This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.
It’s easy for Americans to laugh at Donald Trump when he goes off on a rant, like when he joined the birthers during the last presidential election. But when Trump starts picking fights with other countries, and wind energy, it’s just embarrassing. As environmentalists and global citizens we feel the need to offer the world an apology for Trump’s attempt to blackmail Scotland, as the country attempts to spur economic growth, cleaner air and a safer climate.
Several years ago, the real estate tycoon took his personality parade to Scotland, where he fought local environmentalists for approval to build a luxury golf resort on a pristine section of the nation’s northeast coast. Now, because it will affect the view from his golf club, Trump’s begun a fierce legal battle over Scotland’s plans to install offshore wind turbines near his property.
To fully appreciate Trump’s hypocrisy, it’s worth exploring some of the story’s background. Back in 2007, when Trump sought approval for construction of the Trump International Golf Links, he promised more than 900 high-end condos, 500 luxury homes, a huge hotel and two 18-hole golf courses. The project, Trump said, would attract over a billion dollars of investment and generate more than 4,000 full time construction jobs and 1,200 full-time jobs.
Ultimately, the mega-plan was approved, over the objections of local residents and environmentalists. As Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond put it, "A thousand new homes and 6,000 jobs outweigh environmental concerns."
Since then, as E&E News’ Erica Rex recently reported, only one golf course, a temporary clubhouse, a restaurant and “a handful” of guest rooms have been built. The compound employs 200 people at most. All those new homes and thousands of jobs are nowhere to be found.
Adding insult to injury, Trump is threatening to abandon the project altogether if the country moves forward with its long-approved plans to install 11 offshore wind turbines – bringing employment and clean energy to the area. And he has turned against his former ally, Salmond, who supports the wind turbine plans.
At first, Trump, who dismissed the importance of protecting the Scottish environment when it came to building his resort, complained that the turbines were an eyesore. People willing to spend the money to stay at his (unbuilt) resort shouldn’t have their view marred by such “monstrosities,” he said.
This makes no sense. The turbines, each about 640-feet tall, would be about a mile-and-a-half from Trump's resort and hardly visible (the turbine blades wouldn’t be gold-plated and no one’s name would be on the towers).
Trump’s aesthetic objections had little impact, so now he has turned his assault to wind power as a technology – arguing that wind turbines are “a disaster for the environment” and that companies around the world are abandoning wind power as an energy resource.
Both these allegations are blatantly false, of course. Wind power is a clean, renewable, homegrown form of energy that is good for people, business and the environment. It emits negligible amounts of air pollution, consumes virtually no water and has less impact on wildlife than fossil fuel power plants. Furthermore, in 2012 companies invested $25 billion into new wind energy projects in the U.S. and global use of wind energy increased by 18%. Google alone contracts for more than 570 megawatts of wind energy – enough to power about 170,000 houses.
We in America are used to Trump fighting tooth and nail for his projects, regardless of their impacts. Yawn. But when he masquerades as a committed environmentalist, we have to say, to borrow one of Mr. Trump’s favorite phrases, “You’re fired!”