Breathe of Life: Ethical Wind Power and Wildlife

Journal Article

Title: Breathe of Life: Ethical Wind Power and Wildlife
Authors: Loder, R.
Publication Date:
January 01, 2009
Journal: Vermont Journal of Environmental Law
Volume: 10
Pages: 507-531

Document Access

Website: External Link


Loder, R. (2009). Breathe of Life: Ethical Wind Power and Wildlife. Vermont Journal of Environmental Law, 10, 507-531.

Few ideas arouse national consensus as much as the need to establish new sources of energy. This is a security as much as economic issue since dependence on foreign oil increases America's vulnerability. Alternative oil and coal pollute, contribute to climate change, and deface the landscape through extraction. Wind power is undergoing earnest development because of its tantalizing potential to address these concerns on a renewable and clean basis. Yet this energy refreshment is not without costs. Some of these are straightforwardly subject to economic balancing. For instance, sporadic wind speed can be weighed against the costs of infrastructure and operation in site decisions. Harnessing wind power for public electricity involves efficiency assessments of proximity to existing power plants and roads. This article examines the toll on wildlife associated with inland wind power generation, an issue ethically less amenable to balancing costs and advantages. I shall identify factors that should be considered in policy decisions on research, placement, and operation of wind facilities, providing some theoretical justifications for this ethical framework. Although I leave technical and legal analyses of wind policy largely to others, those perspectives inevitably implicate ethics. I contend that making explicit the ethical underpinnings of law and policy discussions results in a more reflective, deliberative process and more justified decisions. I concentrate on inland wind power, recognizing that offshore wind development raises some overlapping wildlife concerns, especially particular avian threats. Yet inland wind generation poses special direct and habitat risks to bears, bats, and other mammals, which are worthy of separate attention. Because the best disposition of each wind project is inevitably contextual, the analysis offered here springs from a concrete case in Vermont. One can extrapolate from this particular situation to understand better the nature and importance of ethical considerations applicable to wind projects generally.

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