A Response to “The Deadly Wind beneath Their Wings”

The Heritage Foundation’s disingenuous attempt to use the death of Golden Eagles from wind turbines as a rationale for ending federal supports for clean energy development is just that.  While wind energy projects have impacted wildlife, and the loss of eagles and other sensitive species is cause for concern, the wind energy industry has recognized the need to address these concerns and has provided leadership in this regard.

To promote better understanding of the potential impacts of wind energy on wildlife, several wind energy companies joined with leading conservation organizations to establish the American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI).  AWWI provides a forum for addressing wind-wildlife impacts, for conducting research, and for finding solutions to wind energy and wildlife conflicts.  In addition, wind energy representatives joined with conservationists as a part of a Federal Advisory Committee established by the Bush administration to recommend means to further efforts to develop wind energy in wildlife-friendly ways.  The report of this advisory committee, delivered to the Secretary of the Interior last year, is providing the basis for new guidelines for developing wind energy in ways that minimize and mitigate its effects on birds, bats, and other wildlife.

To use the impacts of wind projects on wildlife as a basis for challenging environmental community support for green energy ignores both the efforts made to minimize the impacts of clean energy development on wildlife and the value to wildlife and natural resources that clean energy development will provide.  A recent report by the Interagency Panel on Climate Change made clear that the greatest threat to biodiversity is global warming and its consequences. With the Congress unable or unwilling to institute legislative measures to curb green house gas emissions to spur investment in clean energy, federal support for clean energy is the only alternative in lieu of the creation of  markets that stimulate clean energy investment.

In contrast to clean energy and the efforts of the wind industry to reduce its impacts on wildlife,  Congress has shown consistent support for oil and gas companies. Last year, for example, it gave nearly $4 billion to the oil industry in tax breaks and incentives despite the widely recognized consequences of oil and gas development for our climate and wildlife, wild lands, and natural resources.   In contrast, there’s never been this same long-term commitment to renewable energy.

Short-term stimulus funding provided a needed boost for clean energy research and development. But compared to the permanent “incentives” for oil and gas development, the time-limited support for renewable energy projects is totally inadequate.  To suggest it is not warranted while ignoring the generous, permanent subsidies for oil and gas exploration and development is ludicrous.  Grants and loan guarantees for renewable energy projects will run out again the end of this year.  Only the Congress can fix this problem, as the administration has correctly encouraged them to do.

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- who has written 4 posts on dotWild.

Jim Lyons is the Senior Director, Renewable Energy at Defenders of Wildlife. Jim leads a project aimed at promoting wildlife-friendly and environmentally responsible renewable energy development on public lands.

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dotWild is the blog of scientists and policy experts at Defenders of Wildlife, a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.