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Wind Turbines Kill a Few Birds 991

Posted by michael
from the cuisinart dept.
Guppy06 writes "The Houston Chronicle has an article about how a 7000-turbine windfarm in Altamont Pass, California (the world's largest collection) has killed an estimated 22,000 birds during the past 20 years or so of operation, 'including hundreds of golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, kestrels and other raptors(.)' There are efforts to keep the operators from renewing their permit until they take measures to protect bird populations. To put things in perspective the article goes on to point out that the Exxon Valdez spill is estimated to have killed around 250,000, while the whole story can just about be summed up by one quote by a biologist: 'When you turn on your lights you kill something, no matter what the source of electricity.'" Killing 3-4 birds per day doesn't seem too bad. It's a shame that larger, rarer birds are getting killed, but... How many birds would die from the acid rain that a coal power plant would cause?
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Wind Turbines Kill a Few Birds

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  • Solar? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ekephart (256467) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:32PM (#7839111) Homepage
    "When you turn on your lights you kill something, no matter what the source of electricity."

    What about solar energy?
  • by bloggins02 (468782) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:32PM (#7839121)
    Ya know, at one point I might have cared, but we need to end our reliance on petroleum Real Soon Now(TM), mostly for environmental consequences far greater than 22,000 birds over 20 years, not to mention the socio-political impact of foreign oil dependance.

    Anything we can do to remove ourselves from our current situation is beneficial, so with that I say... ...fuck the birds.

  • Re:Solar? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zeux (129034) * on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:33PM (#7839133)
    It takes toxic products to create a solar energy collector -> it kills too.
  • by FFFish (7567) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:34PM (#7839147) Homepage
    If the turbines killed three people a day... ...well, we'd probably accept that, too, just as we do for cars.
  • Re:Solution ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jhon (241832) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:36PM (#7839181) Homepage Journal
    Why not put big metal grid around each turbine

    increase cost

    decrease efficiency

    increase need for maintainance (more cost)

    What animal (man included) doesn't effect his environment when acting within it's nature? That's a valid question. A few birds be damned -- lets look at the bigger picture.

    The answer is NOT to drop all our gizmo's and live in stone and thatch huts. At least if we don't want to see 3+ billion people die off of starvation and exposure.

  • balance (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Lord Dreamshaper (696630) <lord_dreamshaper@yah[ ]ca ['oo.' in gap]> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:36PM (#7839190)
    these types of articles get spun by established industries to pooh-pooh new innovation. The question is how many fish die from hydroelectric dams; how many cute, furry animals get killed by coal mining, etc; nevermind indirect effects like acid rain (indirect effects likely don't capture the public's imagination as strongly)
  • Re:Solution ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RobPiano (471698) * on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:37PM (#7839198)
    Would that work? I would think that too much other stuff would get clogged in the fan. Cleaning the fans out might raise the price to the point where it wouldn't be worth it. Then it would be like the cost of nuclear energy (cost > energy produced).

    I don't know the details... Is anyone an expert?
  • Sonics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `dnaltropnidad'> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:37PM (#7839199) Homepage Journal
    can the use sonics to make the birds go around?

  • by CrazyJim0 (324487) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:39PM (#7839234)
    Do insects matter compared to birds?

    If so, are we supposed to stop walking in fear of killing insects and bacteria?

    If man was making rotors for the express purpose of shredding birds, that would probably be evil.

    Whats the count of deer killed by cars accidentally? How about deer killed by hunters intentionally?

    I'm all for eco-conservation, and teraforming the earth so we have no deserts, but some wackos take things too far. Ask some crazed Peta member, you may find one who values animals more than a human life.
  • Re:Solution ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fastidious edward (728351) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:41PM (#7839250)
    But maybe 22000 birds over 20 years (that's a little more than 3 birds a day) are not worth the expense...

    Exactly, and there are 7000 turbines, so that makes little over 3 birds killed per turbine in 20 years, or 0.157... birds/year/turbine! Compare this to other mechanical devices killing animals, like cars running over hedgehogs, boats knocking fish on the head, animals killed after Chernobyl, or insects on your wind-shield and I'm impressed, 22000 is pretty low.
  • Is this a joke? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macemoneta (154740) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:42PM (#7839274) Homepage
    7000 wind turbines kill 22,000 birds in 20 years? That means that a wind turbine will kill a bird (that's "1") every 7 years or so.

