Subjecting Wind Power to the Same Scrutiny as Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing

Opponents of drilling for natural gas usually key in on the process of hydraulic fracturing, claiming that it pollutes groundwater supplies. “Clean water!” becomes the rallying cry—and who is not for clean water? The Environmental Protection Agency has joined the chorus by ordering a “cradle to grave” study of hydraulic fracturing that will begin this year and run until 2014 before the final results are in. Waiting for the results of the study will no doubt be used as an excuse to delay drilling in some states and municipalities.

Author Paul Driessen points out that we should do an apples to apples comparison by performing a cradle to grave study of wind turbines, the darling of the green movement, too:

But if a life-cycle study is warranted for hydraulic fracturing, because drilling might pass through subsurface formations containing fresh water, similar studies are certainly called for elsewhere: wind turbine manufacturing, installation and operation, for instance.

Turbines require enormous quantities of concrete, steel, copper, fiberglass and rare earth minerals – all of which involve substantial resource extraction, refining, smelting, manufacturing and shipping. Land and habitat impacts, rock removal and pulverizing, solid waste disposal, burning fossil fuels, air and water pollution, and carbon dioxide emissions occur on large scales during every step of the process.

Over 95% of global rare earth production occurs in China and Mongolia, using their technology, coal-fired electricity generation facilities and environmental rules. Extracting neodymium, praseodymium and other rare earths for wind turbine magnets and rotors involves pumping acid down boreholes, to dissolve and retrieve the minerals. Other acids, chemicals and high heat further process the materials. Millions of tons of toxic waste are generated annually and sent to enormous ponds, rimmed by earthen dams.

Leaks, seepage and noxious air emissions have killed trees, grasses, crops and cattle, polluted lakes and streams, and given thousands of people respiratory and intestinal problems, osteoporosis and cancer.*

Read the rest of Driessen’s thought-provoking piece by following the link below.

* (Feb 28) – Wind Power: Questionable Benefits, Concealed Impacts