With Donald Trump grudgingly leaving office, we’ve lost one of the few major politicians willing to criticize the crass blight of industrial wind turbines. Though he was crass himself and fabricated certain details, he was morally right on this issue. Wind turbines may not directly cause cancer, but they’re like a cancerous growth on nature, taking over too much horizontal and vertical space in areas untouched by older energy projects. Even 22 years ago, their sprawl could no longer be described as novel and welcome. Nothing so blatantly ugly, noisy, lethal and futile has been marketed as “green” with such blind ambition. Relatively few environmentalists bother to ask if wind power meaningfully reduces carbon, or whether other footprints still matter. They assume anything beats smokestacks, even if it resembles hordes of them, minus blades.
A greenly zealous President Biden plans to carry on with Obama’s PTC wind power legacy after a notable construction lapse during Trump’s term. In his 2020 campaign, Biden spoke of building 60,000 more wind turbines on top of the 65,548 already spiking America (as of this posting-date). If funding is secured, this politically-correct and bipartisan destruction of nature will resume unless rural landowners and honest environmentalists put up roadblocks. But where would all these new eyesores be built? Offshore ocean sites promise more consistent wind and less visibility, but theory & reality have clashed and permitting is slow. It’s been unrealistic to put turbines far enough offshore and keep them affordable, including maintenance at sea.
This means Biden’s Departments of Interior & Energy are likely to target pragmatic onshore locations, including besieged mountaintops where wind can be most effectively “harvested” (a term also applied to anthropocentric hunting). Since wind “farms” unavoidably destroy scenery and bird & bat habitat, big environmental groups have responded to the encroachment with denial, covered at length here and here. They downplay the visceral impact of giant machines and replace it with shill-terms like “installed capacity.” To be green now, you must itemize nature as a product and wrap it around metrics.
There’s been a misleading controversy over Biden’s plan to “replace” fossil fuels with quasi-renewables, upsetting the livelihoods of traditional energy workers. It’s based on a widespread misunderstanding of energy scale and the dependency of most infrastructure on fossil fuels for construction and maintenance. The laws of physics will not allow wind or solar to actually replace oil, gas and coal. Once one understands the scale problem, nuclear power becomes our best hope in the electricity sector, though it can’t replace what fossil fuels do best. Recent urgency in approving molten salt SMRs, and fast-tracking fusion, shows that scientists understand the limits of wind & solar. Both Democrats and Republicans are too vague about our energy predicament, compounded by general denial of scarcity.
We can hope that Biden’s “500 million” new solar panels are only built on roofs and parking lots, but wind turbines can’t be “carefully sited” much longer, if it was ever true. We’re stuck with the same dilemma of sacrificing open space for the growing demands of people. With Trump, this took the form of shrinking national monuments and more oil & gas drilling, which at least didn’t pretend to be green. Biden will be compelled to spoil nature in “smarter” ways, rationalizing huge structures that wreck the facade of wilderness faster than anything else.
And, just as Trump weakened hunting regulations to appease right-wingers, Biden will be forced to weaken protections for anything that flies in the path of wind turbine gauntlets, e.g. more eagle-take permits. When America’s national bird and scenic heritage are threatened by “clean energy,” you wonder what qualifies as dirty these days. If Joe Biden really thinks Big Wind is green, one needs to say “Come on, man!”
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“The human race does not have a very good record of intelligent behavior.” – Stephen Hawking
If you walk through almost any city you’ll see people idling their engines at zero MPG, often fooling with their smartphones or GPS devices. They seem oblivious to their surroundings and time itself. Sometimes it goes on for 30+ minutes, including situations where someone stands outside talking with the driver. Oil-wasters are easiest to spot at night when glowing screens and headlights give them away. Unsurprisingly, they waste bulbs like they waste oil, thinking “I’ll just buy more.” When the price of fuel is modest, idle-waste tracks with general apathy more than income. It’s a way of life in America; get inside, turn the key and don’t even think about where oil comes from as long as you can “afford the gas.” Gratuitous fuel squandering isn’t new but mobile entertainment has made it notably worse. The phenomenon peaks during extreme weather but it happens in all seasons and the apathy is obvious.
These wastrels could at least limit idling on hot and cold days by parking in the shade when possible, or blasting the heater before they park, letting residual heat linger inside. Also, a big 12-volt battery won’t get drained by charging a much smaller phone without the alternator. All it takes is some forethought and a general conservation ethic.
Many large pickup trucks are bought as crass status symbols or ego-boosters (similar to pseudo-hunting pursuits). Diesel drivers are known for excessive idling despite modern engines requiring much shorter warm-ups and turbo cool-downs. A number of them are wannabe semi-truck drivers who like the sound and torque aspects. Truck-stop idling itself is a major source of waste, though APUs are helping. The worst diesel offenders “roll coal” on other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. They’re scumbags but they’re also more honest than passive idlers in terms of environmental consequences. Overall, more fuel is wasted in cities due to sheer numbers of people. Country air is cleaner for lack of population density, not because residents put more effort into it. They take that for granted when they defy emissions controls with ego-mods, including removing catalytic converters to fight the EPA’s “back-pressure conspiracy.” Rural air would be even cleaner if fuel pumps had vapor recovery nozzles and two-stroke engines were phased out on thrillcraft. Average folk do things the cheapest, laziest way they can get away with.
