Thursday, March 08, 2012

Legal Double Standard: Wind Energy Industry Gets Unofficial License to Kill Birds, Oil and Gas Don't

Eagle killed by wind turbine, one of 1,200 daily wind-related bird fatalities:

The graphic video above shows a magnificent eagle getting killed by a wind turbine.  According to a 2009 estimate from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (reported on the American Bird Conservancy website here), those bird fatalities happen more than 1,200 times every day (440,000 deaths annually and 50 deaths every single hour of the day on average).   For the millions of documented wind-related bird fatalities that have taken place in recent years, how many wind companies have been prosecuted? None - they get a pass.  

As Robert Bryce writes in today's WSJ:
 
"For years, the wind energy industry has had a license to kill golden eagles and lots of other migratory birds. It's not an official license, mind you. But as the bird carcasses pile up—two more dead golden eagles were recently found at the Pine Tree wind project in Southern California's Kern County, bringing the number of eagle carcasses at that site to eight—the wind industry's unofficial license to kill wildlife is finally getting some serious scrutiny.

Some 77 organizations—led by the American Bird Conservancy, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Endangered Species Coalition and numerous chapters of the Audubon Society—are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to toughen the rules for the siting, permitting and operation of large-scale wind projects.

It's about time. Over the past two decades, the federal government has prosecuted hundreds of cases against oil and gas producers and electricity producers for violating some of America's oldest wildlife-protection laws: the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Eagle Protection Act. But the Obama administration—like the Bush administration before it—has never prosecuted the wind industry despite myriad examples of widespread, unpermitted bird kills by turbines."

Read more here

45 Comments:

At 3/08/2012 10:04 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

No, no, it's ok, see? We're saving the environment with wind power, so what's a few birds vs global warming?

 
At 3/08/2012 10:09 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Can you say 'Rachel Carson' and DDT?

 
At 3/08/2012 10:50 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Over at the Fiscal Times they have this article: Green and Wasteful: The High Cost of Clean Energy

When it comes to investing in clean energy, the federal government is all over the case. Eleven government departments and agencies operate a total of 94 programs to encourage clean energy projects and research in private sector buildings, a recent Government Accountability Office report revealed....

 
At 3/08/2012 11:12 AM, Blogger CyberSherpa said...

Sorry but that's a magnificant vulture not an eagle. The long neck is clearly visible at the 25 second mark.

 
At 3/08/2012 11:24 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Wind farms to wipe out California Condor
February 5, 2012

As reported by Forbes Magazine last month, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists have alerted Kern County officials to the fact that most of the wind projects on their drawing board, as well as at least one existing wind farm, are a threat to the Condor.

“Condors can travel 200 miles in a day”, said Jesse Grantham, the California condor coordinator for the Fish & Wildlife Service.

County officials are now poised to approve lethal wind turbines where condors fly. Humans are not treated differently: health and other adverse effects on local residents are also being overridden to meet Sacramento’s green energy targets.

 
At 3/08/2012 2:05 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

from the website:

Hundreds of millions of birds die each year in collisions with manmade structures, including glass windows and buildings, communication towers, and wind turbines.

and collisions with wind turbines seem to be on the low side compared to other structures:

http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/collisions/index.html

Eagles vs Vultures?

ha ha ha

what do you expect from the anti wind turbine folks - facts?

:-)

 
At 3/08/2012 2:14 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

The point is not how many birds get killed nor the type. If oil and gas companies can be sued for damage done to the environment, including killing birds, wind companies should be held to the same standard. Nut they are not.

 
At 3/08/2012 2:48 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

"killing birds" is a really fuzzy standard.

cars kill birds, millions of them.

so do pet and feral cats, millions.

power lines, bridges, buildings.

are we going to outlaw any/all of these or assess fines?

I seriously doubt it.

remember... birds reproduce many, many more than will survive and the habitat is what supports the survivors.

despite the millions and millions of birds that are killed by man-made structures - the vast majority have large self-sustaining populations.

the birds that are of concern are the ones that are endangered or threatened - usually because they have a limited or unique habitat.

the whole issue reeks of misunderstanding and just plain ignorance of the basic facts.

according to that web page, 400K birds are killed by turbines.

