Breaking a Few Eggs

Media Appearances, Climate, Frontier Centre

In our quest to embrace our middle-agedness, my husband and I spent a good part of last weekend bird watching. And the highlight was Prince Edward Point, a narrow strip of land at the south end of Prince Edward County, where birds stop after their long flight across Lake Ontario. We stood in the midst of many exotic species, trying valiantly to figure out how these blasted binoculars work, while listening to a cacophony of bird calls. It was amazing.

Prince Edward Point has been named a "Globally Important Birding Area" in 1998, and Environment Canada has declared it a wildlife sanctuary. Millions of birds migrate through this tiny area every year, more so than grace even Point Pelee. So it seems rather strange that just a few kilometres down the road the Ontario government has proposed installing the most efficient bird killing machines ever, in the form of a huge wind farm. All to protect the environment.

In fact, according to new Ontario regulations, as long as industries are involved in "clean energy," they don't even need permission to kill endangered species. At one point you had to apply for a permit to do in the little bobolinks, but now they're fair game. Because it's good for the earth, you see.

The Americans are also heading in this direction. That great symbol of American strength, the bald eagle, is no match for wind turbines. Since 1940 it's been illegal to kill or harass the birds. But now they're considering giving wind farms a pass. It's naturalists versus environmentalists. Or perhaps environmentalists versus environmentalists. Whomever it is, the bird gets it.

Now I'm a new convert to birding, and maybe the fate of several thousand birds doesn't really interest you. But how about this: in Europe, which looks like it has finally decided to stop procrastinating and actually implode, wind farms were some of the first things to go. They just weren't sustainable, and they weren't creating the energy they promised.

After Spain spent about 571,000 euros for each job created (and they lost 2.2 jobs for each new job), they finally ended the subsidies. With the government running out of money, they just can't afford something so inefficient anymore.

The problem with wind is that it isn't constant. It's usually windy right in the middle of the night, when people are asleep, not when they're blow drying their hair or running the dishwasher or operating a mechanic shop. So the average wind farm runs at only 25 per cent capacity. And I figure that if we're going to kill all these birds, it had better be for a good cause. We had better at least get cheap energy out of it. But that's not what we've got. We've got expensive, inefficient energy that destroys tourism and farmland, and massacres birds while you're at it.

Last year, Syncrude in Alberta was fined three million dollars for the deaths of about 1,000 ducks during a freak blizzard in the oil sands. Yet wind turbines are, according to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, about 445 times more deadly toward birds than the oil sands are. But according to our media oil sands are evil. Wind farms are good.

At least with oil, natural gas, and coal you can say, "it's harming the environment, but it's cheaper, it brings jobs, and they're trying their best to mitigate the negative effects." With wind you can't say that. With wind, "it's more expensive, it cuts jobs, it costs taxpayers money, and it harms endangered species."

Lenin was famous for justifying his atrocious policies by saying, "if you're going to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs." I suppose the Ontario Liberals have now decided it's okay to let industry chop up birds, even endangered species, because it's for the greater good. Some parts of the environment are evidently more important than others. Sounds like Animal Farm all over again.