Midjourney created image of rich people at the seashore aghast at the thought of wind turbines

No, US Offshore Wind Developers Aren’t Killing Whales, & Haven’t Been Given Permits To Do So

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So, I have a history with anti-wind nuts of all types. A long history. I became Margaret Atwood’s — yes, the Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood — green technology pro bono consultant after debating with Ontario’s anti-wind nuts on her blog. The American Wind Energy Association, when it existed and was a positive force in the country, used to check my Barnard on Wind blog to see if I’d written about something before they bothered to start debunking. I was drawn into fights against anti-wind nuttery globally, including on tiny King Island between Tasmania and Australia.

That’s part of what led to me being Senior Fellow – Wind Energy for the Washington-based Energy and Policy Institute. My wind energy assessments have been included in half a dozen text books. And anti-wind nuts globally used to curse my name quite publicly. Heck, one anti-wind nut Australian politician threatened to bring me up in Australia’s parliament. I had a lengthy online discussion with an occupational health con artist whose practice was trying to make vibro acoustical disease a payable health malady, and would pretty much say and do anything to perpetuate the scam.

So you have to understand that when it comes to anti-wind nuttery, I’ve heard pretty much all of it at one point or another. Or, at least, I thought I had.

A bit more context. Offshore wind energy is finally starting to get going in the USA. There’s a tiny, tiny 30 MW wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island. There’s an even tinier 12 MW wind farm off the coast of Virginia. Meanwhile Europe built 2.5 GW of offshore wind in 2022 alone. China built as much offshore wind in 2022, about 6.8 GW, as the rest of the world combined in the previous five years.

So what the heck is going on in the USA? Is it that they don’t have good wind or sites? Nope. Lots of great Atlantic wind with shallow continental shelves perfect for wind energy. Is it that the USA can’t build wind energy? Nope, lots of wind energy among the green oceans of wheat and corn on the Great Plains.

So what is actually going on? Well, as a wee hint, the best wind farm locations close to shore might be visible from very wealthy Americans’ seaside enclaves. You’ll remember an allegedly wealthy former President had a long history of attacking wind farms that might have been visible from his much-hated Scottish golf course, and spread notions that wind turbines caused cancer.

This is where the unholy matrimony of aging privileged rich people across political divides starts to really show its dyed roots. One of the Koch brothers has a place on the northeastern coast, not that far from the Kennedy’s long-standing and storied expanse. Guess what they agree on? “There shall be no wind turbines visible from our hallowed seaside retreats!” Well, one of the Kennedy clan is apparently agreeing on a lot more with the Koch klan these days, but that’s not what this piece is about.

No, while the Koch brother and most the Kennedy family have long been disunited in their perspectives on, well, everything about how the world should operate and the value of human lives, they are united in preventing changes to their privileged existences locally.

This is a theme. The American Bird Conservancy is all for wind energy as a solution to climate change. But its siting restriction requirements and local advocates make it clear that there are no appropriate sites for wind energy. The Sierra Club is stronger on wind energy’s value. But its local organizations fight tooth and nail against local wind farm construction. After all, there must be other people whose precious local wildlife preserves and vistas can be interrupted with low impact wind energy instead of theirs.

So many times I’ve run across this benighted nonsense where people whose heart is otherwise in the right place finds that their local conditions just couldn’t possibly permit establishment of any of the solution technologies. And the more affluent and privileged they are, the more they make it clear that the problem must be solved, as long as they are not inconvenienced in any way by the solution, or that their rural fantasy lands be asked to change in the slightest, with the exception of new golf courses of course.

Of course, on the right of the US political spectrum these days, environmental conservation seems to have shrunk to privately owned hunting and fishing preserves restricted to their own access, preserved in amber. A River Runs Through It, but only for rich people on their own land or the land of their oligarch buddies.

Anywhere there are affluent and privileged people who reject local change, there are well funded disinformation campaigns which exploit local ‘environmentalists’.

And so to the point of this piece. Today I saw some egregious nonsense about offshore wind and whales I had never seen before. Was I surprised? No, not at all.

As per John Cook’s guidance on dealing with disinformation, let’s start with the reality.

Does NOAA Fisheries authorize the death of whales as it relates to offshore wind development?
NOAA Fisheries does not anticipate and has not authorized — or proposed to authorize — mortality or serious injury of whales for any wind-related action. Offshore wind developers have not applied for, and NOAA Fisheries has not approved, authorization to kill any marine mammals incidental to offshore wind site characterization surveys or construction activities. Marine mammals may respond to exposure to these surveys, for example, by avoiding the immediate area.

That’s from the FAQ of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a division of the US Department of Commerce. It’s interesting in and of itself. Why would they feel compelled to spell out that they don’t do this?

Well, because of nonsense like this.

An Offshore Wind Farm In US Gets Permit To Kill Upto [sic] 20 Right Whales

That’s the headline of a wee article in a site misleadingly called I Am Renew, which appears to be an Indian sub-continent site with deeply inadequate fact-checking. Naturally, it’s being amplified by ‘environmentalists’.

Naturally the person promoting this piece of nonsense is a New Yorker who is a white ‘freelance’ investigate journalist and standup comedian who cares deeply about the oceans and animals. Hates the technology that will preserve life in the oceans when it’s coming to oceans near them, but hey. It reeks of privilege. Nothing screams “I have a trust fund, but it’s not, like, huge” like being a flakey freelance investigative journalist and failed comedian who lives in New York.

To be clear, when this nonsense crossed my screen, it took about 20 seconds to find the NOAA statement. Any actual investigative journalist or even just an actual journalist would have been able to Google it too. This is just confirmation bias nonsense for someone who hates offshore wind that is anywhere near where they might be.

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These type of people, whose mind is so open that their brains have fallen out, are easy pickings for affluent and privileged oligarchs with waterfront compounds and the funds to pay the same slick PR firms which were profiled so vividly in Thank You for Smoking. I keep stumbling across their venal and putrid leavings, most recently with the astroturf pro-oil sands group the Maple Leaf Institute, four of whose directors are recently departed executives of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

In the King Island example, where the alternative local economic development opportunity was — wait for it — a couple of golf courses over 200 kilometers by plane from Melbourne, it was easy to trace back the slick-ish campaign to a PR group that fronted for Australian coal and right-wing politics in the country. In the case of Ontario, the ‘environmentalists’ opposed to wind farms in Prince Edward County were aghast at the despoliation of the farm land that was a giant munitions manufacturing and war games site during World War II, but now featured completely artificial farmers’ fields and rich people’s retirement villas and slow food eateries. The affluent people were suing wind farms kilometers from their manses to prevent change to their rural agrarian fantasy retirement plans, and screwed people whose hearts were actually in the right places but who lacked a few brain cells right into the ground, along with local sustainable development.

Affluent and privileged people keep finding ways to exploit people who feel a lot more than they think to prevent local action. Thinking globally and preventing action locally is the rallying cry of soulful NIMBYs.


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Michael Barnard

is a climate futurist, strategist and author. He spends his time projecting scenarios for decarbonization 40-80 years into the future. He assists multi-billion dollar investment funds and firms, executives, Boards and startups to pick wisely today. He is founder and Chief Strategist of TFIE Strategy Inc and a member of the Advisory Board of electric aviation startup FLIMAX. He hosts the Redefining Energy - Tech podcast (https://shorturl.at/tuEF5) , a part of the award-winning Redefining Energy team.

Michael Barnard has 723 posts and counting. See all posts by Michael Barnard