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Ron Arnold: Don't expect Big Green to save Falmouth

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It slaughters eagles by the dozen, uses tons of fossil fuels every day, emits a greenhouse gas that's like CO2 on steroids, can't do the job it's made for, costs taxpayers exorbitant fees, and makes the federal government look mentally ill for giving it outrageous subsidies.

Oh, it also chops up the scenery with roads and tall machines. The "it" is wind power, of course.

These harsh facts were condensed into a preliminary draft study of wind subsidies by researcher Teresa Platt, who circulated it to specialists for vetting. I obtained a copy of the extensively footnoted working draft, which gave chilling reality to the truth behind wind industry claims.

"Every year since the 1980s," Platt's study said, "the 5,000 turbines at NextEra's Altamont Pass in California kill thousands of slow-reproducing red-tailed hawks, burrowing owls, kestrels, as well as iconic golden eagles, and bats."

I asked Bob Johns, spokesman for the American Bird Conservancy, about wind farm eagle mortality. He confirmed Platt's study and told me that the Altamont operation alone has killed more than 2,000 golden eagles, but that's not all.

"Nationwide, the wind industry kills thousands of golden eagles without prosecution," Johns said, "while any other American citizen even possessing eagle parts such as feathers would face huge fines and prison time."

Huge is right: violate either the Migratory Bird Treaty Act or the Eagle Protection Act and you could get a fine up to $250,000 or two years imprisonment.

Not a single wind farm operator has yet been prosecuted for killing birds, yet in 2009 ExxonMobil got whacked with a $600,000 fine for killing 85 birds that flew into uncovered tanks on its property.

So Big Oil clearly doesn't have an Obama Big Wind Get Out of Jail Free card. This bird-killer subsidy reveals a federal multiple personality disorder that must be cured.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hedges its annual windmill bird death estimates at between 100,000 to 444,000 dead birds, as if political appointees and staff biologists had both insisted on publishing their numbers.

We don't often think about bat benefits, but the U.S. Geological Survey estimates bats are worth $74 in pest control costs per acre and that windmills may have killed more than 3 million bats by last year.

A small bat eats about 680,000 insects a year, so 3 million dead bats means 2 billion mosquitoes and other insects that shouldn't be here are still flying around.

Wind is usually touted as using no fuel, particularly no fossil fuel. That's a clever deception. Windmills don't work when it's too cold, or when the wind blows too hard or not at all, so they need a backup, which is usually a coal- or oil- or gas-fired or nuclear power plant.

Also, every windmill comes with a power line, which comes with a maintenance road, which comes with CO2-emitting traffic. Nobody's counting that. Why not?

Then there's SF6, sulfur hexafluoride, the most potent greenhouse gas evaluated by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with a global warming potential 22,800 times that of CO2. It's used to insulate equipment inside wind turbines, their related infrastructure and transmission lines.

It may leak during installation or maintenance and from damaged, aging or destroyed equipment. Speaking of which, the average service life of a windmill is between 10 and 15 years, not the claimed 20 to 25 years, says a 2012 study by Britain's Renewable Energy Foundation.

Falmouth, Mass., has the right idea: Last week, the town voted 110-91 to remove their two 400-foot industrial wind turbines for health and nuisance reasons.

The only problem is paying the $15 million price tag for removal. They need to borrow $8 million to make it. Maybe some powerful Big Green group -- think the Sierra Club or the Natural Resources Defense Council -- will step forward to save Falmouth?

Washington Examiner Columnist Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

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