Over the past several days Fox networks have aired numerous segments insinuating that the recent deaths of whales across New York and New Jersey beaches are due to the development of offshore wind turbines.
There is no evidence to back up these claims.
NOAA Fisheries, the office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration responsible for the management of marine life, specifically addressed the question on January 24. NOAA stated that the recent whale deaths are “not related to offshore wind development.” The agency further wrote, “Of the whales examined, about 40 percent had evidence of human interaction, either ship strike or entanglement. Vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are the greatest human threats to large whales.” Indeed, nearly 3,000 ships passed through the Port of New York and New Jersey, near where whale deaths are occurring, in the last year — “a figure that vastly undercounts all the ocean traffic in the region and dwarfs the number of vessels that have anything to do with offshore wind.”
Importantly, NOAA Fisheries noted climate change as a contributing factor in the whale deaths. The world’s oceans are rapidly warming, with temperatures reaching a record high in 2022. This is forcing a change in the migration patterns of marine life, including whales, and “can lead to increased interactions with humans as some whales move closer to near shore habitats,” the agency writes.
Additionally, there aren’t even any wind turbines off of the coast of New Jersey. The whale deaths have also been happening at an increased rate since at least 2016, the NOAA reports, which long predates any offshore wind development in the region.
This is not stopping Fox from promulgating claims that offshore wind is killing these whales
“We have no idea why a dozen whales just turned up dead on the beaches of New Jersey,” Carlson said. “Does it have anything to do with the construction of wind turbines off the coast? ‘That's speculation,’ Politico reported. ‘Probably climate change.’ So the story was ridiculous, but what we didn’t get at first was that Politico was paid to run it.”
Carlson took issue with the fact that the article was featured in a newsletter sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council, later calling Politico “prostitutes” for publishing another article sponsored by offshore wind turbine manufacturers. In reality, Politico’s energy newsletters are typically sponsored by energy companies, not environmental groups — with the vast majority of these sponsorships coming from fossil fuel companies.
The next night, Carlson stated that “so-called green NGOs, supported of course by the people they give money to in the Biden administration, are backing the construction of massive offshore wind turbines that appear to be killing large numbers of whales.” Carlson then hosted a local Republican politician from Nassau County, New York, who called “going all-electric” a “danger to our America,” and stated that “there will always be fossil fuels, at least in my lifetime.”
Questions about offshore wind development were also raised on Fox during the January 31 editions of both America’s Newsroom, with reporter Alexis McAdams stating, “As the whale deaths continue, some lawmakers and activists are calling for a hold on the preparations for offshore wind projects,” and The Story, with guest anchor Trace Gallagher stating, “It's the eighth whale to die along the shore of New Jersey and New York in the last two months, fueling the debate about whether the deaths are natural or maybe related to nearby offshore wind projects and the push to go green.”
Several more such segments covering the whale deaths ran on February 1. On Fox Business’ Varney & Co., correspondent Madison Alworth discussed the costs of offshore wind development without noting the massive economic benefits to local and state communities before stating, “All of this is the cost of this clean energy, but as you heard these conservationists saying it's costing our environment even more, and we're already seeing that expense.”
“Not in my backyard,” concluded host Stuart Varney.
Another segment on The Story began with Gallagher stating that, “The mayors of a dozen New Jersey towns [are] now calling for an immediate halt on plans to build thousands of offshore wind turbines as coastal communities raise concerns about the number of whales washing up dead on nearby beaches and soaring financial costs threaten the push to go green.”
Later, Alworth began a segment on Special Report with Bret Baier by claiming “conservationists say that offshore wind turbines are far from clean and may be doing more harm than good for the environment.” She ended the report by again mentioning the economic costs associated with wind turbines and none of the financial benefits.
Finally, Jesse Watters Primetime ran two segments linking offshore wind development to the whale deaths. In one, Alworth cited “conservationists” concerned with whale deaths saying “this clean energy might not be clean at all,” and she again brought up the economic costs of wind turbines without mentioning their benefits. In the second, host Jesse Watters interviewed ex-Greenpeace Canada member Patrick Moore to rail against renewable energy and complain that Greenpeace has been compromised by wind companies. Watters ended the segment by stating that wind turbines are “not good for the Jersey shore, for the Atlantic Ocean, and, as you said, it's not great for consumers either.”
