NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Earth-Friendly Energy Is Anything But

September 29, 2014

Environmentalists worship solar energy and wind power as Earth-friendly answers to their ecological prayers. Tortoises, bats, butterflies, and bald eagles beg to differ, says Deroy Murdock, media fellow with the Hoover Institution.

Consider the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California's Mojave Desert. It features 300,000 mirrors that focus sunlight on three 40-story towers of power. Inside, 900-degree temperatures yield steam, propel turbines, and generate electricity for 140,000 homes.

Ivanpah's environmental toll is stunning:

  • BrightSource Energy, the project's owner, could have rehabilitated a brownfield, an abandoned commercial site, or a decommissioned military base. Instead, BrightSource developed 5.5 square miles of virgin desert.
  • Tortoises native to that area became refugees once BrightSource relocated them en masse.
  • Kit-fox dens were flattened during construction.

Monarch butterflies and birds should avoid Ivanpah at all costs. Those who traverse its highly concentrated sunbeams often ignite. Center for Biological Diversity ecologist K. Shawn Smallwood told the California Energy Commission last July that Ivanpah will roast an estimated 28,380 birds annually.

Meanwhile, environmentalists call wind power as benign as a summer breeze. In fact, wind farms have become avian killing fields.

  • The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports that "wind turbines may kill a half a million birds a year." Wind blows away another 600,000 bats annually, primarily through lung hemorrhaging.
  • While these "flying vampires" look bats actually serve mankind by pollinating crops and devouring mosquitoes. Fewer bats mean more mosquitoes. Swell.
  • USF&WS explains also that "eagles appear to be particularly susceptible. Large numbers of golden eagles have been killed by wind turbines in the western states," as have smaller numbers of bald eagles.
  • Team Obama -- which could not care less about America's beautiful, majestic national symbol -- almost never prosecutes wind companies for violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Even worse, Obama is granting wind-farm operators 30-year federal eagle-killing permits, to continue their mayhem - all in the name of "clean" energy.

To evaluate any energy technology, "we must remember that it's a process, starting with mining the materials necessary for the machines," Alex Epstein notes in his forthcoming Penguin book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. Epstein observes that windmill manufacturing requires "hazardous substances like hydrofluoric acid in order to get usable rare earth elements."

Environmentalists should stop hallucinating about "sustainable" power sources that unleash puppies and rainbows at no cost to air, water, habitat, and wildlife. "Clean energy" hurts nature. Those who believe otherwise live in Fantasyland.

Source:  Deroy Murdock, "Earth-Friendly Energy is Anything But," National Review, September 26, 2014.

 

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