Investment at risk after wind power backlash

Investment at risk after wind power backlash
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/9107631/Investment-at-risk-after-wind-power-backlash.html

Billions of pounds’ worth of investment in Britain’s energy infrastructure is under threat amid fears the government’s commitment to wind energy has wavered, it has emerged.

Walney wind farm off Cumbria Photo: ALAMY

By Andrew Hough

7:00AM GMT 27 Feb 2012

Some of the world’s biggest wind companies, who are considering expanding their business in Britain, say they are reviewing their investments due to a growing backlash against the technology.

The companies say that billions of pounds of investments in factories, research facilities and other developments in the country, has been placed at risk.

Earlier this month, more than 100 MPs wrote to David Cameron, the Prime Minister demanding cuts to the £400 million a year subsidies paid to the wind power industry.

At least 4,500 more turbines are expected to go up as the Government’s drive to meet legally binding targets for cutting carbon emissions sparks a green energy boom.

But that investment has been placed in doubt after major energy companies raised concerns about the mounting growing political opposition to wind energy.

Reports suggested that major investments have been placed on hold or remain uncertain while executives are also seeking reassurances from ministers on the future of energy policy.

Several potential investors have also voiced concerns over the poor state of the country’s infrastructure including an ageing electricity grid, which experts say must be upgraded to cope with a massive influx of intermittent wind energy.

General Electric (GE) Energy’s managing director, Magued Eldaief, said his company’s proposed wind manufacturing investment, amounting to more than £100m of direct funding, was “on hold” pending ministers’ decisions on future reforms to the energy market.

“Our investment is on hold until we have certainty and clarity regarding the policy environment that we are in,” he told The Guardian. “One of the most important things for us is political certainty, so we can justify the business and investment case for a facility in the UK.

“But we think there are some [political] headwinds which do not help, especially in terms of the subsidies discussion.”

Vestas, the world’s biggest wind turbine maker, said it was waiting to see whether its customers were able to sign orders before committing itself to build a proposed turbine factory in Kent that would create about 2,000 jobs.

Mitsubishi, Gamesa and Siemens, who have all announced hundreds of millions of pounds of investments in wind technology, also expressed concerns that an anti-wind power backlash was building.

Ed Davey, the energy secretary said: “A responsible energy policy for this country is one that rules in all of the key low carbon technologies to help us keep the lights on and emissions down. Ruling any of them out would be folly.”

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Lower Than Pond Scum

By Alan Caruba

Between 1955 and 1959 I was a student at the University of Miami. It was perhaps the best four years of my life and remembered fondly for its combination of fun and learning. On Thursday, February 23, President Barack Obama was on the UM campus to tell the biggest bunch of lies about energy in America I have heard compressed into a single speech.

This President has already set records wasting taxpayer’s money on a range of so-called clean energy and renewable energy “investments”. Solyndra, the solar panel company that went bust and stuck taxpayers with a half-billion in loan guarantees is just one of those “investments” and I keep waiting for someone to ask why public funds are being flushed down the toilet when, if the companies involved were viable, they could not raise private venture capital?

“And we’re making investments in the development of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel that’s actually made from a plant-like substance known as algae,” said the President. “Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17% of the oil we important for transportation with this fuel that we can grow right here in America.”

All politicians put the best face on their pet projects, but to flat-out lie about one of the most idiotic ideas to replace oil when this nation has enough oil, domestically and offshore, known and estimated to exist, defies the imagination. It is an insult to every one of us. And Obama wants to pump $14 million into algae, otherwise known as pond scum.

It is very likely that, like the solar panel and other “clean energy” scandals that we know about and will learn about as time goes alone, the average American is unaware that, by 2008, there were fifteen (15) algae startup companies. When I heard Obama talk about algae, I could practically hear the campaign fund-raising bundlers scurrying like rats from company to company.

To those of you not intimately and well informed about algae, it is that organic stuff that gathers in ponds and swamps and, in aggregate, is politely called “plant-like organisms that are usually photosynthetic and aquatic.” It is scum. It has no roots, stems, or leaves. It is scum.

In a marine environment it is called seaweed. Algae have chlorophyll and can manufacture their own food through photosynthesis. Algae, the scientists tell us, produces more oxygen than all the plants in the world in addition to being an important food source for marine creatures as diverse in size as shrimp and whales.

The notion that millions would be “invested” to turn algae into fuel ranks just above the idiocy of converting thousands of acres of corn into ethanol instead of food.

Barack Obama has been lying about so many things for so long I doubt he even knows when he is lying or even cares. It’s not enough to dismiss this saying that all politicians lie because many do not. Some in Congress right now are desperately trying to get the public in general and voters in particular to understand that America has more debt per capita than Greece. We are on the precipice of financial collapse and Barack Obama just wants to spend more and more and more; some of it on pond scum.

During his UM speech, he derided those who have for decades been saying that America has to allow oil companies access to its vast reserves in order to reduce our dependence on imported oil. “We’ve heard the same thing for thirty years,” he said. He’s right. And administrations and Congress have blocked access for just as long. It’s our oil!

