Quote of the moment: DDT ban justified, Judge Malcolm R. Wilkey

June 20, 2016

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator William Ruckelshaus’s 1971 rule banning DDT use on U.S. crops, while allowing U.S. production of DDT to continue for export and for fighting diseases carried by insects, threaded a coveted needle. It was challenged in court by environmental protection groups who argued the rule should have been tougher and more restrictive, and by chemical companies, who argued the science basis for the law was inadequate.

Though we couldn’t tell from current news barkers’ claims that DDT should be freed to fight Zika, the courts ruled that there was ample science justifying Ruckelshaus’s ruling. These are the important words in that court decision. In other words, claims that the DDT ban was political or biased, are false.

IV. CONCLUSION

On review of the decision and Order of the EPA Administrator, we find it to be supported by substantial evidence based on the record as a whole. Furthermore, we find that EPA has provided the functional equivalent of a formal NEPA report. Therefore, the two challenges raised concerning the Administrator’s decision to cancel DDT registrations are rejected and the Administrator’s action is affirmed.

Judge Malcolm R. Wilkey, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in Environmental Defense Fund v. EPA, 489 F.2d 1247 (1973)


No, Earth Day 2016 does not celebrate Lenin, who was anti-environmentalist – annual debunking of the annual Earth Day/Lenin hoax

April 20, 2016

This is mostly an encore post, repeated each year for April 22 and Earth Day — sad that it needs repeating; anti-environmentalists don’t appear to learn much, year to year.  (Yes, some of the links may be dated; if you find one not working, please let me know in comments.)

You could write it off to pareidolia, once.

Like faces in clouds, some people claimed to see a link. The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, coincided with Lenin’s birthday. There was no link — Earth Day was scheduled for a spring Wednesday, when the greatest number of college students would be on campus.

Link to permanent Earth Day site, at EarthDay.org

Link to permanent Earth Day site, at EarthDay.org

Now, years later, with almost-annual repeats of the claim from the braying right wing, it’s just a cruel hoax.  It’s as much a hoax on the ill-informed of the right, as anyone else. Many of them believe it.

No, there’s no link between Earth Day and the birthday of V. I. Lenin:

One surefire way to tell an Earth Day post is done by an Earth Day denialist: They’ll note that the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, was an anniversary of the birth of Lenin.

Coincidentally, yes, Lenin was born on April 22, on the new style calendar; it was April 10 on the calendar when he was born — one might accurately note that Lenin’s mother always said he was born on April 10.

It’s a hoax. There is no meaning to the first Earth Day’s falling on Lenin’s birthday — Lenin was not prescient enough to plan his birthday to fall in the middle of Earth Week, a hundred years before Earth Week was even planned.

About.com explains why the idea of a link between Earth Day and Lenin is silly:

Does Earth Day Promote Communism?
Earth Day 1970 was initially conceived as a teach-in, modeled on the teach-ins used successfully by Vietnam War protesters to spread their message and generate support on U.S. college campuses. It is generally believed that April 22 was chosen for Earth Day because it was a Wednesday that fell between spring break and final exams—a day when a majority of college students would be able to participate.

U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the guy who dreamed up the nationwide teach-in that became Earth Day, once tried to put the whole “Earth Day as communist plot” idea into perspective.

“On any given day, a lot of both good and bad people were born,” Nelson said. “A person many consider the world’s first environmentalist, Saint Francis of Assisi, was born on April 22. So was Queen Isabella. More importantly, so was my Aunt Tillie.”

April 22 is also the birthday of J. Sterling Morton, the Nebraska newspaper editor who founded Arbor Day (a national holiday devoted to planting trees) on April 22, 1872, when Lenin was still in diapers. Maybe April 22 was chosen to honor Morton and nobody knew. Maybe environmentalists were trying to send a subliminal message to the national subconscious that would transform people into tree-planting zombies. One birthday “plot” seems just about as likely as the other. What’s the chance that one person in a thousand could tell you when either of these guys were born.

My guess is that only a few really wacko conservatives know that April 22 is Lenin’s birthday (was it ever celebrated in the Soviet Union?). No one else bothers to think about it, or say anything about it, nor especially, to celebrate it.

Certainly, the Soviet Union never celebrated Earth Day. Nor was Lenin any great friend of the environment.  He stood instead with the oil-drillers-without-clean-up, with the strip-miners-without-reclamation, with the dirty-smokestack guys.  You’d think someone with a bit of logic and a rudimentary knowledge of history could put that together.

