The Obama administration prosecuted Duke Energy leading to a $1 million fine for accidently killing 14 golden eagles over a two year period at two of its Wyoming wind farms.   Those “wind farms came on line before the Obama administration drafted voluntary guidelines encouraging wind energy companies to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service to avoid locations that would impact wildlife.

Evidently, birds looking for prey on the ground do not look up and notice that they are on a collision course with moving wind turbine blades.  Birds collide with wind turbines at many other wind farms.   Birds routinely fly into jet engines, often near airports – recall “Miracle on the Hudson.”  Birds also fly into the front of trucks on the highway, but perhaps less often than deer run into vehicles.  It is also estimated that between 300 million to 1 billion birds die each year by running into glass and glass buildings.  

It’s a pity that birds and deer are accidentally killed, but prosecution is reserved for when the Department of Justice makes a political choice to do so.  The administration usually gives a pass to bird killing airlines and passenger vehicles, and wind turbines, the least “steerable” of the three in real-time.

This selective prosecution of Duke is remarkably arrogant because it took many years for Duke to place the offending wind turbines into service – long before the administration issued its guidelines for turbine placement.    And even now, only practitioners of magical thinking think high speed blades can reliably avoid birds.    

It appears that Duke Energy was chosen for a symbolic slap just to send a message.  Because when the energy regulation-heavies are genuinely annoyed, they are brutal.  For example, the EPA euthanized the mature coal-energy production industry and is looking for ways to strangle fracking –a crib death needed to halt rejuvenation in US domestic petroleum and gas production. 

A $1 million fine is rounding error for both Duke and the administration.  The actual voters targeted by this gesture are moderate-to-rabid animal welfare advocates.  Those voters have not been thrown any bones lately, and the public thrashing of a big company gives them a tasty morsel to chew on. 

Alan Daley is a retired businessman who writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research