Another common waste of fuel occurs at car dealerships and rental companies. An agent will walk up to a vehicle, open the door and immediately turn on the engine while describing its features. Are they trying to entice you to test drive it? With rental cars they already know you’ll be taking it, so why squander fuel you’ll have to replace anyhow? Techniques from the old days of looser engine tolerances still encourage pointless idling. In most weather you shouldn’t have to idle more than 10-30 seconds for full oil pressure. Engineering manuals suggest warming up by driving as soon as possible at moderate speeds, which warms the drivetrain along with the engine so it isn’t shocked by acceleration. Some claim that stopping and restarting a warm engine causes wear but there’s always a sheen of oil protecting the metal (otherwise, hybrid engines would fail prematurely). Remote starters are often abused as pointless gadgets rather than a warm-up method for very cold days. Cold starts have higher metal-on-metal risk but oil remains trapped in the rings overnight. Vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances have excuses for idling (to power equipment) but it can still be reduced. Chronic speeding is also a major source of waste. Efficiency plummets in top gear at speeds much over 60 MPH, and even hybrid drivers join mobs of tailgaters (Jevons paradox). 80 MPH speed limits in several states force frugal drivers to speed to avoid tailgaters. Calculations vary, but Americans alone waste at least 300,000 barrels of oil per day.
The only thing that really makes average people conserve oil is a price increase, which they quickly forget if it falls again. Over-hyped reserves of oil-bearing shale and OPEC’s deliberate overproduction (to starve U.S. frackers) temporarily wiped the 2008 oil price spike from Americans’ memory, and they’ll be caught off guard when it returns. At the time of this posting, oil prices had crept back into the upper $60’s after being flat for many months. SUV and V8 sales had risen as prices dropped and placated the herd, but the world was burning upwards of 90 million barrels a day all the while. That’s oil we won’t get back (abiotic oil is a conspiracy theory). We’ll see how long this recent price increase holds, but anyone who claims oil is infinite doesn’t understand geological processes. Creationist fables are behind a lot of that thinking.
When the “official” Peak Oil finally hits, millions of people will be indignant at first. Being willfully ignorant of oil’s physical limits, they’ll try to blame scarcity on “lack of drilling,” even if rapacious EPA-haters are still in the White House. They refuse to see that the fracking of shale for oil and natural gas is not an actual increase in physical reserves. There’s less of it in the ground every second and it will cost more to extract as sources get tighter. The world can burn a billion barrels of oil in ten days, so don’t be impressed when some huckster hypes recent discoveries in the billions. Peak Oil deniers are invariably educated in finance, not geology. Pseudo-petroleum sources like kerogen are an ERoI fallacy, hyped into “trillions of barrels” by wild speculators. Also, renewable energy infrastructure like bloated wind turbines can’t exist without fossil fuels and “100% renewable energy” claims are deviously optimistic. Increased “production” of ancient, condensed resources just means people are getting desperate and using newer extraction methods. Horizontal drilling isn’t a major leap, just a refinement of old techniques, but it suits the “technology will save us” narrative. After a point, there’ll be no new tricks and nobody else to blame for the squandering of finite energy.
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“The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.” – Edward Abbey
Industrial wind turbines are arguably the most misguided, bloated technology ever invented. Instead of saving the planet, utilitarian zombies are sTaving it with carbon-dependent sprawl, dishonest slogans and misleading capacity data. Wind energy’s acreage requirements dwarf equivalent output from modern nuclear & natural gas power plants (many wind factories would sputter without gas backup). Big Wind is a prime example of corporate greenwashing in plain sight. Physics-defying claims for “100% Renewable Energy” have made wind energy “too big to fail” while it keeps getting physically bigger. Its impacts on scenery and wildlife have irreversibly corrupted the definition of environmentalism and its supporters are in too deep to admit their mistakes.
Windschmerz, a newly coined word*, describes the sinking feeling of witnessing a huge industrial plague being spun as good for the environment despite its obvious negative impacts. A good companion word is klugly (kludgy + ugly). And disenchanted Germans compare turbine towers to unsightly asparagus, calling them Verspargelung der Landschaft.
Instead of constraining the human footprint with serious conservation, rooftop solar and fast-tracked nuclear (e.g. safer molten salt reactors), people decided to turn rural lands into industrial parks. If this urban mega-sprawl is the new environmentalism, nature has a slim chance of remaining intact anywhere the wind blows and transmission lines are feasible.
Wind turbines are so absurdly large that one can only view them with profound disappointment or concoct stories about their “beauty” to distract from the obvious blight. Mainstream environmental groups have done exactly that, along with sneaky obfuscation of noise and wildlife threats. Whatever happened to “small is beautiful” in environmental circles? The Sierra Club, NRDC, The Union of “Concerned” Scientists, and even Audubon have sold out to platitudes like “wind is a vital part of our energy mix” (despite its futility as a fossil fuel replacement) and “they can be carefully sited” (despite growing protests as unsullied views run out). Something is rotten in Windmark when self-proclaimed environmentalists chide people for lamenting the replacement of natural horizons with spiky machines.
The dictionary needs another new word: windvironmentalist (Noun: A sellout/shill for Big Wind companies, or naive youth who think 500-foot machines are only the size of Tinkertoys.)
Even though it’s the environmental equivalent of trying to prevent arson with vandalism, wind power has a momentum that’s hard to control because an Environmental-Industrial Complex has grown around it, propped up with slick cover stories. When thousands or millions of jobs depend on massive construction projects, moral objectivity gets lost in the stampede. Anything green about this hulking enterprise has been a farce since the 1990s. A whole government/industry PR machine is dedicated to pretending these giants are midgets.
Independent climate activists like Greta Thunberg are sending mixed messages on this issue. She sailed across the Atlantic as an apparent symbol of wind power, yet implores governments to “do something” as they obliterate nature with that very thing. She’s at least one of the few questioning “green growth” but it’s hard to find specifics.