He went further, though. “It means that anyone who tells you we can drill our way out of this problem doesn’t know what they’re talking about—or isn’t telling you the truth.” That’s rich, coming from someone who lies almost as often as he exhales. Oil is a global commodity. The more that’s available to the market, the lower its cost. Domestic oil always costs consumers less than imported oil!

The truth is that oil production on federal lands declined last year by eleven percent on lands controlled by the Obama administration and six percent for natural gas in 2011.Oil and natural gas production on federal lands is down by more than forty percent (40%) compared to ten years ago. The Obama administration, in 2010, issued the lowest number of onshore leases since 1984. In 2011, it held exactly one offshore lease sale.

On February 24, one day after the Obama speech, the U.S. Geological Survey released a report on the amount of oil estimated to exist in the North Slope of Alaska. “The amount of oil that is technically recoverable in the United States is more than 1.4 trillion barrels, with the largest deposits located offshore, in portions of Alaska, and in shale in the Rocky Mountain West. When combined with resources from Canada and Mexico, total recoverable oil in North America exceeds 1.7 trillion barrels.

In a 2008 Wall Street Journal interview, Obama’s Energy Secretary, Dr. Steven Chu, famously said, “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels of Europe.” Anyone who does not believe this administration has a deliberate policy of achieving this goal is just not paying attention. Remember that the next time you fill your car’s gas tank.

This is the same President who stopped the building of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada that would provide more oil for our refineries and not cost the American taxpayer one penny to build. This is the same President who imposed a moratorium on oil from the Gulf of Mexico even after the courts told him to remove it. It caused the loss of an estimated 12,000 jobs while rigs departed for Cuba, Brazil and Mexico.

Between now and November, the President will be out campaigning and telling the same lies. The rise in the cost of oil isn’t just a seasonal thing though prices have usually gone up in the summertime when people travel more for vacations. It’s up because the Iranians are closing in on making their own nuclear weapons and their own missiles to hit, not just Israel, but the U.S. It’s up because it is essential to ensure that the tankers oil-producing nations around the Persian Gulf can enter and exist it via the Strait of Harmuz.

The world isn’t running out of oil and is not about to run out. The Earth floats on an ocean of oil despite the rising demand from Asia and other developing nations. To replace foreign oil with algae-based fuel would require a chemically-controlled tank the size of the State of Colorado, about 69.3 million acres.

In 2010, Obama’s mandated biofuel production was less than ten percent of foreign oil imports. It is impossible for biofuel of any description to replace foreign oil imports; just as it is idiotic to pay $41,000 for an electric car when you can have a gasoline-fueled car for around $16,000.

Pond scum is not a rational substitute for oil and spending $14 million on its production as a fuel is beyond absurd. It is the same confidence game as selling “carbon credits” to avoid the hoax of “global warming.”

Showdown at the EPA corral

By Steve Milloy
February 22, 2012, Washington Times

March 2 should be a date that lives in infamy for the Obama Environmental Protection Agency.

That day will most likely be the last opportunity for congressional Republicans to apply meaningful pressure on EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson as she testifies before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the agency’s 2013 budget.

Over the past three years, the Obama EPA has conducted a scorched earth campaign against fossil fuel producers and users, especially the coal-fired power industry, with multibillion-dollar rules that provide no meaningful environmental or public-health benefits, like the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS).

The EPA will soon propose its greenhouse gas emission standards for power plants – rules that will attempt to make it financially impossible to construct new coal-fired power plants in the United States.

It seems that President Obama was deadly serious when he told the San Francisco Chronicle in January 2008, “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

And while nothing short of a change of administration will change the fate of coal-fired power in the United States, Senate Republicans should use the March 2 Senate hearing as an opportunity to put Ms. Jackson on the hot seat.

To stoke their blood pressure, Republican committee members should remember that Ms. Jackson has delivered numerous speeches and written newspaper Op-Eds over the past year denouncing Republicans as trying to sicken and kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Last October, for example, Ms. Jackson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the EPA and our nation’s environmental laws. … How we respond to this assault on our environmental and public health protections will mean the difference between sickness and health – in some cases, life and death – for hundreds of thousands of citizens.”

Ms. Jackson has taken the gloves off, and it’s time for Sen. Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, the ranking minority member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, to whip his team into shape and to do the same for this final showdown before the election.

GOP committee members will first need to inoculate themselves against Ms. Jackson’s charms. They may like her personally, but her agency’s junk science-fueled regulatory war against American jobs, families, businesses and the economy as a whole ought to transcend any warm and cuddly feelings. There is nothing to be gained from the one-way respect and collegiality that allows her to lie, temporize and filibuster her way out of answering tough questions.

Next, GOP committee members need to internalize the reality that American air is already clean and safe, and was so before the Frankenstein that is the Obama EPA came to life. There is no one being harmed by ambient air quality in America and the EPA cannot produce anyone that has been harmed.

JunkScience.com, for example, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act emergency hospital admissions data for 2010-11 from the large Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in West Los Angeles. The data show no correlation between hospital admissions for asthma and air quality measurements for ground-level ozone (smog) and fine particulate matter (soot) in Los Angeles, which supposedly has some of the “worst” air quality in America.

