WASHINGTON (April 1, 2013) — Researchers at the R Street Institute today unveiled a new major public policy initiative that aims to simultaneously preserve wildlife and encourage wider adoption of green energy technology, in a way that is both economically and environmentally sound.

The proposal, which R Street is calling the Making Environmental Offsets for Windpower Act, looks to address legitimate concerns about the impact that growing adoption of wind power could have on certain populations of wildlife.

“We at R Street oppose all federal energy subsidies, but we readily concede that wind is almost certainly the most viable form of green, carbon-free energy,” explained R Street Senior Fellow R.J. Lehmann. “That said, the problem with wind power is that it kills birds. Lots of birds.”

Recent reports from Fox News and the Heartland Institute (where many R Street staffers used to work) have highlighted the scourge of avian deaths resulting from deployment of wind turbines.  According to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates, more than 400,000 birds die each year in turbine collisions. While wind farm operators have taken steps to improve safety, nearly all observers expect bird deaths to grow as more wind farms come online.

To counter these effects, the Making Environmental Offsets for Windpower Act proposes the U.S. Department of Energy require — both as a pre-condition for the citing of new wind turbines, and on an ongoing annual basis — that turbine operators demonstrate they are in compliance with a new offset program designed to remove from the natural environment an even greater threat to birds: namely, free-ranging domestic cats.

According to a September 2012 paper published in Nature Communications by researchers from FWS and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Migratory Bird Center, free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds annually, with a mid-range estimate of 2.55 billion birds killed by American cats each year.

Given the Humane Society’s estimate that there are 86.4 million cats in the United States, as well as the American Wind Energy Association’s estimate of 45,000 U.S. wind turbines, an average American cat will kill about 30 birds each year, compared to nine birds each year for the average wind turbine.

“The MEOW Act would require wind turbine operators every year to show that they have destroyed at least one feline for every three turbines in active operation,” Lehmann said. “This would mitigate the negative wildlife consequences of wind power in a way that should result in no net loss of birds.”

Operators who demonstrate they have exceeded the minimum required feline destructions would also be entitled to offset permits they could sell to others, under a system R Street calls “catand-trade.”

“My wife has a cat that I don’t like very much,” said R Street President Eli Lehrer. “Her name is Cassie and she is outside all the time. We live in Herndon, Va.  I would hate for anything to happen to her.”

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