Account for All of the Costs

by Bill O’Keefe

Opposition to Dominion’s offshore windfarm has come mainly from critics who cite technology, economic, and energy-system concerns and problems. Unfortunately, these have only been persuasive enough to slow down the reckless rush by Dominion and its allies in the General Assembly to obtain SCC approval. What about the impact on human health?

Where is the public health consideration? Windmills are notorious for killing birds and bats, but the significance of this is not explored. After all, what are a few birds and bats worth when it comes to saving the planet? Well, the answer is more than advocates will admit. Killing bats has a human health effect.

Mosquitoes are at the top of bats’ menus. Mosquitoes are the bane of outdoor enjoyment and a boon for the insect spray industry. As a result, most of us give little thought to the dangers of mosquitoes; but they are not trivial.

According to the World Atlas, “These swarming yet stealthy insects have proven to be more than just an annoyance to the human race. In some parts of the world, female mosquitoes (the ones that do the biting) do not just leave behind an itchy red lump, but sometimes also diseases such as dengue, West Nile, yellow fever, Zika, chikungunya, lymphatic filariasis, and the big one: malaria. Each year, somewhere around 725,000 to 1,000,000 people die from mosquito-borne diseases.”

The initial reaction to this death statistic is that these deaths are in developing countries. But that is a mistaken judgment. Both the CDC and Mayo Clinic have issued warning about mosquito bite diseases in the U.S. The Mayo warning says “Mosquitoes can carry the viruses that cause certain diseases, such as West Nile virus and the viruses that cause malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever.… West Nile, dengue fever and some types of encephalitis occur in the United States. Other diseases, such as malaria and yellow fever, are far more common in tropical areas of the world.”

NASA, which operates and funds a global tracking system, reports that, “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the number of cases of mosquito-borne disease in the United States is growing – the rate of these infections was 10 times higher in 2016 than in 2004.” That is alarming because it means that the risk is also growing.

Before jumping to the conclusion that the number of bats killed by Dominion’s wind turbines isn’t that significant for disease prevention, wind farm supporters would do well to re-examine their hypothesis. A team at the University of Wisconsin, for example, has published a study on mosquitoes and the diets of two species of North American bats found in Wisconsin. Their findings, published in the Journal of Mammalogy, suggest that “bats may indeed be effective exterminators of the aggravating insects.”

While the study doesn’t answer the questions of relevancy to Virginia’s coastal region and whether bats significantly diminish mosquito populations, it does raise an important issue for the SCC to consider in reaching a final decision about Dominion’s proposed windfarm. What is the human health cost associated with this windfarm? Dominion’s response should not be that it will build bat farms on-shore to compensate for the deaths caused off-shore.

William O’Keefe, a Midlothian resident, is founder of Solutions Consulting and former EVP of the American Petroleum Institute.


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60 responses to “Account for All of the Costs”

  1. Kathleen Smith Avatar
    Kathleen Smith

    I had actually been thinking about this particular damage. The cost isn’t just mosquitoes, but other insects and birds as well. Not just disease. Look at what happens when the bee population is hurt by a freeze.

  2. Jim Loving Avatar

    “William O’Keefe, a Midlothian resident, is founder of Solutions Consulting and former EVP of the American Petroleum Institute.”

    Mr. O’Keefe may have a future as a satirist or writer for SNL. OK Mr O’Keefe, former EVP of the American Petroleum Institute, I will take you up on your “account for all the costs” and suggests we do that for ALL decisions in our economy. Let’s change the metrics of well being. Let’s account for all the costs of extraction and pollution for ALL industrial practices, maybe start with Coal, Oil and Gas!

    Deflection is a good strategy, it is certainly an art form coming from API!

