EXCLUSIVE: George Will's wind energy claims are for the birds


Continuing his pattern of pushing environmental misinformation, Washington Post columnist George Will downplayed the potential long-term impact of the oil spill on bird populations and the environment in general, saying on ABC's This Week that "wind farms kill a lot more birds daily than are probably going to be killed in this oil spill." In fact, the number of birds killed by wind farms is relatively small compared to other causes.

Will cited bird deaths to downplay environmental impact of oil spill and criticize wind energy

Will: "Wind farms kill a lot more birds daily than are probably going to be killed in this oil spill." On the May 2 edition of ABC's This Week, Will stated that "wind farms kill a lot more birds daily than are probably going to be killed in this oil spill."

Will: American Bird Conservancy estimates wind turbines kill between 75-275,000 birds a year. In an April 9 Newsweek column, Will wrote:

Wind power involves gargantuan "energy sprawl." To produce 20 percent of America's power by wind, which the Obama administration dreamily proposes, would require 186,000 tall turbines -- 40 stories tall, their flashing lights can be seen for 20 miles -- covering an area the size of West Virginia. The amount of electricity that would be produced by wind turbines extending the entire 2,178 miles of the Appalachian Trail can be produced by four reactors occupying four square miles of land. And birds beware: the American Bird Conservancy estimates that the existing 25,000 turbines kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds a year. Imagine the toll that 186,000 turbines would take.

In fact, compared to other causes, wind farms kill relatively small number of birds

Number of bird deaths from wind farms relatively small compared to other causes. According to the most recent figures provided to Media Matters from the American Bird Conservancy, whom Will cited in his Newsweek column, the number of birds killed in the United States every year because of striking windmills is relatively small compared to other causes:



Building strikes

100 million - 1 billion

Car strikes

200 - 300 million

Communication towers

4 - 50 million

Power lines

~75 million


365 million (1 million per day)

Wind farms

100,000 - 300,000

American Bird Conservancy supportive of wind energy if done right

Conservancy's Johns: "We like wind energy. ... [J]ust do it right." In a May 3 interview, Bob Johns, American Bird Conservancy director of Public Relations told Media Matters: "We like wind energy. We think it's clean. We're saying just do it right, get it right, and we'll be singing your praises."

Johns: Wind farms should be "sited properly" to avoid "migration corridors." Johns told Media Matters that in order to reduce the number of bird deaths caused by wind farms, the turbines should be "sited properly" to avoid being situated in fragile environments and in "migration corridors." In addition, Johns stated that U.S. wind farms should adopt technology presently in use in Europe that allows turbine blades to shut down when flocks of birds fly through. Johns also stated: "We are hearing that the government is ready to announce new guidelines [for wind farms]. Those guidelines should not be voluntary. The wind industry standards should not be any different than any other industry."

Will downplayed environmental impact of Gulf oil spill disaster

Conservancy's president Fenwick: "This spill spells disaster for birds in this region and beyond." In an April 30 article, the Environment News Service reported:

This spill spells disaster for birds in this region and beyond," says George Fenwick, president of the nonprofit American Bird Conservancy. "The complexity of the Gulf coastline, with numerous bays, estuaries, inlets, marshes and creeks, will make cleanup extremely difficult. Impacts could last for decades for much of the habitat, and some species may suffer significant long-term population declines.

Johns: "Tens of thousands" of birds will have been killed if well is capped now. In the May 3 interview, Johns told Media Matters that the number of birds killed by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico depends on when the well is capped. Johns stated: "Comparing wind farms to the Gulf situation is difficult if not impossible because we don't know when the well will be capped. The longer to it goes on, the more birds that will be killed. If the well is capped now, the number of birds killed will be in the tens of thousands."

Johns: As a result of spill, many birds will never be born. Johns also stated that "coverage of disasters such as the Gulf spill often overlook the number of birds that are never born."

Will repeatedly dismisses global warming by using distorted data and statements

Will uses Washington Post columns to attack science of global warming. In numerous columns, Will has misused data and distorted statements to attack the science of global warming.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Conservation, Endangered Species
ABC, Newsweek
George F. Will
This Week
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