    To put that in perspective... I have a greenhouse (glass enclosed room) on my home. On average, one or two birds fly into it and kill themselves each year. So my greenhouse is 7-14 times as deadly to birds as a wind turbine.

    This is just Darwinian selection at work. By the way, the dead birds get eaten by other birds and animals, so some number of them survive from the free meal. I think they forgot to count those.

    Worthless article.
  • Some Perspective (Score:5, Insightful)

    by worst_name_ever (633374) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:42PM (#7839275)
    Keep in mind that the wind turbines at the Altamont Pass site are 20 years old and smaller than the current generation of large wind turbines; that means they spin a lot faster, and thus give the birds less time to get out of the way. Modern turbines spin a lot slower and are situated higher off the ground, giving them much less of an impact on the local wildlife population.

    Not to mention the fact that hundreds of millions of birds are killed each year through collisions with glass windows, vehicles, guy wires, and so forth.

    But don't take my word for it, check out this article [cleanpowernow.org] which goes over the statistics, with references. Or, Google for yourself [google.com].

  • Re:Not all bad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chunkwhite86 (593696) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:42PM (#7839282)
    These birds are going back into the ecosystem as food for other animals so it's not quite as bad as burning old animals (fossel fuels).

    The same logic could be applied for the killing of whales, sea turtles and other rare animals. They are going back into the ecosystem! After I eat my three endangered sea turtles for dinner (yum!!), I will later crap them out and that crap will become food for bacteria.

    Or those endangered elephants. That ivory sure is nice! And isn't it wonderful how that huge dead carcas then becomes food for so many other animals! Yay!
  • Re:Solution ? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:42PM (#7839285)
    If this is the windfarm I've heard about, there is already a solution. Use a single pole and not a lattice structure (example) [tcomeng.com] to hold up the turbine. Birds will land on the lattice structure, especially birds of prey who want a nice high perch to search for food. When they see a tasty morsel running around, their eyes are focused on the prey and they forget the spinning blades when they take off after it.
  • Re:Solution ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jhon (241832) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:44PM (#7839325) Homepage Journal
    Huh?
    A big old grate will create additional wind drag which would in turn decrease the wind energy transfered to the turbines.
    So fine companies who needlessly damage the environment so it becomes more expensive to not take appropriate action
    Sounds like a good argument, huh? Unless the cost to generate power increases beyond the ability to make it a viable solution. This brings us to the key word in your statement "needlessly". Perhaps it is NECESSARY to "damage" the environment sometimes. You think that when the house/apartment you live in was build, they didn't dig up some animal/plants home and destroy it?

  • by Have Blue (616) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:44PM (#7839328) Homepage
    Every time you consume energy, you convert it from a useful form to a useless (heat) form which cannot be recovered, and you prevent its consumption by something else. Considering that aside from sunlight (which humans cannot use in its raw form) this planet is a closed system, any activity including "natural" subsistence farming or hunting/gathering will indirectly cause something to die. This is how life on Earth works, and it will never change (barring massive technological change or new sources of previously untapped energy).
  • by DeepDarkSky (111382) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:45PM (#7839330)
    Of course, if it was chickens, we wouldn't care so much, would we? After all, we kill over 2 billion chickens yearly for food, and somehow that doesn't seem to concern too many people. Or maybe it's whether the birds being killed are edible or not? Or is it whether or not the species is endangered? Or maybe it's our perception of the birds? Golden eagles are "noble" where as chickens are just dumb birds that are suited only for eating and mistreating - cramming chickens into tiny little cages so that they trample each other to death, cutting off their beaks so they don't peck each other to death because of the crowded, conditions, etc.

    No, it's not just any bird, but it's birds that we like that we are concerned about, isn't it? Doesn't it also apply to people too? We have the same biases and valuations of people depending on who they are, where they're from, etc.
  • Meanwhile.... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by MajorDick (735308) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:45PM (#7839344)
    Daisy Airguns Reported RedRyder BB Guns have killed 110,000 birds in the last 20 years.
    Seriously SO friggin what, how many birds were pasted all over windshields in the last 20 years, Hell Ive hit at least 5 birds in that time. Almost even hit a toucan once that must have escaped from the Zoo (seriously I live in Ohio:)

    And how many of the kids out there clipped a bird first thing when they got their first BB gun ? I sure did 2 blue jays and a cardinal, I was 7 and scared as hell about the cardinal it being our state bird and all, but I was safe since I was in NY visiting cousins :)

    Lets add something to kill MORE birds then the damm windfarms can serve 2 purposes.

