Two green constituencies are going toe to toe over the way in which wind farms receive permits excusing them from killing protected eagle species in the United States. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a new rule that would extend the length of these “eagle take” (read: eagle kill) permits from five years to thirty years in length. Reuters reports:
U.S. wildlife managers on Wednesday again proposed granting 30-year permits to wind farms that would forgive them for thousands of eagle deaths expected during that time frame from collisions of the birds with turbines, towers and electrical wires. […]
Wind energy companies have pressed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to lengthen the terms of the eagle permits, saying a five-year duration left too much uncertainty and hampered investment in the burgeoning renewable power industry.
Conservation groups mounted a successful legal challenge to a similar extension last year, but concerns over the potential dampening effects these shorter permits might be having on the growing U.S. wind industry have the rule up for discussion once again once again, as it now enters a period of public comment.
Greens typically seem to relish railing against the siting of energy facilities—this is the sort of thing they do best—but there’s an undeniable irony in the fact that environmentalists are rallying against one of their favored renewable energy options. This highlights something important: every energy source entails risks, and these can only be mitigated and reduced, not eliminated. Careful siting, smart (but not overzealous) regulation, and sober cost/benefit analysis is needed when considering any new energy project, whether it’s green or brown.
Solar power can fry birds, wind turbines can chop them up, but that doesn’t mean these aren’t viable options. It does force greens to take a look inwards and consider that every option has a downside.