Fox’s guests are not scientists — they have fossil fuel connections and an interest in blocking renewable energy development
Moore is a climate science denier who has consulted for polluting companies. He also (falsely) claims that he is a founder of Greenpeace, which allows Fox to paint him as a credible guest on climate, energy, and environmental issues.
Watters also tried this trick — obfuscating the credibility of an environmental advocate — in an earlier segment on offshore wind and whale deaths. On January 11, Mike Dean of Protect Our Coast NJ was labeled as an “ocean advocate,” and Dean went on to baselessly blame wind development for whale deaths, declaring, “The harms with these projects and the costs are limitless, and it’s really hard to find any benefits at all.” Fox did not note that Dean’s group appears to be backed by the Caesar Rodney Institute, a libertarian think tank with a history of hostility toward climate and environmental policies. The institute has also received funding from the fossil fuel industry, which has a long history of blocking renewable energy projects.
On the January 13 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson hosted Meghan Lapp, a fisheries liaison for the fishing company Seafreeze. Lapp claimed, without evidence, that offshore wind development means “essentially carpet bombing the ocean floor with intense sound.” In fact, Lapp has been appearing on Fox News since at least 2019 insinuating that offshore wind development is killing whales. She even appeared in Carlson’s 2021 anti-wind documentary which was chock full of misinformation and debunked talking points.
What has not been mentioned on Fox, and what has been excellently reported on by climate writer Michael Thomas, is that Lapp is a fossil fuel industry ally. Her campaign to stop offshore wind development has been bankrolled by Texas Public Policy Foundation, a fossil fuel-funded think tank that has fought climate policies tooth and nail. TPPF, of course, has spent decades advocating for offshore oil drilling — choosing to downplay the horrific environmental impacts of that practice while embellishing the impacts of offshore wind development.
Finally, Bonnie Brady of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association appeared on the aforementioned Varney & Co., The Story, and Special Report segments on February 1. Brady, like Lapp, is being backed by TPPF in her campaign to stop offshore wind development. Last year, both Lapp and Brady appeared in a TPPF film entitled “A Heavy Wind: The Threat to an American Heritage,” which detailed commercial fishermen fighting offshore wind projects.
One recent Fox segment interspersed with their offshore wind coverage illustrates the complete hypocrisy of Fox’s climate-related programming
During Fox’s fearmongering about offshore wind development on February 1, America Reports ran a segment with Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) that sang the praises of the Willow Project, a major oil and gas drilling project in Alaska’s national petroleum reserve. Sullivan called the project “actually really good for our environment,” while Fox anchor John Roberts noted some benefits of the project, including billions in revenue and hundreds of jobs created.
While Roberts did ask a question about climate advocates not wanting to lock the U.S. into more fossil fuel extraction, this segment did not mention the massive environmental costs associated with the project. Environmental advocate and journalist Bill McKibben noted in a recent article on the project that Alaska is “already warming faster than almost any place on the planet. Warming so fast that taxpayers are already having to pony up huge sums of money to relocate coastal villages inland. Emissions from the Willow project’s oil would cause $19.8 billion in climate damages; it would generate $3.4 billion in federal tax revenue, which is…a lot less.”
McKibben also cited a Center for American Progress analysis of the project which found that “allowing the Willow project to proceed would result in double the carbon pollution that all renewable progress on public lands and waters would save by 2030.”
Contrast Fox’s fawning coverage of an oil drilling project with its dismissive, conspiracy theory-laden, and climate denial-infused coverage of offshore wind, and you get a perfect sense of why Fox cannot be trusted on climate and environmental issues. While it’s true that there are valid concerns with offshore wind’s impacts on the environment and local marine life — something that has been taken into consideration by government authorities in reviewing previous offshore wind projects —the reality is that fossil fuel projects are significantly more detrimental to the environment and climate than renewable projects.
You will rarely if ever hear these facts reported on Fox, as the network has time and again proved to be nothing more than a mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry, and its offshore wind coverage cannot be taken seriously.