Why Does Donald Trump Hate Wind? | Opinion

Unlike President Trump's inability to pronounce the word “origins,” his recurring anti-wind bloviating isn't a sign of mental decline. Sure, it is stupid and wrong to say the sound of wind causes cancer (just who is the “alarmist” by the way?) or reduces real estate values (it doesn't.) But it's also dangerous. This and other anti-science campaigns like the ones against vaccinations and evolution are not just silly ignorance. They're weaponized stupidity.

Trump's tirades aren't reflective of any deeply held belief or well-informed opinion, but instead appear to be informed by, and in service of, Big Oil's anti-wind propaganda. For decades fossil fuel companies have attacked clean and renewable competition, from working to block local wind power installations to fighting state policies promoting wind. Key to that effort is spreading myths about wind power's potential as well as its progress, which our Fox News President predictably regurgitates.

For example, take Trump's bizarre recurring joke were he pretends to be someone who watches a lot of television (ok—no need to suspend disbelief on that part,) but has to turn it off when the wind isn't blowing. Trump's own Department of Energy debunks that ridiculous reliability argument (hi, batteries!) along with other energy myths. Wind power kills less birds than other forms of energy, it poses no human health threat, and it is increasingly more competitive than fossil fuels.

The sad irony of Trump's weaponized stupidity is that it hurts the rural communities and red states who are benefiting “bigly” from wind power. For example, on November 9, 2016, the very day Trump was elected President, the Omaha World-Herald published a story about how “wind has saved family farms across a wide swath of the heartland.”

In 2017, wind farm developers were paying ranchers and farmers some $267 million to lease their farmland for wind turbines. And what's more, all 10 of the top wind-powered congressional districts elected Republicans, while the five states that derived over a quarter of their power from wind were the Trump strongholds of Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and North and South Dakota.

It's not just money saved—it's also money earned. In 2017, there were over 150,000 people employed in the rural midwest doing wind and other renewable energy and efficiency work. More, in most of the states, than employed by fossil fuels. Nationally, Trump's “beautiful coal” employs only half as many people as wind's 107,000 jobs.

And like all those red states, the Department of Defense has similarly been benefiting from more than a thousand renewable energy projects as of 2015. By 2017, the largest military base in the U.S. got nearly half its electricity from renewables. Fort Hood's $2.5 million a year in savings translates to more than $150 million over 30 years of wind and solar power use.

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U.S. President Donald Trump's hair blows in the wind as he boards Air Force One before flying to Vietnam to attend the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit at Beijing airport on November 10, 2017. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

So if wind (and solar) are reliable enough for the military and creating jobs for red states, while saving family farmers across rural America, then why does President Trump seem to hate it so much?

Maybe because it messes with his coif? More likely, it's because Trump's administration has hired former employees and beneficiaries of the shadowy Koch network like Scott Pruitt. And after scandals took down Pruitt (and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke,) Trump replaced him with former fossil fuel lobbyist Andrew Wheeler. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Just beneath Trump's wind-blown stupidity, then, lies oily fingerprints. Government agencies intended to protect the public from pollution are now being run by former lobbyists of those very polluters. Fox News meet hen house.

And it seems that might be who's running Trump's mouth, too. We can do better than this, America.

Michael E. Mann is Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Pennsylvania State University. His most recent book, with Tom Toles, is The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy (Columbia University Press, 2016).

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.