154 million are killed by power lines.

a billion are killed by "glass"

perspective and proportionality are helpful concepts.

 
At 3/08/2012 2:52 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Indeed, Larry. I agree with you. That's why I object to the government suing companies who "damage ecosystems"

 
At 3/08/2012 3:20 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"what do you expect from the anti wind turbine folks - facts?"...

Apparently larry g is either purposefully missing the part of the 'green sales pitch' about how this alternative form of energy is good for the environment or ....(take your pick from the myriad faux reasons liberals use for an argument)...

 
At 3/08/2012 3:21 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

Jon - the govt sues if there is a toxic disposal pond or some other threat that is not legal.

the govt does not sue the owner of a building for killing birds....

they don't ticket you and I for killing birds in our cars or if our cat kills a Cardinal.

I swear .. I have a hard time figuring out what the complaints really are some times.

 
At 3/08/2012 3:41 PM, Blogger Junkyard_hawg1985 said...

Another chapter in the long book of the Law of Unintended Consequences. My favorite chapter is refusing to drill for oil in ANWR, but requiring ethanol use. We would get about the same net energy from drilling in ANWR as our ethanol policy. Our ethanol policy drives up food prices globally leading to clear cutting of the Amazon rain forest to grow food in Brazil. Clear cut rain forests or drill for oil in ANWR? We chose clear cutting rain forests for "the good of the environment."

 
At 3/08/2012 3:53 PM, Blogger Bobby Caygeon said...

Clearly Larry you are dancing around the issue on purpose since it doesn't fit your tidy little narrative.

The point is NOT that the government should go after Wind Turbines for killing birds (as they do Oil and Gas companies) but the point is that they should not go after either or they should go after both.

Every point you listed clearly demonstrates the enviros and the government have zero real claim vs Oil/Gas companies. I understand you get that since you have worked so hard to avoid answering it.

 
At 3/08/2012 3:55 PM, Blogger kmg said...

That was a bald eagle. The white feathers of the head were visible.

I don't know where this turbine is, but the northern parts of North America do not have vultures.

 
At 3/08/2012 4:13 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Jon - the govt sues if there is a toxic disposal pond or some other threat that is not legal.

Forgive me, Larry, as I should have been more specific. A company can be sued if, for example, their smog released from their factory disrupts a local breeding ground.

We have a similar thing going on here: wind turbines disrupt migratory patterns, kill birds, harm breeding grounds, etc., and yet the EPA doesn't go after these guys.

 
At 3/08/2012 4:35 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

As usual, Larry misses the point.

 
At 3/08/2012 4:38 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"they don't ticket you and I for killing birds in our cars or if our cat kills a Cardinal"

Not true. You would probably be prosecuted if your cat killed a Cardinal, but not if it killed a cardinal.

 
At 3/08/2012 4:49 PM, Blogger Paul said...

ROn H,

"As usual, Larry misses the point."

No he doesn't. He's just doing his little Obama jock sniffing routine while pretending to be just a guy asking questions, working hard to strip away the fluff and get to the facts at hand, by golly!

 
At 3/08/2012 4:50 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

" - the govt sues if there is a toxic disposal pond or some other threat that is not legal."

It's not legal to kill endangered birds, including eagles and condors.

Companies with toxic ponds that kill non-endangered birds are sued, those that operate structures with fast moving parts that kill endangered birds are not. How is that fair?

"I swear .. I have a hard time figuring out what the complaints really are some times"

That's pretty obvious, Larry.

 
At 3/08/2012 4:56 PM, Blogger Regan said...

Sorry to get a little OT but...

"they don't ticket you and I for killing birds in our cars or if our cat kills a Cardinal."

To me, using "you and I" incorrectly is like "its vs it's" to Mark. In this instance "you and me" would be correct. Though you should probably use or instead of and.

Carry on...

 
At 3/08/2012 5:29 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

kmg: "That was a bald eagle. The white feathers of the head were visible."

Did you also notice the long neck and white feather patterns on the wings?

"I don't know where this turbine is, but the northern parts of North America do not have vultures."

California Condors have been reintroduced into these areas, which are their historic ranges. In California these are also the historic breeding grounds of the giant wind turbine, so it's not surprising the two species would meet.

