On the day before the federal government’s sale of offshore wind leases in the Gulf of Mexico, the tech website Electrek published an optimistic piece about the topic: “Despite headwinds, offshore wind will see ‘massive’ growth to 2032.”
But the strength of those headwinds was made clear on Tuesday, when the feds received exactly zero bids for leases off Texas. Industry expressed a profound disinterest in these Gulf leases, casting a shadow on what the Biden administration has called “an important milestone for the Gulf of Mexico region — and for our nation — to transition to a clean energy future.” No surprise, given that despite massive subsidies, offshore wind is twice as expensive as onshore resources.
It’s another example of the Biden administration’s willful blindness when it comes to renewable energy, and particularly the undeniable disadvantages of offshore wind. From environmental destruction to the deaths of endangered whales to the human costs, offshore wind continues to combine theoretical advantages with very concrete disadvantages.
Let’s examine these in turn. First, offshore wind is anything but “green.” The concrete, steel, and rare earth minerals used to embed the huge wind turbines on the ocean floor dwarf any reduction in CO2 the wind farms might generate.
“Steel and cement-making both create a lot of CO2 emissions, and there are so-called emission factors for both,” notes energy analyst David Wojick. “Steelmaking creates about 2 tons of CO2 per ton of steel, so just producing the raw steel in one monopile puts out 5,000 tons of CO2… There is something like 15,000 tons of concrete in a finished monopile, and the chemical emission factor is about 1,250 pounds of CO2, giving around 9,000 tons of CO2 per pile. This does not include the energy required for cooking the limestone to make cement, which requires a great deal of heat.” And, a single wind turbine can contain up to 4.7 tons of copper.
And the waste products from broken windmills alone will dwarf the ecological damage being done by the onshore wind industry to communities such the broken turbine junkpile outside Sweetwater, Texas.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration remains willfully blind to the increasing number of whale deaths in regions where seismic survey work is being done. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration claims there’s “no scientific evidence that noise resulting from offshore wind site characterization surveys could potentially cause mortality of whales. There are no known links between recent large whale mortalities and ongoing offshore wind surveys.”
There’s no evidence because the feds refuse to look for it. The only way to tell if sonic surveying equipment or pile-driving or other loud activity has damaged its vital auditory system is to perform a necropsy of a dead whale, including a close examination of its inner ear. If that doesn’t happen quickly, within three or four days, decomposition degrades the indicators. And those necropsies simply aren’t happening, or at least not soon enough.
And it’s not just endangered whales being imperiled by offshore wind. The fishing industry has sounded the alarm over planned offshore wind farms along the Eastern Seaboard, one of the world’s most sustainable and productive fisheries. Pro Publica, far from a right-wing organization, called out the politically powerful wind industry recently.
“Federal scientists, the commercial fishing industry and industry regulators each have sounded the alarm about potential harm to fish spawning habits and about the lack of compensation for losses suffered by fishermen who will be displaced by the offshore wind industry,” Pro Publica reports. “The Interior Department has ignored or downplayed those warnings.”
That’s willful blindness.
Of course, green groups (excluding the ones that still advocate for the environment) will counter that the greater threat is climate change, and boiling oceans will result in a lot more marine mammal deaths than a few thousand wet windmills.
But that’s contingent on offshore wind actually reducing carbon emissions. It won’t.
But corporate money managers can usually see pretty clearly when it comes to money. And on Wednesday, Danish energy giant Orsted lost a quarter of its value, after it warned investors about those very headwinds that blew back plans in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, Orsted says it may have to exit the American offshore wind markets completely.
The American public can see what’s going on here; it’s only the Biden administration that’s blinded by its green vision for an impossible America.