Finally, committee members need to be aware of the massive scientific conflict-of-interest going on in the EPA air office. The EPA not only commissions research that fits its agenda, it then pays the reviewers who rubber-stamp the quality of that research. The EPA also allows its researchers to deny outside scientists access to key data that would allow confirmation of claimed results.

The dubiousness of this process and EPA air quality science in general is best exposed and debunked by a recent study published in the U.S. government journal Environmental Health Perspectives. That study shockingly reported that air quality in the Chinese city of Xi’an, one of the dirtiest cities in the world, is safer than the air in U.S. cities. Either air pollution is not as harmful as the EPA asserts or the agency’s self-funded multitude of statistical analyses on air quality are suspect – or both.

No doubt Ms. Jackson will try to deflect questions about the probity of EPA science by saying that scores of “independent” researchers can’t possibly be wrong, or worse, part of a conspiracy. But bought-and-paid-for statistics based on secret data really ought to raise a Republican eyebrow.

At a recent House hearing on the EPA MATS rule, Rep. Joe Barton, Texas Republican, successfully interrogated EPA air chief Lisa McCarthy into stunned silence about the absence of health effects from power plant mercury emissions – a dramatic first. Coach Inhofe should get the video for his team.

Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is the author of “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Regnery, 2009).

Tesla Motors’ Devastating Design Problem

Tesla Motors’ lineup of all-electric vehicles — its existing Roadster, almost certainly its impending Model S, and possibly its future Model X — apparently suffer from a severe limitation that can largely destroy the value of the vehicle. If the battery is ever totally discharged, the owner is left with what Tesla describes as a “brick”: a completely immobile vehicle that cannot be started or even pushed down the street. The only known remedy is for the owner to pay Tesla approximately $40,000 to replace the entire battery. Unlike practically every other modern car problem, neither Tesla’s warranty nor typical car insurance policies provide any protection from this major financial loss. Here’s how it happens.

Despite this “brick” scenario having occurred several times already, Tesla has publicly downplayed the severity of battery depletion risk to both existing owners and future buyers. Privately though, Tesla has gone to great lengths to prevent this potentially brand-destroying incident from happening more often, including possibly engaging in GPS tracking of a vehicle without the owner’s knowledge. UPDATE!

NOTE (UPDATED!): The argument outlined in this story by Michael DeGusta that originally appeared on theunderstatement.com has been confirmed by Tesla with the following statement:

All automobiles require some level of owner care. For example, combustion vehicles require regular oil changes or the engine will be destroyed. Electric vehicles should be plugged in and charging when not in use for maximum performance. All batteries are subject to damage if the charge is kept at zero for long periods of time. However, Tesla avoids this problem in virtually all instances with numerous counter-measures. Tesla batteries can remain unplugged for weeks (even months), without reaching zero state of charge. Owners of Roadster 2.0 and all subsequent Tesla products can request that their vehicle alert Tesla if SOC falls to a low level. All Tesla vehicles emit various visual and audible warnings if the battery pack falls below 5 percent SOC. Tesla provides extensive maintenance recommendations as part of the customer experience.

— Ed.

How To Brick An Electric Car

A Tesla Roadster that is simply parked without being plugged in will eventually become a “brick”. The parasitic load from the car’s always-on subsystems continually drains the battery and if the battery’s charge is ever totally depleted, it is essentially destroyed. Complete discharge can happen even when the car is plugged in if it isn’t receiving sufficient current to charge, which can be caused by something as simple as using an extension cord. After battery death, the car is completely inoperable. At least in the case of the Tesla Roadster, it’s not even possible to enable tow mode, meaning the wheels will not turn and the vehicle cannot be pushed nor transported to a repair facility by traditional means.

The amount of time it takes an unplugged Tesla to die varies. Tesla’s Roadster Owners Manual [Full Zipped PDF] states that the battery should take approximately 11 weeks of inactivity to completely discharge [Page 5-2, Column 3: PDF]. However, that is from a full 100% charge. If the car has been driven first, say to be parked at an airport for a long trip, that time can be substantially reduced. If the car is driven to nearly its maximum range and then left unplugged, it could potentially “brick” in about one week.[1] Many other scenarios are possible: for example, the car becomes unplugged by accident, or is unwittingly plugged into an extension cord that is defective or too long.

When a Tesla battery does reach total discharge, it cannot be recovered and must be entirely replaced. Unlike a normal car battery, the best-case replacement cost of the Tesla battery is currently at least $32,000, not including labor and taxes that can add thousands more to the cost.

Read much more

Desalination test may waste millions

Surging level … Warragamba was at 85 per cent yesterday. Photo: Adam Hollingworth

SYDNEY’S water reserves could reach full capacity within three months, raising the prospect that drinking water will be flowing out to sea afterwards while households are paying millions of dollars for desalinated water.

The surging level of Warragamba Dam – now almost 85 per cent full – will top out by the middle of May if the current weather pattern does not change.