    To assist in your movement for “accounting for all costs”, let me suggest several places to start:

    1- Read ‘The Petroleum Papers: Inside the Far-Right Conspiracy to Cover Up Climate Change’

    By Geoff Dembicki, Greystone

    “Dembicki, a Canadian investigative reporter, has written a dark tale of money corrupting politics and paralyzing the public will. He shows how oil companies were studying climate science as a top priority during the 1970s. Executives were briefed and advised to act quickly to solve the problem. Instead, the fossil fuel industry acted to deceive the public, fighting a long war against the science of global warming — a science, ironically, that it had been instrumental in creating. For those who want a no-frills account of how we ended up on the climate precipice, this is an essential read.”

    2- Read Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth


    https://doughnuteconomics.org/

    or, continue working on your comedy chops and apply at SNL.

    1. Matt Adams Avatar

      That’s a nice long as hom attack. Perhaps you should spend more time constructing an actual argument, instead of being a f’with

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Total crock. There is no climate crisis. There is barely any measurable climate change. Of what there is, only some might be tied to emissions. OTOH, humans around the world live longer, healthier and more comfortable lives thanks to plentiful energy. And in greater numbers than ever in history. Where poverty persists, it is energy poverty. Be very, very thankful for that wealth, sir. We won’t let you and the idiots throw it away for a lie.

      And I used to work for a nuclear company….so there! Regular readers know I’m no defender of coal.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        “There is no climate crisis.” That is a pretty broad statement that flies in the face of the conclusions of thousands of scientists who are experts in the various subfields of climatology. (Notice that I did not say all scientists. I acknowledge, whereas you apparently don’t, that there is some difference of opinion.) For substantial effects that are measurble, there is the example of the rapid melting of glaciers and the ice on the two poles.

        I don’t subscribe to the notion that the world will end, but it seems that the climate is changing relatively fast and there will be ramifications that can and cannot be foreseen.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Not to mention measured chemical changes in the atmosphere. On a continuum of outcomes, Steve’s dogged insistence on one outcome is unbelievable for a man of arguably average intelligence.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            I agree. It’s inexplicable.

          2. Stephen Haner Avatar
            Stephen Haner

            Facts is stubborn things. No crisis. Mucho hype.

          3. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Oops, “for a man of arguably above average intelligence.

        2. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          Dick, go read either Apocaplypse Never by Shellenberger or Unsettled by Koonin. I’ll loan you either. You’re salvageable….and once tuned in will spot the BS in the MSM for what it is.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            I would like to see Dick take Haner up on his offer then report back after.

          2. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            “I read it in a magazine.”

            Try juried journals.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            What I don’t understand is that neither of these two authors seem to have much background in the field. One is actually a PR guy.

            So why are their words credible?

            Why should we put any stock in what they are saying?

            It’s sorta like an engineer telling how to do a gallbladder operation or a doctor telling how to build a bridge.

            What makes these guys thoughts about climate – credible and believable?

          4. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Well, in point of fact, they’re not. Theirs is a minority viewpoint, not founded in the facts and can earn, or is driven only by personal gain.

          5. LarrytheG Avatar

            Why would an educated and intelligent person believe they are credible?

          6. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Larry, it really doesn’t matter. None of us will ever know for sure so we can be as rabid as we want to be. In fact, it’s more fun.

            If when hiking you stumble on a body at the base of a cliff, think accident, not suicide. It’s far more likely.

            Since 1960, we’ve had the ability to leave the Earth a smoldering ash suitable for only cockroaches. That which can be done deliberately is far more likely to be done inadvertently.

            So, when some wandering civilization stumbles upon a smoldering ash crawling with cockroaches… CO2 emissions, not radiation.

          7. Stephen Haner Avatar
            Stephen Haner

            Because I take the time to educate myself and you never have, neither of you. You accept at face value. I had no dog in this fight when I started reading and if the data ever really matches the hair on fire nonsense, I will take note. For 40 years it has not…

          8. LarrytheG Avatar

            Not sure I would want to be “educated” about climate from a guy whose primary occupation is PR while at the same time rejecting the views of those who ARE bona fide experts in the field.

            Might have something to do with who we think “very smart people” are or not.

          9. Stephen Haner Avatar
            Stephen Haner

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_E._Koonin

            Koonin is a superstar energy physicist and expert on computer models. Those are the best possible credentials. NYU, CalTech, the federal energy department labs and Obama appointee. Nobody more credible, certain not that Mann fool from UVA. The debate over energy absorption by atmospheric gases is pure physics.

