Golden Eagles Redux. Or Not.

December 7th, 2013

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I just posted a blog about a Golden eagle trying to take my hat—or possibly my head—off as I teetered on a ladder cleaning my gutters. And now, in one of those coincidences that makes you think Jung really knew what he was talking about when he developed his theory of synchronicity, I stumbled across an article about wind farms that contained some disturbing news. California, where I live, has some of the largest wind farms in America (second only to Texas), notably in the Altamont Pass area near San Francisco, in Kern County in the central part of the state, and in the southern desert in Imperial County.

Wind energy is clean energy, and in addition to its minor contribution to America’s electrical energy needs (wind farms account for about four percent of all terawatts used) it is a feel-good industry. It’s not the most effective form of energy production, and it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing addition to the landscape, but driving past a wind farm it is easy to lull oneself into a sense that we’re making progress, that we’re on the verge of a cleaner, healthier, and safer world where wind and sun will eventually replace coal and fossil fuels and those nuclear power plants we all prefer not to live near as we boot-up our computers with electricity.

Cleaner, yes. Healthier? Safer? Well, that depends on whom it is supposed to be healthier and safer for.

The article I read was by someone named Rick Moran and was entitled Administration to Give Wind Farms Thirty Year Pass on Killing Bald Eagles. Following up on that provocative headline, I found the Audubon Society’s take on it was no less shrill: Interior Dept. Rule Greenlights Eagle Slaughter at Wind Farms. The Audubon news release was accompanied by a photograph of a Bald Eagle. I’m not sure why Mr. Moran and the Audubon Society singled out Bald Eagles, but it is a well-established fact that wind turbines are lethal to birds of all kinds, and birds of prey especially. Back in 2001, when there were far fewer—and for the most part smaller—wind farms with much smaller wind turbines, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintained that forty-thousand birds killed annually was probably an underestimate. In the Altamont Pass, the bird of prey most vulnerable to turbines is the Golden Eagle, drawn there by traditional migratory patterns and an abundance of small animals, primarily ground squirrels. Those wind turbines in the Altamont Pass area date back to the late seventies and early eighties, before Barack Obama even started shaving, yet now everyone seems to be excoriating the President’s administration for “slaughtering” eagles.

I’m afraid the bloom is off my rose when it comes to President Obama. The “Fast and Furious” debacle did it for me. Since I have already written about that, I have no intentions of laying the whole thing out again, but what it boiled down to was the President went on national television and said he knew nothing about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ “Operation Fast and Furious,” and maintained he had not even heard of it until it became breaking news a few days earlier. Two weeks later he refused to release any White House emails or documents pertaining to “Fast and Furious,” invoking the right of executive privilege. Since executive privilege only applies to conversations and correspondence between the President (or a member of his staff speaking on his behalf) and some other party, we are left with only two options: either the President lied when said he knew nothing about it; or he broke the law by invoking executive privilege to protect someone else. Since then, we have had the shameful disgrace of Benghazi (immortalized by Hilary Clinton’s dismissal of the deaths of four Americans with the words, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”), the less than stellar debut of Obamacare, the President’s constitutionally questionable use of executive order, and host of lesser issues that have tarnished his reputation.

But on this issue of wind turbines, I happen to agree with him. The world and his wife and the little dog behind the stove are all screaming for America to break its dependence on foreign oil. But nobody wants more oil drilling. Fracking is demonized as being right up there with pederasty. Burning coal is equated with chain smoking on an airplane. Practically every green organization in the land is calling for (in some cases suing for) the dismantling of hydro-electric dams great and small. And hard to spell places names like Chernobyl and Fukushima kind of dampen one’s enthusiasm for living near a nuclear reactor. The people who scream the loudest against these energy sources use up a lot of kilowatts in their temperature-controlled offices screaming on their MacBooks and their i-phones while playing games on their i-pods. Something’s got to give if we all wish to continue living our lives in the ease and comfort we have all come to accept as a birthright. And just as we take these things for granted, so too more and more emerging nations and societies are going to want the same toys. How are we going to power all those critically important X-box games and smart devices?

Do I want eagles killed? Of course not. But the Audubon Society itself pointed out there are large swaths of the nation that are not migratory paths, and where wind farms could be placed with minimal danger to any avian species, and that in any event, greenhouse gas emissions have the potential to kill far more birds (not to mention people) than wind turbines.

Just for the record, as long as I’m ranting…

As someone who shares his home with three cats, consider the following: forty thousand birds killed by wind turbines pales in comparison to the estimated one hundred million migratory songbirds killed every year by hunting housecats. It’s why I never allow my cats outside.

Besides, they might become a meal for an eagle.

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