threatened at all, a tremendous success of the Endangered Species Act, mostly thanks to the ban on DDT, and off the list since 2007) among other concerns (looks like that property values question), but far from giving up on wind power, the authorities switched to better models, according to ornithologist Shawn Smallwood:
At one time, nearly 7,000 windmills churned out power there. But a combination of lawsuits and public pressure has cut that number by more than half.
"My best estimate for golden eagle fatalities in the Altamont Pass was 60 per year until the last couple of years when the old turbines started getting replaced by larger turbines that are being more carefully sited to reduce eagle fatalities," Smallwood said....
Government figures show 14 golden eagles killed [in Alameda County] in 2013. And that was two years before one of the leading operators in the wind farm announced it was shutting down over 800 turbines.
The maximum felony penalty for killing a bald or golden eagle under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act has never been anywhere near 10 years but has been 1 year and $5000 since it was last raised in 1972 (fines for multiple misdemeanors can mount a lot higher than that).

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

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