    My hatred of birds is SOLEY based on being raised on a chicken farm I am sure....

    You'll SHOOT your eye out
  • Darwinism anyone? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by t0qer (230538) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:48PM (#7839380) Homepage Journal
    I live in San Jose, very close to altimont pass. I don't watch birds as a hobby, but when I do watch them it's because of my facination with flight.

    As sorry as it sounds (22k birds dead) it's plain old Darwinism. Adapt or die basically.

    Next time you're near an overpass populated with pigeons, take the time to watch them, and I mean REALLY watch them. I've noticed a behavior these birds have on freeway's I call "Car Surfing"

    Lately i've noticed that the pigeons on the highway 17 camden av overpass won't leave thier roost until there are cars passing underneath. I'm guessing the cars going 60mph below them must produce some sort of small air wave, because the birds never seem to smash into them. They swoop down, grab that little updraft of wind from the car below, and get launched another 30-40 feet into the air.

    These birds have adapated to having 1ton+ metal boxes moving around their flight path. Not only have they adapted, but they've learned to use it to their advantage.

    As far as altimont pass is concerned, i'm sure the ratio of Kestral/Eagles to common birds is pretty low. I would bet the majority of the birds dying are blackbirds or doves. Carnivoires are oppertunistic, living or dead if it's meat they're going to go for it. So i'm sure most of these accidents with the exotic preditors have nothing to do with the windmills, and much to do with the altimont pass groundskeepers not cleaning up the dead carrion. Perhaps if they made it a part of their daily job to toss all the dead birds in the back of their pickup and move them to a safer place for the preditorial birds to eat, we would see less deaths.

    Until that happens though, what we will see is a fine example of these birds adapting to their enviroment. The stupid ones will be weeded out of the genepool.
  • by gregt (103090) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:49PM (#7839396)
    The World Health Organization reports that 1 million people a year die in automotive accidents and another 3 million die from pollution. Assuming that 1/6th of the pollution deaths come from automobile pollution (I suspect it's actually quite a bit higher) and ignoring other negative indirect effects of automobiles (noise, aggravation, etc.) gives us a net worldwide death burden of 1,500,000 per year from the automobile.

    That's over 4,000 people dead from automobiles, daily. Or, another way, a 9/11 every day of the year.
  • by chunkwhite86 (593696) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:49PM (#7839397)
    If the turbines killed three people a day... ...well, we'd probably accept that, too, just as we do for cars.

    Cars kill people because of human error. Very very very rarely does a vehicle malfunction causing the death of the occupants.

    This includes SUV roll overs. It's your own damn stupidity using an off-road vehicle with high ground clearance for a commuting car / grocery-getter.

    Exploding Ford pintos and faulty Firestone tires - those are due to equipment malfunction (or more precisely, failed engineering). But neither of those events had anyone "probably accept that too". Massive lawsuits and large-scale negative press were the result of those.

    On the kill three people a day note, the pollution from burning coal has probably killed three people a day (certainly if you include the coal mining fatalities).
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:54PM (#7839476)
    > The only reason that coal plants spew acid rain is because your precious liberal idiot farms like the EPA, Greenpeace, and Sierra Club have consistently prevented old plants from upgrading to cleaner equipment and from building new coal plants that are just as clean as NatGas plants. Look at the 10-k of any major energy company to find pages of litigatory idiocy. Thanks a lot, hippies. I hope you all die.

    I don't care if the hippies die or not. I just hope they don't kill us all with them.

    Quoth the original poster:

    > > Killing 3-4 birds per day doesn't seem too bad. It's a shame that larger, rarer birds are getting killed, but... How many birds would die from the acid rain that a coal power plant would cause?

    Our article poster is missing an option.

    "How many birds would die from the acid rain that a nuclear power plant would produce?" Oh, right. No acid rain comes out of nuke plants.

    "OK, so how many birds would die from the radioactivity emitted by a nuclear plant?" Oh, right. The poster was considering coal as an alternative, but a coal plant spews out more radioactive waste in the form of ash than the nuke ever does.

    "Umm, OK, [Disclaimer: I don't believe in global warming, but I'll assume the article poster does] so how many birds would die from coastal wetlands being swamped by rising sea levels caused by the global warming caused by the release of CO2 from the nuclear plant?" Oh, right. No CO2 either.

    "Look, can we just BANANA? Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything?"

    In a word, no. Energy is a means to produce wealth. Wealth is good.

