- - Wednesday, March 12, 2014


In its zeal to denigrate wind energy, The Washington Times editorial board seems to have ignored some key facts about the threat posed by coal and other traditional energy sources to wildlife (“For ‘green’ energy liberals, windmills trump endangered species,” Comment & Analysis, March 7).

First, one of the biggest threats to wildlife is global warming. What is the biggest source of U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions? Coal-fired power plants, which are also the biggest industrial source of “traditional” toxic pollutants, including mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

Wind energy, conversely, produces no carbon-dioxide emissions or traditional pollutants.

Second, older U.S. coal, natural-gas and nuclear-power plants that rely on a “once-through” cooling process draw hundreds of millions (in some cases billions) of gallons of water daily from the closest water body.

Their water-intake systems kill at least a billion fish, crabs and shrimp annually, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. The tens of thousands of land-based U.S. wind turbines obviously don’t harm fish.

Third, after habitat loss and degradation, the worst U.S. human-built environmental threat to birds is buildings. As many as 970 million birds crash into them annually, according to a June 2013 study in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology.

Other studies estimate that every year as many as 175 million birds die by flying into power lines, 72 million are poisoned by misapplied pesticides, nearly 6.6 million perish by hitting communications towers and as many as 1 million die in oil and gas industry fluid-waste pits.

U.S. land-based wind turbines, in contrast, were responsible for an estimated 573,000 bird deaths in 2012, according to a March 2013 study in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.

That’s not insignificant, but the wind industry is working with science and environmental groups to address the problem, particularly when it comes to raptors.

All electrical generation has an impact on the environment. Wind power happens to be one of the most benign.


Director of news and commentary

Union of Concerned Scientists


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