Trump ridicules ‘windmills,’ says ‘the coal is doing great’

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2018

President Trump slammed wind power as a subsidy-dependent “killing field” for birds at a private fundraiser last week, prompting pushback today from environmentalists.

Trump made the comments at an event in Utica, N.Y., on Aug. 13, according to video posted online by Breitbart News journalist Charlie Spiering. The president also repeatedly praised coal, calling it “indestructible.”

“You can blow up a pipeline, you can blow up the windmills. You know, the windmills” — he mimics a turning turbine and makes a shooting gun gesture — “Bing! That’s the end of that windmill, if the birds don’t kill it first. They kill so many birds. You look underneath some of those windmills, it’s like a killing field of birds,” he said.

“What happens when the wind doesn’t blow?” he asked.

“Well, then we have a problem. OK, good. They were putting ’em in areas where they didn’t have much wind, too. And it’s a subsidy — you need subsidy for windmills. You need subsidy. Who wants to have energy where you need subsidy? So, uh, the coal is doing great,” Trump said.

The website Factbase posted parallel audio of the fundraiser for Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.).

Trump has made similar comments attacking wind and the impact on birds, but typically they were made in shorter Twitter comments before he entered the White House. The comments also appeared as the president is expected to unveil a plan tomorrow granting states the responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants (Greenwire, Aug. 20).

In an email today, Audubon Society spokesman Nicolas Gonzalez said the Trump administration has interpreted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to ignore incidental deaths caused by a variety of factors, including power lines, oil pits and wind turbines.

“This means that while the President is allegedly opposing wind power due to the impact on birdlife, his Department of the Interior is also gutting the most important bird conservation law on the books,” Gonzalez wrote.

In a blog post Friday, the Natural Resources Defense Council slammed the idea that coal is “indestructible” while pipelines can be blown up — an argument Trump also made in West Virginia in July. “Let’s set aside, for a moment, all the ways coal undermines national security by contributing to climate change — from creating conflicts abroad to threatening military bases in coastal areas,” the group said.

“Coal has a delivery system, too. Railways, trucks, and cargo ships can all be bombed as easily as a pipeline.”

Further, wind and solar power typically are more spread out than coal plants, making them harder to disable in terms of “bombs-per-megawatt,” the NRDC said.

Wind supporters have cited various studies that indicate bird and wildlife deaths are exaggerated (Climatewire, Oct. 27, 2016).

Wind power is far less harmful to wildlife than traditional energy sources and is one of the only energy sources without population-level impacts like climate-change-driven habitat loss, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Currently, wind power is eligible to receive tax credits as part of a 2015 budget deal, but those credits are set to phase out incrementally through 2019.

As he has on numerous occasions, Trump praised coal at the fundraiser, saying, “It’s a tremendous form of energy” in a “military way” that is indestructible.

“So the people of West Virginia and all over, you look at Wyoming, you look at so many different places where they just, Pennsylvania, where they loved what we did, and it’s clean coal and we have the most modern procedures,” he said.

Typically, the term “clean coal” refers to coal plants that use carbon capture equipment to remove carbon dioxide emissions and store it underground. However, there is only one commercial coal power plant in the U.S. that uses such capture equipment. Trump appears to be using the term broadly to refer to coal plants, because he frequently references “clean coal” in states where no such plants operate.

Trump also touted a jump in coal exports last year during the fundraiser.

“We have clean coal — exports have increased, 60 percent last year — clean coal, which is one of our big assets that we weren’t allowed to use for our miners,” he said.

Coal exports did grow last year from about 60 million metric short tons in 2016 to 97 million metric tons, a more than 60 percent increase, but the total is lower than in 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.