By Jason Hopkins
A report on the number of animals killed and species at risk of extinction lays bare the ecological impact of renewable energy technology.
Michael Shellenberger, the founder and president of Environmental Progress, presented an argument that would appear nearly blasphemous for anyone fighting on the front lines of the green energy movement. Shellenberger made the case that renewable energy is not beneficial, but actually damaging, to the environment in a Thursday Forbes article. He added that if renewables take up a larger share of electricity generation — something environmentalists have ardently campaigned for — the ecological impact would be even more devastating.
Shellenberger cited a number of studies that detail the real life impact of wind and solar facilities.
Clean Energy Wire reported that offshore wind turbines in Germany could “lead to the extinction of individual species,” including the rare and intelligent harbor porpoise. Scientists warn the expansion of wind energy in North America could lead to the extinction of migratory bat populations. A solar farm in California killed hundreds of desert tortoises, a threatened reptile in the state, and kills about 6,000 birds a year by lighting them on fire. Also in California, wind turbines in the Altamont Pass kill an estimated 4,700 birds a year, including Golden Eagles.
The environmental impact of renewables is more pronounced when their total energy output in the U.S. is considered. Wind accounts for just 6.3 percent of electricity and solar accounts for only 1.3 percent. An expansion of renewable energy would magnify the impact wind and solar farms have on wildlife populations.
It wasn’t lost of Shellenberger that the same environmental groups who hammer the fossil fuel and nuclear industry seemingly give a pass to the ecological impacts of wind and solar.
“It is hard to understand green groups’ double standard except as a manifestation of a religious faith in renewables,” he wrote on Thursday. “If the big green groups were more loyal to their mission than to the gods of the sun and wind they would join the American Bird Conservancy and demand mandatory regulations of the wind and solar industry to prevent the slaughter of threatened and endangered species from rising further.”
Shellenberger currently leads Environmental Progress, an organization that works for a cleaner environment and “energy justice.” Previously a strong opponent of nuclear power, he has since reversed his stance, believing that nuclear energy is a practical and efficient way of producing emission-free electricity.
The pro-nuclear activist has entered the political scene, currently running for the Democratic nomination in California’s gubernatorial election.
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