    Wind: Nonviable (kills birds, not cost efficient.)
    Solar: Nonviable (cost of production exceeds energy consumed, massive chemical waste byproducts)
    Coal and gas: Viable (unless you believe in global warming, which most "greens" do)
    Hydroelectric: Nonscalable (there are only so many rivers to dam, plus think of the environmental and economic damage associated with damming something like the Mississippi a'la Three Gorges).
    Geothermal: Nonscalable (very few areas have harvestable geothermal resources)
    Conservation: Nonscalable. Cut your energy consumption by 50%? Sure. But 50% of O(N^x, where x &gt 1) is still going to present you with unacceptable constraints on growth.
    Nuclear: Zero CO2. Zero emissions while running. Waste products are compact and easily-localized/transported substance that may be a useful resource in the future. Most kilowatt-hours per kilogram of fuel (and waste) by orders of magnitude over every other option.

    Even if you don't think nuclear is a good option, it's almost certainly left as the Least Sucky Option.

  • Good point. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Camel Pilot (78781) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:54PM (#7839477) Homepage Journal
    My office has a mirrored window and has provided me with a great opportunity to view and examine a variety of birds (both rare and common) up real close (both dead and stunned). The ground below my window is littered with bird remains. The local feral cat has caught on though.

    I say outlaw mirrored window before outlawing wind turbines.

  • Re:Solution ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nehril (115874) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:55PM (#7839494)
    "...choosing to ignore the true impacts of these turbines, which are the equivalent of a terrestrial Exxon Valdez every year." - insane environmentalist in story.

    Lets see: exxon valdez killed 250,000 birds, whole wind farm kills 20,000 *over twenty years*. It's these kinds of crazy enviro-whacko statements that actually do a disservice to ALL pro-environment activists. These statements just make folks want to ignore them all. Some folks won't rest until we are all subsistence-farming vegetarians.
  • Re:Solution ? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Threni (635302) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:56PM (#7839516)
    >A big old grate will create additional wind drag which would in turn decrease the
    >wind energy transfered to the turbines.

    I was thinking of chicken wire.

    >Perhaps it is NECESSARY to "damage" the environment sometimes.

    Energy generation - indeed any use of natural resources - must be sustainable indefinately. Otherwise...well, you end up running out of stuff, killing species off, making food production harder/impossible etc.
  • by n1ywb (555767) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @04:58PM (#7839540) Homepage Journal
    How many birds have been killed by cars in the last 20 years? Or airplanes? Or pollution? Or hunting? This really doesn't seem like a big problem to me. Humans must kill to survive, whether it's plants or animals or whatever. Sure it would be nice to minimize the number of bird deaths, but the bottom line is that the natural law is survival of the fittest, and if it comes down to us or them, I'll side with us.
  • Who cares? x1488 (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:00PM (#7839559)
    Who cares? The birds need to evolve or die. If they're too stupid to realize that it's bad to fly into this area, or just too stubborn to relocate, then they will be eliminated and some other species will push through into their territory.

    Human nature isn't going to change much in the next thousand years. We're not going to all of a sudden find it easier to protect the environment and natural flora/fauna. There is no intrinsic value to the animals we currently live with.

    Sure, conservatism is good--it's not a great idea to go around changing things for the heck of it, because things in general are more complicated than we know. But needless resistance to change is silly. Civilization is changing at an ever increasing pace--a generation is forever, nowadays.

    I was watching Bend it Like Beckham last night, and the older generation today has this same problem--thinking that the old ways are the best, that traditions are important in and of themself, and should be preserved. I hope that when I become a father, I'll be mature (and brave) enough to realize that my children's lives will be radically different than mine--that my wisdom may not even be relevant.
  • by Anonymous Cow herd (2036) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:01PM (#7839582) Homepage
    Exploding Ford pintos and faulty Firestone tires - those are due to equipment malfunction (or more precisely, failed engineering). But neither of those events had anyone "probably accept that too". Massive lawsuits and large-scale negative press were the result of those.

    Actually, massive lawsuits resulted from SUV rollovers as well, to the extent that manufacturers actually budgeted for them. They just weren't very widely publicised.
  • Auditory warning? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Progman3K (515744) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:02PM (#7839586)
    Can't we put some kind of emitter on these things that broadcasts "STAY AWAY" to the birds?