 
At 3/08/2012 5:36 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Paul: "No he doesn't. He's just doing his little Obama jock sniffing routine while pretending to be just a guy asking questions, working hard to strip away the fluff and get to the facts at hand, by golly!"

You may be right, Paul, but if so, he does the best job of appearing obtuse I've ever seen!

 
At 3/08/2012 5:39 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Cats get a pass on killing birds too. So do airliners, and automobiles.


The point is well taken: a fair policy would assess the External Costs for all energy sources equally.

In order for thaat to happen one has to admit that there are External Costs (like but possibly not including global warming) and that the costs can be measured, or at least assessed equally.

There is, of course the problem of how much you want to spend to get the measurement right. That is why TC = PC + EC + GC.

We do not need to have the government wasting money counting every last bird strike any more than we need to have the government wasting money trying to prevent or export every illegal alien: it is stupid and wasteful idea.

it is just as wrong for conservatives to rail against every environmental cost of green ambitions as it is for green apologists to claim that green can do no wrong and will save the world.

It is just as wrong and just as costly, for liberals to rail against the external cost of big business as it is to ignore the external costs of green initiatives.

If there is a least costly answer, we are unlikely to find it with the kind of attitude suggested by this post.

Even if it turns out the cheapest answer is to continue burning fossil fuels for the next two hundred years, that answer will eventually change. If we turn our back to the possibility, we will miss the opportunity when it comes.

Suppose it takes a hundred years for green energy technology to advance sufficiently to be competitive with fossil fuels. Even then, that technology will need a huge infrastructure to support it, just as fossil fuels have today. Whether it is huge mines, bulk carriers, CNG facilities, and global armies or whether it is massive changes to the electric grid, huge desert solar facilites, and special offshore wind maintenance ships, and pumped storage, it is going to be a big deal and take a long time to put in place.

 
At 3/08/2012 5:43 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Hydra,

"Suppose it takes a hundred years for green energy technology to advance sufficiently to be competitive with fossil fuels."

A hundred years? Obama and his Democrat pals repeatedly tell us we can't expand drilling because any new wells could take up to 10 years to come online.

And then they tell us about algae or electric cars...

 
At 3/08/2012 5:54 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"In order for thaat to happen one has to admit that there are External Costs (like but possibly not including global warming) and that the costs can be measured, or at least assessed equally."

If a cost can't be measured - and global warming certainly can't be - how do you suppose it can be assessed equally, and what does "equally" even mean in this context?

"There is, of course the problem of how much you want to spend to get the measurement right. That is why TC = PC + EC + GC."

The problem you have with this is believing that there is some objective way to value things, and that every person would agree somehow. That's just not possible. If it were, there would be no trade, as everyone would already have what they valued most.

 
At 3/08/2012 6:35 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"If there is a least costly answer, we are unlikely to find it with the kind of attitude suggested by this post."

What attitude is that? That it's unreasonable to prosecute one private business for killing a few non-endangered birds, while letting one that kills endangered eagles and condors off the hook?

"Even if it turns out the cheapest answer is to continue burning fossil fuels for the next two hundred years, that answer will eventually change. If we turn our back to the possibility, we will miss the opportunity when it comes."

At this time, the cheapest alternative is to burn fossil fuel, and ignore such boondoggles as wind, solar, and biofuels, that have no hope at this time of becoming competitive at any meaningful scale.

Those with great ideas should be free to pursue whatever dreams they wish - on their own dime, not mine.

Don't worry, the market won't "turn its back" on any great opportunities.

Those who develop economic alternate energy sources will become fabulously wealthy, as they should.

Currently, money taken from all of us taxpayers is making some wealthy without producing anything of real value.

The life cycle of green companies these days seems to be: get government funds or loan guarantees, pay top executives big bonuses, fail.

 
At 3/08/2012 6:59 PM, Blogger CyberSherpa said...

"For years, the wind energy industry has had a license to kill golden eagles and lots of other migratory birds. It's not an official license, mind you...."

Actually it is an official license. It's called an Incidental Take Permit, issued by the feds to "non-federal entities undertaking otherwise lawful projects that might result in the take of an endangered or threatened species."

