Saving the eagles
By Bernie Kuntz, For the Sun
It comes as no surprise to me that last week the Obama Administration will allow some companies to kill or injure bald and golden eagles for up to 30 years without penalty in pursuing its agenda of increasing development and investment in “green” energy. This, of course, translates into more Solyndras, Tester Electric Cars, ABC Batteries and dozens of other renewable energy debacles, most of which have gone broke and cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
The action was made at the request of wind energy companies, which are granted five-year permits by the U.S. Department of Interior. Incredibly, the reporting of eagles killed by wind turbines is voluntary, and the Interior Department has refused to release information about eagle kills to the Associated Press.Wind farms have been springing up throughout the country, particularly in the West and Plains states where the wind blows most of the time. Proponents of wind farms, and solar installations for that matter, fervently believe that such sources of energy are panaceas far superior to coal, oil and gas. Some, like a group of Yale University students, have gone so far as to demand that their university refrain from investing in companies associated with fossil fuels.Yet are wind and solar power as innocuous as many believe? During the last few years I have traveled through every Great Plains state and most states of the western U.S., and I have seen wind farms in every state. (I understand a wind farm is going to be built north of Jamestown.)First, wind farms are unsightly. At least I think they are. If you don’t think dozens and dozens of giant windmills spoils the view, take a drive sometime through Judith Gap in central Montana.Wind farms also kill thousands of birds — no one knows exactly the number — but if Exxon-Mobil killed raptors on a regular basis like wind farms do, it would be front page news! Those enormous blades look like they are moving slowly, but the ends of the blades travel at more than 150 mph! And wind farms don’t supply a great deal of energy on a national scale. (Wind and solar energy combined supply less than 10 percent of U.S. electrical demands. Coal supplies approximately 48 percent of the nation’s electricity. Think about that, liberals, next time you plug in your Prius!)Solar energy is another darling of the liberal left, but in reality you’d have to completely blanket a couple states with solar panels to make a notable contribution to the electrical demands of the U.S. I know a Montana rancher who has put up some solar panels at well sites on his land to generate power in pumping water for his cattle. I also am familiar with a couple wealthy former Californians who had solar panels installed on the roofs of their homes in Montana, knowing full well that they’d never live long enough for recoup their investments. It’s the principal of the thing, see?I am reminded of a spat I got into some years ago with members of the Raptor Center in Bozeman, who blamed hunters for poisoning raptors by shooting deer and elk with lead-core bullets. That is sheer nonsense, of course. Earlier this fall, raptor-watchers reported a 40 percent decrease in recorded sightings, but none of these people has uttered a word about the raptor deaths caused by wind turbines … that doesn’t fit the green energy narrative.It all causes me to think of my ancestors who homesteaded in southwestern North Dakota in 1901, and somehow survived. They left no written records, which frustrates me to no end, so I don’t know how they avoided freezing to death in sod and stone houses during North Dakota winters.Maybe they burned coal and some wood? Imagine if they had access to an oil stove, or even better, a stove that burns natural gas. They probably wouldn’t be quibbling about oil companies or wind mills or solar panels. We should all be thankful, I suppose, that our relatively soft lives allow us the luxury to debate about such things.Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist for The Sun since 1974