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  • April 26th, 2019

AN ILL WIND IS BLOWING

By Joel M. Vance

“I know wind,” he said and he spoke the truth because he is so full of hot air that he could power a wind generating electric grid all by himself. Unfortunately the wind he generates is like that which blows from the sewage collection system of an Iowa confined hog farm in mid July.

 

I speak, of course, of Donald J Trump, the politician who epitomizes what in olden times was referred to as a “big bag of wind.” He is the living representation of the cartoon figures editorial cartoonists used to draw of pompous, saggy gutted politicians who existed as a blight on the political landscape.

 

The Boss Tweeds, Tom Pendergasts, and other machine bosses in American history mercifully for the democratic process lumbered into whatever political hell awaits those who smear the grand dream that we like to think of as our unique and wondrous country. Unfortunately, Trump still is with us, still spouting noxious nonsense like that he recently babbled about wind energy.

 

“If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75% in value. And they say the noise causes cancer.” He amplified his vast knowledge of wind energy by adding that wind turbines are “a graveyard for birds. If you love birds you never want to walk under a windmill because it’s a sad, sad sight,” he said. The Department of Energy says that bird deaths caused by collisions with wind turbines are relatively rare.

 

The first great journalistic scoop of my career occurred in journalism school at the University of Missouri when I knocked on a door and asked the man inside if he had any news (that’s what we did in reporting in those antediluvian days— you were assigned a block or two as a beat and you knocked on everyone’s door like a Hoover vacuum salesman and asked if there were any news items and you hoped they didn’t slam the door in your face). It turned out the man was a wildlife professor.  He told me that there had been a rash of bird deaths the night before at the KOMU-TV transmitter tower. Migrating birds had collided with the tower, blinded and without the radar that protects airplanes from similar mishap and had suffered fatal injuries. The ground beneath the tower was littered with avian corpses.

 

My story made the front page of the newspaper, but it did not result in calls for an abandonment of KOMU as a hazard to bird health, or for an end to television in general. Bird strikes have caused airplane crashes but I don’t hear anyone calling for an end to air travel as a result. In fact a Missouri conservation department pilot once was forced to make an emergency landing at Swan Lake national wildlife refuge during an aerial bird survey when a duck flew into the air intake of the plane, shutting down the engine.

 

There was no subsequent call for an end to national wildlife refuges, wildlife management, or to end the encouragement of duck numbers by such conservation organizations as Ducks Unlimited.

 

It’s estimated that feral cats kill 1 billion birds a year in the United States, far more than the total killed by all the nation’s wind towers. Bird death is a concern, both of conservationists and of the wind industry. Wind energy production will continue to grow and so will associated bird deaths. But more energy-efficient turbines may result in fewer turbines needed to provide the required energy and other solutions may ameliorate if not eliminate bird kills.

 

We have two beloved cats, both of which are spayed and kept indoors. They both would love to be among the bird killers, but we restrict them to the occasional house mouse and if everyone would similarly encourage feline birth control and sequestration the feral cat problem would become far less serious.

 

Every one of Fat Donnie’s claims about the perils of wind generation is so much hot air. Hot air is not the only thing that this clown president is full of—he would fit right in on one of those hog farms and it would be difficult to tell him from the other piggies except that he would be the one carrying a golf club.

 

Speaking of Iowa and its ever present summer aroma of pig sewage (driving through the state in summer time with the windows down in your car is not recommended), if you travel north on Interstate 35, nearing the northern border of the state with Minnesota, you will pass through an area on either side of the highway dominated by wind towers, many to the east, many to the West.

 

Once, en route to Minnesota I couldn’t resist detouring to the West to see one of these wind towers close up. You really can’t grasp the immensity of them until you’re up close. I drove a mile off the interstate before I was close enough to realize what I was seeing. They’re big, really big. Each one thrusts more than 200 feet up. The three blades are more than 100 feet long and each seemingly slow sweep spans nearly 1 acre.

 

If there is a drawback to wind energy, it is that each tower occupies about 1.5 acres and that is one and a half acres that might have been wildlife habitat that no longer is wildlife habitat. No energy source comes without drawbacks. But wind energy, like solar energy is nonpolluting and, once the infrastructure is in place, basically is free. There is no toxic residue from a coal burning plant or concerns about how to store depleted nuclear plant residue. You don’t even have to worry about fish kills or flooding from hydroelectric generation, not to mention the destruction of rivers by dams.

 

According to the idiot Trump, if the wind isn’t blowing you won’t be able to watch television. Of course that would mean that Fox News would go off the air so, hey, there’s a little silver lining in every one of Donald Trump’s fictitious clouds. Of course he ignores the fact that when the wind doesn’t blow, or the sun doesn’t shine, wind and solar energy generation can call on storage batteries to kick in uninterrupted power.  But ignorance never stopped Trump before from making claims that, on the face of them, are ridiculous and easily disproved.

