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Donald J. Quixote’s War on Windmills

Former President Trump recently pledged to end offshore wind projects “on day one” of his administration through an executive order. At a campaign rally in New Jersey, he said offshore wind projects “destroy everything, they’re horrible, the most expensive energy there is … They ruin the environment, they kill the birds, they kill the whales.” (Note: wind projects do kill birds and bats but not whales.)

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When pressed to describe what precisely his Executive Order would do, his campaign declined to comment. But Trump has never been shy about expressing his animosity toward wind power. As he said at a recent event at Mar-a-Lago, “I hate wind.” 

Trump’s comments bring to mind the guidance that he should be taken seriously but not literally. Fair enough. But perhaps there are times when he should be taken neither seriously nor literally. 

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Trump’s fanciful crusade against wind power is reminiscent of the famous early 17th-century Spanish novel Don Quixote about a common man who loses himself in an imaginary, delusional and fantastical chivalrous crusade. The novel gave us the popular phrase “tilting at windmills” which depicts Quixote’s battle against windmills he thinks are giants and the word “quixotic” which is defined by Webster’s as “foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action; capricious or unpredictable.”

Don Quixote was The Princess Bride of its time. The Princess Bride turned fairy tale conventions on their head. Don Quixote did the same for medieval chivalry.  

To Trump, offshore wind is the giant – the manifestation of the socialists, the radical environmental left that must be owned, thwarted, and defeated before they destroy our country. We can’t play nice and play by the rules, you see. We must be tough and ban them before they ban us! Ok, Donald J. Quixote. 

Trump’s argument is ridiculous. Wind power is as old as human civilization and is not ideological. Was the wind that caught ancient Egyptian sails 3,000 years ago liberal wind? Were the Dutch windmills that pioneered climate adaptation in the 14th and 15th centuries by pumping water part of a globalist conspiracy?

Now, in Trump’s defense, the left has made wind power ideological by demanding it be subsidized. It’s also true that wind power is expensive, and it’s fair to critique the left for having its own delusional faith in wind power’s ability to displace other forms of baseload power. But delusions are best countered by reality, not counter-delusions. Wind power skeptics should let market competition prove them right. But they should also be prepared to be proven wrong when wind power makes sense economically or even aesthetically (i.e. farther offshore near oil rigs).  

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The best response to the authoritarian left’s delusional “everything but fossil fuels” posture isn’t “everything but wind and solar” but an “all of the above” strategy that allows free people to invest in whatever energy technology meets a need in particular times and places. The other phrase for that approach is “economic freedom,” which is vastly better for the environment and economy than top-down approaches in which politicians pick winners and losers based on their whims. 

Trump can and should do many things “on day one” to correct the Biden administration’s mistakes on energy policy (such as lifting Biden’s ban on liquified natural gas exports and expediting permitting) but charging at windmills is not one of them.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of C3.

Copyright © 2020 Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions

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