Regardless of the rising level – which has climbed 4.9 per cent in the past month – the Kurnell desalination plant will be kept in operation until the middle of June as part of a two-year ”proving period”.

By that date, experts say, the state government will be in the ”embarrassing situation” of watching millions of litres of ”free” water wash away into the environment while each household pays an estimated $96 extra a year for treated seawater.

According to analysis by the Greens – and endorsed by Professor Stuart White, of the University of Technology Sydney, one of the authors of the Metropolitan Water Plan – the value of the water flowing over the spillway before the plant could be switched off would be worth $82 million.

If rainfall mirrored that of 2010, that would increase to $140 million worth of water sluicing through the drum gate at Warragamba.

Former Labor premier Morris Iemma ordered the electricity-guzzling desalination plant be built in 2007 after the dam level hit a low of 33 per cent. Since then, levels have climbed, as storms associated with the La Nina weather pattern have dumped water in the catchment region and increased the inflow rate in recent months. In the past week, inflows added more than 2 per cent to storage. At this rate, the dam will be full by May 14.

If the weather of February 2010 was repeated, the dam would be at 100 per cent within six weeks.

In 1998 – the last time Warragamba went to 100 per cent – the dam level rose by 20 per cent in 12 days. In September, The Sun-Herald revealed the dam would already be above 94 per cent if Sydney Water had not quietly stopped pumping water into Warragamba from the Tallowa Dam in the Shoalhaven. That dam is already at 100 per cent and liable to ”environmental releases”.

Professor White said: ”The government could be put in the embarrassing situation of having a desalination plant in operation under its contractual obligations and at the same time having Warragamba spilling over.”

The Minister for Finance, Greg Pearce, who is leading the privatisation of the desalination plant, said the government’s hands were tied by a dud deal signed by Labor in 2007.

“Sydneysiders are locked into a two-year proving period ending on June 15 this year thanks to the contract signed in 2007 by the former Labor government,” he said. “The deal negotiated by Labor locked us into an arrangement under which the plant had to run at full capacity for two years and we have to pay the same amount regardless.”

Sydney Water was able to negotiate a reduction in the plant’s output with operator Veolia in December. Output was reduced from 250 mega-litres a day down to 90 megalitres – roughly 36 per cent of capacity.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/water-issues/desalination-test-may-waste-millions-20120218-1tfv0.html#ixzz1mlX9TNr4

The psuedo scientists at CSIRO and in the Australian Universities had assured governments that drought was likely to become permanenent in the future due to global warming. Other scicnetists in the early 2000sshowed drought and floods were naturally caused by El Nino and La Nina and multidecadal oscillations in the Pacific and that givent he change to a cold La Nina mode, floods would be more likely in upcoming decades. The3 last two yeras has seen havy flooding as the cold Pacific and La Nina combined.

After Layoffs, Execs Get Big Raises at Taxpayer-Funded A123

By Paul Chesser

A taxpayer-funded electric vehicle battery company, that is considered in great danger due to its dependency on troubled EV company Fisker Automotive, has awarded its top executives big salary increases despite a steep downward trajectory in its stock price.

Massachusetts-based A123 Systems — which received $279.1 million in stimulus money from the Department of Energy, and up to $135 million in incentives from the State of Michigan — boosted the base salaries of two vice presidents and its chief financial officer on February 8.

Chief Financial Officer David Prystash was bumped 27 percent to $380,000; VP of Energy Solutions Robert Johnson’s base salary increased 51 percent from his 2010 level to $400,000; and VP of Automotive Systems Jason Forcier saw his pay rise 32 percent from 2010, to $350,000. The news was first reported by the Boston Web site of Citybizlist.com, which obtained the information from an A123 SEC filing.

A123 had laid off 125 employees in November at its two plants in Livonia and Romulus, Mich. Company officials said diminished production by Fisker led to the cutbacks. A123 had expected to deliver batteries for 7,000 plug-in hybrid Karma models, but faulty wire harnesses in the vehicles reduced Fisker’s production to 1,500 for 2011, according to Crain’s Detroit Business. Also, in December A123 had to repair dozens of its batteries that had been installed in Karmas due to the potential for coolant leaks.

A previous SEC filing explained that A123 CFO Prystash was just hired in May at a base salary of $300,000 plus a $50,000 signing bonus, additional performance bonuses that could reach 150 percent of company “financial performance targets,” and stock considerations. Prystash’s predecessor Michael Rubino was listed with a base salary of $275,000 in 2010, but his total compensation with bonuses and stock options reached over $674,000.

Other SEC records show A123 VPs Johnson and Forcier each had a base salary of $265,000 in 2010, but received more than $744,000 and $739,000 in total compensation, respectively, with bonuses and stock options included. Johnson’s total remuneration in 2008 and 2009 was nearly $1.2 million and $800,000 respectively, while Forcier’s was more than $1.3 million in 2009, the year he was hired.

