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In the morning of Jan. 5, workers with a fleet of heavy equipment mounted a stealth assault on a bald eagle’s nest near the shore of Lake Erie. Their mission was to remove the nest – one of only a few dozen bald eagle nests in Southern Ontario – to make way for an access road to the site of a new industrial wind turbine. As a pair of eagles looked on from a nearby tree, the workers sawed off the limb with the giant nest and took it away to parts unknown.
Ontario’s environmental regulations would usually make this illegal. But the wind company, NextEra Energy, one of the biggest operators in the province, had obtained special dispensation.
Wind power is supposed to be environmentally friendly. But a lot of environmentalists don’t think so. “People couldn’t believe it happened,” says Scott Petrie, a waterfowl ecologist and executive director of Long Point Waterfowl, a conservation group. “Cutting down bald eagle nests flies in the face of anything you would call green energy.”
Wind turbines have invaded many of Ontario’s most scenic and ecologically rich areas. They’re invading coastal wetlands and spreading along major migratory flyways – up the Bruce Peninsula, west to Lake Huron, south to Lake Erie, and east to Prince Edward County, where environmental groups are fighting a major wind development in Ostrander Point, an important bird area. “We have no idea whatsoever of the cumulative impact of these things,” says Dr. Petrie. Turbines chew up birds and other flying things, and they disrupt wildlife habitats.
But, in Ontario, nothing is allowed to trump Big Wind. Ontario’s Green Energy Act, the brainchild of outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty, gave the green light to rampant wind development. By 2016, the goal is to more than double the amount of wind power being generated now.
Wind companies are not owned and operated by idealistic entrepreneurs. They are run by some of Canada’s, and the world’s, biggest corporations, including pipeline and pulp and paper companies. Wind contracts are flipped like other financial instruments. NextEra, the outfit that cut down the eagle’s nest, is the largest generator of wind and solar power in North America. Because of a lucrative U.S. tax break for wind power, the company has paid no U.S. corporate income tax for several years, despite billions in profits. Big Wind is among the biggest lobbyists in Washington.
Dalton McGuinty’s Green Energy Act was a spectacular policy blunder, based on a string of faulty premises: that coal emissions were killing us (they weren’t), that we’d soon be running out of fossil fuel (we aren’t, and Ontario doesn’t use much anyway), and that switching to green energy would help save the planet (not in our lifetime).
For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/mcguintys-legacy-is-a-green-nightmare/article8131320/