Windschmerz is a variant of the German word weltschmerz (world pain or sadness) focused on a specific technology that’s destroying nature while claiming to save the planet. Germany has been a test-case for this misguided form of progress with its Energiewende mandate. They went all the way with their landscape holocaust, driven by a zeal reminiscent of an earlier one. Germany’s scenic legacy has effectively been exterminated, especially in northern regions. Just as with earlier extremism, they mostly sat by and let it happen. They’ve built over 30,000 wind turbines (density equivalent of 826,000 in America) with little net CO2-reduction, due to additional carbon sources needed to back up wind, and social factors like the Jevons paradox. Germany serves as a scale model (or omen) for energy sprawl nightmares like the Green New Deal.
Despite getting a quarter of their electricity from nuclear power at one point, Germany plans to close all their nuclear plants by 2022, spurred in part by overreaction to the Fukushima tsunami event. This seems insane, since Germany hasn’t had major accidents, and newer technologies like molten salt can make nuclear far safer. By shuttering nuclear capacity, Germany not only dooms its landscape with more “clean energy” blight, it must safely dispose of nuclear waste away from temporary power station sites. It makes no economic sense to do this while trying to reduce carbon, since wind and solar will always need backup. One gets the impression that German governance will always be driven by strange emotions, well-meaning and otherwise.
Even if remote areas are spared from the Big Wind invasion, millions of acres of “near wilderness” on the outskirts of cities could become wind factories. Such lands are under constant threat as UGB zoning laws are weakened for utilitarian purposes. The industry seems happy to keep trashing scenery and wildlife until these eyesores are too thick for even the most deludedGreens. It used to be conservatives who didn’t respect landscapes but liberals have been successfully brainwashed by these scenery-eaters. It happened on the sly without adequate warning, mainly in Europe at first. Machine overpopulation gets similar reactions to denials of human overpopulation. “Isn’t this how modern life is supposed to be?” But, like the frog in a pot of water analogy, the masses will someday wake up and ask “What the hell happened to all the scenery?”
The desert is especially at risk because greentechies consider it “wasted space” that mu$t be used for utilitarian purposes. The animation below is part of the Alta Wind Energy Center east of Tehachapi, CA, which has held the record for biggest wind project in America. Another large area along I-10 north of Palm Springs has long been an ugly IWT experiment, blighting views of San Gorgonio mountain. Arid Texas landscapes are littered with vast wind turbine armies; no surprise, given their anti-environmental legacy. Texas shows that the nuts & bolts of wind power are hardly liberal anymore. One of the most inappropriate (“carefully sited”) locations is Spring Valley, roughly 8 miles northwest of Great Basin National Park, NV and half that distance to a major bat cave. There was a temporary shut down for bat-kills and biased workers can’t be trusted to track mortality.
The existence of eagle take permits shows that these “100% Renewables” icons are sanctioned to kill, despite industry attempts to deny the problem. Researchers are trying to trick eagles with sounds (on top of existing noise) to help them avoid wind turbines, but they ought to question the very existence of flyway gauntlets. Wind factories kill scenery along with wildlife and have been futile at reducing CO2. Their biggest pragmatic function is a construction industry gravy train. Big Wind claims that mitigation efforts will eventually work but the very premise of keeping birds and bats out of vast areas is implausible. The very existence of huge machines in flyways can discourage birds from using some routes, but that’s a Faustian benefit! Wind turbines are intruders, period. You have to either stop building them or accept that further carnage is inevitable and drop the “green” lie.
There are several ways people create unnatural landscapes:
Gouging or drilling, e.g. mining, blasting, roads and wells.
Removing plant cover with logging, farmland plowing, etc.
Building structures for cities, factories and energy production.
Wind energy projects do all of the above except for deep drilling, and they are now the tallest structures in rural areas, especially on mountaintops which amplify their long-range visibility. The starkness of their contrast to natural surroundings is not just about size. Nothing else on that scale catches the eye with rotation, plus the shadow-flicker it creates. Mandatory red lights also intrude on skies that never had them. Wind power advocates downplay those obvious impacts, and ride on the psychological notion that anything (appearing to) fight carbon must not be causing harm. It’s a very narrow definition of harm, convenient to the industry’s agenda of grabbing subsidies for new construction projects.
Here are structures that environmentalists have routinely protested:
BILLBOARDS (nowhere near the scale of industrial wind turbines)
ROADS (wind turbine access roads encourage other intrusions in wild areas)
HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS (aka urban sprawl)
SKI LIFTS (similar to wind energy’s impacts on mountains, but much smaller)
CELLULAR TOWERS (even 80-foot ones can spoil a view)
SMOKESTACKS (resemble wind towers sans blades and are less numerous)
TRANSMISSION LINES and TOWERS (commonly called PYLONS in Europe)
RADIO ANTENNAS (gray, skinnier, don’t stand out like wind turbines)
MOUNTAINTOP MINING (wind turbines just carve up mountains differently)
OIL DERRICKS and PLATFORMS (usually less visible at long range than wind towers)
DAMS (dam removal is considered progress but wind turbines dam the sky)
Why are industrial wind turbines allowed to break so many old rules respecting nature? The worst wind pimps display no humility about their goals. They just want to build, build and build some more, like other rapacious enterprises. History is repeating itself in the context of petroleum replacing whale oil (literally saving the whales) while wind power now tries to replace oil by killing scenery, trees, birds, bats & insects. It’s a full-circle techno-fix blunder.
No matter how many airheads call them “beautiful,” wind turbines will always impact millions of people and animals in negative ways. The industry wants to expand what we see today by orders of magnitude if they can get away with it. Biologist E.O. Wilson’s plan for setting aside half of nature is already impossible. These machines are a colossal aesthetic blunder that doesn’t require number-crunching to analyze. All you need is eyes, ears and environmental awareness. They aren’t replacing older industrial scars like coal mines; they’re just adding to the total human impact. The moment wind turbines began expanding beyond their experimental beginnings and corporations got involved, it was inevitable that this would happen. The goal is to make them as tall as possible to catch elusive winds, which means they will never become less visible. It’s also a pipe dream that they can be made quiet or safe for flying animals. Most people in the industry must know this, which makes them doubly full of it.
