In 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that domestic wind turbines are killing about 440,000 birds per year. Since then, the wind industry has been riding a rapid growth spurt.
But that growth has slowed dramatically due to a tsunami of cheap natural gas and hefty taxpayer subsidies. Even worse: that cheap gas looks like it will last for many years and Congress has been unwilling to extend the 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour subsidy for wind operators that expires at the end of this year.
And now, the wind industry is facing yet another massive headache: increasing resistance from environmental groups who are concerned about the effect that unrestrained construction of wind turbines is having on birds and bats. Ninety environmental groups, led by the American Bird Conservancy, have signed onto the “bird-smart wind petition”which has been submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
It’s about time. Over the past two decades, the federal government has prosecuted hundreds of cases against oil and gas producers and electricity producers for violating some of America’s oldest wildlife-protection laws: the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Eagle Protection Act. But the Obama administration — like the Bush administration before it — has never prosecuted the wind industry despite myriad examples of widespread, unpermitted bird kills by turbines. A violation of either law can result in a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment for two years.
But amidst all the hoopla about “clean energy” the wind industry is being allowed to continue its illegal slaughter of some of America’s most precious wildlife. Even more perverse: taxpayers — thanks to billions of dollars given to the wind industry through the production tax credit and federal stimulus package — are subsidizing that slaughter.