Trump huffs and puffs about windmills, but wind power keeps growing

Despite longstanding opposition to renewable energy on the part of President Trump, who gave a rambling, nearly incoherent disquisition on windmills last weekend, the wind power industry in the United States continued to grow in 2019.

The country set records for newly installed capacity of wind power in both the second and third quarters of 2019, according to a report by the American Wind Energy Association, reaching a total of 100 gigawatts —roughly on a par with nuclear plants, although in terms of actual power generated (as distinguished from theoretical capacity), wind is still a fraction of nuclear and fossil fuels.

“Wind now supplies clean and efficient power to the equivalent of 32 million American homes, sustains 500 U.S. factories, and delivers more than $1 billion a year in new revenue to rural communities and states,” Tom Kernan, CEO of AWEA, said in a statement.

At a time when global carbon emissions that cause climate change continue to rise, wind power now accounts for 6.5 percent of the energy America produces. Once the wind turbines are constructed, the energy they produce is carbon neutral and renewable indefinitely.

Yet Trump, who believes that climate change is a “hoax,” is no fan of windmills, as he once again made clear last weekend in a speech in Florida.

President Trump boards Air Force One. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“We’ll have an economy based on wind. I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much. I’ve studied it better than anybody. I know it’s very expensive. They’re made in China and Germany mostly — very few made here, almost none. But they’re manufactured tremendous — if you’re into this — tremendous fumes,” Trump asserted. “Gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint — fumes are spewing into the air. Right? Spewing. Whether it’s in China, Germany, it’s going into the air. It’s our air, their air, everything — right? So they make these things and then they put them up.”

Trump, who filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against the government of Scotland to block the construction of offshore wind turbines he said would mar the views from one of his golf resorts, also complained in his Florida speech that wind turbines killed birds.

“Go under a windmill someday, you'll see more birds than you've ever seen ever in your life," Trump said.

While it is true that an estimated 234,000 birds die each year in collisions with wind turbines, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, many more are killed by flying into buildings or by domestic cats. In 2018, the Trump administration eliminated criminal penalties for unintentional migratory bird deaths resulting from industrial or agricultural activity, the New York Times reported.

Despite the rapid growth in the construction of wind power facilities across the U.S., the Interior Department announced in August that it was withholding approval for a wind project off the coast of Massachusetts similar to the one Trump opposed in Scotland. Interior Department spokesman Nicholas Goodwin said in a statement that the government needed to make sure the project was “safe and environmentally responsible.”

In April, Trump, without citing any evidence, told a Republican audience that wind turbines were dangerous to human health.

“They say the noise causes cancer,” Trump said.

That claim, like all the others Trump has made about wind power, was quickly refuted.

“The American Cancer Society is unaware of any credible evidence linking the noise from windmills to cancer,” a spokesman for the group told the Times in an email.

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