    I seem to remember farmers using explosions to scare birds away from their crops, can't we do something similar here?
  • Re:Solution ? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:02PM (#7839591)
    the altamount wind farm is centered in a noted bird fly thru... that is they put the blades in the center of a migration path.
    so essentially the altamount farm is a bunch of propeller blades in the middle of a BIRD highway.
    before we change all the technology of the turbines themselves, maybe we should look to postion them in more safe areas
  • by shut_up_man (450725) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:05PM (#7839624) Homepage
    That's a really solid, informative article. Nice one. I particularly like the bit:

    Q: How many birds die in collisions with other human structures?
    A: It is estimated that each year, 57 million birds die in collisions with vehicles; 1.25 million in collisions with tall structures (towers, stacks, buildings); and more than 97.5 million in collisions with plate glass [5].


    Adds a little bit of perspective to the whole mess.
  • Re:Solution ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Psion (2244) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:07PM (#7839656)
    And what will hold that chicken wire in place and upright in varying weather conditions? And what will keep spiders from covering the thing in webbing and thereby further reduce turbine efficiency? And what happens when an endangered species of spider spins its web in your chicken wire?
  • Re:Solution ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jhon (241832) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:12PM (#7839719) Homepage Journal
    I was thinking of chicken wire.
    I was refering to weight. Any idea how much chicken wire that would require to cover one turbine. Those blades are not small. Standard chicken wire wouldn't be able to support it's own weight. The wire would either need to be thicker/higher gage, or be laticed with support rods -- all which would increase drag.
    Energy generation - indeed any use of natural resources - must be sustainable indefinately. Otherwise...well, you end up running out of stuff, killing species off, making food production harder/impossible etc.
    I'm not sure I fully agree with that. It's quite possible to move from one source to another as technology permits. We went from wood burning, to coal, to oil... It is possible to run on non-renewable resources for quite some time. Is this ideal? Hardly, but I would suggest it contradicts your "must be sustainable indefinately" statement.

    How about suggesting a solution? How about nuclear? Potential hazzard. Wind? Kill birds. Oceanic Turbines? Kill fish. Oil? Pollute. Solar? Far too inefficent and produces too many toxins.

    How about this: We use ALL the above solutions so that we (A) don't keep all our eggs in one basket) (B) buy us time to increase solar/wind efficency. Who knows... maybe we'll devolop "energy farms" where we "grow" energy producing plants (chemical energy, say).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:15PM (#7839748)
    Acid rain and global warming are not things to be believed in, as one would believe in the Easter Bunny or (insert religious figure here). I think what you mean is, "my political ideology causes me to discard virtually all impartial scientific studies in favor of non-peer reviewed 'science' paid for by the energy lobby (the same people who brought you the new energy plan)."

    And where exactly did you get your economics degree? Economic growth by no means requires an increase in energy use, any more than it requires an increase in worker productivity. Correlation does not imply causation.
  • Re:Solution ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by a-aiyar (528921) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:24PM (#7839843) Homepage
    Perhaps we had best think of the turbines and your house as a way of selecting for smarter birds. The ones that learn to avoid them contribute to the next generation.

    Now, if only we could we could select for smarter environmentalists.
  • by nathanh (1214) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:33PM (#7839943) Homepage
    Wind: Nonviable (kills birds, not cost efficient.)

    As others have already commented on this thread, wind turbines kill fewer birds by several orders of magnitude than house windows. It's a non-issue.

    Solar: Nonviable (cost of production exceeds energy consumed, massive chemical waste byproducts)

    Solar doesn't have to use photovoltaic cells. The solarthermal plants are simple mirrors and water boilers to drive steam turbines and generators. A solarthermal power plant produces almost no chemical waste.

    Nuclear: Zero CO2. Zero emissions while running. Waste products are compact and easily-localized/transported substance that may be a useful resource in the future. Most kilowatt-hours per kilogram of fuel (and waste) by orders of magnitude over every other option.

    One of the problems with nuclear is that it's not really that cheap. The governments (in all countries) subsidize their nuclear power plants in various ways (eg, tariffs, research, cheap loans, fuel production, waste cleanup). It's cheap to the nuclear power plant company but it's not that cheap to the country overall.

    The best option right now is sadly still coal, despite the high pollution output (both noxious and radioactive). Second best option is gas. The third best option is a coin-toss between nuclear and wind. My general hope is that geothermal or solarthermal has a breakthrough within the next decade, but I agree they're not viable in their current forms. These are my personal opinions, of course, but I have been reading about this stuff for years.

  • Re:Solution ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:46PM (#7840077) Homepage Journal
    Some folks won't rest until we are all subsistence-farming vegetarians

    Who, ironically, are against intolerance and fascism in all its forms.

