Watching the World Go Bye

Eliot Jacobson's Collapse of Everything Blog

Climate Change

Wind Power is Grotesque

You’ve got to know which side I’m on. I’m an old-school environmentalist, coming of age in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. More environmental f&%kery happened during my youth and more meaningful environmental policy was enacted in my youth than at any time or any place in modern industrial civilization’s history.

When I hear the youth of today complain about my generation and the actions we didn’t take, when they arrogantly utter “OK boomer” as if more should have been done back at some undefined moment when we knew better, I can only cite the anthropomorphic principle: but for what was accomplished they wouldn’t exist to complain about what wasn’t done. But for the policies, agencies, acts and laws we helped create through our protests and direct action, the environment would have already degraded into an unlivable hellscape. Rivers on fire. A massive hole in the ozone layer. Undrinkable water and unbreathable air. Oil spills and dead oceans. Nuclear waste and radiation from meltdowns. Toxic dumps spilling into waterways. Lead and DDT everywhere. The human population would be lower by billions.

Yeah, more could have been done, but here are just a few samples of what was accomplished in the 1970’s:

  • First Earth Day, April 22, 1970
  • Official Formation of NOAA, October 3, 1970
  • Official Formation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), December 2, 1970
  • Clean Air Act of 1970, December 31, 1970
  • Lead-Based Paint Restrictions, January 13, 1971
  • EPA Bans DDT, June 14, 1972
  • Limits to Growth is Published, October 1, 1972
  • Clean Water Act, October 18, 1972
  • Ocean Dumping Act, October 23, 1972
  • Leaded Gasoline Phase-Out, December 28, 1973
  • Endangered Species Act, December 28, 1973
  • Safe Drinking Water Act, December 16, 1974
  • Toxic Substances Control Act, October 11, 1976
  • Phaseout of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), October 15, 1978

So what do we have today by way of new policy? The latest “accomplishment” is the so-called Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). At its core, the IRA is a money-dump to EV, solar and wind capitalists under the guise of speeding up the transition to renewable energy. The IRA is designed to facilitate the continued growth of industrial civilization, albeit with a shift in industries. Electric cars. Solar. Wind. Batteries. These are all products for sale by industries seeking growth and profit.

The most basic truth about the IRA is that it is emphatically not an environmental policy. The IRA is not fascilitating a choice between clean energy and fossil fuels. It is not either/or. The IRA is both/and. The more energy that the IRA helps create, the more our industries will find energy-hungry ways to use it. The latest energy scourges, crypto and AI, make this truth obvious to the casual observer. And like all new energy before it, the new energy we are creating with renewables will be sucked into the black hole created by Jevons paradox.

Today’s “environmentalists” are no longer the environmentalists of my youth. They want wind, solar, nuclear, so that they can have lives as comfortable as those of their parents and grandparents. But whenever the choice between the environment and humanity’s continued malignant growth is on the line, today’s environmentalists choose growth over the environment. Their choice is nowhere more clear than the green delusion of renewable “wind energy.”

Recently I made this off-hand post on Twitter:


In less than a day this post has over 200,000 views and nearly 350 comments.  The interest in this post came as quite a surprise to me. I thought my negative opinion of green energy was fairly well known to my followers. You can click on the image to go to the Twitter post and read the comments for yourself, or I’ll save you the trouble and give you the tl;dr. The vast majority of the comments requested that I clarify my use of the word “grotesque”, others are pro-nuclear, they are defensive of wind power and humanity’s need for energy, they show comparisons of wind with coal, they ask what I would do instead to provide energy, and many are just outright insulting (hide + block).

Wind power is not environmentalism. Wind power is making a choice between the environment and global industrial civilization and coming firmly down on the side of the latter.

Wind is the degredation of ecosystems. Wind is steel and iron and copper and concrete. Wind is oil lubricants produced by ExxonMobil. Wind is strip mining and massive water use.  Wind is exploiting third-world labor, sometimes child labor. Wind is massive-scale production and shipping. Wind is wide access roads cut through once pristine landscapes. Wind is trucking and more trucking. Wind is forever plastics and toxic chemicals. Wind is new electricity infrastructure. Wind is the death of countless birds (and bats), including charismatic species like eagles, hawks and owls. Wind is flattening hilltops and clearcutting forests. Wind is off-shore abominations with unknown impacts on sea life and ocean ecosystems.

Wind power changes local temperatures by forcing rising hot air back to the ground, creating local climate impacts that may be worse than those caused by GHG’s.

And then there’s the whole problem of what to do when the wind isn’t blowing. Solar? What about when the sun isn’t shining? Battery storage? What goes into those technologies is every bit as grotesque as wind, but that’s for other posts. And when no renewable is available, most are backed up by good old fashion coal or natural gas that’s running 24/7, or worse, wood chips from harvested forests.

And maybe worst of all, wind towers and blades are short-lived, with current lifespan estimates between 20 and 30 years, at which time the entire structure, all of it, steel, iron, copper, fiberglass and concrete, needs to be demolished, transported away as mostly unrecyclable trash, and replaced.

Drive by any large-scale wind farm that’s been in operation for five years or more and you will see a landscape littered with non-functioning towers.

Credit: Eric Horst, Flickr

Wind power is grotesque.

Yes, fossil fuel use also suffers from a long list of tragic environmental impacts, many exceeding those of wind. Yes, fossil fuels are also grotesque. Our continued use of fossil fuels is powering the sixth great extinction. Yes, we should stop using fossil fuels. Yes, I am 100% behind groups like “Just Stop Oil” and the actions they take. But I am also 100% behind folks like Max Wilbert and other old-school environmentalists who are fighting new wind power developments.

The first step is to stop destroying the environment in a never-ending quest for more energy, believing that at some future time more energy will somehow help save the environment that same energy is destroying.

I often get asked for my solution, my answer to this predicament. I am an environmentalist. I love the environment. I love nature, life and biodiversity. I love this beautiful planet. And yes, I love it all more than global industrial civlization.

For some reason, comments are not showing up.  I am going to post some of the comments here manually as they come in. 

From Sam Mitchell:

You left out the THOUSANDS of miles of new power lines connecting these death traps to the cities full of clueless morons. I guess all these “environmentalists” think all of this “green energy” is carried to their homes in bags of fairy dust transported by pink unicorns. Don’t get me started… Do I have to bring out my flying monkeys?

From Scott Harding:

I just worry that if energy availability collapses too fast, people will finish cutting down the forests within a few years. I envision us descending like locusts on every ecosystem that might have available food or energy. Wind, solar, nuclear, hydro-electric, biofuels, BECCS, and fossil fuels are all extremely destructive and unsustainable, but if we stop too quickly, we will probably accelerate the mass extinction. I hope that our population can die out more slowly, so that maybe we don’t take as many other species out with us.

Eliot Jacobson, Ph.D.

Retired professor of mathematics and computer science, retired casino consultant, now a full time volunteer, husband and grandfather. Know-it-all doomer. Born in the year 316 ppm CO2.

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