Opinion

This Is No Time to Delay Offshore Wind Projects

Share

Although opponents of offshore wind have a few valid concerns, you need to ask yourself why they rely so heavily on creating a fog of distortions and disinformation. The answer is that their concerns pale in comparison to the absolute certainty that doing nothing will cause ocean temperatures to rise and push marine habitats to the breaking point.

Yet doing nothing is the goal of opponents, whose strategy can be summed up as Doubt + Delay = the Demise of offshore wind. So they rely on shock, anger, and fear to exaggerate the danger of taking positive action.

Let’s start with two misleading photos that appear on the website of Green Oceans, a Rhode Island-based citizens group that is leading the fight against offshore wind. The first shows the carcass of a dead whale floating near the turbines of the South Fork wind project. The clear implication is that the wind turbines killed the whale. The Heartland Institute, another opponent of offshore wind, claims that “the evidence seems clear that offshore wind development is killing whales by the hundreds.”

Yet marine scientists state that there is zero scientific evidence that wind turbines have killed a single whale. They say the majority of recent deaths are caused by collisions with ships and entanglement with fishing gear.

Yet the flood of disinformation keeps coming.

The second photo shows a surfer paddling in the waves off Nantucket with a wall of wind turbines looming ominously out of the ocean. They appear startlingly close. This seems odd since the turbines will be 15 to 26 miles offshore. What Green Oceans fails to mention is that the image is a regulatory agency simulation, which they heavily cropped and blew up, creating a telephoto effect that makes the turbines look far closer and more densely packed. In the original BOEM simulation, the turbines appear as matchsticks on the horizon.

Dead whales, looming towers — shock, fear, outrage. But very little truth.

Photos are not the only distortions. Green Oceans makes the absurd claim that federal regulators have authorized developers to kill hundreds of whales during the construction of the turbines. As proof, they distort the meaning of the word “take” in the regulatory documents, implying that it means “kill.” The true meaning is “bother.” It’s true that noise during construction is likely to bother whales. My neighbor’s lawn mower bothers me, but it doesn’t kill me — and when he turns it off, I’m fine.

Green Oceans ignores the fact that NOAA emphatically states that the federal government “does not anticipate and has not authorized mortality or serious injury of whales for any wind-related action.”  

To fuel public fear, opponents refer to “carpet bombing” the ocean floor, “extinction” of endangered species, and “industrializing” the continental shelf. They demonize developers as “foreign energy giants” with “ties to the fossil fuel industry.” No one is carpet bombing the ocean, and there is no evidence the turbines will cause the extinction of whales. And shouldn’t we be applauding energy companies that make the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy? 

Green Oceans also claims the government concedes that offshore wind is pointless because it will have “no collective impact on global warming.” But that six-word quote is taken out of context from a 600-page report. Read in context, that phrase is saying offshore wind will not ADD to global warming. On the same page, the report states carbon emissions from the project would be “minuscule” and that it “may beneficially contribute to a broader combination of actions to reduce future impacts from climate change.”

There are many who believe opponents are driven entirely by self-interest — wealthy seaside property owners who want to protect their view and fossil fuel companies mounting a sophisticated disinformation campaign.

While there may be an element of truth to this, it’s too cynical for me. I believe that some opponents are genuinely concerned about the marine habitat. They are right that there are some unanswered questions — but there will always be unanswered questions because the marine ecosystem is far too complex to ever understand completely.

The takeaway is that killing alternative energy projects is the surest way to destroy the marine environment. When it comes to climate change, we are falling backward over a cliff — and that is no time to ask for additional studies on the quality of the rope being thrown to us.

Bill Ibelle is a freelance journalist and member of the Rhode Island chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Categories

Join the Discussion

View Comments

Recent Comments

  1. Sent from my iPhone

    On Feb 17, 2024, at 2:02 PM, Janice Kubiac wrote:

    
    I often explain that this climate crisis is urgent for one main reason-carbon and methane accumulate in the atmosphere-they don’t readily dissipate. It’s very dangerous.

    The tragedy of the climate crisis is analogous to something that can happen in real life:
    Imagine you are driving down the road in a snowstorm when you realize you are too sleepy to keep driving. You pull over and back into a parking space but you don’t realize that you plugged up your tailpipe with the snow. You keep the car running because you’re cold. The emissions keep building in the car and will not dissipate. You will not survive. Are we safe to keep plugging up the atmosphere with the emissions from burning fossil fuels-we are not.
    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Great to see this very cogent and comprehensive rebuttal to Green Oceans campaign of misinformation.

    Would be helpful to note that, while the construction and dredging will definitely have temporary impact (and that impact should be minimized to the extant possible), the ocean has a tremendous capacity to repair itself from temporary conditions.

    Thanks for this solid contribution to the discussion.

  3. “Although opponents of offshore wind have a few VALID concerns,… the DANGER of taking positive action.” So this is what you are going to hang your hat on for this boondoggle: “MAY beneficially contribute to a broader combination of actions to reduce FUTURE impacts from climate change.” Should we take such a risk that offers only false hope and certain destruction. “They are right that there are some unanswered questions — but there will always be unanswered questions because the marine ecosystem is far too complex to ever understand completely.”
    “Nature is not more complicated than you think, it is more complicated than you CAN think.” – Frank Edwin Egler
    https://dgrnewsservice.org/civilization/8-steps-used-by-offshore-wind-to-create-agreements/

  4. Carl, every time we post a story or opinion piece about offshore wind you make sure to comment about its real and perceived dangers. But that’s all you contribute. You never mentioned any solutions to the myriad hazards of burning fossil fuels. How do you think we should address the climate crisis when it comes to energy production? — Frank Carini, ecoRI News staff

  5. Problems have solutions, predicaments do not. We are in a predicament. Our modern industrial way of life can not continue. Sorry but humans are way out of ecological balance with the Earth, its’ ecosystems, habitats, and watersheds. We will have to make do with a lot less energy production. So we can plan on how we do that or we will just wait to hit the wall. But we must We Must Reduce, Relocalize, Ration, Restore, Rethink, Remember and return back to Relationship with each other and the land. What emerges out of this rebalance I can not say, but it will not be the same.
    https://maxwilbert.substack.com/p/solutions-final?r=1dhan&s=r&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web
    If you are still going to go with rebuildable energy devices then at least follow what 350.org says: “We need to advocate for policies that incentivize and support the widespread adoption of decentralized and community-led wind and solar technologies.”
    Industrial offshore wind farms are not that.

  6. Carl, thank you for the thoughtful answer. I agree, and I would welcome community-led mircogrids to be the path forward. I don’t believe offshore wind is the panacea; better than fossil fuel burning, but not better than changing our collective behaviors and appetite for consumption. — Frank Carini, ecoRI News

  7. As the author of this piece, I totally agree that the missing piece in this discussion is the need to use less energy. I just don’t know how that can happen in the real world, giving the two great flaws of our species (greed and the lack long-term vision). Local production and consumption of food, goods, and energy is part of the solution and maybe we can make some limited progress on that front. However, we live in a world where the human species is, sadly, incapable of making sacrifices for long-term benefits. We can do this as individuals, but not as groups. I would love to see our leaders make a real effort to reduce consumption, but I’m not holding my breath for the day when “leaders” actually lead. So in the meantime, clean energy is our best solution.

  8. I think that this conclusion from a Harvard Business Review article from February 2024 (https://tinyurl.com/3wp92832) states the issue most clearly. This rush to push through renewables is dangerous and ill-conceived and people who profess to be concerned about the environment should be supporting Green Oceans, not shaming them. The article states:
    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, as the saying goes. The pioneers of the Pennsylvania Oil Rush could not have foreseen the social and environmental toll their actions would take more than a century later. They were leaders of their time, operating under the scientific understanding and ethical paradigms of their era. But in the rush and excitement of our transition to renewable energy, we must not forget that environmental degradation takes many forms — and we need to learn to look beyond short-term clean energy gains if we are not to replace one form of environmental degradation with another.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your support keeps our reporters on the environmental beat.

Reader support is at the core of our nonprofit news model. Together, we can keep the environment in the headlines.

cookie

We use cookies to improve your experience and deliver personalized content. View Cookie Settings