Gaylord Nelson, Living Green image

Inventor of Earth Day teach-ins, former Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson

The REAL founder of Earth Day, Wisconsin’s U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, usually recognized as the founder and father of Earth Day, told how and why the organizers came to pick April 22:

Senator Nelson chose the date in order to maximize participation on college campuses for what he conceived as an “environmental teach-in.” He determined the week of April 19–25 was the best bet; it did not fall during exams or spring breaks, did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather. More students were likely to be in class, and there would be less competition with other mid-week events—so he chose Wednesday, April 22.

In his own words, Nelson spoke of what he was trying to do:

After President Kennedy’s [conservation] tour, I still hoped for some idea that would thrust the environment into the political mainstream. Six years would pass before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to me while on a conservation speaking tour out West in the summer of 1969. At the time, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called “teach-ins,” had spread to college campuses all across the nation. Suddenly, the idea occurred to me – why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?

I was satisfied that if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda. It was a big gamble, but worth a try.

At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and invited everyone to participate. The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electric. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air – and they did so with spectacular exuberance. For the next four months, two members of my Senate staff, Linda Billings and John Heritage, managed Earth Day affairs out of my Senate office.

Five months before Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969, The New York Times carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the astonishing proliferation of environmental events:

“Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam…a national day of observance of environmental problems…is being planned for next spring…when a nationwide environmental ‘teach-in’…coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned….”

Nelson, a veteran of the U.S. armed services (Okinawa campaign), flag-waving ex-governor of Wisconsin (Sen. Joe McCarthy’s home state, but also the home of Aldo Leopold and birthplace of John Muir), was working to raise America’s consciousness and conscience about environmental issues.

Lenin on the environment? Think of the Aral Sea disaster, the horrible pollution from Soviet mines and mills, and the dreadful record of the Soviet Union on protecting any resource. Lenin believed in exploiting resources and leaving the spoils to rot in the sun, not conservation; in practice there was no environmental protection, but instead a war on nature, in the Soviet Union.

So, why are all these conservative denialists claiming, against history and politics, that Lenin’s birthday has anything to do with Earth Day?

Can you say “propaganda?” Can you say “political smear?”

2015 Resources and Good News:

2014 Resources and Good News:

2013 Resources and Good News:

Good information for 2012:

Good information from 2011:

Good information from 2010:

2014’s Wall of Shame:

2013 Wall of Shame:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2012:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2011:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2010:

Spread the word. Have you found someone spreading the hoax, claiming Earth Day honors Lenin instead? Give us the link in comments.


DDT use plunged to just 10 nations in 2015; gone by 2020?

April 13, 2016

UN photo showing a mother and child protected from mosquito-borne disease by a bednet, the chief tool used in 2015 to prevent malaria transmission in endemic areas.

UN photo showing a mother and child protected from mosquito-borne disease by a bednet, the chief tool used in 2015 to prevent malaria transmission in endemic areas.

Just ten nations still used DDT in 2015, putting the planet on target to phase out all DDT use by 2020.

World Malaria Report 2015, published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in early December, notes those nations reporting that they use DDT in public health fights against disease. Under the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty, any nation may use DDT simply by notifying WHO.  Signatories of the treaty usually agree to stop all use of DDT once current use ends. Since 2003, most nations using it found DDT simply didn’t work well enough to continue use it to fight malaria or any other vector-borne diseases.

In the 2015 Report, Appendix 2A lists methods of vector control used in nations (“vector” being the fancy word for carrier of the disease, or mosquitoes in the case of malaria).  (See pages 234 to 237 of the .pdf.)

Nations in which DDT is used to fight malaria
World Malaria Report 2015 Appendix 2A

  1. Botswana
  2. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  3. Gambia
  4. Mozambique
  5. Namibia
  6. South Africa
  7. Swaziland
  8. Zambia
  9. Zimbabwe
  10. India

Ten nations total, nine in Africa, plus India.

Despite political calls to “bring back” DDT as a means of fighting mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, no reports show any nation notified WHO it would do so. Most nations afflicted by Zika have been earlier afflicted by other diseases carried by the same species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti.  This species carries dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya, and perhaps others. Consequently, most of these nations have already tried DDT against the Zika carriers, and abandoned the projects when hoped-for results did not occur.

