The Slatest

An Attempt to Fact-Check Trump’s Rant Against Windmill Fumes

Three white windmills on farmland.
Eric Lalmand/Getty Images

In yet another puzzling rant against wind energy on Saturday, President Donald Trump claimed to be the world’s foremost expert on windmills and detailed laws against shooting bald eagles. The president made the remarks during an hourlong speech at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Florida that also touched on impeachment, immigration, and the 2020 election.

The windmill condemnations came roughly halfway through the speech after an inscrutable tirade about Elizabeth Warren and the Green New Deal. Here is a portion of what he said about wind energy, according to the White House’s own transcript of the speech:

I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much. I’ve studied it better than anybody I know. It’s very expensive. They’re made in China and Germany mostly—very few made here, almost none. But they’re manufactured tremendous—if you’re into this—tremendous fumes. Gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint—fumes are spewing into the air. Right? Spewing. Whether it’s in China, Germany, it’s going into the air. It’s our air, their air, everything—right?

So they make these things and then they put them up. And if you own a house within vision of some of these monsters, your house is worth 50 percent of the price. They’re noisy. They kill the birds. You want to see a bird graveyard? You just go. Take a look. A bird graveyard. Go under a windmill someday. You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen ever in your life. You know, in California, they were killing the bald eagle. If you shoot a bald eagle, they want to put you in jail for 10 years. A windmill will kill many bald eagles. It’s true.

The rambling nature of the remarks makes it a bit difficult to fact-check the assertions the president was making here. It’s not clear what evidence he has that windmills create more “fumes” through manufacturing compared with anything else, though studies have found that wind energy has a particularly small carbon footprint compared with other methods of generating electricity. Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. doesn’t benefit from windmill manufacturing is also misleading—according to the Department of Energy, the wind energy industry employs tens of thousands of people in the U.S., and wind energy technician is one of the fastest-growing jobs in the nation.

Trump has previously claimed that windmills depress property values by 65 percent, though several academic studies found that this isn’t the case. The Washington Post further notes that wind turbines do kill hundreds of thousands of birds per year, but fossil fuel plants and the kinds of glass-covered skyscrapers that Trump is fond of building are separately responsible for far more bird deaths. Also, the maximum sentence for killing a bald eagle in California is two years, not 10. All that being said, the president’s claim that “the world is tiny compared to the universe” checks out.

The president has long harbored a peculiar obsession with windmills. Over the course of his political career, Trump has cast windmills as a symbol of wrongheaded environmentalism. In April, he said at a Republican fundraiser in D.C. that the noise from wind farms causes cancer, a theory rejected by scientists. And during a Pennsylvania rally in August, he suggested that turbines are unable to power televisions if there is no wind blowing, neglecting the fact that energy grids can reserve wind energy.

Trump’s fixation on the evils of wind energy likely originated from his 2013 legal battle to prevent the Scottish government from building a wind farm near one of his golf properties. He lost that fight in 2015. Last month, a judge ordered him to pay $290,000 in legal fees to the Scottish government.