Fenger Pointing

Becky Fenger | October 22, 2008

Becky FengerWind beneath their wings

Yes, ideas have consequences. And well-intentioned ideas can have some simply terrible unintended consequences. Take wind power. (Please!)

Paul Jacobs, in one of his “Common Sense” columns, reports that it’s beginning to look like wind power is “for the birds, if not the bats.” You’ll remember how nature lovers were worried that wind turbines might kill too many birds that haplessly flew into the blades. Animal lovers viewed them “like giant food processors in the sky,” Jacobs notes. Well, it turns out that the bigger danger is to bats.

The bodies of dead bats are piling up all around the wind turbines. It seems that wind pressure is the culprit. The flighty misfortunate creatures can’t stand the quick change in air pressure around those spinning blades. Thus, the carnage.

I can’t resist digressing to tell you about my friend on a northern California ranch who is plagued with skunks taking up residence underneath her porch. She has a fellow down the street come by and shoot them. He throws them over the hill where the buzzards eat them. Now the buzzards follow his truck whenever they spot him pulling into her driveway. “They think he’s the ‘Meals on Wheels’ man,” she says. Well, maybe the buzzards will come to view the wind turbines as pinwheel billboards for the bat buffet.

In a related story, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which oversees the state’s rebate programs for alternative energy, has put a stop to subsidizing housetop windmills when it found out the small amount of average energy output from them. And in Britain, some turbines sucked up more energy converting current from DC to household AC than they produced. They became bloody economic and energy sink holes!

Another area where government subsidies worsen things is at the Southeastern U.S. coast. Economist Jeffrey J. Pompe of Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina, has found that government policies that subsidize the cost of building in the path of a hurricane only lead folks to exercise less care about where they live. This shifts the costs to those who do not live in the path of “ill winds,” Pompe writes. If market forces were allowed to work, insurance companies would increase their premiums to cover the increasing damage costs, thereby causing homeowners to build more storm resistant homes or look for less risky locations to build their nests.

Case in point: New Orleans. No matter how many times the city is rebuilt, one cannot change the fact that the home of the Marti Gras is below sea level! Party hearty, but another devastating hurricane is as sure as God made little green apples. This is why I would have disagreed with Paradise Valley attorney Rob Carey’s lawsuit to force the reopening of Charity Hospital in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Yet Rob “I didn’t steal the MLK fund to use on booze and karaoke machines” Carey is using this as part of his campaign for Maricopa County Special Health Care District Board in District 2. (I would highly recommend Greg Patterson instead. He is a true fiscal conservative with a paper trail to prove it. During his years as a state legislator, he earned a “Friend of the Taxpayer” award from the respected Arizona Federation of Taxpayers.)