Environmentalists deserve credit for helping us all think seriously about our stewardship of nature. From Genesis onward, Scripture is laden with the message that creation is good, that its purpose is to manifest God's glory, and that human beings are its stewards. Our role in creation makes it all the more important that participants in debates about how properly to steward the earth's resources have a commitment to truth. Capitalizing on current confusion over fossil fuel reserves, proponents of wind power are working hard to deceive concerned citizens with sensational propaganda.
Groups like the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the Michigan Consumer Federation promote wind power as an energy alternative through misleading claims. “Unlike other fuels, the cost of wind never changes. It's free. And it has the added advantage of producing no pollution,” says the Michigan Federation.
Wind power produces energy, says the AWEA, “without consuming any natural resources or emitting any pollution or greenhouse gases.” Not only is wind power less expensive than other forms of energy production, we're told; it also increases the “security of the U.S. electricity supply.”
So overwhelming are the advantages of wind power in the eyes of some proponents, they want to use the power of government to force utilities and businesses to convert to wind.
Two recent studies by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the David Hume Institute blow some much needed fresh air across wind power's musty arguments. These studies highlight a few ways in which the wind environmentalists are deceiving consumers.
First, wind power is not free. There is overwhelming international agreement that wind power will force consumers to pay twice as much as the most economical fossil-fuel option. Wind power is weighed down by collateral costs.
Both studies point to unreported capital costs like site preparation, acquisition, construction, and installation of hardware. Capital costs also include differences in the cost of electricity generated during peak versus off-peak periods.
There are networking costs, including the maintenance and replacement of existing infrastructure, and costs of new construction to meet new electricity demands. Additional operating expenses include personnel costs, such as staff salaries and insurance – ongoing and inflationary costs that exist irrespective of the electricity actually generated.
Second, wind power is not pollution-free. Fossil fuels will be used in the manufacture, installation, maintenance, and dismantling of wind turbines and towers. Pollution results from the production of the plastics, metal, cement, and fiberglass used in tower and turbine construction.
Third, the very operation of wind turbine fields harms the environment in certain ways. Their notorious effect on bird populations prompted the Sierra Club to tab wind towers “Cuisinarts of the air.” In California alone, thousands of birds and bats, including endangered species, are killed every year – more than 44,000 birds in the last 20 years, according to H. Sterling Burnett of the National Center for Policy Analysis. Since wind tower bases attract rodents, wind farms are death traps for owls, hawks, and eagles.
Additionally, wind power reduces open space natural habitat. To produce just 1,000 megawatts of power a wind farm would require about 300 square miles. That's 192,000-thousand acres of land that could be used for nothing else. This compares to 3.05 square miles for a conventional fossil fuel plant and 2.65 miles for a secure nuclear facility.
To get an idea of the land that would be needed, consider that New York City in the summer requires nearly 11,000 megawatts of energy. It would take more than 2 million acres of wind farms to produce that power.
The AWEA, based in Washington, D.C., notes that the needed wind farm acreage could be found in the states of North Dakota, Texas, Kansas, South Dakota, and Montana. These sites (and the impact from extensive wind farms, environmental and otherwise) would be conveniently distant from Washington, D.C.
Fourth, wind power does not necessarily add to the security of our energy supply. Wind power is unreliable with critical capacity limitations. It is incapable of negotiating between energy demands. During peak demand there is no way to produce more energy. During low demand there is no way to reduce it. As an unpredictable source of energy, wind power must always be backed up with by other energy sources ready for immediate use. It can never be a stand-alone energy source.
In the book of Proverbs we learn that, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” Let's not kid ourselves. As a matter of policy, to base any significant stake on wind power would be sheer folly.
Energy needs must be dealt with in an open market, devoid of special taxes and subsidies. That is the only way that prices can help producers and consumers discover the most efficient combination of methods ofenergy production. This discovery is essential to the effort to use resources in ways that respects their purpose: the welfare of all and the glory of God.