The 2018 Kilauea eruption generated publicity for “damaging” Hawaii even though it’s a natural force. Much more attention should be paid to relentless man-made destruction of tropical landscapes. The image below shows Maui’s Kaheawa Wind Power project occupying a significant piece of the island, with the smaller Auwahi project to the south (yellow ovals). The Kahuku project on Oahu was initially more ambitious but ran into problems, including a battery storage fire. Later, proposed 650-foot wind turbines in the same area prompted outcries over bat kills and further losses of scenery. Wind power sprawl on small land masses makes a clear case for their limits. The Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea is a similar case of construction overshoot, protested by those who still respect nature’s integrity. Another island in the crosshairs of Big Wind is Robbins Island, north of Tasmania. As usual, scenery and birds are under threat, and the project is opposed by people like former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown, who successfully fought a dam on Tasmania’s Gordon River. The similarities between damming water and damming air should be evident but the latter gets preferential treatment now.
Compounding the bleakness of this hypocritical sprawl, a sizable number of wind energy opponents are global warming deniers who think wind turbines were invented expressly to fight climate change and must be part of a Green/NWO cabal to infringe on their property rights. Equally thickheaded people might claim cancer is a hoax due to its association with unpleasant/ineffective chemotherapy. Donald Trump (environmental idiot savant on wind power) is a famous critic. Trump’s claim that wind turbines cause cancer was a gift to the industry, but they are a cancerous growth on the landscape. The “unbiased” FactCheck.org claimed “Trump Again Overblows Risks of Wind Power” but they lied about noise, birds and low-wind days vs. grid stability. UK writer James Delingpole is another example of someone who laments one type of environmental harm but ignores another. A promising book by an “ecologist,” called “The Wind Farm Scam” is tainted by climate denial and it’s common in other books like “Paradise Destroyed…” These people make reasonable points about the economic & environmental hypocrisy of wind sprawl, yet foolishly question the existence of gaseous atmosphere sprawl. Some otherwise clever sites like StopTheseThings are strewn with climate “skepticism” and get blacklisted on sites like SourceWatch as fossil fuel shills. Some critics, like Joanne Nova, market themselves as former “believers” in AGW, but have ditched the scientific method for conspiracist ideation. A similar anti-wind blogger seemed to flip-flop on whether AGW was real (before, after) with the common rural angle that people should do what they please until an obvious local offense occurs. Both sides of this debate try to vilify opponents instead of tackling intrinsic flaws in growth-based capitalism.
Lesser-educated rural people are often caught in siting battles and add GOP ignorance to the wind debate. Some see corrupt officials like Scott Pruitt as righteous warriors against “unfair” EPA regulations while ignoring commonalities of all industrial developments. Even though their suffering is very real, they hurt their own cause with climate conspiracy theories. They should treat wind power as one of many rural threats, like deforestation (major component of wind projects), noise pollution from boom cars in rural drug ghettos, and homes sprawling into wild areas. It’s unclear how many rural anti-wind activists are OK with coal mining mountaintop removal but they should realize it’s all part of the pillaging continuum, regardless of whether it pays their bills (where wisdom ends and greed prevails). Their mindset of “us against city-slickers” distracts from everything the wind business has in common with fossil fuel, mining and logging interests.
Wind energy is the opposite of small-footprint thinking that real environmentalists should favor. It thrives on a single-action bias that fails to consider total environmental impact. It’s part of the same engineering mindset that destroys nature for money in the fossil fuel business. The standard ploy is that carbon is THE environmental demon and must be fought at any cost, though many wind farm workers are interchangeable with frackers. They are industrial mercenaries who do what they’re told and cash their checks. At least the old environmental villains weren’t overtly trying to fool people.
The next time you look at a horizon full of mutant pinwheels and windschmerz hits you, just let it happen. Then get angry and join the fight to stop them. We need more conscientious objectors to the industrial war on nature, beyond fossil fuels. It’s too late to help in many regions but some famous environmentalists have called for sanity. Germany has seen major resistance due to its high turbine density and VernunftKraft (translated) is one of the better known sites. Here are links to many other groups trying to do something locally and nationally. Hopefully, a few mainstream environmental groups will wise-up before these things metastasize. Small modular nuclear reactors could be the best hope for an alternative if the public can get over old fears.
“In some way or other, the human race has to learn how to leave the world alone.” – Alan Watts
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“To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.” – Aldo Leopold
Unsettling numbers of environmentalists fail to see that wind turbines are enemies of nature posing as saviors. Fearing a fossil fuel catastrophe, they’ve hastily abandoned their land ethic if they ever had one. Wind energy in the abstract sense is clean and natural, but the physical manifestation of how people “harvest” wind is big and unnatural by necessity. Wind power zealots can’t admit that ruining the countryside with obscenely large towers is a continuum of the “build, build, build!” mentality that’s destroyed nature throughout history. It’s the towering, spinning version of “drill, baby, drill!” and supply-side ideology over conservation. Wind energy promoters push the fable that their emperor isn’t an ungainly giant who cuts down trees, blasts ridges, kills airborne animals and tortures ground-based ones with blight and noise. They claim to be environmentalists but they’re really ecomodernists gesturing against fossil fuels for new income streams. Their corporate lingo makes it obvious. Ancient respect for landscapes, including modest human additions, has been replaced with sterile slogans about “installed capacity” and “market share of renewables.” The presumption that nothing’s workable unless someone’s profiting guarantees that nature will shrink. Any talk of shrinking economies (the true solution) is shunned since modern systems thrive on growth and slogans of the moment like “clean energy.” Since genetic traits are hard-wired, the avarice may never stop until society crashes like a brakeless wind turbine.
