Last September, when organized denial actors announced their opposition to offshore wind, we figured it'd be pretty hard for anyone to take the claims seriously after that. Unfortunately, despite the obviousness of the bad faith campaign, the disinformation has rolled on.
Fortunately, mainstream outlets have been covering how the lie that offshore wind projects kill whales is part of a coordinated campaign to undermine the offshore wind industry. Fast Company reported that anti-wind astroturf groups with innocent-sounding names like “Protect Our Coast New Jersey” and “The Save Right Whales Coalition” are linked to Big Oil through the Caesar Rodney Institute, while right-wing media outlets like Fox News, Breitbart, and The Western Journal continue to spread harmful disinformation blaming offshore wind for whale deaths. Greenpeace oceans director John Hocevar told USA Today that this is “a cynical disinformation campaign” that is “not based in any kind of evidence.” Even NOAA had to come out and say that “there is no evidence to support speculation that noise resulting from wind development-related site characterization surveys could potentially cause mortality of whales.”
In case you had any remaining doubts about whether or not free market fundamentalists actually care about whales, we’re here to inform you that individuals working for CFACT, The Heartland Institute, and The Caesar Rodney Institute have ardently advocated for offshore oil and gas development, which actually threatens whales and other marine species.
As the Center for Biological Diversity explains, “Offshore oil and gas exploration uses deafening seismic surveys that generate the loudest human sounds in the ocean, short of those made by explosives. Seismic testing involves blasting the seafloor with high-powered airguns (a kind of powerful horn) every 10 seconds and measuring the echoes with long tubes to map offshore oil and gas reserves. These blasts disturb, injure and kill marine wildlife [including whales] around the clock for years on end.”
If you're unswayed by the idea that constantly blowing horns harms creatures that rely on sonar to navigate, consider the other impacts of offshore oil drilling. According to the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, “the installation of a drilling platform causes long-term effects on the surrounding marine area such as habitat fragmentation, chemical pollution, water quality degradation or even an increase in maritime traffic and the risk of collisions.”
Then there's the fact that expansions to offshore drilling increase the risk of oil spills, which absolutely devastate whale populations, not to mention the whole climate change thing.
Offshore drilling is therefore the last thing that a supposed whale defender should be supporting, and that’s why it is very telling that so many allegedly pro-whale organizations have ardently advocated for offshore oil and gas production.
First off, CFACT has repeatedly used whales to attack wind, but Craig Rucker, CFACT’s Co-Founder and Executive Director, has a decades-long history of supporting offshore drilling. In 2002, Rucker touted “the eco-benefits of off-shore rigs,” and in 2013, he again endorsed the shameless claim that offshore drilling has environmental benefits and will clean up the ocean. In 2017, he once again argued in favor of offshore drilling, saying that “Oil and gas production, done right, does not hurt coastal tourism.” Rucker made his stance on climate change and wind power very clear in a 2020 pro-fracking article, in which he downplayed the “alleged climate dangers from fossil fuels” and rehashed a variety of anti-wind and anti-solar propaganda.
Next up is The Heartland Institute, which has published a flood of articles lying about offshore wind causing “whale hell” since at least 2016. At the same time, Heartland fully embraces offshore drilling. A 2018 Heartland press release criticized wind and solar energy and expressed enthusiastic support for offshore drilling, “state of the art seismic data,” and even blatant climate denial. Heartland Policy Advisor Arthur Viterito wrote, “I wholeheartedly applaud the proposal to increase off shore drilling. In light of the enormous uncertainties surrounding the CO2 – global warming link, U.S. energy independence should be this country’s top priority.”
Last but certainly not least hypocritical is the Caesar Rodney Institute (CRI), which, as mentioned above, funds numerous anti-offshore wind astroturf groups. David Stevenson, Director of CRI’s Center for Energy Competitiveness, member of The Heartland Institute’s Board of Policy Advisors, former Dupont executive, and former Trump advisor, has a clear record of opposing offshore drilling bans, dismissing the risks of seismic testing and oil spills, and advocating for increased offshore oil and gas development.
So, be mindful of who's opposing wind farms, and if it’s actually the genuinely concerned, whale-loving environmentalists, or if it’s really climate deniers whose primary interest in dead whales is turning them into anti-wind disinformation.