The Energy Spectator

Story Ideas for a Press Turning Against Obama

Diced eagle, diversion of crops to ethanol production, slow-walking of nuclear projects...

By 5.28.13

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Last week the Associated Press ran an astonishing story about how America’s windmills have been killing thousands of rare birds, including golden eagles, while getting a free pass from the Obama administration. Here’s the way it appeared in the Washington Post:

The Obama administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind farm for killing eagles and other protected bird species, shielding the industry from liability and helping keep the scope of the deaths secret, an Associated Press investigation has found. More than 573,000 birds are killed by the country’s wind farms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to an estimate published in March in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin.

A pretty damning indictment, no? Particularly when the President pronounced in his original Inaugural Address in 2008 that “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories” instead of using old fashioned fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.

Now here’s something even more astonishing. This same facts ran almost word-for-word in the Wall Street Journal on September 7, 2009 in an op-ed by Manhattan Institute energy expert Robert Bryce.

On Aug. 13, ExxonMobil pleaded guilty in federal court to killing 85 birds that had come into contact with crude oil or other pollutants in uncovered tanks or waste-water facilities on its properties. The birds were protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which dates back to 1918. The company agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and fees. Yet there is one group of energy producers that are not being prosecuted for killing birds: wind-power companies. And wind-powered turbines are killing a vast number of birds every year.

How did the mainstream press manage to ignore this story for four years? And did its final emergence have something to do with the discovery that the administration had been reading the AP’s phone records? You’ll have to answer that yourself. But as long as the press has decided to take a critical look at President Obama’s energy agenda, here are a couple of other stories waiting to be told.

Soil: This of course refers to the 40-year-old program to replace gasoline with corn ethanol. An astonishing 45 percent of our corn crop now goes into gas tanks to replace 4 percent of our oil. This massive diversion of crops has driven up food prices around the world, causing food riots in 2008 and toppling the government of Haiti. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization regularly calls biofuels “a crime against humanity.” Only last month, Britain’s prestigious Chatham House, rated the second-best think tank in the world behind the Brookings Institution, issued a report reiterating that biofuels are starving people in the underdeveloped world and will cost British travelers $2 billion in subsidies by 2020. The report sank like a stone. America’s ethanol program would collapse without the combination of government subsidies and mandates, yet every time repeal is suggested, it is sunk by the powerful combination of environmentalists and Midwestern farmers now completely accustomed to the government-run program.

Sunshine: Last week the Breakthrough Institute, the highly respected California think tank, issued a comparison between Finland’s effort to build Europe’s first nuclear reactor in a decade and Germany’s attempts to quit nuclear altogether and switch to wind and solar. Breakthrough is an environmental group that supports nuclear, and co-founder Michael Shellenberger is featured in the pro-nuclear documentary, “Pandora’s Promise,” scheduled to open in theaters this summer.

Finland’s Olkiluoto reactor, originally commissioned in 2005, has become a poster child for nuclear construction delays and cost overruns. Now seven years behind schedule and three times its original cost, Olkiluoto is still not scheduled to open until 2016. Yet when it does, it will deliver electricity at one-quarterthe cost of what German consumers will be paying for solar electricity, based on existing “feed-in-tariffs” that are simply price supports passed on to customers through their electrical bills or taxes. “Moreover, solar panels do not last as long as nuclear reactors and also give reduced output as they age. After three decades a single nuclear plant with the same output of Olkiluoto would generate about as much electricity as all of the German panels installed in the last decade,” the report concluded. Once again, there was almost no coverage in the press.

Although we are constantly inundated with stories about the coming age of solar energy, the whole effort is once again entirely dependent on a huge raft of government subsidies and mandates, plus the donation of more than a thousand square miles of free land from the federal government’s Bureau of Land Management.

All these stories are waiting to be told. Now that that the AP and other major outlets have decided to take an open-eyed view of the Obama administration’s energy adventures, they could finally make the mainstream press. Coming to a newspaper near you.

Photo: Richard Bartz (Creative Commons 2.5).

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About the Author
William Tucker is news editor for RealClearEnergy.org.