Fact check: Trump’s skewed indictment of wind power

Seth Borenstein and Ellen Knickmeyer
Associated Press

Washington – President Donald Trump’s dismissal of wind power as a glitchy, pricey, bird-slaughtering way to make electricity is out of step with the times.

He slammed the technology in his debate with Democrat Joe Biden on Thursday night, falsely contending wind power is dirtier and far pricier than natural gas. Here’s a look at what he said:

President Donald Trump speaks during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.

TRUMP to Biden: “I know more about wind than you do. It’s extremely expensive.”

THE FACTS: No it isn’t. His point is outdated.

Wind-energy costs hit all-time lows as of 2019, averaging less than 2 cents per kilowatt-hour for newly built projects, making it increasingly competitive with other generation sources, according to a report by the Energy Department’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. “Land-based utility-scale wind is one of the lowest-priced energy sources available today,” the department says.

Wind and solar have become much cheaper as their industries grow and technology improves.

It’s why solar and wind are expanding, along with cheap natural gas, while coal plants and nuclear plants are closing. This, despite regulatory rollbacks by the Trump administration to benefit the oil, gas and coal industries and undo Obama-era efforts against climate change and air pollution.


TRUMP: “It’s very intermittent. It’s got a lot of problems.”

THE FACTS: He’s e xaggerating the downsides.

Trump’s opinion about wind power being unreliable isn’t shared by many big energy users. By next year, renewables such as wind and solar will be providing more of Americans’ electricity than nuclear- and coal-fired power plants do, says the government’s Energy Information Administration.

And it says that by 2045, renewables will surpass even natural gas in powering U.S. electricity plants.


TRUMP: “The fumes coming up to make these massive windmills is more than anything that we’re talking about with natural gas.”

THE FACTS: That’s false. (Also, they’re called wind turbines. Windmills mill grain.)

Wind turbines produce pollution when they are manufactured and little to none when in operation, federal scientists say. Even taking manufacturing emissions into account, wind power is far cleaner than natural gas.

Scientists in the Energy Department’s Natural Renewable Energy Laboratory calculate that wind turbines produce an average of 0.4 ounces of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour generated, over their lifetime. That includes emissions from manufacturing. Natural gas produces 58 times more carbon dioxide – at least 22.6 ounces per kilowatt-hour.


TRUMP: Wind power “kills all the birds.”

THE FACTS: That’s obviously not true. But turbines do kill many.

Studies find that wind turbines kill an average of 230,000 birds a year in North America, says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The number will grow as more turbines are deployed.

Glass windows in buildings kill an estimated 599 million per year and vehicles, about 214 million a year, the agency says. Altogether, the agency estimates that wind turbines are responsible for 1 in 14,000 bird deaths. So turbines are an additional threat to birds, if a comparatively small one.