The show of support came via a column called Audubon View published in the organization’s November-December issue of its membership magazine and written by Audubon President John Flicker. "As the threats of global warming loom ever larger, alternative energy sources like wind power are essential," wrote Flicker, who visited the AWEA offices this week.
Flicker emphasized the importance of prudent siting and the need for his organization and its chapters to work with the wind energy industry. "Modern wind turbines are much safer for birds than their predecessors, but if they are located in the wrong places, they can still be hazardous and can fragment critical habitat," said Flicker.
In an interview with Wind Energy Weekly, Flicker said that the organization’s decision to speak out about wind came as a result of the recent increased urgency on the part of the scientific community with respect to global warming. Specifically, he cited a recent study by John Hansen for the National Academy of Sciences suggesting that if greenhouse gases are not reduced in the next decade, a significant amount of plants and animals could face extinction by the middle of the century. "It creates a sense of urgency beyond anything we have seen before," said Flicker, adding that he wanted to ensure his organization is not an obstacle for wind power but a help. "I want to make sure Audubon is doing everything we can to promote both conservation and wind energy."
Flicker summed up the Audubon perspective with stark directness. "When you look at a wind turbine, you can find the bird carcasses and count them," he said. "With a coal-fired power plant, you can’t count the carcasses, but it’s going to kill a lot more birds."
In his column, Flicker noted how Mass Audubon, an independent state Audubon organization in Massachusetts, recently completed an extensive review of the Cape Wind project, a study that "set a new standard for analyzing the potential effects of wind turbines on birds." Flicker told Wind Energy Weekly that he would do everything he could to help advance wind energy. "We want to figure out ways to cooperate as much as we can to make the wind industry grow while making wind power safer for birds," he said.
One concrete example of Flicker and Audubon advocating for wind power: in his column, he urged readers to contact Members of Congress and ask them to make the Production Tax Credit for wind power permanent.
While Audubon chapters operate somewhat independently, Flicker said the decision to support wind came from feedback back and forth between the national society and the state organizations. (Individuals are members of both the national society and state affiliates.) "What we want to do is educate our members and give them guidance," he said, explaining that ‘we give each other guidance."