BY JACK DINI – Friends of the Earth oppose the Arctic being ruined by oil extraction, but when it comes to damaging Scotland’s wilderness with concrete and hundreds of miles of roads, they say wind energy is worth it as the impact of climate change has to be faced.

‘No way of generating energy is 100 percent clean and problem-free,’ says Craig Bennett, director of policy and campaigns at Friends of the Earth, report Simon Parry and Ed Douglas. (1)

Environmental groups and activists also ignore bird kills by wind turbines and  the devastating environmental damage in China caused by mining for neodymium, a critical rare earth element in wind turbines.

The Fish and Wildlife service estimated that in 2009, about 440,000 birds were being killed by wind turbines. Yet the wind industry has yet to face a single charge. Oil companies face heavy fines for killing many fewer birds. So, what’s the life of a bird worth? If you’re Big Oil it can range from $7,000 to $20,000 per bird. If you’re wind energy it costs nothing. (2)

Green campaigners love wind turbines but the permanent magnets used to manufacture a 3-megawatt turbine contain some two tons of rare earth and the process used to extract neodymium raises serious questions. Parry and Douglas note,

“As Britain flaunts its environmental credentials by speckling its coastlines and unspoiled moors and mountains with thousands of wind turbines, it is contributing to a vast man-made lake of poison in northern China. This is the deadly and sinister side of the massively profitable rare earths  industry that the ‘green’ companies profiting from demand for wind turbines would prefer you knew nothing about.” (1)

“Hidden out of sight, behind  smoke-shrouded factory complexes in the city of Baotou in Inner Mongolia, and patrolled by platoons of security guards, lies a five-mile wide ‘tailing’ lake.  It has killed farmland for miles around, made thousands of people ill and put one of China’s key waterways in jeopardy. This vast, hissing cauldron of chemicals is the dumping ground for seven million tons a year of mined earth after it has been doused in acid and chemicals and processed through red-hot furnaces to extract its components.” (1)

The environmental problems at Baotou include air emissions with harmful elements such as fluorine and sulfur, and wastewater that contain  excessive acid and radioactive materials. The Baotou Environmental Protection Bureau tested the water and concluded that it wasn’t fit for people or animals to drink or for irrigations. (3)

So it’s one thing to say there is no way of generating energy that is 100 percent clean and problem free, but tell that to all the birds that are being killed or the Chinese workers who are paying a huge environmental price.

References

  1. Simon Parry and Ed Douglas, “In China, the true cost of Britain’s clean, green wind power experiment: pollution on a disastrous scale,” dailymail.co.uk, January 29, 2011
  2. Jack Dini, “Bird death fines depend on who kills the birds,” Canada Free Press, September 19, 2011
  3. “China’s rare earth-green technology danger,” epaw.org, December 4, 2009

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