More on Wind Turbines and Other Difficult Energy Choices

The Wildlife Society, an organization of professional biologists, published a paper on wind turbines.  I read through that understated and scholarly TWS piece and concluded that wind turbines are not benign or wildlife-friendly. In the world of tradeoffs— nuclear, solar, coal, gas turbines, wind Turbines— I am not sure which to prefer.  I worked an internship for the Environmental Policy Center in 1980, studying transmission lines.  At the center there was a team of experts (engineers, lobbyists, PR people, fundraisers, organizers) to oppose each source of energy: hydro, coal, nuke plants and transmission lines.

I occasionally asked, “What happens if all of you win?”  I got funny looks.

And the standard answer:  “All we have to do is conserve.”

I own a Prius, and I favor putting solar panels wherever they will fit. We recycle every household thing we can. I favor strong CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy)  standards notwithstanding my personal doubts about man-caused global warming, because they create a stable, level playing field for auto makers.  Wind turbines are pretty if you own them and ugly if you don’t; they kill birds and bats.

The only reasons people are building them are tax credits and state laws which require “clean” power.

Why don’t the railroads electrify their trains?  The trains going downhill can generate power for the trains going uphill; the Milwaukee Road used to do this across Montana.  The emissions would be at the power plants making the electricity, not the black-smoke belching diesel power plants in the locomotives.  If there are 15 coal trains in a yard with four engines apiece, idling, think of the waste of diesel and the air pollution.

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