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Trump’s long history of pushing wild misinformation about wind turbines

The president’s latest false claim about wind energy is his wildest yet.

President Donald Trump is a climate change denier and renewable energy hater. That much has been clear for a long time. But during a speech on Tuesday evening, he took the flawed arguments he’s been making against wind energy to new levels of absurdity.

Addressing the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), Trump claimed that sounds made by wind turbines cause cancer.

“If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value,” Trump said. “And they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one, okay? Rerrrr rerrrr!”

TRUMP during NRCC speech: "If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value. And they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one, okay? Rerrrr rerrrr!" pic.twitter.com/lYmx84Yxk1

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 3, 2019

There is no evidence, however, that any sort of sound — including the low-frequency ones emitted by wind turbines — causes cancer. After all, as Philip Jaekl wrote in the Atlantic in 2017, if it were the case that wind turbine sounds could cause cancer, you’d expect evidence of the connection to emerge among residents of countries that have lots of them, like Denmark. But it hasn’t.

From Jaekl’s piece:

[I]nfrasound from wind turbines is no different than infrasound caused by other harmless, common sources. “Everyone is surrounded by infrasound every day. It’s emitted by natural sources like the surf, storms, wind itself, our own heartbeat and respiration. We also are exposed to it in cars, from ceiling fans, motors, and urban noise,” says Simon Chapman, a professor emeritus at the University of Sydney. “If wind turbines were harmful to nearby residents, entire cities and small nations would be stricken across much of Europe, where we see the highest density. Copenhagen is surrounded by turbines but my Danish colleagues are not seeing queues of sick people.”

While there is no evidence that wind turbines cause cancer, chemicals and particulates emitted during the processes of extracting and burning fossil fuels have been linked with numerous health ailments, including cancer.

Trump’s claim that windmills drastically decrease property values is also false. As CNN detailed in a recent fact-check of Trump’s comments about wind energy, “[w]hile some properties can see a decrease in value when turbines are planned and constructed nearby, several major academic studies found no statistically significant decrease in the average property value due to wind turbines in the US.”

Trump has a long history of making bogus arguments about wind turbines

Tuesday evening was far from the first time Trump has pushed misinformation about wind energy. During a speech in Michigan last week, he decried that the unreliability of wind means it’s impossible to watch TV on evenings where the wind isn’t blowing.

“If Hillary got in … you’d be doing wind,” Trump said. “Windmills. Weeeee. And if it doesn’t blow, you can forget about television for that night. ‘Darling, I want to watch television.’ ‘I’m sorry! The wind isn’t blowing.’ I know a lot about wind.”

TRUMP: "If Hillary got in… you'd be doing wind. Windmills. Weeeee. And if it doesn't blow, you can forget about television for that night. 'Darling, I want to watch television.' 'I'm sorry! The wind isn't blowing.' I know a lot about wind." pic.twitter.com/tGsUIoUmUQ

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 29, 2019

Trump’s comments betrayed ignorance of how batteries work and of the idea that wind is just one part of a broader renewable energy system.

Asked about Trump’s remarks, Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University, told Newsweek they amounted to “malicious ignorance.”

“The truth is that a combination of wind, solar and other renewables, along with battery and smart grid technology, can provide continuous and abundant electricity,” Mann said.

During previous speeches, Trump has baselessly suggested wind turbines make easy targets for terrorists, and claimed they are especially dangerous for birds. In fact, fossil fuel power plants lead to far more bird deaths than wind turbines.

Trump’s NRCC speech — one in which he also pushed baseless claims about Democratic voter fraud — came at the end of a day in which he seemed to have a particularly tough time with basic facts, even by his standards.

During an Oval Office event with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday afternoon, Trump falsely claimed his father was born in Germany, and later seemed to have a hard time speaking. Along similar lines, he fretted aloud to his NRCC audience about the possibility that “someone’s gonna leak this whole damn speech to the media” — despite the fact it was being recorded for television broadcast by C-SPAN and other outlets.

The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.

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