The original point of environmentalism was buffering nature from all human intrusions and toxins, not just fighting a specific type of pollution. Wind cheerleaders have decided that giant, mechanical weeds are green because they “must” be green. Many would probably accept dirt bikes and ATVs crawling all over hills and dunes as long as they had electric motors. Today’s “sustainability” is much more about coddling civilization than protecting nature. Some younger people may not understand what “the environment” is beyond AGW warnings they’ve heard since childhood. To become well-rounded environmentalists they should study the history of physical landscape destruction, which began with agriculture, logging & mining but has entered a major new phase with wind power. Nature has a bleak future unless this industry is restrained. It’s a tragic case of blight for naught when you see how ineffectual wind turbines really are. An all-electric economy may never be possible without earthbound nuclear fusion in portable configurations. Armies of ugly wind towers are doing nothing for nature itself.
Landscape-change denial has become as bad as climate-change denial and it’s worse in a hypocritical sense. The Kochs and Pruitts of the world at least aren’t pretending to be green. Large industrial wind turbines are becoming the ugliest evidence of the Anthropocene, creating an unprecedented visual plague with over 350,000 already installed as of 2019. Benign depictions of wind turbines “dotting” the landscape should be changed to “stabbing” and “blighting.” Nothing else is as tall, widespread, stark and kinetic. As with climate change or cancer in the initial stages, honest discussions of wind power must include its future potential spread, not just what’s known today. The industry seeks to fill up every possible “wind resource zone” and there’s no precedent for machines of this size and quantity, especially in scenic areas. Their closest rivals are offshore oil rigs which are far less numerous, not seen from inland areas, and not designed for permanence. Some future schemes call for nearly 4 million wind turbines but backlash is already strong because people can no longer ignore their presence.
Below is a list of wind industry propaganda and rationalizations, with responses.
“We think wind turbines are beautiful.” Why should the alien aesthetics of a subsidy-chasing industry be accepted as the new normal? Natural scenery is integral to quality of life and should never be disrespected. They started building these mutant thistles without a real vote, knowing the impacts would be major. When you call something beautiful you must do it in the context of what it replaced, altered, devalued or ignored. Wind turbines at a distance may look slender and elegant compared to blocky oil rigs but it’s absurd to only mention that angle when there are so damned many, and their size, albedo and motion make them impossible to unsee. The axiom “everything in moderation” has never been truer. Rare wind turbines in urban settings can look interesting but most end up in rural or wild areas where they upset the historical sense of place and cause anger, sadness and depression. When a smug shill tells you to adapt and get over it, you realize what the industry is really about. Some turbine-lovers say power lines are ugly even though new transmission corridors are built for wind sites through remote lands. It’s impossible to avoid environmental hypocrisy in the wind business. Certain people have never respected nature’s grandeur without man-made “improvements.” It tends to be a Creationist or anthropocentric engineering mindset. Wind turbines are the biggest structures being forced onto landscapes by the same types who used to interrupt rivers (see below). Where’s the moral consistency? If wind factories are intrinsically attractive, why would anyone reject them anywhere? The cases of Crescent Peak, NV and Ocean City, MD prove that wind developers are indifferent to scenery, and often live thousands of miles from their projects. In the overrun UK, people are rightfully comparing them to War Of The Worlds tripods or marauding Triffids. In rural landscapes it goes against evolution to accept mechanical monsters as natural. This author’s gut reaction to “they’re beautiful” isn’t fit to print, but this picture will suffice.
“Would you rather live near a coal mine or wind farm?” This tactic has come to be known as whataboutism. It’s a misleading diversion, since far more people are dealing with visible wind turbines now, and coal mines are known damage. Mines also tend to be hidden at depth or obscured by ridges, whereas three-armed bandits are deliberately prominent. The effect is profoundly unnatural, with circular motion being a major component. They don’t sway like trees or break like waves, and their noise and red lights grate on nerves. Unlike fossil fuel development, wind projects aren’t limited by geology so they affect districts that never expected to see urban mega-sprawl. Zoning laws are relaxed because they’re “green” and few people predicted their eventual size. As of this writing, the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign is run by a woman who fought mountaintop removal but is OK with miles of giant spikes adorning similar Appalachian peaks. Even fracking is much less vertically intrusive and its sites can be restored (water is a separate issue; this isn’t a fossil fuel apologist site). The wind mob knows many people resent their unexpected invasions but they keep rationalizing the spread. Their money/subsidy motivations are covered in depth elsewhere.
“We’ve built silos, water towers and pylons in the countryside for decades. Wind turbines merely continue that tradition.” This is the mealy-mouthed, greenwashed equivalent of “the climate’s changed before, so why worry now?” Nobody who respects scenery can ignore what’s really happening. Who would pretend there aren’t exponential scale-increases in the wind power domain vs. older structures? There was no ability to build blades and cylindrical towers so large in the old days. Nothing with this uniquely visible combination of size, color and quantity was ever seen in rural areas. Even taller radio towers are less contrasty and fade better into the distance, with far fewer of them. You have to wonder if some wind-pushers have lousy scale interpretation. Are they blinded by perspective and see them like this? That’s doubtful. The most likely explanation is apathy about the loss of rural aesthetics, plus standard shill-spin.
“They will replace fossil fuels and help stop global warming.” This also fails the evidence test, since wind turbines merely stretch fossil fuels by using them to grab a less consistent form of energy (there are parallels to a hydrogen economy that needs energy to isolate it from water, gas or biomass). True wind power ERoI calculations can be complex, with mountaintop trees and other carbon sinks lost during construction. You can’t build or transport such absurdly large machines with electric power; you need heavy mining & smelting equipment and big diesel trucks to move them around. Due to wind’s intermittent nature, wind power can’t work on the grid without a backup energy source, often gas, coal or nuclear. In many cases it’s been shown that CO2 emissions have actually risen as backup plants are installed in new areas to accommodate fickle winds. Some historical wind patterns are already changing along with the climate and we could see many more idle turbines. If you think Germany’s ambitious Energiewende is an economic or popular success, watch this “wind turbine battle” video and research their CO2 balance sheet.