Also in the Feb. 8 compensation meeting, President and CEO David Vieau received 400,000 additional restricted stock units. Four other top A123 executives, including Johnson and Prystash, collectively received 810,000 of the stock units. A123’s compensation committee of its Board of Directors also changed remuneration terms of its top officers should control of the company change hands, which included:

· Accelerated vesting of unvested stock option and restricted stock awards equal to 100 percent of the unvested amounts (up from 50 percent)

· Payment of base salary for 18 months in case of termination (increased from 12 months)

· Payout of target bonuses for the year if terminated

· Continuation of benefits for 18 months if terminated (increased from 12 months)

Included in the new stock perks — explained as part of an executive retention agreement — was newly hired (January 23) Chief Operating Officer Ed Kopkowski. Upon his hire he received an annual base salary of $345,000 plus a $125,000 signing bonus, in addition to other incentive bonuses.

As for CEO Vieau, he was rewarded with $1.5 million in total compensation in both 2009 and 2010, up from the $414,000 he received in 2008. Undoubtedly the value of the stock portion of the executives’ pay has declined with the drop in its share price.

A123’s fortunes are tied closely to Fisker’s, according to the company’s SEC filings. A123 is invested in Fisker, having poured at least $20.5 million in cash and stock equity into the company. The companies also have a multi-year supply agreement for batteries for Fisker’s EV’s, the Karma and the Nina. Fisker had been awarded a $529 million loan from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, but after the company failed to reach milestones in producing the Karma and as it renovated a former General Motors plant in Delaware for production of the Nina, DOE suspended the loan payouts. Fisker has received $193 million thus far, but laid off 65 workers last week and suspended upgrades at the Delaware plant.

“If Fisker is not successful in raising additional capital necessary to fund its operations, executing on its strategic plan or does not meet the anticipated demand for our products,” A123 told the SEC last year, “our revenues and profitability may be materially impacted.”

The timing of the executive pay raises at A123 may interest Congressional investigators who are also looking at DOE’s loans to Solyndra, as well as the agency’s overall “Green” loan and grant programs. Were their actions intended as greater protection for their executives in the case of a sale or bankruptcy of the company?

A123 competitor Ener1, whose fortunes were tied to EV maker Think Global (much like A123 is linked to Fisker), declared bankruptcy January 26. The announcement about Fisker’s loan and financing troubles came on February 6, and then A123’s compensation committee met on February 8, a day after its stock price fell from $2.65 to $2.285. The next day Forbes ran a story wondering whether the Fisker/A123 difficulties would produce “two Solyndras for the price of one,” and respected analyst Theodore O’Neill of Wunderlich Securities wrote in a research article that A123 is facing “a doomsday” scenario. O’Neill “reduced his rating on A123 to Sell from Hold, with a new target of 50 cents, down from $3,” Forbes reported. Then A123’s stock price tumbled to $1.88 at closing on Feb. 9, the biggest drop in more than two years. It closed yesterday at just over $2.00. At one time it had traded at over $20 and was near $10 a year ago, but the company has never made money, suffering net losses of $85.8 million in 2009, $152.6 million in 2010, and $172.8 million through three quarters last year.

Despite other investors’ criticisms of O’Neill’s analysis, pointing out A123’s other contracts, Wunderlich has not backed away from its “sell” advice.

Investors in both A123 and Fisker are wealthy supporters of Democrats, as NLPC has documented. Vieau gave then-Senator Barack Obama $2,300 three weeks before he was elected president in 2008, and has given $5,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the last two years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Vieau and another A123 co-founder, Gilbert Riley, Jr., have given Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry $8,000 for his Senate campaigns in recent years. Vieau also gave $3,900 to Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who was the chief co-sponsor of the Waxman-Markey climate legislation a couple of years ago. Vieau was also featured in a 30-second spot in late 2009 to promote energy and climate legislation promoted by President Obama and his fellow Democrats.

So far, through the end of 2011, A123 has received nearly $127 million of the $249.1 million it was awarded. The company informed DOE that because of diminished market demand, “this has given rise to continued delay in the commencement of construction activities” on its Michigan plants, which led to the 125 layoffs. Meanwhile A123’s executives appear to be padding their bank accounts, perhaps before the next shoe drops.

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center.

GOLDEN EAGLES FACE EXTINCTION IN U.S. AS NUMBERS PLUMMET, NEW STUDIES REVEAL

“Wind farms are the main cause. The issuing of license to kill will accelerate the decline toward extinction.”—Save the Eagles International

An East County Magazine Special Report


Photo by Brian Murphy

By Miriam Raftery

January 6, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego County’s 48 pairs of nesting golden eagles and even rarer bald eagles could be in peril if proposed industrial-scale wind farms are built. In a press release issued today, Save the Eagles International (STEI) issued a dire warning, providing detailed documentation proving that golden eagles and their nests are disappearing rapidly near wind farms across the U.S.

The group also blasted the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for changing its mission from protecting wildlife to “catering to the interests of an industry” that is a “ruinous one to boot.”

Eagle killed by wind turbineAlthough the studies focused on golden eagles, if no major action is taken, wind turbines’ razor-sharp blades will also threaten the existence of other species, STEI predicts.

