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28 August 2019
By Matt Hrkac

Greens go ‘full Hockey’ on wind farms

The topic of wind turbines has been popping up in the news lately. The same arguments we’ve all heard before - “they’re a blight on the landscape”, they’re “dark satanic mills of the modern era”, they’re 'merciless bird killers'. Of course, these arguments against wind-farms are made by right-wing pro-fossil fuel interests; but now the Greens are jumping on this coal-laden bandwagon.

Back in July, former Greens federal parliamentary leader (turned prominent Left-baiter) Bob Brown came out in opposition to a proposed wind farm on Tasmania’s Robbin Island, saying that it could effect the “natural beauty” of the landscape and put in harms way “critically endangered birds”. He went as far as to compare the $1.6 million dollar development to the Franklin Dam, which Brown’s opposition to and campaign against in the 1980’s shot him into national prominence.

Now, a few days ago, it was revealed that the Victorian Greens have amended and qualified their support for wind farms. The state MP for Brunswick and Victorian Greens energy spokesperson Tim Read stated that the while the party supported renewable energy projects, “thought [needs to be put] into where they are put”. Read (no pun intended) between the lines of that statement, you’d be forgiven for noticing that Read is pushing the same tripe that the anti-wind brigade have been pushing for years.

The connection between wind farms and bird deaths has been thoroughly debunked. A study in 2009, using data from the United States snd Europe, concluded that wind farms are responsible for, on average, between 0.3 and 0.4 bird deaths per gigawatt-hour (GWh). This compares to fossil-fuelled power stations which are responsible for 5.2 bird deaths per GWh. The author of this same study estimated that 7,000 birds in the United States were killed by wind farms in 2006. This compares to 14.5 million birds killed by fossil-fuelled power plants in that same year.

Furthermore, feral and domestic cats, deforestation and urbanisation represent bigger threats to birds, as does the climate crisis. If fossil fuels are to be phased out as quickly as possible, renewable energy production, including wind power, has to replace it. If we don’t, there will be a lot more at stake than a few birds.

With regards to wind turbines affecting the natural beauty of the landscape - this one is more subjective. However, let’s firstly point out that a wind turbine objectively looks better than a great big coal mine next to dirty smoke-stacks of a coal-fired power plant; plus the land around individual wind-turbines can still be effectively utilised for agricultural purposes. It should be mentioned that the people who most loudly make the “natural beauty” argument in opposing wind farms almost always fall over themselves, on hands-and-knees, to support new fossil fuel developments.

The Greens, who boast of pushing evidence based policy positions, know this very well - hence it is weird that they are opportunistically ‘buddying up’ with fossil fuel interests in qualifying their support for wind farms. It also stems from their ‘strategy’ in recent years of pacifying an increasingly rabid right-wing media rather than just simply stating the facts that the evidence tells us to be true.

About the author:

Matt Hrkac is a writer and photographer based in Geelong. He has particular interests in politics, elections, social movements and the trade union movement.

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