Every mosquito on Earth in 2016 carries at least a few of the alleles that make them resistant to, or even immune to DDT. DDT use also pushes mosquito populations to develop paths that make them quickly resistant to other pesticides. WHO guidelines urge public health officials never to use just one pesticide, but instead rotate among a dozen approved for vector use, in order to prevent the bugs from developing resistance. Resistance to pesticides remains one of the chief obstacles to eliminating disease, and a growing obstacle.

India is the world’s only known maker of DDT in 2015, and the heaviest user, using more of the pesticide than all other nations combined. Due to decreasing effectiveness of DDT as mosquito resistance to to it spreads and grows stronger, malaria has proliferated in India despite increased DDT application. In 2015, India announced to WHO it would suspend manufacture and use of DDT by 2020.

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EPA intervenes to clean up mystery toxic dump threatening Texas county’s water

September 29, 2015

Maybe EPA should take Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s advice, and go door to door asking who did it.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Monday the agency will work to stop a toxic plume of tetrachloroethylene (PCE) that threatens to contaminate well waters in Burnet County.

The source of the plume, and who dumped the stuff, are unknowns.

EPA’s announcement:

EPA Adds Burnet Co., TX, Groundwater Plume to National Priorities List of Superfund Sites

Five hazardous waste sites added, seven proposed nationally

(DALLAS – Sept. 28, 2015)  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added the Main Street Groundwater Plume site in Burnet Co., TX, to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites, a list of sites that pose risks to people’s health and the environment. Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country and converts them into productive community resources by eliminating or reducing public health risks and environmental contamination.

The site lies about one mile south of the city of Burnet between County Road 340 and County Road 340 A. A plume of tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, was found in the groundwater in this area during monitoring of the Bertram Public Water Supply in 2010. The source of the contamination is unknown.

“Texans understand how precious water resources are for families and businesses,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “Addressing contamination helps alleviate the risk to the community and return property to economic use.”

The plume released into the Ellenburger-San Saba Aquifer, and contaminated two public water supply wells and seven private wells. Monitoring indicates levels in drinking water wells are below EPA’s health-based maximum contaminant level (MCL). Two wells that exceeding the MCL are used for irrigation and livestock watering. Exposure to PCE could harm the nervous system, liver, kidneys, and reproductive system, and may lead to higher risk of some types of cancer.

EPA regularly works to identify companies or people responsible for the contamination at a site, and requires them to conduct or pay for the cleanup. For the newly listed sites without viable potentially responsible parties, EPA will investigate the extent of the contamination before assessing how best to treat it.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the enactment of the Comprehensive Environmental, Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the law establishing the Superfund program. Superfund’s passage was a giant step forward in cleaning up legacy industrial waste sites to help ensure human health and environmental protection. The Superfund law gives EPA the authority to clean up releases of hazardous substances and directs EPA to update the NPL at least annually. The NPL contains the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing both enforcement actions and long-term EPA Superfund cleanup funding; only sites on the NPL are eligible for such funding.

Federal Register notices and supporting documents for the final and proposed sites:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/current.htm

Information about how a site is listed on the NPL:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/npl_hrs.htm

Superfund sites in local communities:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/index.htm

More information about the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the law establishing the Superfund program, can be found at:
http://epa.gov/superfund/policy/cercla.htm

More about activities in EPA Region 6 is available at http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region6.html

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Tetrachloroethylene is a commonly used solvent, often used in dry cleaning of fabrics and degreasing metal parts.  The chemical is also known as perchloroethane, or perc. It was first synthesized in 1821 by Michael Faraday. It is volatile, but highly stable and not flammable.

EPA documents say, “Effects resulting from acute (short term) high-level inhalation exposure of humans to tetrachloroethylene include irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, kidney dysfunction, and neurological effects such as reversible mood and behavioral changes, impairment of coordination, dizziness, headache, sleepiness, and unconsciousness.” It is classed as a Type 2A chemical for carcinogenicity, which means it is a probable human carcinogen, but not a potent one.

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Burnet County, outlined in red, covers parts of five different watersheds. EPA map

Burnet County, outlined in red, covers parts of five different watersheds. EPA map

Burnet County is in Central Texas, in red on this EPA map

Burnet County is in Central Texas, in red on this EPA map

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Throwing reason out the window: Scott Bailey’s book attacking science and environment protection

September 18, 2015

Photo of New York Times article in 1962. Chemical companies spent $500,000 to slam Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, and Carson herself

Photo of New York Times article in 1962. Chemical companies spent $500,000 to slam Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, and Carson herself. A special panel of the nation’s top entomologists and biologists reported to President Kennedy in 1963 that Carson’s book was accurate, but that the problems she cited were more urgent than she said. Critics never give up. Image from Pop History Dig.

