Wash Post headline: ‘Dead whales and tough economics bedevil Biden’s massive wind energy push’

By: - Climate DepotJanuary 25, 2023 9:46 AM

The school-bus-size humpback whale that washed ashore on a narrow beach in Brigantine, N.J., this month weighed in at 12 tons and took a heavy emotional toll on coastal towns helplessly witnessing a spate of such deaths.

The humpback was one of nine large whales to get stranded over six weeks on or near beaches in the Northeast, not far from where developers of hundreds of offshore wind turbines are engaged in a flurry of preconstruction activity. The deaths have prompted pushback against the projects even though government scientists say they are unrelated.

It’s the latest in a string of threats to a fledgling offshore wind industry that climate advocates say is central to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Surging costs from inflation and labor shortages have developers saying their projects may not be profitable. A raft of lawsuits and pending federal restrictions to protect sensitive wildlife could further add to costs. The uncertainty has clouded bright expectations for massive growth in U.S. offshore wind, which the Biden administration and several state governments have bet big on in their climate plans.

The industry paid more than $5 billion to the federal government for the right to build off the coast as the Biden administration made a large number of leases available last year. Some of the world’s largest energy companies, including BP, Shell, Equinor and Duke Energy, now plan to spend billions more constructing thousands of skyscraper-size turbines off America’s shores that will produce enough juice to power roughly 7 million homes, according to the American Clean Power Association, a renewable-energy trade group.

“We have an unprecedented amount of whales dying here at the same time there is this industrial activity taking place on a scale that has never before happened in these waters,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, a local nonprofit. “Why is this not being investigated? Why are these companies getting a pass?”