    I have many, many vegetarian and pro-subsistance friends. Hell, I myself have been known to dabble in these causes, because it's true -- the American lifestyle is FAR too damaging to the environment. But some of these cats need to lighten the fuck up. Organizations like PETA and some of the more extreme eco-nazis do a ton of damage to the perception of environmentalism in the public's eye.

    I am an environmentalist who does not believe in recycling (it is a complex, time consuming, inefficient and expensive process generally ignored by those in waste management. It will only become viable when we run so low on resources that it is cheaper to recycle old material than to use new material. In the short term, a much more efficient plan to make resources last as long as possible is to reduce overall waste through reuse, composting, and burning whatever can be burnt for fuel).

    I am an environmentalist who believes in allowing the lumber and oil industries into public lands (while maintaining government management of resources and routing the resulting money from the sale of rights into other conservation programs. See what Canada has done with the Algonquin park, one of the most heavily travelled but CLEANEST parks I've ever been to, whose forestry is far better managed than the privatized areas of the Adirondack park).

    I am an environmentalist who believes in hunting (as legalized, managed hunting makes for strong tourism and gives impetus for the conservation of wild private lands. Push hunters off your land and in come the developers, who strip hillsides, put up strip malls and sprawls to soak up tax breaks for a fewer years, and leave behind blight. In fact, a friend of mine was telling me last week that her park's best friend in the state legislature is the Turkey Hunter's Association).

    I am an environmentalist who isn't sold on organic farming (which results in a slightly more unreliable food source. It also imposes a number of severe restrictions on farmers which, while well meaning, can cause costs to rise as profits rise -- for example, you can't sow an organic field with manure from cows which aren't fed organic feed. Furthermore, organic practices necesitate stricter controls to prevent spoilage, resulting in more plastics, styrofoams and more rotten fruit thrown into dumpsters).

    I am an environmentalist who isn't dead set against nuclear energy (because the potential for widespread damage to the population of the earth is still less than that caused by burning coal and oil).

    I am an environmentalist because I look at the environment and say "Here is something I like. Here is something that is dirty. Here is something that is disappearing, and these are problems we need to solve." I don't pretend they aren't there and don't manipulate data to make others feel better about purchasing an inefficient vehicle. But I know that hyperventilating over every detail isn't going to get the crud out of the Hudson, or slow the exponential growth of the trash mound just west of town. Like these people, I see dead birds and think "we have to stop this." Yeah, we do. Eventually. Right now, we're far better off with a slight birdkill than the massive dangers imposed by our reliance on fossil fuels. And maybe if these cats would pump their resources into getting some good government subsidies for solar shingles and so forth, we wouldn't have to worry so much about either.
  • You could reasonably call me a green (I hope to be doing my graduate study next year developing neural-network style electrical micro-grids to integrate renewable wind, solar, and biomass power with large-scale power plants) and yes, I do believe in global warming. At least, I'd rather spend more and end up with "overly clean" air/water than guess wrong and be fsked and be unable to go outside (a la Jetsons). That all said, nuclear is pretty decent. Small, safe [slashdot.org], reactors can work great, and the key thing is the localization of waste as the parent mentioned. Even though nuclear waste is really nasty, it is (compared to smoke) really easy to keep track of.

    The parent was a bit off on the viability of wind and solar however. The chemical waste associated with photovoltaics is in the form of solvants used in manufacturing and isn't all that bad [azom.com]. Not perfect, but we're not dumping tons of waste into rivers to make PV cells. If you live in an area with decent sun, a household solar array can repay its cost by reduced electric bills in about 7 years. After that, electricity IS free.

  • by cmallinson (538852) * <cNO@SPAMmallinson.ca> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:24PM (#7840418) Homepage
    Actually, massive lawsuits resulted from SUV rollovers as well, to the extent that manufacturers actually budgeted for them.

    Doctors budget for malpractice too. That doesn't mean they are tring to hurt patients. The SUV manufacturers are budgeting for these lawsuits because in America, in particular, when someone dies or gets hurt, someone "HAS TO PAY". SUVs will rollover when you scream around a corner on dry pavement. They are trucks, have high centers of gravity, and must be driven as such.

  • Re:Solution ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Smidge204 (605297) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:24PM (#7840419) Journal
    Biodiesel [biodiesel.org]
    Alcohol fuels [distillery-yeast.com]
    Biomass [energy.gov]
    Thermal Depolymerization [changingworldtech.com]

    All viable ways to "grow" sources of energy...