Very brief, glowing but not deep book review at PanAm Post on a new book by Scott Bailey, taking aim at environmental protection: “The apocalypse isn’t coming any time soon.”

Bailey’s book comes with a title determined to push lack of action: The End of Doom.

Such reviews bring small-but-building catastrophes much closer, alas.

Reviewer Nick Zaiac said:

The book is a great primer for someone new to environmental policy who would like to begin with a more sober look at the topic, rather than an over-dramatized introductory book like Rachel Carson’s famed Silent Spring — a book that Bailey takes pains to rebut.

What? Rachel Carson was right, in Silent Spring. Why would anyone “take pains” to refute good science?

I smell policy hoaxing here, another guy trying to sell us junk science.

I’ve not read the book. Frankly, I don’t really know much about Scott Bailey, either, other than he writes at Reason, a site for libertarians and skeptics that has, in the past decade, taken a puzzling turn against science and reason.

Anyone read the book?

At the review, I offered my alarm at the claim to have refuted Carson’s careful, and still valid science references.

Rachel Carson offered 53 pages of careful citations to science studies backing every point she made, in Silent Spring. since 1962, not a single peer-reviewed study has challenged any of that research she documented.  Quite to the contrary, more than 1,000 peer-reviewed papers have been published on the topic of DDT’s effects on birds alone — every one confirming what Carson cited, or providing evidence of new and greater dangers.

Carson was careful to note that hard studies of DDT’s carcinogenicity had not been done. But now they have been done, and it turns out DDT is carcinogenic to humans, though perhaps only mildly so to those exposed directly. Since DDT is an estrogen mimic, an endocrine disruptor, its greatest cancer effects may be in the children of those exposed.

In any case, DDT was not banned as a carcinogen to humans.  It was banned as a poison that bioaccumulates and so is uncontrollable in the wild, a poison that can take down entire ecosystems of non-target species.

So, what is Bailey “refuting?” I’ll wager his research is victimized by hoax claims that Rachel Carson got it wrong, when study after study has shown she went easy on DDT.

We got bailed out of “environmental apocalypse” in the 1970s by wise policies that paid attention to what people like Rachel Carson and Paul Ehrlich said.  We passed laws stopping pollution of air and water from many sources, by many different pollutants — but not all. And we got lucky. Norman Borlaug’s green revolution staved off catastrophic starvation crises.

Norman Borlaug is dead, and there is nothing like a new green revolution in the works. Bailey joins forces with anti-science crusaders to block further action to clean up pollution, especially air pollution.

Were we wise, we’d not be gambling with our future and our grandchildren’s future, with claims to have “refuted” past wisdom on environmental issues.

More:


Spreading the news: Environmental Health News says we can learn from saving eagles, to save honeybees now

July 5, 2015

Environmental Health News invites repostings of this story, with attribution and links back to EHN’s original story.

It’s a good article. Can’t improve on it much, so let’s save time and pass it directly.

Can we learn from the success in saving the bald eagle from extinction, to save our domestic bee industry and native American pollinators?

Unintended consequences

How a law that failed to protect eagles could offer a lesson to save honeybees

June 6, 2015

By Peter Dykstra
Environmental Health News

Spraying DDT on a beach

Historic photo from EPA

The Bald Eagle Protection Act, signed into law 75 years ago on June 8, 1940, was well-intended. A multi-pronged assault on the raptors was taking its toll — habitat loss, lead-shot poisoning, and bounty-hunting by ranchers and fishermen all contributed to a growing threat. (Click here to see how this played out in Alaska.)

Congress passed, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed, the act to outlaw the “taking” of eagles and their eggs, disruption of their nests, or sale or possession of eagle feathers or parts.

It didn’t work. Bald eagle populations accelerated their decline, for reasons that Congress, wildlife officials, and FDR couldn’t possibly anticipate.

Throughout the late 1930’s Swiss chemist Paul Müller labored to find the right mix of synthetic chemicals to control moths. Not only did dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane do the trick, but Müller’s lab work found it was effective against lice, houseflies, beetles, and the dreaded mosquito. Müller’s employers, J.R. Geigy AG, applied for the first DDT permit about two months before the Eagle Act passed.