The wind project in the story (in California) has one. The video clip (of a vulture) is unrelated to the story itself.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incidental_Take_Permit

 
At 3/08/2012 7:46 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Ron H,

"The life cycle of green companies these days seems to be: get government funds or loan guarantees, pay top executives big bonuses, fail."

Excellent summary, but missed one part of the cycle: bundle kickback $ to the Obama campaign. Happens right before the "fail."

 
At 3/08/2012 8:56 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Paul: "Excellent summary, but missed one part of the cycle: bundle kickback $ to the Obama campaign. Happens right before the "fail."

You're right, of course, I think that's step 2.5.

 
At 3/09/2012 1:30 AM, Blogger kmg said...

Perhaps the wind turbine owners can make a supplier deal with KFC.

KFC uses not just chickens but pigeons as well. Diversity the offering a bit more into gamier types of poultry.

 
At 3/09/2012 1:31 AM, Blogger kmg said...

Why was the Eagle flying around the turbine anyway? It only got hit on the second pass (assuming that the circling only began when the video started).

If the bird is circling a dangerous wind turbine repeatedly, I am not sure it is the fault of the turbine owners/manufacturers.

 
At 3/09/2012 2:09 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

kmg: "If the bird is circling a dangerous wind turbine repeatedly, I am not sure it is the fault of the turbine owners/manufacturers."

Do you suppose it was suicide?

If I had to guess, I would say that the bird was attempting to do what birds do, ride thermals to save energy, and got confused by the strange air currents generated by the turbine.

It seems that birds haven't evolved to deal with huge structures coming at them at up to 100mph.

 
At 3/09/2012 7:59 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Perhaps the wind turbine owners can make a supplier deal with KFC"....

LOL!

Oh but you're a twisted lad kmg...:-)

Thanks for the chuckle...

 
At 3/09/2012 8:06 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Excellent summary, but missed one part of the cycle: bundle kickback $ to the Obama campaign. Happens right before the "fail.""...

Yeah ron h I agree with paul...

It almost seems if these 'green failures' are purposeful money laundery scams financed with tax dollars...

 
At 3/09/2012 8:11 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"And then they tell us about algae or electric cars"...

Well paul now that you mention it there is Obama's Algae-Powered Car: Chevy Fishtank in the works...

 
At 3/09/2012 1:13 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

"Perhaps the wind turbine owners can make a supplier deal with KFC"....


Or-Ida uses a unique solar collector to heat oil to fry their potatos. Is that a waste of money?

 
At 3/09/2012 1:23 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

North Carolina PV systems achieve grid parity

09. March 2012 || By: Becky Stuart

According to a new study, many photovoltaic systems bigger than 10 kilowatts (kW) achieved grid parity with commercial retail electricity prices in 2011. This has resulted in a spike in projects and, thus, jobs. Both declining costs and the state’s favorable policies




over the past 10 years, conventional electricity costs have increased by three percent, while between 2008 and 2010, the national trend for the cost of photovoltaic modules decreased by 37 percent; and non-module costs by 18 percent from 2009 to 2010.



These are statistics worth of MP, now comes the kicker on cost reductions........


the average cost per watt (/W) of installing photovoltaics in North Carolina has dropped from US$8.50/W in 2006, to $5.44/W in 2011


by 2020, the installed cost of photovoltaic systems less than 10 kW are expected to be $3.84/W, while those bigger than 500 kW will be $1.90/W.

Therefore, for many electric utilities in the state, says the association, systems over 10 kW in size, which have admittedly received both federal and state tax credits, were at grid parity with commercial retail electricity prices in 2011.




Read more: http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/details/beitrag/north-carolina-pv-systems-achieve-grid-parity_100006047/#ixzz1oe4JYn60

Read more: http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/details/beitrag/north-carolina-pv-systems-achieve-grid-parity_100006047/#ixzz1oe41ZtBX

 
At 3/09/2012 1:52 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

If a cost can't be measured - and global warming certainly can't be


================================

Really? Of course it can be measured. It cannot (presently) be measured to a certainty that everyone will agree to.

Let me ask this: how much would global temperature have to rise, before you changed your mind? If you and others like you can agree on a figure, then you will have agreed on a level of uncertainty, beyond which we will have measured a change in temperature.