    ...and maybe if we give the farmers something useful to grow (Energy crops), we won't have to pay them to not grow anything (ween them off subsidies [worldwatch.org] - Nearly $75 billion spent last year in the US alone to keep farmers employed because there isn't a market for the stuff they grow). May as well earn their money growing sometihng useful!

    Not like the market for energy is going to be going anywhere anytime soon, and this might just put the US back-in-black in terms of energy production vs. usage. With the USA's crop production capacity we might even be able to generate a surplus and export it...
    =Smidge=
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:26PM (#7840440) Homepage
    I wish we could take this tact with the human population. I say, take the warning labels off of everything and let the chips fall where they may.

    I'll second that. In fact if someone pulls a pop machine over on themselves because they were tryng to climb up on it or rip it off, they should not only not get any money but if they're still alive the first person to find them should be required to jump up and down on the pop machine until they stop moving. Then pay the person who finished them off for doing a public service.

    Okay, maybe that's a little extreme, but we've gone way too far in structuring the system in favor of the morons. And then act surprsied as the population gets dumber and dumber.

  • Re:Solution ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rossifer (581396) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:33PM (#7840509) Journal
    Which grass? The strain of Bermuda that's so appealing in a suburban yard or the 10,000-25,000 plant varieties that are found in unimproved North American meadows?

    You've got squirrels, but should we trade hundreds of small mammal and thousands of insect species which used to reside on your land for the variety of squirrels that you find so adequate as their successors?

    The parent poster is correctly observing that human development pushes out wildlife (without making a specific value judgement on that). Your post attempts to glibly deny that observation. However, your remarks lack a certain strength in preparation that reveals your desire to post a quick comment despite a lack of reading comprehension.

    Do better next time.

    Regards,
    Ross
  • by Cyno (85911) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:41PM (#7841053) Journal
    How about automobiles?

    When we talk about environmental issues I always like to put things into perspective by comparing them to at how automobiles impact our environment.

    I bet more birds are killed every year by vehicles than by windmills. In fact I bet the environmental impact of millions of automobiles around the world is far worse than ANYTHING else. So until we want to do something about these very real environmental problems I see no reason to even speculate about the possibility of even remotely being concerned.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @08:05PM (#7841266)
    If it wasn't for the ornerous regulation, idiot groups like greenpeace, and widespread misunderstanding about nuclear power, you'd see Nuke plants being built on quite a regular basis.

    I couldn't disagree with this statement more, especially the condesending derogatory statement about 'environmental wackos'. Considering the danger of a radioactive accident, the waste generated in production, and the general scarcity (yes, that's right - scarcity) of uranium, I think it's pretty clear why those regulations were enacted. I support them. It's also clear why fission is unrealistic as a viable world energy source, at least until we (humanity) as a society is able to control weapons grade plutonium (never mind the horrific costs associated with waste disposal) without concern for terrorism, and will thus be able to implement broad scale breeder reactors for energy generation. I'm willing to agree that breeder reactors offer enough fissionable material for energy generation across the short term (next 500 years or so), but only with a real world wide nuclear regulation (this implies a world government).

    Anyway, I disagree. However, I also modded you up because you speak from the perspective of an engery industry insider and have said something worth reading. For that I thank you. --M
  • 100W = 1bird:y (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @08:27PM (#7841433) Homepage Journal
    At 7000 turbines producing about 700MW, and 22,000 dead birds over 20 years, that's about 100W = 1bird:y. If every time you changed a lightbulb you had to bite the head off a live bird, you'd never do it. Then again, if you had to gouge a kilo of whaleblubber out of a right whale, you'd never use a 19th century lamp. Or if you had to smack a plutonium nucleus with a neutron, that might also turn you off. How many caribou are killed in Alaska each year by oil exploration, drilling and pipeline? How many are threatened in the ANWR? While we're at it, what's the cost in human life per joule of industrial energy?
  • by ccarnow (564187) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @09:02PM (#7841713)
    It has been estimated according to the Mammal Society that in Britain cats kill 55 million birds annually. Let's just say that wind power just doesn't have the efficiency of a feline. In the US cars kill 57 million birds every year and more than 97.5 million birds die colliding with plate glass. To be fair now, the 20,000 bird statistic for wind power is just for one windfarm, albeit the biggest and all of the above statistics are for entire nations. Also in the case of domestic cats in Britain I am sure that the cats aren't killing eagles though who knows....
  • Easy Solution... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Thornkin (93548) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @09:07PM (#7841753) Homepage
    Nuclear power. France and Japan get 70% of their power from nuclear. It's clean and we know how to do it right. Too bad we made it so hard to build a new plant.
  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @09:16PM (#7841821)
    This is old news, but proves what one of my philosphy professors once said, "Don't listen to Enviromentalist, most don't know what they hell they are saying". And he was a pretty liberal professor at that.

