A new study from the Global Warming Policy Foundation warns that green energy isn’t very green. Some of its arguments are familiar including the devastating impact of wind turbines on birds and bats. Some are less so, including their potential harm to marine mammals and the astounding resources required to manufacture turbines (1400 tonnes of CO2-intensive concrete, for instance). But the biggest point, that needs repeating again and again, is that there is no free lunch. Every kind of energy brings benefits, and every kind brings costs, and rational policy-making requires us to balance them against one another and compare the bottom lines.
Reading Andrew Montford’s paper we were struck by one thought in particular. If wind farms were doing all the harm they are, to wildlife, the countryside, the places where the resources are manufactured and so on, and were being created and pushed by multinational corporations seeking profit, and were not linked to salvation from the dreaded CO2, environmentalists would be picketing them, supergluing themselves to the turbines and so on. Instead it is amazingly hard to get a rational discussion of the fact that they have drawbacks, let alone the nature and scale of those drawbacks.
It may be true, as we have suggested before, that a certain type of ideology does not deal well with the concept of tradeoffs. But when it comes to something they dislike, many environmentalists see only costs and cannot be persuaded to take into account the benefits. (Including those witlings who protest fossil fuels wearing trendy advanced synthetic outdoor gear and waving smartphones.) So what can explain the fact that, with wind power, they see only benefits instead of only costs, if they cannot be persuaded to adopt a more mature view of the world?
As Montford notes, “Rogue gamekeepers who persecute raptors are pursued by bird NGOs with the full force of the law. Inexplicably, the same NGOs are all but blind to the destruction wrought by wind farm operators.” And it’s not just solar panels that use “rare earths” mined in very troubling ways in poor countries; the magnets in at least some wind turbines include large amounts of neodymium, to cite just one of his examples.
What about hydro then? Tidal? Biomass? Well, they may have virtues and be part of a rational energy mix. But as Montford explains, all have drawbacks, often a lot larger than we’ve been led to expect.
We invite you to read the rest of his paper and ask, yourself and others, why these consequences are invisible to those who most loudly assert their hypersensitivity to the environment.