The international group “solemnly warns the Western States that the biologically-blind policies will cause the extinction of the Golden Eagle, the California Condor, and other species of raptors.” Also at risk are species in Eastern and Central states, such as the Whooping Crane.

The evidence

This week, wildlife biologist Jim Wiegand, Vice President of SEI, examined park records and found that at least half of the golden eagles nests (5 of 10) in the vicinity of the Altamont Pass wind farm in northern California have disappeared since 2005. (Eagles mate for life and return to the same nest year after year. Wiegand provided detailed maps of former and current locations as evidence.)

But the devastation is far worse—and could quadruple in the near future. At Altamont alone, 116 golden eagles have been reported killed by the turbine blades each year. That’s 2,900 dead golden eagles over the wind farm’s 25 year history.

Now, regulators have approved reducing old turbines at Altamont with fewer but larger turbines that have bigger blade sweeps—doubling the power output in a move that “could be killing four times as many golden eagles as with the old turbines,” according to SEI.

New turbines such as those planned for East County tower hundreds of feet tall with blade spans as large as many jetliners—far larger than the existing turbines on tribal lands. Some are planned on National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands that until a few years ago were protected as wilderness, but were opened up for energy development by the Bush administration, a step the Obama administration has not reversed but instead, used as an opportunity to fast-track numerous large-scale wind and solar projects in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

Bald eagle, rare in San Diego County, at Lake Cuyamaca. Photo by Miriam RafteryBut are projects that slaughter wildlife really green?

Altamont isn’t the only wind project killing eagles. Federal authorities are investigating deaths of at least six golden eagles at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Pine Tree Wind Project in the Tehachapi Mountains, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported in August. Numerous eagle kills are also reported in Colorado and Wyoming.

HawkWatch International, another nonprofit organization concerned with bird mortalities, predicts that the Chokeberry and Sierra Madre wind project in Wyoming will slaughter 700 birds of prey a year, including more than 200 golden eagles, the Casper Star Tribune in Wyoming reported on November 28, 2011.

Bats have also had populations decimated by wind farms. Even more ominously, scientific studies reported in New Scientist found that bats died in large numbers even when they didn’t strike the blades at wind farms. The bats died of internal hemorrhaging and lungs that literally exploded. The gruesome finding is believed to be due to changes in air pressure caused by the massive spinning blades.

View videos and still photos of large birds and bats striking wind turbines: http://savetheeaglesinternational.org/?page_id=131

Federal watchdogs or industry lap dogs?

2 golden eagles soar over Ocotillo, where a wind farm is plannedOfficially, windmills kill a half million birds a year in the U.S., according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There are currently 500 wind farms a year in the U.S., the Washington Post reported in August 2011. But many more are planned.

But Trish Sweanor, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, admitted, “We really don’t know how many birds are being killed by wind turbines,” according to the Casper Star Tribune.

That hasn’t stopped the federal agency from instituting a new policy issuing “take permits” that actually give wind farm operators permission to kill a limited number of eagles in Oregon and Washington for example. Save the Eagles denounced this practice as a “perversion, which has illegally but effectively changed the mission of FWS from preserving biodiversity to that of catering to the interests of an industry, an ineffective and ruinous one to boot.”

The federal agency has largely relied on industry representatives to count the bodies of beheaded and eviscerated birds beneath the giant blades. But avian experts contend that wind farms hide the carnage, burying bodies or carting them off in the dead of night. A citizens’ public records request for raptor kills on a wind farm on tribal-owned land was allegedly denied on privacy grounds.

The wind industry defends its actions

Golden eagle chickWind industry supporters have tried to diminish concerns.

“The reality is that everything we do as human beings has an impact on the natural environment,” said John Anderson, director of siting policy for the wind-energy association the Washington Post reported recently.

Wind industry advocates note that bird kills from wind farms counted thus far are lower than total bird kills from flying into glass windows or being hit by cars, and roughly equal to the number killed by cats.

But those perils predominantly kill smaller songbirds; an eagle is more apt to carry off a housecat than the other way around—and soaring eagles nesting in rugged terrain are far more likely to fly into a wind turbine than a household window. Counts of bird kills for smaller species are tougher to conduct, moreover, since a fallen songbird may be carried off or eaten by small animals.

Site of proposed Tule Wind Farm in East County; photo by Laurie Baker

San Diego Supervisors to weigh wind ordinance that could fast-track projects

In San Diego, where Supervisors are now considering a wind ordinance that would make it easier to build large-scale wind farms in East County, today’s news is particularly relevant. It comes on the heels of last week’s announcement by the U.S. Department of the Interior that the Department had approved the Tule Wind Farm for McCain Valley in East County, though additional approvals are needed for the full project. Many other projects are planned nearby, including a massive project in Ocotillo in neighboring Imperial County.

That has some local residents deeply concerned. Charles and Laurie Baker of Santee, who regularly hike areas near the proposed Tule Wind Farm and others, submitted photos of eagles in flight and apparently nesting.

