Donald Trump Just Spread a Dangerous Myth About Renewable Energy

October 26th 2016

Lucy Tiven

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump weighed in on renewable energy during a Tuesday appearance on conservative talk show host Herman Cain’s radio show. Trump was particularly critical of wind turbines, Gizmodo reports.


The interview was transcribed by the Atlanta Journal Constitution (you can also listen to the 12 minute interview there). In it Trump characterized windmills as decrepit and said they kill thousands of birds (the talk about energy begins at 6 minutes and 29 seconds).

From the transcript (bolded for emphasis):

"They have all these different companies and each one is made by a different group from, all from China and from Germany, by the way, not from here. And you look at all these windmills. Half of them are broken. They’re rusting and rotting. You know, you’re driving into Palm Springs, California, and it looks like a poor man’s version of Disneyland. It’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen.

"And it kills all the birds. I don’t know if you know that… Thousands of birds are lying on the ground. And the eagle. You know, certain parts of California – they’ve killed so many eagles. You know, they put you in jail if you kill an eagle. And yet these windmills [kill] them by the hundreds."

Trump's assertion that windmills are wreaking havoc on avian populations doesn't entirely hold up.

Politifact rated Trump's May comment that California windmills were killing "hundreds" of eagles as "mostly false."

From Politifact:

"The truth is, we lack complete data, but Shawn Smallwood, California’s leading ornithologist for the study of raptors and wind turbines, told us Trump is exaggerating.

"Smallwood says about 100 eagles die each year due to impacts with the spinning blades on windmills."

wind power

Though wind turbines kill between 214,000 and 368,000 birds a year, far more of our feathered friends die from collisions with cell and radio towers (6.8 million) or fall prey to cats (1.4 billion to 3.7 billion), according to a 2014 study reported by USA Today. A 2009 study reported by Think Progress concluded that coal power kills almost 8 million birds a year.

Wind turbines are also constructed to last about 20 years, according to Gizmodo.

Wind power has long been considered a promising source of renewable energy. An October report from the Energy Information Administration attributed almost half of a 9 percent increase in renewable energy use in the U.S. during the first half of 2016 to wind power, Scientific American reports.