Birdie Sanders

By: Naftali Wein

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has promised to transition the United States to 100% renewable energy by 2030 if he is elected this November. On his website, Sanders writes that this will be achieved by transitioning to solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources. However numerous challenges stand between Sanders and his dream of endless fields of windmills. First, wind is an intermittent source and therefore not reliable for constant energy production. Second, wind power currently constitutes just 5% of the energy production of the United States, so scaling up in just 10 years would be a difficult feat.

But of all the issues, one of the most striking is that of the birds. According to the American Bird Conservancy (“ABC”), hundreds of thousands of birds and bats die every year from colliding with turbines. The ABC cites PLOS ONE, a scientific journal which estimates that 368,000 birds are killed each year from turbines producing wind power. Because wind power only constitutes 5% of the nation’s electric power, scaling up reliance on turbines would kill more birds and bats.

What is even more frightening is that when the turbines are placed in the path of migratory routes, the number of deaths can increase exponentially. According to the ABC, “more than 30,000 turbines overlap with federally protected bird habitat, including 24,000 in the migratory corridor of the whooping crane and 3,000 in breeding grounds of the endangered Greater Sage-Grouse”.  According to a report by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, wind turbines threaten the Greater Sage-Grouse, a species of bird, with extinction.  This is because the turbines would prevent genetic interchange between populations and give the birds’ predators a place to roost.

Before enacting the Green New Deal and threatening birds, politicians should consider whether the renewable energy is worth the cost.  For example, another well-intentioned environmental initiative was the hydroelectric dams. According to the ABC in the 1950s conservationists thought of them as a good choice for renewable energy. Now many of them are being removed, and they may even be contributing to climate change. Politicians should take heed – renewable energy can come at a cost – and we should be careful before we commit to paying it.

In 2016 a brave little bird landed on Senator Sander’s podium while he spoke to a packed crowd in Portland, Oregon and boldly stared the Senator down. After a moment the bird flew away and Sanders remarked that the bird was actually a dove asking for world peace.

Close Senator, but that might not be the peace the bird was asking for.