“We can carefully site wind turbines to minimize their impact.” Terms like “careful siting,” “proper siting” and “responsible siting” are farcical on a finite planet with finite zones of adequate wind and limited open space within those zones. In wind power’s 1970s infancy there were few protests because people saw it as a limited-scale experiment, but the monster escaped its cage and there are ever-fewer places left to build them after every new installation. In 2007, before the U.S. wind industry exploded, the National Academies Press published a detailed analysis of all the problems discussed here. Wind turbines back then were smaller in size & scope but it was clear that they were an “invasive species.” Now, too much land is already developed and wind power just adds to existing blight. Wind energy advocates think their giant machines can’t be ugly due to a righteous anti-carbon message but landscape blight didn’t vanish as an issue when global warming took center stage. Turbine apologists say that smokestacks are ugly but wind towers just add blades to the same general structure. The industry talks of making towers even bigger to work in lower wind areas, and concrete may become a means to that end, with a more smokestack-like appearance. Will they keep calling them beautiful? Some wind drones do admit that turbines blight landscapes, and they think offshore wind factories are the answer but it’s not cost effective to install them at distances where they’re invisible from shore. Many people see an unbroken ocean horizon as a basic right. Where else can you look to “infinity” without disruption? Ocean-based turbines also tend to be the largest models and harder to hide. See calculators for visibility at a distance, which the industry probably views as burdensome.
“Wind turbines occupy relatively little acreage.” Popular influencer Neil deGrasse Tyson repeated this deception in the 2014 Cosmos remake, along with the fable of “100% renewable energy.” He perpetuated the myth of wind tower-bases as the only intrusions among vast arrays of preternaturally large machines, like only noticing the bottom floors of skyscrapers. It’s the same rationalization the GOP uses for ANWR oil drilling, citing “only 2,000” affected acres that would actually sprawl over 1.5 million acres. A direct parallel is Wyoming’s Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, which claims to need only about 2,000 acres of a 320,000-acre ranch but would actually sprawl over 229,000 acres (see map) and require hypocritical eagle-take permits. Most environmental groups understand the ANWR ruse, so who are they kidding? See the NRDC ANWR land-grab map vs. their wind energy platitudes. The Union of Concerned Scientists also tows that line, apparently unconcerned with scenery. Any industrial complex has a footprint of its total encompassed acreage, including access roads. The whole area becomes aesthetically tainted and cannot be classified as natural anymore. The greater separation of wind towers as heights increase just widens the sprawl zone. The industry also pretends home values aren’t affected when turbines are in the viewshed. A number of people have simply moved away, as they might with any lousy, permanent neighbor. Such large machines are difficult to remove for legal and financial reasons, even when decommissioned, e.g. Falmouth, MA. Those who claim turbines can be a bridge technology, later dismantled, are not facing facts. Their roads and cement bases may remain for centuries and energy put into building them is wasted now.
“Rich people just don’t want their view spoiled.” With this canard, the wind mob plays the common man sympathy card while trivializing the importance of scenery to quality of life. It’s also an admission that “wind turbines are beautiful” is a damned lie. When Donald Trump fought an offshore wind farm near his Aberdeen, Scotland golf course, it was used as dual proof of wealth and climate-denial conspiring against innocent wind machines. In truth, some very humble people live in or travel through scenic areas, and wildlife has no voice when homewreckers arrive. Wind companies often target cash-strapped farmers to bribe them for land-grabs. Some carbon-obsessives think tarnished scenery is our penance for fossil fuel use, but the subsidy-hungry industry pushes the same growthist agenda as the rest of the economy, using green sales pitches for a sense of urgency to ruin landscapes. Maine and Vermont are notable examples with remote mountains in the crosshairs. West Virginia has already been spoiled with eyesores like the Laurel Mountain project, with its additional battery storage blight. North Carolina set the rare precedent of banning all but the smallest mountaintop wind turbines in 2009, but it’s unclear how long it will last. The rural poor get caught in situations where a neighbor is paid to host turbines but one could be 10 feet from their property line and create nothing but noise. A number of wind executives are quite rich but how many would live near their own contraptions? T. Boone Pickens didn’t want turbines on his own land when pushing a Texas wind power scheme. He literally called them ugly. Just as with oil & gas, weak land use regulations in Texas have allowed the rapid spread of wind projects. The conflict between the King and Kenedy ranches was a good example.
“Cats, cars and windows kill more birds than wind turbines.” People who parrot that excuse show the same glibness toward life as they do scenery. Also, cars or store windows never claimed to be saving the world. More birds will obviously die as more turbines are built on this finite planet, so the “X kills more than Y” diversion becomes less true with every wind-sword placed in a flyway. There are no house-cats in many areas where wind turbines are installed, and the species of birds are often different, e.g. large raptors that rarely succumb to other animals. Birds tend to be mentioned first in mortality discussions but the plight of bats is worse. Read these articles. Bats can’t escape wind turbine blades via sonar and are actually drawn to them. Even when they avoid the blades, they die from pressure shocks as they pass by, and few other machines can duplicate that effect. Insects are also dying in great numbers, which affects food chains from the bottom up. Why would any “green” technology be causing death on a regular basis? A job description for a fatality monitoring technician near Minot, SD is frank about the problem. Even with growing evidence that wind turbines function as apex predators, the rationale is that AGW could eventually kill more wildlife, stacked on the assumption that wind energy will stop AGW, so let’s keep building more; a Faustian bargain at best. Given human greed, the most likely outcome is a warmer and uglier planet with more dead wildlife.
