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Fossil Fuel Industry Flack, Apologist Robert Bryce Strikes Again; Spews Disinformation About Wind Power

4 min. read

We've written numerous times about fossil fuel flack Robert Bryce and his dishonest attacks against clean energy. For instance, in 2011 we pointed out that Bryce  is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a front group that receives its funding from, among others, the Koch Industries Family Foundation, and argued that "such ties shouldn’t disqualify Bryce from submitting pieces to the [New York] Times, but he should at least be asked if he has them." In 2012, we noted a typically inaccurate smear piece on wind power by Bryce:

This time, Bryce spews out 1,200 or so words in the pro-dirty-energy, anti-clean-energy National Review, falsely smearing wind energy. In his screed, Bryce repeats several of the most popular falsehoods and distortions, such as that the wind industry supposedly receives a disproportionate amount of federal assistance. Of course, that’s absurd, given the massively larger subsidies, both implicit and explicit, which have been provided to fossil fuels for many decades at this point.  In addition, Bryce ignores the fact that the price of fossil fuels in this country do not come even close to reflecting their true cost in terms of damages they inflict on human health, the environment, and U.S. national security.  See here for just one study of one industry (coal), and its $300-$500 billion in hidden costs every single year.

Bryce further argues that the wind industry kills “some 440,000 birds per year,” ignoring Fish and Wildlife Service statistics which indicate that power lines (most of which carry electricity generated by coal or natural gas) alone result in as many as 174 million bird deaths per year in the United States. That’s about 400 times higher than the number of birds supposedly (see much lower number cited below) killed by wind turbines. Bryce also ignores the facts that: 1) “Wind is the only source of energy that does not present population-level risks to birds, according to a study of coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, and wind power;” and 2) “Wind power causes far fewer losses of birds (approximately 108,000 a year) than buildings (550 million), power lines (130 million), cars (80 million), poisoning by pesticides (67 million), domestic cats (at least 10 million), and radio and cell towers (4.5 million).”

And in 2014, we noted, "Bryce’s Latest Anti-Clean-Energy Screed is Off by Factor of 100s (or more) in Its 'Wind Power Density' Figure."   So, at this point, you might be noticing a common theme: namely, that Bryce is consistenly inaccurate, whether deliberately so or because he's ignorant of the facts, about wind power and other forms of clean energy.  On August 18, in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Bryce continued his dubious streak, with yet another hyperbolic screed, this time about the supposed "danger to wildlife posed by a major expansion of wind-energy capacity." In fact, as we have noted previously (see above), wind power results in fewer bird deaths per year by orders of magnitude compared to buildings, power lines, cars, poisoning by pesticides, domestic cats, and radio and cell towers.  Wind power also is infintely less of a threat to birds than fossil fuels, which contribute to climate change that could lead many species - including birds - to extinction in coming years. Wind power, in stark contrast, emits no pollution at all, nor does it consume precious water resources, which means that it's actually one of birds' - and other species' - best friends among energy sources.

Bryce is further incorrect to single out wind power as "subsidy-fueled," for a number of reasons. First, as Bloomberg reported the other day, "The cost of producing electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind has dropped significantly over the past five years, narrowing the gap with power generated from fossil fuels and nuclear reactors, according to the International Energy Agency." Also see the recent Washington Post story, which cites two new reports explaining that "wind is being installed at a rapid rate, that its costs are plummeting, that its technologies are advancing, and that it is creating a growing number of jobs to boot." Finally, note that fossil fuel subsidies have outpaced those for renewable energy by huge margins over the years, and that's just counting direct federal subsidies. Add in state-level subsidies, indirect subsidies of all kinds, and fossil-fuel-friendly policies that allow dirty energy to dump its pollution into the air and water at no cost, and you can see how sharply government policy has tilted the "playing field" in favor of fossil fuels. Of course, Bryce doesn't mention any of these inconvenient facts in his Wall Street Journal propaganda piece. Nor does the Wall Street Journal note that Bryce receives his funding from the fossil fuel industry, including the Koch brothers. Details, details.