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Fact check: Were Trump's wind energy claims a load of hot air?

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Fact check: Were Trump's wind energy claims a load of hot air?
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Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved - Andrew Harnik
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President Donald Trump has hit out at wind turbines and the ”tremendous fumes and gases” created when they are manufactured.

Trump, speaking at a student summit in Florida, called the turbines ”windmills” and lambasted their ugliness.

He criticised their environmental impact and claimed they were killing bald eagles and creating “bird graveyards”.

But how much of what he said was based on fact? We’ve picked four claims and put them to the test.

(You can read his full speech here or read excerpts below.)

Claim #1: Manufacturing wind turbines creates tremendous fumes and gases

What Trump said: "But they are manufactured - tremendous if you’re into this, tremendous fumes, gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right. So the world is tiny compared to the universe, so tremendous, a tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint, fumes are spewing into the air, right. Spewing. Whether it is in China, Germany, it’s going into the air, it’s our air, their air, everything."

False: The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) says overall wind power has fewer effects on the environment than many other energy sources.

Unlike fossil fuels, wind turbines don’t create air pollution or carbon emissions, which harm the atmosphere, it adds.

“Harnessing power from the wind is one of the cleanest and most sustainable ways to generate electricity as it produces no toxic pollution or global warming emissions,” says the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Wind is also abundant, inexhaustible, and affordable, which makes it a viable and large-scale alternative to fossil fuels.“

Claim #2: Wind turbines kill birds

What Trump said: "You want to see a bird graveyard? You just go, take a look, a bird graveyard, go under a windmill someday you will see more birds than you ever seen, ever in your life."

True: There is no doubt that wind turbines do kill birds.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service says there are between 140,000 and 500,000 bird deaths from turbine collisions per year. It is feared this number could climb to 1.4 million a year with the expected growth of wind farms.

That said, the number of deaths from wind turbines pales in comparison to those from other sources, experts say.

For example, although wind turbine bird deaths in the UK were as high as 106,000 per year - one million were killed by domestic cats, according to researchers at the London School of Economics (LSE).

Claim #3: Wind turbines need replacing after a decade

What Trump said: "And you see these magnificent fields and they’re all… and you know what they don’t tell you about windmills? After ten years they look like hell and they start to get tired, old, you have to replace a lot of types."

False: Trump claimed that wind turbines’ lifespan is around 10 years but the EIA says it is more like between 20 and 25 years.

Claim #4: Wind turbines affect house prices

What Trump said: "And if you own a house within some of these monsters, you’re house is worth 50% of the price, they are noisy, they kill the birds."

Unclear: Another LSE research paper concluded that “wind farms reduce house prices in postcodes where the turbines are visible”.

The study, on property in England and Wales, said prices dropped by around 5-6% within 2 kilometres of the visible turbine, to 1% by 14km away.

This is supported by another study in Denmark, which said wind turbines hit prices by up to 6% within a three-kilometre radius.

That said, the American Wind Energy Association said another report in 2013 concluded that house prices were not impacted.

While there is no consensus even those that say house prices are affected are a long way from Trump’s claims that properties are worth 50% of their previous value after the installation of a wind turbine.

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