Pest Management Professional Hall of Fame

Swiss chemist Paul Muller, of A. G. Geigy corporation; the man who discovered DDT kills.  Pest Management Professional Hall of Fame

The rest is natural and human history. Cheap to produce and an effective defense against lice-borne typhus and mosquito-borne malaria, DDT quickly became a fixture in farm fields, living rooms, and World War II battle theaters. Müller became a science rock star, garnering a Nobel in 1948 and — wait for it — membership in the Pest Management Professional Hall of Fame in 2004.

But bald eagles continued to decline. So did hummingbirds, robins, ospreys, pelicans and peregrine falcons. Years of science, met with serious blowback from the chemical industry, eventually proved that DDT was thinning birds’ eggshells, not to mention causing impacts in fish, humans, and other mammals. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring drew international attention to the threat, and in the U.S., DDT was outlawed on the last day of 1972. Bald eagles, ospreys, brown pelicans and peregrine falcons have all since staged remarkable comebacks from the Endangered Species list.

Which brings us to today’s threat to other ecologically priceless wildlife — pollinators. Honeybee populations have been in freefall for more than a decade. Like the threats to eagles, the potential causes are multiple: loss of habitat and native plants, parasites, and a mix of insecticides and fungicides. Newest, and most notable among the suspects, are neonicotinoid pesticides. Like DDT, neonics were developed in the 1980’s and 1990’s and welcomed as a step forward, since they were thought to be effective on insect pests but relatively benign on non-target wildlife and ecosystems. Today they are a billion-dollar agricultural product, ubiquitous on common crops like corn and soybeans.

But mounting evidence shows that neonicotinoids may be part of the frontal assault on bees and other pollinators. In 2013, the European Union banned the use of three of the most contentious types of neonicotinoids, citing a clear and immediate risk.

In 2014, President Obama ordered the creation of a federal pollinator strategy. Its first draft came out last month, calling for everything from creating bee-friendly habitat to further study on neonics and other agricultural chemicals. The first edition of the strategy, issued in May, outlines a multi-year process for re-examining use of neonics.

If the EPA and other federal agencies concur with other studies on the potential harm of neonicotinoids, the U.S. will issue assessments for neonics in 2016 and 2017, and may or may not take action until 2018 to 2020. All of this will take place under a new president who may or may not take interest in protecting bees.

That timetable may work. Or not. Or, with a president with little more than a year left in office and a hostile Congress, it may be a moot point.

But perhaps a more important point is that in 1940, the President and Congress took action on the known threats to eagles. They didn’t know about the chemical risk from DDT. If neonics are as big a threat as the science suggests, the current president and Congress won’t have ignorance as an excuse for waiting.


EHN welcomes republication of our stories, but we require that publications include the author’s name and Environmental Health News at the top of the piece, along with a link back to EHN’s version.

For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski@ehn.org.

Prior to the 20th century, all eagles, including bald eagles were regarded as pest predators and pest carrion eaters.  Populations of the birds plunged between 1492 and 1900.  The first eagle protection law in 1918 did little to stop the decline in eagle populations.  A harder-toothed anti-hunting law in 1941 helped, as discussed above. Anti-environmentalists often seize on these historic facts to claim that DDT was not to blame for the failure of the eagles to recover after 1941.  But recovery of the birds started as soon as DDT was banned.  Fecundity of bald eagle populations rose in direct proportion to the drop in residual DDT and DDT breakdown products in the flesh and fat of eagles.

In Silent Spring Rachel Carson provided 53 pages of notes and citations to science journals, documenting the dangers and the unknowns of DDT and a variety of other chemicals. The book was published in 1962.  It is a tribute to Carson’s meticulous research that every study she pulled from is still accurate today. Later research only supported her conclusions, or in the case of bird damage and eggshell thinning, provided documentation of even more and greater harms.

Do we learn from history?


Wind power ready for its closeup?

June 27, 2015

Climate Progress used this photo in a Tweet touting Denmark’s wind power progress:

Denmark sets world record for wind power production http://thkpr.gs/3608898   (No other photo information in Tweet)

Denmark sets world record for wind power production http://thkpr.gs/3608898 (Photo credit: flickr/Vattenfall)

Awesome photograph, a 21st century version of those photos of men, machines, bridges and other industrial objects admired for their symmetry and sharp shadows from the 1920s and 1930s. I would guess it was captured by an airplane passenger passing over the at-sea windfarms springing up around Europe’s Atlantic Coast, off the coast of Denmark, if Climate Progress editors were careful.

Scientifically, the photo shows what happens when windmills reduce the air pressure downwind of the blades — condensation can suddenly become visible.  Condensation trails from windmills (won’t that vex the hell out of chemtrails tinfoil hatters?).