Instead, we have the bald faced statement that it cannot be done. I suggest that there have been plenty of other problems with similar signal to noise ratios that have been solved. They have the advantage of being non-political.



If a cost has not been measured does not mean it cannot be measured. nor does it mean that it cannot be measured with some degree of uncertainty. If we know that a cost is a billion dollars, plus or minus $20 million, that is better than knowing nothing and assuming nothing can be known.

Furthermore, the costs in TC = PC + EC + GC are real costs, whether we are smart enough to understand (and agree) what they are or not.


My take on this post is that those costs (Production, External, and Government) ought to be evalueated equally (meaning with equal diligence and equal rules for evaluation).


Somehow, you seem to read it that such costs are unknown and unknowable, and therefore they should be ignored. That being the case, why raise the issue about a few bird strikes?




Because, the issue is not really about bird strikes, it is about government costs: wasting money promoting uneconomic policies and technologies.

But, as soon as you make that argument you concede that the GC part of the equation exists, and the real goal is to achieve lowest Total Cost, not lowest Government Cost.

To do that, you need to evaluate the government costs associated with conventional energy production on the same basis as "green" energy production, otherwise, you cannot make a rational decision as to what really costs more.

 
At 3/09/2012 1:57 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

It's called an Incidental Take Permit, issued by the feds to "non-federal entities undertaking otherwise lawful projects that might result in the take of an endangered or threatened species."


================================

Good God. You need a permit to have an accident?


More precisely, the feds feel the need to give you a permit to have an accident so they don't have to prosecute you when it happens.

Why don't convenetional energy producers get one?

 
At 3/09/2012 2:01 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Indeed, Larry. I agree with you. That's why I object to the government suing companies who "damage ecosystems'


==================================

Do you object to the government suits, or to the fact that 'damage Ecosystems' is too vague?


Do you think it is OK to damage ecosystems, or do you think that damage beyond some critical amount is not OK?

How do we go about measuring such "costs"?

 
At 3/09/2012 4:28 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Or-Ida uses a unique solar collector to heat oil to fry their potatos. Is that a waste of money?"

Who knows? You would have to ask them. It probably depends on whose money you're talking about. I imagine Or-Ida benefits or they wouldn't do it, but we don't know how much taxpayer money is involved.

 
At 3/09/2012 4:44 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Good God. You need a permit to have an accident?"

No, the birds don't need permits, and neither operating a wind turbine nor maintaining a settling pond is accidental.

"Why don't convenetional energy producers get one?"

Wow! After all the nonsense in your previous comment, you suddenly understand perfectly.

That's the subject of this post in a nutshell. Why is there a legal double standard?

Either all producers should get one, or none should get them.

Good work.

 
At 3/09/2012 4:54 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Really? Of course it can be measured. It cannot (presently) be measured to a certainty that everyone will agree to."

Then what is its value?

Did you mean measured, or predicted? A global temperature is a mere statistic, not a meaningful measure of anything specific.

There is little agreement on what is happening, what is causing it if something is happening, and what, if anything can or should be done about it.

Other than that, it's all very clear.

You seem to be talking about temperature, and my claim was that the cost of global warming can't be measured.

Did you wish to dispute that instead?

 
At 3/09/2012 5:04 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"To do that, you need to evaluate the government costs associated with conventional energy production on the same basis as "green" energy production, otherwise, you cannot make a rational decision as to what really costs more."

Good idea! Let us know what you find.

You seem to think that GC is some rational cost determined by need and adjusting accordingly, but it's not.

You seem to think you can measure EC with some amount of precision, and in most cases you can't.

The market has chosen fossil fuel as the most economical source of energy, and government has chosen renewables for political reasons, in part, to enrich those who have contributed to election and reelection. None of these renewables would exist on the scale they do except for political backing using taxpayer money and mandates.

 
At 3/09/2012 5:15 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Let me ask this: how much would global temperature have to rise, before you changed your mind?"

About what?

"If you and others like you..."

And who would that be? There is no one "like me". We are Legos, not Play-Doh.

"...can agree on a figure, then you will have agreed on a level of uncertainty, beyond which we will have measured a change in temperature."

As usual, your desire to lump things and people together, and reach simple conclusions, has caused you to mis-frame your statement.

 

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