Beware the Pettiness of the Powerful

Donald Trump isn’t exactly Don Quixote, but he does have a thing against windmills.

Indeed, Trump’s animus toward wind power is one of the strangest obsessions of a man with many unusual preoccupations (toilets! hair spray!). Over the years, he has asserted, falsely, that wind turbines can cause cancer, that they can cause power outages and that wind energy “kills all the birds” (cats and windows do far more harm). Now he says that if he wins in November, on “Day 1” he’ll issue an executive order putting the brakes on offshore wind farm construction.

Trump claims, without evidence, that such wind farms are whale killers — either way, though, if you think he cares about whales, I have some Truth Social stock you might want to buy.

But the windmills of Trump’s mind aside, there’s a broader story here, one that goes well beyond the former president: the remarkable pettiness of many powerful people, and the danger that it poses both to American democracy and to the future of the planet.

First, a word about the wind. Over the past 15 or so years we’ve seen revolutionary progress in the technology of renewable energy; the idea of an economy reliant on solar and wind power has gone from hippie fantasy to realistic policy goal. It’s not just that the costs of renewable electricity generation have plunged; related technologies, especially battery storage, have gone a long way toward resolving the problem that the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind always blow.

And while renewable energy, like almost everything in a modern economy, has some environmental consequences — yes, some birds do fly into wind turbines — these consequences are tiny compared with the damage done by burning fossil fuels, even if you ignore climate change and focus only on the health effects of pollutants like airborne particulates and nitrous oxide.

Why, then, would Trump want to block such hugely beneficial technological progress? His motives really aren’t much of a mystery.

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