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President Trump’s Baseless Attacks on Wind Power

President Donald Trump always needs an enemy, and no enemy is too small for him. His latest? Wind power. In a speech to the conservative student group Turning Point USA, Trump told the students that he “never understood” the allure of wind power plants. By many accounts, President Trump doesn’t understand the allure of many things.

“I never understood wind,” said Trump. “I know windmills very much, I have studied it better than anybody. I know it is very expensive. They are made in China and Germany, mostly, very few made here, almost none, but they are manufactured, tremendous -if you are into this- tremendous fumes and gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right?” These words are coming from the person who, more than anybody else, has shown a total disregard for the health of the world.

“So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint, fumes are spewing into the air, right spewing, whether it is China or Germany, it’s going into the air.” This from a person who, more than anybody else, has shown a total disregard for the basic rules of grammar and common sense.

Trump’s misdirected fury against wind power plants isn’t supported by reality. While he is blaming wind power plants for tremendous (one of his favorite words) amounts of carbon pollution, the American Wind Energy Association found that wind farms around the world generated last year enough energy to counteract 200 million tons of carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels.

Suddenly a protector of bird life he also said, referring to wind power plants, “They are noisy. They kill the birds. You want to see a bird graveyard? Go under a mill someday. You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever see in your life. You know, in California, they were killing the bald eagle. If you shoot a bald eagle, they want to put you in jail for 10 years. A windmill will kill many bald eagles. It’s true.” Well, the reality is otherwise.

According to a study published in the 2015 Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics that has the most recent research data on direct bird mortalities in the U.S., wind turbines kill far fewer birds than cats, buildings or cars. Cats, particularly, are the No. 1 bird killer by a long shot, with an estimated 2.4 billion bird deaths annually. Perhaps, we should start protecting cats, should Mr. Trump, in his zeal to protect birds, decide to eliminate them.

What is behind President Trump’s antagonism to wind power? Some observers claim that the real reason for Trump’s hatred is that approximately a decade and a half ago he bought a gold course in Scotland. He soon learned that an offshore wind farm was being planned nearby. Concerned that this would hurt the views from his golf course, he launched a vitriolic campaign to block the installation of the wind farm.

A prominent local opponent of the golf course was chosen as Scotsman of the Year by Glenfiddich Scotch. As revenge (we must remember that Trump is big on revenge) Trump subsequently banned Glenfiddich Scotch from his properties Tweeting, “Glenfiddich is a joke -should have chosen Andy Murray- U.S. Open & Olympic gold winner – as Top Scot instead of a total loser!” The loser of this battle, however, was him, since he lost a legal battle against the Scottish government and was ordered to pay $290,000 in legal fees.

Other observers think, as many conservatives do, that Trump sees wind mill energy as antagonistic to fossil fuel energy and as a way to challenge climate change activists. Trump ignores that, although wind turbines aren’t totally safe in terms of the emission of toxic fumes, their scale of contamination is much lower than that coming from other more traditional sources of energy.

Wind power has some obvious disadvantages, such as initial cost and a technology that hasn’t yet been fully developed. However, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Among them are that wind being a natural phenomenon, harvesting its power is a clean, low-polluting way of generating electricity. Unlike other kinds of power plants, wind power is far more ecofriendly than burning fossil fuels and, more importantly, has the possibility of freeing the US from the economic dependency on fossil fuels. By using misinformation as a weapon, Trump may be losing the wind on his back.

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Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

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