It's really hard to argue against policies that promote renewable energy. But people like Donald Trump will bend over backward to do it — like he did today on (failed presidential hopeful) Herman Cain's radio show. Trump claims that wind turbines are a major threat to bird populations. But he's just talking crap without any context. From Herman Cain's talk show today, quoted in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
Trump: Our energy companies are a disaster right now. Coal. The coal business is — you know, there is such a thing as clean coal. Our miners are out of work — now they're just attacking energy companies like I've never seen them attack anything before.
They want everything to be wind and solar. Unfortunately, it's not working on large-scale. It's just not working. Solar is very, very expensive. Wind is very, very expensive, and it only works when it's windy.
Trump: Someone might need a little electricity — a lot of times, it's the opposite season, actually. When they have it, that's when you don't need it. So wind is very problematic and — I'm not saying I'm against those things. I'm for everything. I'm for everything.
Trump: But they are destroying our energy companies with regulation. They're absolutely destroying them.
Cain: But their viability has to be demonstrated before you shove it down the throats of the American people. That's what you're saying.
Trump: In all fairness, wind is fine. Sometimes you go — I don't know if you've ever been to Palm Springs, California — it looks like a junkyard. They have all these different...
Cain: I have.
Trump: They have all these different companies and each one is made by a different group from, all from China and from Germany, by the way, not from here. And you look at all these windmills. Half of them are broken. They're rusting and rotting. You know, you're driving into Palm Springs, California, and it looks like a poor man's version of Disneyland. It's the worst thing you've ever seen.
And it kills all the birds. I don't know if you know that… Thousands of birds are lying on the ground. And the eagle. You know, certain parts of California — they have killed so many eagles. You know, they put you in jail if you kill an eagle. And yet these windmills [kill] them by the hundreds.
If you hadn't guessed already, Trump's claims are misleading. Half of America's wind turbines are not rusting and rotting. They're built to withstand about 20 years and the vast majority are doing just fine, thank you very much.
So what about the birds? A study from 2014 found that between 214,000 and 368,000 birds per year are killed by wind turbines. How does that stack up against other threats? The same study found that 6.8 million birds die every year colliding with mobile phone and radio towers.
Should we not invest in our communications infrastructure because millions of birds are dying every year smashing into it? Perhaps. Your smartphone is certainly a larger threat to the eagle population than a wind turbine, to say nothing of climate change — a legitimate threat to bald eagle populations around the US, and something that Trump has called a hoax invented by China.
So if you're a Trump supporter, don't be afraid to chuck your smartphone in the bin. It might save an eagle's life.