          10. Stephen Haner Avatar
            Stephen Haner

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_E._Koonin

            Koonin is a superstar energy physicist and expert on computer models. Those are the best possible credentials. NYU, CalTech, the federal energy department labs and Obama appointee. Nobody more credible, certain not that Mann fool from UVA. The debate over energy absorption by atmospheric gases is pure physics.

            “PR guy?” Shellenberger was a famous enviro advocate and writer before he concluded the alarmism on this was harmful. His book has 104 pages of footnotes many from the “juried journals.”

          11. LarrytheG Avatar

            Not according to his critics who say he plays strawman games with legitimate scientists. (in the same wiki).

      2. energyNOW_Fan Avatar
        energyNOW_Fan

        There is a perceived climate crisis and political agenda by liberals to make fossil fuels Public Enemy No. 1. If climate change concerns were fixed tomorrow, by solar cooling or something, US liberals would still want to destroy US fossil fuel industry, due to perceived crimes against humanity and inability of the human body to cope with trace pollutants caused by combustion, There can be no combustion in s an advanced society, according to some.

      3. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Oh Lord, your oceans are so big and my boat is so small… so you won’t mind if I dump my holding tanks here then, eh?

        Actually, it’s potable water Steve. Energy is good, but potable water is far more important. Flint Michigan for example.

      4. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Oh Lord, your oceans are so big and my boat is so small… so you won’t mind if I dump my holding tanks here then, eh?

        Actually, it’s potable water Steve. Energy is good, but potable water is far more important. Flint Michigan for example.

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Costs? Costs? To which water line is your dishwasher plumbed, hot or cold? Could be costing you a fortune. You better consider all costs and savings measures before moving into a house.

  4. Dominion apparently hasn’t got a monitoring strategy yet for birds and bats (page c. 2022)
    https://coastalvawind.com/partnerships/environmental-stewardship.aspx: “With the project area located 27 to 42 miles offshore, the turbines are outside the typical flight paths of many birds and bats, however, we do
    know some species fly in the vicinity of the project area…. We will also continue to work with state and federal agencies as well as interested groups to develop a specific monitoring strategy to address those impacts.”

    1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
      Eric the half a troll

      That is how you design mitigation and monitoring strategies… “specific” as in species-specific is the key word here.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        billions upon billions of birds are “killed” every year by a variety of man-made and natural forces.

        It’s built in to the natural scheme of things – most all species produce more offspring than will survive.

        The primary issue is if a given species is threatened. Then it does matter and decisions made with regard to mitigation.

        To give an example, how many dead turkey buzzards or Canadian Geese or starlings or herring gulls would it take to give pause to some proposal? Never has happened AFIK. Never heard the Sierra Club decry the loss of Turkey buzzards! Not even Eagles are “threatened”. Bats are but the biggest threat to them is white nose syndrome, not turbines.

    1. Exactly: there is no data available on how many offshore wind collisions occur. What little info BOEM has comes from tagging a small number of birds.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        but would you trust it if/when they do? Others commenting here say that if the Feds do the data, it will support OSW no matter what.

        1. Depends on how well documented the info is.

          1. key statement from that 2009 report for NC: “Only empirical assessments of impacts of operating wind turbines over ocean waters can provide rigorous assessments of true risks.”

          2. key statement from that 2009 report for NC: “Only empirical assessments of impacts of operating wind turbines over ocean waters can provide rigorous assessments of true risks.”

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            One might think, perhaps wrongly, that since OSW has been installed in other places for 20 yrs or more that there would be data.