Photo by Brian Murphy”We observe and have pictures of many large birds of prey in the McCain Valley area soaring above ridgetops,” they wrote, including photos as proof. “We think the Tule wind turbine project and other proposed wind turbine projects would present a hazsard for electrocution or collision with fan blades for golden eagles and should not be built.” She further asked, “Do we know if there would be a ripple effect on animal populations they hunt for food if their [raptors] numbers decline?”

The Bakers noted that SDG&E, in an environmental impact report on Energia Juarez high voltage transmission lines argued, ironically, that high voltage towers provided nesting space for eagles in areas including McCain Valley. But the Bakers observed, “However, the Audobon Society wrote a letter stating the opposite is true…Birds that nest on the Sunrise Powerlink towers could collide with the rotating blades of the wind turbines when hunting for food.”

Eagle experts call for action to halt wind farm destruction of birds

Wildlife experts, meanwhile, believe it’s time for the state and federal government to take action to halt the massive proliferation of wind farms as evidence mounts of their dangers to wildlife, including threatened and endangered species.

“The Altamont Pass wind farm should have been closed down and decommissioned a long time ago,” STEI said of the most infamous eagle-killing facility. “But pork-barrel politics have kept it in operation,” a release signed by STEI president Mark Duchamp as well as Vice President Jim Wiegand, STEI United States.

Both have also expressed grave fears for San Diego County’s eagles and other raptors if the wind farms proposed here are allowed to be built.

“No amount of bad science financed by the wind industry and government agencies have been able to convince honest conservationists that wind farms don’t harm bird and bat populations,” Save The Eagles International concludes.

Are there alternatives?

Vertical axis wind turbine, San Diego Port DistrictIn a word, yes.

Long-term, vertical axis wind turbines hold promise. To date, only small-scale models have been developed–including one recently installed as a pilot program by the San Diego Port District. “Many of these turbines have been installed throughout Japan and because of their unique vertical structure, there have been no reported problems, like the ones that occur with horizontal axis turbines, such as injuries to bird populations, according to Nakao Consulting and Enterprises,” the Port District’s website states.

Wiegand at Save the Eagles confirmed that vertical axis turbines “absolutely” can be viable alternatives and if research dollars are invested “will be far superior to the propeller turbine.” But he told ECM, “They haven’t been developed due to corruption and greed. All the tooling and production are set up for the bird-killer style.”

Here are links to several other vertical axis designs:

Maglev Wind Turbine http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7Qs2gFlt-o&feature=related

The Energy Ball http://www.home-energy.com/engels/ebv100technical.htmhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IA-tJ2oPwgc

Enepro design http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TspdI4Sd1o&feature=related
DS400 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PNngA4wP9o&feature=endscreen&NR=1

Vertical Axis Wind Turbine DS1500 in Active http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkIX3_O8sWg&feature=related

Aerospiral Operating at 9m/s (by Aerowind Systems) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMGrnpEuDhY&feature=related

For now, however, the most promising clean energy alternative for the San Diego region is sunshine. Prominent environmental designer Jim Bell has estimated that our region could meet its energy needs entirely through rooftop solar, including solar on buildings as well as shade structures over parking garages. Large-scale desert solar projects could also produce significant power, though they face their own set of environmental issues.

Rooftop solar also lacks the serious negative impacts of other options, such as carbon-producing fossil fuels or nuclear, which has come under growing scrutiny in earthquake-prone California falling the Fukushima, Japan earthquake and ensuing nuclear meltdown.

But rooftop solar has no profit motive for utility companies such as SDG&E, that are under state mandate to increase clean energy production. Recently, in fact, SDG&E has been lobbying to impose a fee on homeowners or business owners who want to produce their own solar power. Contrast that scenario to places like Germany, which fast-tracked its ramp-up to clean energy by providing incentives for conversion to solar power across the nation.

The fate of our national bird?

Will the eagle, America’s national symbol, survive the onslaught posed by spinning turbines across the continent? That remains to be seen–and the future of eagles in the U.S. may hinge on whether federal and state regulators take action to enforce laws against killing eagles.

If an individual kills an eagle, it’s a felony punishable by steep fines and jail time. But thus far, not a single wind energy executive has been jailed or even prosecuted despite thousands of unauthorized eagle deaths.Wild turkeys in Julian

When the founding fathers chose the eagle, Benjamin Franklin dissented–suggesting that the wild turkey be named our national bird instead.

Perhaps Franklin’s choice was prophetic, since the wild turkeys in our region have one distinct advantage over eagles: turkeys can’t fly high enough to be slaughtered by wind turbines’ fast-whirling blades.

It’s time to apply endangered species, wildlife and economic laws fairly and equitably

“… gleaming white wind turbines generating carbon-free electricity carpet chaparral-covered ridges and march down into valleys of Joshua trees.” This is “the future” of American energy – not “the oil rigs planted helter-skelter in [nearby] citrus groves,” nor the “smoggy San Joaquin Valley” a few miles away.

The Forbes article’s poetic paean to Aeolian energy nevertheless voiced consternation that a 300-megawatt “green” turbine project might kill some of the magnificent California condors that are just coming back from the edge of extinction – and the project might be canceled as a result.

