Donald Trump has a thing for birds. His professed love for avian life derives mainly from his opposition to wind turbines – specifically, the types of turbines that Scottish developers want to erect off the coast of Aberdeen, where they’ll allegedly spoil the view from one of his luxury golf resorts. And so when he wasn’t suing anyone he could to block their construction, Trump would take to Twitter and expound at length on the dangers posed by spinning turbine blades to birds.
It’s not too surprising, then, that turbine-sourced bird massacres also worked their way into the big energy speech Trump delivered on Thursday. “Wind is killing all of the eagles,” he declared. “The administration fast-tracked wind projects that kill more than a million birds a year. Far more than a million.” That’s not actually true – wind turbines kill “somewhere between 140,000 and 328,000 birds” annually, according to a review of existing estimates. But that’s part of the trade-off that comes with wind power: it’s a cleaner form of energy that reduces dependence on fossil fuels that, unfortunately, leads to some bird deaths.
And really that’s what policy-making comes down to, whether it’s with regard to energy or healthcare or whatever: tradeoffs. You accept that they’ll be some good (cleaner air), and some bad (deader birds), and work as hard as you can to make sure the bad will be outweighed by the good. But that’s not the Trump philosophy when it comes to energy policy. Trump’s outlook is quite literally that he can deliver all of the good and none of the bad. “They’ve used you, they’ve stolen your votes for decades, and they’ve given you nothing,” Trump said towards the end of his speech, referring to the political class. “I will give you everything.”
So what does “everything” mean in terms of energy? Well, the Trump plan is largely indistinguishable from the standard Republican position on energy: mine and drill as enthusiastically as possible and gut as many environmental regulations as possible. “Any regulation that’s outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers, or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped, and scrapped completely.” That will create untold millions of jobs, he says, and generate massive amounts of wealth that everyone will share. He’s also going to withdraw the country from international climate agreements, incentivize every sort of new technology to extract and burn fossil fuels, and single-handedly “save the coal industry.” Basically he’s going to pump as much U.S.-derived carbon into the atmosphere as he can and deregulate the industry as much as he can in the interest of economic growth. (For a guy who claims to be independent of "special interests," he sure can crank out those oil and gas industry talking points.)
So, one would think, the obvious trade-off here is that he’ll fuck up the environment and tip us even further towards a climate change-driven global catastrophe. WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE BIRDS???
Well, according to Trump, the birds and the environment will be just fine because… well, he didn’t explain. “We’re going to do all this while taking proper regard for rational environmental concerns,” he said. We know that climate change doesn’t fall into the “rational” category because Trump believes that it’s a conspiracy invented by the Chinese, but other stuff does. “We’re going to conserve our beautiful national habitats,” he said. “From an environmental standpoint, my priorities are very simple: clean air and clean water.”
You know what really bad for clean air and clean water? Mining coal, fracking, and burning oil – the three things that form the centerpiece of the Donald Trump energy agenda. Efforts to restrict those activities are aimed specifically at improving air and water quality so that we don’t end up like Beijing or Mexico City, where drastic anti-pollution measures have to be taken because the air quality is so poor.
These are the trade-offs that the Trump energy policy refuses to acknowledge: when you mine and burn a lot of fossil fuels, may turn a quick buck, but you’ll kill people with poisonous air. You’ll also accelerate the heating of the planet, which will lead to droughts, wildfires, famines, and the rapid degradation of “our beautiful national habitats” which, I’m sorry to say, will kill far more of Donald Trump’s precious birds than a few wind turbines.