“People who complain about wind turbine noise are NIMBY liars.” This is a puerile denial of the obvious. You can’t claim that gigantic machines intercepting large volumes of air won’t affect the soundscape! Listen to the air-roar of a mere 20″ box fan, then ask yourself how something vastly larger with a driven generator can be quiet. Just two large turbines in Falmouth, MA angered enough people to get them shut down. The noise is complex in its manifestations and topography, yet fundamentally simple; friction and mechanical resonance creates sound. The industry uses the complex aspects to distract from the blatant ones, especially in opinion polls with cherry-picked residents. Infrasound causes some very unpleasant effects and can be hard to measure with standard equipment, but the audible noise is bad enough. It needn’t be super loud, either, just unnatural or jarring, like a dripping faucet that would barely register on a dB meter but can prevent sleep. The typical industry excuse is that they aren’t louder than a refrigerator but who hasn’t been kept awake by a refrigerator in the same room, e.g. a motel? A related, equally dishonest angle is “I usually see wind turbines at a distance and never hear them.” Do they think wind turbines have a magic motility that always makes them far away and quiet to a given observer? Why are setback distances from homes such a big issue?
“Some right-wing climate change deniers are against wind power, therefore that’s everyone’s motive.” This is an association fallacy or hasty generalization. Why assume that landscapes and quiet nights aren’t important to millions of Democrats and other random people? Wind turbines are very large machines built where nobody really expected them. Some things are offensive on a gut level no matter how much green propaganda is thrown around. Wind turbines are an example of something that can be done with applied engineering skills but ought not be, for moral reasons. They aren’t as dangerous as nuclear weapons (another case of hubris gone mad) but they are “blowing up” scenery in many ways. Small-footprint alternatives like rooftop solar should be getting the bulk of subsidies.
“Wind energy advocates are good environmentalists.” Only because they say so, as they wreck landscapes while yammering about how beautiful or majestic their machines are. Many green groups were adamant about protecting scenery until carbon-dread quashed so many old concerns (a monomaniacal reaction). How many who resent Trump’s attacks on national monuments like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante would be silent if those same lands were blighted by wind machines? Same goes for the NODAPL protesters of a barely visible pipeline (water issues aside in this context). We’ve reached a strange point where the visible environment is seen as inconsequential compared to air and water pollution, but the damage is all cumulative. Climate concerns don’t make scenery ruination any less of an issue. Corporate sellouts like The Nature Conservancy equate ruined hilltops with positive climate action, ignoring how futile the blight really is. People plant trees and grass in cities because we evolved in nature and don’t want it obliterated by buildings and machines. The industry’s growth is decades past the point where there’s any balance between the scale of wind energy and the need for pleasant scenery. German academics saw this coming in 1998 but landscape apathy prevailed and things are much worse now. Each new “farm” (aka factory) eats into more space that wasn’t tainted by huge machines, unnatural noise and light pollution. When you witness their detachment from nature, it’s clear that many wind engineers, truckers, crane operators and maintenance workers could easily segue into fossil fuel extraction.
Below is an example of wind industry propaganda and arrogance from wind-energy-the-facts.org, which echoes awea.org. The .org domain is also a ruse since wind power is clearly commercial.
“The effects of landscape and visual impact cannot be measured or calculated and mitigation measures are limited. However, experience gained recently suggests that opposition to wind farms is mainly encountered during the planning stage. After commissioning the acceptability is strong.” (source)
They start with the specious claim that blight “cannot be measured or calculated” in a technical sense, which ignores aesthetic gut reactions. There is no official ugly scale but ugly is still ugly! Ski lifts and office buildings (like LG’s 143-foot proposal on the Hudson River) have often been protested as environmental blight. Much smaller cellular towers can spoil views and are disguised as trees or shrunk to fit their surroundings. You can’t do that with wind turbines so they resort to propaganda. That first lie sets up the ruse that opposition to industrialized scenery is mostly temporary. They claim “after commissioning the acceptability is strong” but cite no objective polls. A more likely scenario is that people give up fighting and just try to cope, like Indians beaten down and trapped in reservations. At least that article admits that “mitigation measures are limited,” which is a dry way of stating that you can’t un-see or un-hear huge towers all over the place, so you either cope or move.
The wind business forces itself onto rural communities and expects them to adopt a Stockholm Syndrome mindset. Gag orders are placed on landowners as part of their turbine-hosting agreements (almost everyone has a price) and upbeat polls ask if people favor “renewable energy” without specifying its ugliest component. Articles and forums supporting wind power are constantly ignoring or downplaying its aesthetic damage to scenery and the animals it kills. A truly green business wouldn’t need so many cover stories. They’re filling the fields, mountains and oceans with colossal, noisy, flashing towers and acting like it’s easily ignored (see cognitive dissonance). Engineers are generally not stupid people, so they’re either lying to themselves or have chosen to disrespect nature.
Propaganda and denial sites dismiss wind power’s downsides with “careful siting” lies and implausible schemes to discourage birds & bats from entering expanding gauntlets. They won’t explain why they find landscapes non-integral to the environment, except to insist that AGW dwarfs other concerns per feeble evidence that wind turbines can stop it. Here are random samples of attitudinal greenness:
awea.org (money clearly motivates them, just like their parent fossil fuel business)
wind-works.org (wind advocate since the 70s, pretends the scale hasn’t grown ugly)
You can’t reach hardened wind power advocates with aesthetic arguments. Many of them don’t intrinsically respect nature because they’re anthropocentric technophiles and neo-environmentalists. They probably spend far more time looking at computer screens than physical horizons. Maintenance of the technological world and its power grid is their top priority, with nature as a quaint distraction, or a backdrop for extreme sports. The height of wind turbines plays into the bungee-jumping, thrillseeker mindset and they get fascinated with the ability to build something that large. Ancient concern for nature is lost in their awe of Man’s hubris (not unique to wind turbines but they’re top dog now). Windnuts share many traits with the wingnut climate deniers they claim to despise; always pushing for more gigawatts and construction projects. Instead of protecting nature from people, now it’s about sustaining what people built with fossil fuels, using much weaker forms of energy that require vast acreage. If landscapes must be trashed for the “greener good,” they’re fine with it. Way to go, you soulless idiots! Pursuing a nature-wrecking technology in the name of environmentalism is dystopian irony at its worst. Wind power just escalates Man’s historical plundering of nature and the Manifest Destiny mindset. It squanders our last chance to downsize per countless warnings about carrying-capacity overshoot.
