Backgrounder

‘I Hate The Wind!’ The Personal Feud That Is (At Least Partially) Behind Trump’s Anti-Clean-Energy Crusade

on November 4, 2013 in UNSPECIFIED, United Kingdom.
METHIL, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 04: A general view of the worlds largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine at Fife Energy Park on November 4, 2013 in Methil, Scotland. The seven megawatt machine, located jus... METHIL, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 04: A general view of the worlds largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine at Fife Energy Park on November 4, 2013 in Methil, Scotland. The seven megawatt machine, located just 50 metres off the coast at Methil, is now ready for testing by Korean owners Samsung Heavy Industries. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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August 22, 2018 6:00 am

Trump’s thoughts on wind energy are complicated, but all negative. According to Axios, he often remarks in meetings on energy policy, “I hate the wind.” In a speech to donors this week, he declared that coal is “a tremendous form of energy in the sense that in a military way — think of it — coal is indestructible.”

He elucidated:

You can blow up a pipeline, you can blow up the windmills. You know, the wind wheels, [mimics windmill noise, mimes shooting gun] Bing! That’s the end of that one. If the birds don’t kill it first. The birds could kill it first. They kill so many birds. You look underneath some of those windmills, it’s like a killing field, the birds. But uh, you know, that’s what they were going to, they were going to windmills. And you know, don’t worry about wind, when the wind doesn’t blow, I said, “What happens when the wind doesn’t blow?” Well, then we have a problem. OK good. They were putting him in areas where they didn’t have much wind, too.

Quite a series of statements.

Trump was alluding to his administration’s move this week to rewrite much of the regulation that stemmed from Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to cut down on power plant pollution. In his speech, he summed up his administration’s energy policy as supporting coal at the expense of cleaner fuels, and, particularly, at the expense of wind.

Trump’s particular animus toward wind (and his curious, selective concern for avian life, which seems lacking in other areas of policymaking) appears to date to 2012, when the Scottish government approved a wind farm near a Trump golf course in Scotland. Trump was outraged that the ocean views from his course would be marred by the off-shore turbines. It was during this time that casting doubt on the viability of wind energy became his thing; he claimed on Twitter that windmills were bad for people’s health and that they killed bald eagles.

When in 2015 his bid to shut down construction of the Scottish wind farm was unanimously rejected by the U.K. Supreme Court, an unnamed spokesperson for Trump told the BBC that it was “impossible to have a fair hearing challenging wind farm applications in Scotland” and warned that given “the current political movement to end wind farm subsidies, it’s impossible to envision how this ill-conceived proposal will ever get built.”

It seems Trump has joined that “movement,” and taken it with him to the presidency. “You need subsidy for windmills. You need subsidy. Who wants to have energy where you need subsidy? So, uh, the coal is doing great,” he told donors this week.

His hatred of wind energy may, in fact, have some bearing on his disdain for climate science. He had flirted with climate science skepticism on Twitter in two 2011 tweets, but it was in the spring of 2012, when Trump began waging his anti-windmill crusade, that his climate skepticism ramped up. Between then and the start of his presidential campaign, he tweeted about climate change over a hundred times, according to a tally by Vox.

Unfortunately for the world, Trump’s views now matter for global policy. Curious that a Trump golf course outside Aberdeen may have indirectly derailed the Paris Climate Agreement, an accord some three decades in the making.

Despite Trump’s best efforts, however, wind energy continues to get cheaper and to expand its capacity. A month before Trump took office, it surpassed hyroelectricity as the top renewable fuel in the U.S. Around that time, Trump was lobbying British right-wing politician Nigel Farage to oppose wind power in the U.K. But it appears he was too late. The wind farm off the coast of Trump’s golf course, run by the Swedish energy giant Vattenfall, came online earlier this year.

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