Wind turbine power generators in the US have been granted an interesting exemption recently. Now they are no longer responsible for injury or death of bald and golden eagles, otherwise protected by American law. Instead, they have been granted a free hand in the matter – well, at least for the next 30 years. This sets these corporations aside from others, who are still liable for anything that happens to these birds.
The exemption brings up a couple of interesting consequences, maybe unintended by the Administration.
First of all, for a while now, the wind turbine proponents have been trying hard to spin the bird issue as insignificant. You see, the argument goes, feral cats are a bigger problem for the birds than wind turbines. This is usually followed by the total number of birds killed by each of these factors – notwithstanding the fact that these same people are trying to expand wind power generation way beyond its current scale, thus affecting the impact on the birds.
But now the “insignificance” argument has been dealt a serious blow: the issue is now significant enough for the President of the United States to notice – and do something about it. It is something very well meaning and well intentioned, but now one can no longer say that the bird issue is a complete invention of the greedy oil industry.
The other consequence is setting a precedent. The green industry has been the lawmaker’s favourite for a number of years. They got tax breaks, reimbursements and subsidies beyond anything any other corporation could dream of. But even though it is a lot of money – it’s still just money.
The current exemption ventures into a new territory. Now we are talking about different rules applied to wind power corporations as opposed to everyone else. If you’re an oil corporation and you kill a protected bird, you will be prosecuted. Buy if you run a wind turbine, I guess this is OK.
In and of itself this seems like a very dangerous precedent – essentially saying that some corporations are more equal than others – but in the context of green energy discussion it has a different implication.
Opponents of green energy have been long arguing that it is not sustainable – that as a business it cannot justify itself. It is not the purpose of this post to take sides in that argument. However I cannot help but notice that these opponents have received an unexpected boost from the Obama administration. It can now be claimed that all the tax breaks and subsidies are not enough to keep the industry afloat: it requires a special treatment in laws and regulations to stay viable.
And of course the irony here would be that this special treatment happens to be in the area of environment protection and preservation of wildlife. I can only imagine what would be the response of the environmental lobby if this exemption had been granted to an oil sand company.
So, in a single masterful move, the Obama administration has weakened the “green” side and strengthened the “oil” side of the sustainable energy debate.
Well played, indeed.
- For wind power, US extends permit for eagle deaths (sacbee.com)
- Obama admin. to permit eagle deaths at wind farms; Citizens rip ‘green’ hypocrisy (twitchy.com)
- For wind power, US extends permit for eagle deaths (kansascity.com)
- Wind Power, Wildlife Can Get Along, Birders Say (earthtechling.com)