          4. Not for the U.S. Atlantic coast.

  5. BOEM ‘s 2021 tracking study of migratory shorebirds did not include Virginia’s CVOW area. Buried in the report was the statement: “Although we provide some novel data here, there is still a large gap in our understanding of shorebird movements in the Atlantic OCS during spring migration….Future efforts to track full-annual-cycle movements of shorebirds will be critical for assessments of
    population-level risks, as widespread development of offshore lease areas progresses throughout a large portion of the Atlantic OCS (Bureau of Ocean Energy

    Management 2019).”
    https://www.boem.gov/sites/default/files/documents/renewable-energy/studies/Tracking-Migratory-Shorebirds-Atlantic-OCS.pdf

    Why would we believe they know any more about bats?

  6. Deckplates Avatar

    Assuming we need & want electricity, there should be a Business Case & Engineering Case, to justify all type of power production. This is to include, hydro, wind, solar, fossil fuel, nuclear, wave motion, gravity, etc. Of course, there should be an environmental impact study with veracity on each. More important, what is the economic & social, externality of each.

    Can we get a legitimate Business Case & Engineering Case study, provided to the public before proceeding?

  7. Bill, I agree with your larger point that all costs of wind projects should be taken into account, just as all costs of nuclear or fossil fuel plants should be taken into account. And I suspect that your argument here might well apply to on-shore wind farms.

    But I’m skeptical that there are many mosquitos or bats 20 miles off the Virginia Beach coast. There are many reasons to question Dominion’s proposed offshore wind farm, but I don’t think that the slaughter of bats is one of them.

    It would be interesting to see how the wind turbine/bats/mosquitos connection plays out in locales where there are onshore windfarms. You have proposed a hypothesis that should be empirically verifiable or falsifiable. Do wind turbines kill bats in sufficiently large numbers to impact the incidence of mosquito-borne disease?

    1. William O'Keefe Avatar
      William O’Keefe

      Jim, you raise a valid point but a DOE funded study detected bat activity as far as 80 miles offshore and raised the question of whether the presence of structures would attract bats–https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1238337.
      The larger issue is accounting for all costs and the uncertainties that have and are driving the climate debate.
      I wish the SCC would hold fast to performance standards and let Dominion walk away. If it did, that might reveal the next best alternative since Dominion doesn’t plan to liquidate.

      1. Haha. If it is an empirically verifiable fact that bats range as far as 80 miles offshore, then your argument might hold water and I might have to modify my skepticism. Bats don’t fly out that far for yuks. They must be looking for food. So, I have three follow-up questions:

        (1) Do bats fly that far offshore in large numbers or is their appearance 20 to 80 miles from land a freakish rarity?

        (2) Do mosquitos fly that far offshore, or are the bats looking for something else?

        (3) Would enough bats be killed, and enough mosquitos spared death-by-bat in order to measurably impact the incidence of mosquito-borne disease ashore?

        (FYI: The link you provided does not work. Please update if you get a chance.)

        1. William O'Keefe Avatar
          William O’Keefe

          Jim, I don’t know the answer to these questions and was and am on the skeptical side. But it is a consideration that should not be assumed away. The study is Long-term Bat Monitoring on Islands, Offshore Structures, and Coastal Sites in the Gulf of Maine, mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes—Final Report by Stantec Consulting.
          I’ll try to revise the link so that it works but no promises.

          Prepared for:

          US Department of Energy

          Prepared by:

          Stantec Consulting Services Inc.

        2. how_it_works Avatar
          how_it_works

          The Asian Tiger mosquito (imported to the USA in a shipment of used tires in the 80s) cannot fly more than about 300 feet.

        3. William O'Keefe Avatar
          William O’Keefe

          Try this–https://www.osti.gov/biblio/1238337

  8. Dominion claims the windmills are too far offshore to affect bats or birds. If so that might make them preferable to land based turbines.

    Severely endangered Right Whales are another story:
    https://www.cfact.org/2022/10/22/dominions-silly-denial-of-the-great-threat-to-whales/

    1. Whimbrels weren’t shown as flying over the CVOW area in the tracking study I linked below, but they do, because William & Mary is studying how high they fly to determine how much they’ll be impacted. https://vpm.org/news/articles/35772/researchers-eye-dominion-offshore-wind-farm-whimbrel-migratory-pattern

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      We’ll never get an honest assessment of environmental risks because the federal agencies are compromised by and committed to the climate catastrophe myth, and are fully enmeshed in “end justified the means” thinking. It is patently obvious that if the full buildout of turbine projects along the coast proceeds, the whales are dead. One or two projects, maybe no, so the analyses will NEVER consider the totality. Same with the fishing industry.