The photo illustrates what should be good news:

Denmark has been long been a pioneer in wind power, having installed its first turbines in the mid-1970s when oil shocks sent the import-dependent nation on a quest for energy security. Thirty-seven years later, the country has set a new world record for wind production by getting 39.1 percent of its overall electricity from wind in 2014. This puts the Northern European nation well on track to meet its 2020 goal of getting 50 percent of its power from renewables.

The news of Denmark’s feat adds to the national records the U.K. and Germany set for 2014 and further establishes Europe as a leader in the wind power industry. This is especially true when it comes to offshore resources, as countries like Scotland, England, and Denmark build out their offshore wind farms. Wind generated enough electricity to power just over 25 percent of U.K. homes in 2014 — a 15 percent increase from 2013. In December, Germany generated more wind power, 8.9 terawatt-hours, than in any previous month.

A big source of the surge of Denmark’s wind production this year came from the addition of around 100 new offshore wind turbines. In January of 2014, the peninsular country got just over 61 percent of its power from wind. This is more than three times the overall production of 10 years ago, when wind only made up 18.8 percent of the energy supply. The country has a long-term goal of being fossil fuel-free by 2050.

Anti-greens, and rational conservationists, see trouble though. Anti-greens holler that the windmills “kill birds,” as if the coal power plants the windmills displace do less environmental damage.  They will bring this up in every discussion of alternative energy sources, and in every discussion of working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to decrease pollution and damage from climate change.  I suppose they want us to throw up our hands and give up on conservation.  (Industry agents like CFACT have no compunction against giving half-truths on these issues.)

Conservationists, like Chris Clarke, see the dangers.  Bird kills do occur at wind farms, in greater numbers than any conservationist is comfortable with.  Off-shore wind farms could hammer migrating populations of songbirds and other migratory fowl, in addition to the sea-dwelling birds.  Few solid studies on bird damage exist.  We are particularly the dark about the songbirds, who migrate in enormous avian clouds at night.  An article in Nature sums up issues:

Wind turbines kill far fewer birds in general each year than do many other causes linked to humans, including domestic cats and collisions with glass windows. But wind power has a disproportionate effect on certain species that are already struggling for survival, such as the precarious US population of golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos canadensis).

“The troubling issue with wind development is that we’re seeing a growing number of birds of conservation concern being killed by wind turbines,” says Albert Manville, a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Arlington, Virginia.

It is good news that wind power can replace fossil fuels. But industrial-sized enterprises inherently create environmental problems. Our policy makers need to be alert to the issues involved, and create incentives for development of alternative energy sources that will prevent our falling into the rut of industrial development that comes at enormous costs pushed to future generations.

Who is looking out for the birds? Can there be anyone who argues we should give up on climate change because of problems from alternative energy, really?

Chris Clarke tells us the problems, that we need accurate, relevant information, and we don’t have a methodical process to get it:

The issue of eagles being harmed by wind turbines in the U.S. is a huge topic, to put it mildly. And yet a paper documenting two eagle mortalities at a wind turbine facility in the last 20 years is “conceptually novel” enough to merit publication in a prestigious wildlife science journal.

Put it this way: The scientific community has more information on deaths among marine mammals, which spend much of their time in places it’s hard for us to get to, than it does about injuries and deaths to rather conspicuous birds in industrial facilities. Hell, we have better, more solid data on planets outside our solar system than we do on eagle mortalities at wind energy plants in California.

One could ask the rhetorical question “why is that the case,” but it’s almost a waste of time: it’s because wind energy companies would strongly prefer that data never gets released to the public.

And that’s what peer-reviewed journals are, for all their abstruse language and incomprehensible math and absurd paywalls: public information. Once that data gets analyzed and put in context by independent biologists, it becomes available to us all.

[USGS research ecologist Jeffrey] Lovich puts it this way:

Minimizing wildlife mortality at wind farms is a major goal of conservation, although research on how best to do that is in short supply. Compiling and publishing accurate data on mortality of Golden Eagles over time is an important first step in efforts to protect these iconic birds.

And doing so in the clear light of day is crucial if we in the public are ever to make scientifically sound decisions about our energy policy, regardless of whether we put windpower or wildlife first.

Who will provide that information? Who will even ask for it? If we can’t get consensus on whether we should save humanity’s home on Earth, how can we get consensus on asking the questions about how to go about it, and how to learn how to do it?


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