Contributed by Rob Pearce © 2016
Speaking points on why wind power will not substantially reduce CO2 emissions.
The purpose of this short note is to provide you with a few key points to make the next time you hear some variant of the misconception that “wind power eliminates greenhouse gas emissions by replacing fossil fuel generation”.
The next time your hear this theme, please consider responding with the following simple statements:
- Wind power cannot and does not significantly reduce CO2 emissions, since it is highly variable, intermittent and unreliable, so it must be backed up near 100% with reliable and fast-following gas-fired generation; it also causes that back up to run inefficiently, actually increasing the quantity of CO2 which would be otherwise emitted;
- Whatever modest CO2 reductions are achieved come dearly, with high socio-economic costs landing largely on the poor, making them a very regressive form of taxation; and
- Wind power generates enormous other costs which must be unacceptable to modern societies, including the wholesale and indiscriminate slaughter of birds and bats, including many endangered and ordinarily protected species, and the widespread destruction of natural vistas and habitats.
And it’s not like any of this is new, previously hidden information. This is all public knowledge which is being deliberately ignored and downplayed by multiple, brand-name NGOs, wind power promoters, politicians and the mainstream media. Hundreds of analyses, articles, papers, and blogs have variously shone a spotlight on the fundamental flaws and massive negatives of wind power.
Possible Pushback and Counterpoints
Of course, you may well hear the following “yeah buts”, with some suggested rebuttals:
- The wind always blows somewhere, so it’s a simple matter of building more wind generation and transmission, not less.
- The wind does not always blow, and there are multiple examples of these situations (in multiple jurisdictions), often when the power is most needed, for example during a long, mid-winter cold snap. Besides which, the further the grid extends, and the more load it must carry, the greater the energy waste due to transmission losses (essentially, friction). It also means that every connected location must have enough generation not just for its own locale, but for the sum of all locations connected to it – imagine the duplication of labour, capital, and costs, along with the wasted power being dumped or curtailed from all that excess generation!
- We just need to invest in storage such as batteries to even out the variability.
- We do not have the battery technology to achieve mass storage, and cannot expect to achieve it in the future, at least without major breakthroughs (aka miracles) and with significant environmental damage from mining the materials needed.
- We have to do something for the planet and future generations!
- As many writers have pointed out, current actions, like wasting truly enormous sums on wind power, will make no measurable difference to the global temperature or climate. They will, however, make us all poorer and therefore less able to adapt to change and to protect the environment from real damage. Recall the classic advice to “stop digging”!
As a concluding point, particularly in reference to pushback point #3, recall the insightful words of Ernest Benn:
“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.”
Wind power is a classic example of a wrong remedy applied to a misdiagnosis.
A Few Selected Sources of Further Information
For those interested in finding more backup to the three points above, these papers describe the negatives of wind power in substantial depth.
“The net benefits of low and no-carbon electricity technologies”, Charles R. Frank, Jr., Brookings Institute Working Paper 73, May 2014. https://docs.wind-watch.org/Net-Benefits-Carbon-Electricity.pdf
“Wind’s effectiveness and CO2 avoidance cost”, Peter Lang, Submission 259 to the Select Committee on Wind Turbines, March 23, 2015. https://www.wind-watch.org/documents/submission-to-the-senate-select-committee-on-wind-turbines-peter-lang/
“Impacts of bad choices for climate change mitigation”, William K.G. Palmer, Climate Change Technology Conference, May 2013. https://docs.wind-watch.org/Palmer_Presentation_CCTC2013.pdf
“Overblown”, Jon Boone, blog posting Sept 16, 2010. https://www.wind-watch.org/documents/overblown/
“This land was your land: A closer look at 80 by 50”, Robert Bryce, Manhattan Institute Report Oct 2016. http://www.manhattan-institute.org/sites/default/files/R-RB-1016.pdf
“How less became more…wind, power and unintended consequences in the Colorado energy market”, BENTEK Energy LLC, April 16, 2010. https://docs.wind-watch.org/BENTEK-How-Less-Became-More.pdf
Note that a much longer list of relevant papers and articles may be found at: