I don’t know if there was ever a time when you could believe what you saw on TV, but I know it’s never been as bad as it is now. At times it seems that there are more lies, distortions, and deliberate misinformation being broadcast than anything else.
Much of it is political. It has become acceptable in some quarters for public figures to lie about things that are easily disproved because the liar, who may even be a respected senior official, knows that he or she will never be challenged on air and that the average viewer has no way to determine the truth at the time.
It has also become common for misinformation to be propagated by commentators because their viewers watch only those channels that have the same political orientation that the viewer has. There is probably no more corrupting influence on a broadcaster than an audience that refuses to listen to other points of view.
A recent letter in the Sun stated that is was unfair that the coal industry receives so much criticism while the supporters of wind power weren’t criticized for the half million birds their generators killed every year. Some readers wrote me asking why people like I, who claim to be concerned about the environment, don’t take the wind industry to task for that slaughter.
Well, the main reason is because the half million number isn’t true. It’s very difficult to get accurate numbers, but according to a study in the National Academies Press, wind generators kill about 20,000 birds a year, primarily songbirds. However, even if they killed 10 times more, hundreds of millions of birds are killed each year when they fly into buildings, another 130 million are killed by high voltage wires, and nearly that many, we suspect, by cats.
The half million number is often quoted by Faux News, which calls wind turbines “bird blenders,” and was the estimate of a single biologist. They’re apparently not bothered by the massive destruction of warbler habitat by coal mines in West Virginia, the million birds that are killed each year in oil field production pits, or the fossil fuel caused climate change that is driving many bird species to extinction.
Having said that, I should tell you that I have many serious questions about wind turbines, like their longevity, maintenance costs, economic competitiveness with natural gas, and the lack of an adequate electrical grid. For one thing, they’re often sited stupidly, like when they put the nation’s oldest wind farm, in Altamont Pass in California, right in the middle of prime hunting and migratory territory for raptors. And while I think that Wind Turbine Syndrome is just another psychogenic illness, I personally find wind turbines too annoying to countenance.
Naperville no longer buys its electricity from Wall Street, but from the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency that has a diverse supply base to provide low, stable prices to its members. As a couple of readers suggest, they do indeed presently embrace wind generation. But they won’t for long if it proves expensive or unreliable. It’s not about birds; it’s about money.
We already have an ideal renewable energy source, the metal-cooled integral fast neutron reactor. If we replaced our 100 most polluting coal plants with nuclear reactors of any modern design we would substantially solve our emission and climate problems.
Yet the reason we will probably never do that is more fear mongering, distortions, and misinformation, this time from the political left. It is completely unjust to compare modern fourth generation reactors with things like the obsolete and incompetently operated reactors at Fukushima, yet they do it repeatedly. How can you call yourself a progressive if you don’t believe in progress?