Indeed, the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has asked Kern County to “exercise extreme caution” in approving projects in the Tehapachi area, because of potential threats to condors. The “conundrum will force some hard choices about the balance we are willing to strike between obtaining clean energy and preserving wild things,” the article suggested. Hopefully, it concluded, new “avian radar units” will be able to detect condors and automatically shut down turbines when one approaches.

All Americans hope condors will not be sliced and diced by giant Cuisinarts. But most of us are puzzled that so few “environmentalists” and FWS “caretakers” express concern about the countless bald and golden eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, ducks, geese, bats and other rare, threatened, endangered and common flying creatures imperiled by turbine blades.

And many of us get downright angry at the selective, indeed hypocritical ways in which endangered species and other wildlife laws are applied – leaving wind turbine operators free to exact their carnage, while harassing and punishing oil companies and citizens.

In 2011, following an intensive million-dollar, 45-day helicopter search for dead birds in North Dakota oil fields by FWS officials, US Attorney Timothy Purdon prosecuted seven oil and gas companies for inadvertently killing 28 mallard ducks, flycatchers and other common birds that were found dead in or near uncovered waste pits. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the companies and their executive officers faced fines of up to $15,000 per bird, plus six months in prison. (They eventually agreed to plead guilty and pay $1,000 per bird.)

Also in 2011, an FWS agent charged an 11-year-old Virginia girl with illegally “taking” a baby woodpecker that the girl had rescued from a housecat, even though she intended to release the bird after ensuring it was OK. The threatened $535 fine was finally dropped, after the FWS was deservedly ridiculed in the media.

The mere possession of an eagle feather by a non-Indian can result in fines and imprisonment, even if the feather came from a bird butchered by a wind turbine: up to $100,000, a year in prison or both for a first offense. Poisoning or otherwise killing common bats that have nested in one’s attic can cost homeowners thousands of dollars in fines.

Wind turbine companies, officers and employees, however, are immune from prosecution, fines or imprisonment, regardless of how many rare, threatened, endangered or migratory birds and bats they kill. In fact, FWS data show that wind turbines slaughter some 400,000 birds every year. If “helter-skelter” applies to any energy source, it is wind turbines, reflecting their lethal Charles Manson effect on birds – and the radical environmentalist views held by Manson and his followers.

The hypocritical Obama-Purdon-FWS policy certainly protects, promotes and advances an anti-hydrocarbon, catastrophic global warming agenda that is increasingly at odds with environmental, scientific, economic, job-creation and public opinion reality. It also safeguards wind turbines that survive solely because of government mandates, taxpayer subsidies … and exemptions from laws that penalize and terrorize the rest of us.

It may be true that housecats and reflective windows kill more songbirds than turbines do. However, that oft-cited defense of wind energy Cuisinarts is irrelevant to the birds and bats discussed here.

Even if avian radar and turbine shutdown systems do eventually work, and can actually and abruptly stop turbine blades before they butcher an approaching bird, should they be limited to condors? Shouldn’t they be required for eagles and falcons – and for hawks, ducks, flycatchers, bats and other protected species? Geese, for example, to prevent a repeat of the December 7, 2011 massacre of numerous snow geese by wind turbines along upstate New York Route 190, as reported by a motorist?

Why aren’t wind developers and permitting authorities required to consider the lost economic benefits of butchered birds and bats, which do so much to control rats and insects that carry diseases and destroy crops? Shouldn’t that analysis be made mandatory, as more wind projects are proposed, thereby posing an ever-increasing threat to numerous species – and even to the survival of some?

Of course, even condor protection alone could reduce affected turbine electricity output to 20 or even 10% of rated capacity, instead of their current 30% average. Adding other protected species would drive nearly all actual wind turbine electricity output down below 5% – making the turbines virtually worthless, and driving the exorbitant cost of wind energy even higher.

But why should wind turbines be above the law? In fact, why should we even worry about reducing their electricity output?

America’s environmentalists, legislators, judges and bureaucrats have already made hundreds of millions of acres of resource-rich land off limits – and rendered centuries of oil, gas, coal, uranium, geothermal and other energy unavailable. The Environmental Protection Agency’s anti-coal zero-pollution rules, intense opposition to the Keystone pipeline, and looming restrictions on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas are already further impairing electricity and other energy availability and reliability.

This government-imposed energy deprivation is already driving families into energy poverty and sending more jobs overseas.

Put bluntly, wind energy is unsustainable. It kills unconscionable numbers of bats, raptors and other birds. It requires billions in perpetual subsidies – and billions more for (mostly) gas-fired backup generators. It impacts millions of acres of scenic, wildlife and agricultural land – and depends on vast amounts of raw materials, whose extraction and processing further impairs global land, air and water quality. Its expensive, unreliable electricity kills two jobs for every one supposedly created.

A far more rational public policy would cut out the costly, unreliable middleman. It would forget about wind turbines, simply build more gas, coal and nuclear generators, to generate reliable, affordable, sustainable electricity – and apply the same laws fairly and equitably to all energy sources.

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Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.