Some environmentalists attempt to downplay the problem, as Sierra Club editor Paul Rauber did in a Sierra magazine article earlier this year that described hundreds of thousands of bird deaths each year as "trivial." The wind industry responded to the Associated Press article with the same argument employed by Mr. Rauber, stating that buildings, cars, and cats kill even more birds each year. This logic is similar to the response from the gun lobby to the deaths of elementary school children in Newtown, claiming that hammers kill more people than assault rifles in an insensitive and nonsensical argument against new regulations. One wrong does not excuse another.
The current voluntary guidelines for the wind industry were only implemented after the wind industry lobbied the White House and Department of Interior to oppose stricter rules that the Fish and Wildlife Service's scientists recommended. And since those voluntary guidelines have been put into place, the wind industry continues to build projects in areas that jeopardize protected birds, including golden eagles and California condors. Now the Obama administration is also considering giving the wind industry 30-year permits to kill golden and bald eagles, which would challenge our ability to protect these species, especially as other threats continue to loom, such as urban sprawl and climate change.
This is not a zero sum game between renewable energy and wildlife. The flexibility of renewable energy technology allows us to generate clean energy in a way that minimizes or eliminates impacts on protected wildlife. Rooftop solar, solar on already-disturbed lands, and energy efficiency investments are some of our most sustainable renewable energy choices.
|A raptor takes flight over the Mojave Desert, California.|