Wind turbine manufacturers compete to see who can build the biggest eyesores. Watch some of these videos where they take pride in looming as tall as possible over the countryside. Anything green is long forgotten in those brag-fests. It’s become a bloated excuse for manufacturing, mining, logging, blasting, road building, trucking and crane rigging jobs. That’s what it takes to get huge machines installed in the hundreds of thousands, eventually millions if madness prevails. Too bad they can’t try it on a different planet instead of experimenting on the public and wildlife. Maybe there’s a planet Enercon (emphasis on the con) or a planet Vestas with no natural vistas. There’s also something sinister about the word Iberdrola, like a disease that’s also a corporation. Not only are they in the wind business, they’re vested in a controversial hydroelectric dam in Brazil. Groups like Greenpeace oppose them for that but not for wind power blight. Where’s the moral consistency?
The USGS Wind Turbine Database is a good way to visualize the total sprawl of these “farms” and debunk minimal land use claims (points 5 & 6 above). You can drive for hours in some places and always see turbines. The industry wants to keep making them taller so they’ll work in lower wind areas. Scenery be damned is the general consensus. Be mindful of the 360-degree viewshed, not just their exact placement on the map. No other energy infrastructure has such far-flung visibility.
People who oppose the damming of water yet support the mass-disruption of airspace are a hypocritical bunch. You can put large generators at ground level or small ones inside large towers in much greater numbers. A high percentage of existing dams merely hold back water and could be retrofitted to generate electricity, which should be considered instead of more wind projects. Water is 784 times denser than air and creates a lot more power per unit area. Water dams kill swimming animals and wind dams kill flying ones. They both disturb nature in big ways, so if you’re against damming rivers, why make excuses for damming the sky? At least hydro-power makes lakes, which are also formed by natural landslides and lava. Nothing in nature looks like wind machines jutting into the sky. Wind power is a hasty reaction to the fossil fuel dilemma, not our sole choice on this scale (see wind energy vs. oil’s density). The definition of the word clean contains “morally uncontaminated; pure; innocent,” which is the opposite of scenery fouled by wind turbines.
The anti-fracking movie, Promised Land, was originally going to be about wind turbines. They ought to do a sequel since the public is still largely duped by wind hype, thanks to media soft-pedaling. Both industries convert scenic, quiet places into energy factories and know it will disrupt lives, so they use slick propaganda. But fracking is much less visible at a distance than wind power and its lands can be restored, though water issues plague it.
It’s unlikely that famous conservationists & naturalists like Henry Thoreau, John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, Ansel Adams, Rachel Carson, Arne Næss, Edward Abbey, et al., would have welcomed this assault on landscapes. As an example, the John Muir Trust (a Scottish legacy charity) is against wind turbines in any sort of wilderness area but they’re fighting a tough battle. In America, Muir founded the Sierra Club, which has sold out to green-tech, dodging the evidence and calling for “appropriately sited” renewable energy projects. Do they think the planet has endless places to hide huge towers, with so many projects already resisted? Even iconic Loch Ness is threatened by wind energy now. It’s discouraging to see modern environmentalists buy into the weak benefits of a bloated, unreliable power source.
In case you think this is a rant with no hope, I’m all for rooftop & parking lot solar panels or putting them over train tracks and canals. They can be much greener than wind monsters if they don’t increase the human footprint, though that hasn’t proved pragmatic due to economics. Deep geothermal is another potentially good renewable source which could fix the problem of rare locations near the surface. Small wind turbines (under 50 feet tall) can meet modest power needs if people don’t depend on them 24/7. The most promising large-scale alternative is safer forms of nuclear power like SMRs, if old fears can be dropped. The whole centralized model of building “energy farms” and moving electricity over long transmission lines needs to end. Anything truly green should have a minimal footprint, like cargo ships assisted by rotor sails. Unless people practice restraint and use more birth control, our long-term existence on this planet isn’t assured by any technology. Fossil fuels built this whole mess and it’s hard to sustain without them. The whole notion that there “must be a solution” is countered by historical evidence of human greed and shortsightedness. The modern energy quagmire vs. the scale of growing wants & needs is unprecedented. Very large machines in the countryside are a new phase of urban sprawl that leaves many of us speechless. Ecocide, Phase 2 is a good term for it. If these were housing developments or freeways, most environmentalists would oppose them for destroying open space! In light of these inexplicable new values, some ecological thinkers have resigned themselves to the continued destruction of nature by old and new technologies. Wind power is actually an old technology, rebooted in the worst way.
It’s easy to find wind energy opposition groups and antidotes to industry propaganda. The media has done a poor job of reporting both sides of the wind energy story but the tide seems to be turning as these machines reach a critical mass. Hopefully there will be a global moratorium on further construction, at least on mountaintops, where wind turbines are the most disrespectful. Subsidies in various nations have already been cut back as the ruse reveals itself but there needs to be an “outrage clause” that stops them for nature’s sake alone. With all the talk of Climate Justice, why not mention Landscape Justice?
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