 

Iowa trails only Texas in the development of wind powered energy and by next year the percentage of wind generated electricity in the state is expected to reach 40%. Iowa passed a state law in 1983 that required electric utilities to buy a substantial amount of power from wind generated sources. Obviously, that encourages the development of more wind power generation. Iowa is ranked seventh in the country in potential for wind energy generation— meaning that at least six other states surpass Iowa as potential sources of wind generated energy.

 

While I am no fan of hydropower since dams often create more problems than they solve, at least water generated energy does not contribute to global warming, toxic residue, air pollution or the myriad other problems associated with fossil fuel extraction and use.

 

Wind farms are not all sunlight and breezes. Not only do the towers themselves occupy thousands of acres, but the transmission lines are even more damaging. Combined with the towers, especially in Wyoming, a hotspot for wind energy, they seriously threaten the greater sage grouse, a wildlife species that may well be poised on the brink of extinction— primarily because of habitat disruption from energy projects. My home, Missouri, currently is fighting a cross state right-of-way project which would transmit power from wind generation. Missouri has no sage grouse, but it certainly has plenty of angry landowners and legislators who would cheerfully tell the wind energy industry to blow it up its butt.

 

However, every time Donald Trump beats the funereal drum of fossil fuel extraction I have a vision of the devil gleefully rubbing his hands together as he contemplates coal stoking the fires of hell ever higher and hotter. Totally ignoring the overwhelming evidence of climate change—call it global warming if you want— and irritably denying there is such a thing, Trump continues to spearhead the call for evermore gas and oil exploration and evermore gouging the landscape for coal. John Prine’s evocative song “Paradise” should be the anti-anthem: “I’m sorry my son, you’re too late in asking/Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away” or maybe it could be Merle Travis’s “Dark As a Dungeon “Come all you young fellows, so young and so fine/and seek not your fortune in the dark dreary mine.”

 

As I write this, it is the Easter weekend, an event when God and mankind are supposed to be close. Donald J Trump is spending nearly 3 ½ million dollars of taxpayer money to play golf at Mar-a-Lago, and spend time with those who share his warped indecency. I wonder how he would feel if Mr. Peabody’s strip miners would come in and rip up his fairways, looking for soft coal to burn and further pollute the thin blanket of atmospheric protection between us and annihilation. But, hey, what’s important in life? Schmoozing with your rich butt buddies and playing golf, or protecting the planet?

 

Federal judge Brian Morris of the Montana District Court has ruled that Ryan Zinke, the resigned in disgrace Trump interior department secretary, acted illegally when he tried to lift an Obama era moratorium on coal mining on public lands. That is a first step in thwarting Trump’s rapacious war against the nation’s natural resources. Perhaps, if Congress fails in its duty to put an end to Trump’s dedication to a dirty planet the legal system will do it.  Let’s face it, Donald Trump is a bigot, a money-laundering crook for his Russian oligarch owners, a liar, and overall an ugly blot on the historic copybook of the presidency of the United States.

 

Amid the mountain of evidence collected by the Mueller investigative team, Trump’s love affair with fossil fuel and such idiotic claims as that wind power causes cancer, might seem as insignificant as plucking a bit of rotten fruit from the city garbage dump and calling it conclusive proof of both corruption and mental instability, but if nothing else it is yet another brick in a structure as tall as Trump Tower, pointing to the necessity that, if we want to protect our democracy, we need to rid it of this insidious idiot.

 

Do your job, Congress. Ignore the 40% of mindless drones, echoing every mindless tweet spewing from Trump’s addled brain and, if you want to restore what our country is supposed to be, send this evil twit south to Mar-a-Lago for good. It’s tee time for Donnie.

 

At the dawn of the 20th century, William Randolph Hearst was among the most powerful men in the United States, if not the world. He was the prototype for Donald J Trump— ruthless, power-hungry, and the builder of the West Coast equivalent of Trump Tower, San Simeon, a monument for a ruthless autocrat. He was feared and narcissistic— a strikingly parallel personality to Trump, even if he did represent a newspaper empire, therefore in Trump’s words “the enemy of the people.”

 

And yet, this historic role model for Trump, said this more than 100 years ago, about the future of the United States, “The powers of the wind, the rivers, and the sun will no longer be fouled with smoke for which men have worn out their lives in coal mines. The deserts will be seats of vast manufacturing enterprises, carried on by electric power developed directly from solar heat.”

 

Given that prediction, perhaps there is hope for Trump yet.

 

Naaaaah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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