    I mean its been pointed out that 22k dead in 20 years is pretty low compared to how many die a day of other causes. Wind represents one of the cleaner forms of enegery we have. These people are saying this wind farm should be torn down. What, my question, should we replace it with? I always hear bitching from these groups, yet very few solutions. Personally I think they should shut it down and build a nuclear reactor next to it just to spite the idiots that propagated this report.

    The whole NIMBY additude is stupid. We need to do something about adding more power to our grids. Suggest a nuclear plant, there could be a melt down, coal or gas, oh that causes too much acid rain, Wind, those windmills are large, noisy, and are unsightly to look at, solar, it would cost too much, etc. etc.

    personally I would like to see the tree-huggers in a giant hampster cage with a wheel they could run on to generate power...

  • by dfenstrate (202098) <dfenstrate&gmail,com> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @09:53PM (#7842060)
    How about one single well-aimed, fully-fueled passenger liner? No harm to the public then?!?

    Probably not, actually. For one, this has recently become an obvious danger, and the airspace around nuclear power plants is monitored closely.

    Secondly, the designers of my plant already thought of this, at least to a lesser extent. The containment building was built to withstand the impact of an F-111, fully loaded, at top speed. It's three feet of concrete, with enough rebar to make a six-inch steel shell if it wasn't mixed in with the concrete. And that's just the outer building.

    Now, a 737 weighs more than an f-111, but the mass is more spread out, and it goes slower. The building is also rated for at least a three-hour fire, but I wouldn't be suprised if it lasted longer, aside from the fact that 40 fire departments would be there right quick.

    Another thing often forgotten here is the human factor- I'm going to make a bold statement, that in light of flight 93, and the new, higher stakes, no US passenger airliner will be successfully hijacked and crashed into a building.

    This leaves cargo planes- not sure of the maximum fuel load in a fedex plane, but I'll guess they don't go across the country, and would have less fuel onboard than the 9/11 planes- and foreign planes, who would be nearly dry by the time they hit, and thus less of a fire hazard. Recall that it was the fire, fueled by all that aviation kerosene, that brought down the WTC, not the physical impact.

    If a jet impacted into our containment building, the fuel would be disbursed across the outside, and since it wouldn't be able to heat any critical load bearing members (because the entire, massive, overbuilt structure is the load bearer), you'd be safe for quite some time.

    Yeah, so anyway, we thought of the plane thing years ago, so think of a soda can filled with gas vs a brick doghouse. Annoying, but not really a threat.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:47PM (#7842724)
    From everything I've heard, I would suspect that over time, total maintenance costs per unit energy produced would still be higher for wind.

    I guess Microsoft is right; it's all about total cost of ownership.
  • To clarify (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dfenstrate (202098) <dfenstrate&gmail,com> on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @01:42AM (#7843267)
    You're right, in that there's no fundamental design reason that we must be limited to base loading. We do, in fact, have equipment to change load over the course of the day. As a practical matter, though, changing loads frequently, and running at partial loads, has the tendancy to make things break early. This is what I'm told anyway, as I've only been at the plant half a year. I'm guessing that the engineers, in all the marvelous work they did getting the plant together, didn't evaluate all that many power levels for long term operation, or maybe their were just some different effects at different temperatures that were unanticipated. Also, cycling power levels would seem to me to cause more wear than running at the same level all the time, as you've got significant temperature and pressure transients.

    Regardless, you're correct about the usage of a huge capital investment.

    I do work with a few Navy guys, and navy plants are built quite a bit more robustly that commercial plants. The fastest recovery from a scram one of my coworkers did on his carrier (I think it was the Enterprise) was 12 minutes. The fastest we can do at the power plant is around 8 hours, though if it was a matter of life and death, we may be able to do it quicker.

    Although all the physics and fundamentals are the same, in Navy nuke plants, without power, you're dead in the water, vulnerable, and possibly under attack. In commercial plants, you're just not making as much money as you'd like to. So there are some construction diferences.

"The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in times of moral crisis, preserved their neutrality." -- Dante

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