      The government lies. Who knew? 🙂 (Now Dominion, no surprise there.)

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        re: ” the federal agencies are compromised by and committed to the climate catastrophe myth”

        that’s a mouthful.

        1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
          Eric the half a troll

          Hilarious that Conservatives are arguing for an “honest assessment of environmental risks”. Maybe if they disguise the windmills as oil platforms they will jump on board (so to speak)…

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            When one starts off accusing NASA and NOAA of being compromised and engaging in a conspiracy …. and then citing folks whose primary background is a PR person… as a climate expert…

    3. LarrytheG Avatar

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4afa9a869df7ff96fd69c11640e88cf9d46b984956f9e94e90fffd26341f9ab9.jpg

      Entanglement in the fishing gear used to catch lobster, crab and other species is one of the two leading threats to right whales (the other being ship strikes). The whales’ migration route – from their calving grounds in Florida to feed in Canada – is littered with more than 1m vertical lines from pots and traps, with 622,000 of these in US waters.

      When a whale is entangled in fishing gear, the ropes can become embedded in its skin, weighing it down and leaving it unable to swim or feed properly. More than 80% of right whales have been entangled in fishing gear at least once.

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        Doesn’t the “Red List” mean the poor crustaceans are going to end up as the special at Red Lobster?

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Perhaps… if people still order lobster… 😉

  9. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Aye, ’tis a poor man indeed who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  10. joelrubin Avatar

    https://web.uri.edu/offshore-renewable-energy/ate/do-we-know-how-many-birds-and-bats-are-killed-by-wind-turbines-per-year/

    “As for bats, though they are more vulnerable to being struck by offshore wind turbines than birds, there are very few bats in North America that fly off of the coast. So, at the moment, there is not a dire concern for the occurrence of bat collisions at the Block Island Wind Farm.” (only one off the east coast right now, besides the two test turbines off VB).

    And although I do work for Dominion in support of the CVOW project, I have spoken to bird watchers who have been out to the test towers often and there are few birds out there too. And there is equipment that slows or stops the blades if there are. There are concerns, shared by the government and Dominion, about the impact of these wind farms on marine life, including the right whale. But the towers are a mile apart. There are limits on vessel speeds (big issue right now for the whales) and construction of the towers during migration season. Experts are evaluating this and there are plenty of environmental groups commenting. And Dominion needs approval before moving forward.

  11. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Larry, as usual, is without a shred of honesty…

    Steven Koonin, Undersecretary for Science in Obama’s Energy Dept, 200 peer reviewed papers in physics, astrophysics, science computation (his critique on the models is central to his book), current prof at NYU, board of governors at Lawrence Livemore Labs and previously at Los Alamos, Sandia, etc. Formerly at CalTech. Chaired National Academy of Sciences Division for Engineering and Physics.

    See, Larry is so totally ignorant on this front he doesn’t understand the questions about GHG energy absorption and the impact on the atmosphere are basically physics. He thinks there is some actual field called “climate science” and chemists, physicists and computer modeling experts are excluded.

    Shellenberger can’t match the academic creds of Koonin, and started off as an environmental activist. Time called him a Hero of the Environment. But he has been involved as a reviewer for the IPCC and if you read his writings or watch his speeches, the references are there. Notes on Apocalypse Never run from p. 289 to 393 (for Larry, that’s 104 pages….)

  12. LarrytheG Avatar

    In terms of Haner’s “ignorance” claims,

    Not so ignorant that I can’t count the number of real climate experts who say that Koonin is full of it versus the ones that say he is not.

    In Haners world, if 9 out of 10 doctors say you’re gonna get sick and die if you don’t take action, you instead believe the one doctor who says it’s no such thing and you don’t need to do anything

    Who does that?

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