Let’s remember that one time President Trump came out in favor of wind power
In recent days, President Donald Trump has renewed his animosity with one of his ancient enemies, the latest dust-up in a long-running row that predates the president’s tanglings with special counsel Robert Mueller and the Democratic Party. Namely, those who farm the wind as an alternative source of renewable energy.
The president has repeatedly clashed with wind power proponents in a war dating back to at least 2012, when the then-real estate mogul clashed with authorities in Scotland, who wanted to build an offshore wind farm within sight of one of Trump’s golf resorts.
But it’s worth remembering that there was one time — a brief, mad moment — when Trump laid aside his enmity and said, of wind power, “Well, I’m okay with it.”
He hasn’t seemed “okay with it” of late. This past weekend, at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Trump argued against wind as a source of energy, seemingly possessed of the belief that wind power only worked when the wind was blowing. “If Hillary [Clinton] got in… you’d be doing wind,” he declaimed. “Windmills. Whee! And if it doesn’t blow, you can forget about television for that night.”
Then on Tuesday night, Trump’s mind once again alighted on his on-again-off-again fixation with wind energy while speaking at a GOP fundraiser. “Hillary wanted to put up wind,” he said. “Wind. If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations: your house just went down 75 percent in value.”
He continued: “And they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one, okay? Rrrrrrrrr—you know the thing makes the—it’s so noisy.”
As The Daily Beast’s Kelly Weill reported, the “wind turbines cause cancer” line is a significant escalation of the typical conspiracy theorist position, which hold that they merely induce nausea. Naturally, Trump’s commentary forced the New York Times to fact-check whether or not the noise from wind turbines can cause cancer. (They do not.)
It was, nonetheless, a peak moment in Trump’s long war against wind, which goes back seven years, includes a staggering number of tweets, and was interrupted only once, out of an all-too-typical requirement asked of anyone who seeks to be elected president. That need: pandering to Iowa voters ahead of that state’s presidential caucus.
As the Washington Post’s Philip Bump chronicled in November 2015, it all went down at a televised town hall in Newton, Iowa, where a not-insignificant number of locals make a living in the wind industry. One of those who got to ask a question of Trump that night was a woman named Patricia Scalabrini, whose husband made a living working for a manufacturer of wind turbines that received government subsidies. It was hardly a surprise that Scalabrini was uniquely interested in whether Trump would, as president, continue to support the means by which her family earned their livelihood.
Trump’s response, however, was a surprise to anyone familiar with his near monomaniacal antipathy toward wind power. Per Bump:
Trump began by saying, “Well, I’m okay with it.” (He then said that he “know[s] a lot about wind,” prompting some tittering in the audience.) He noted that it can be hard for wind to be competitive in energy production particularly when prices for fossil fuels are so low, so “you need subsidies.” (He paused to marvel: “It’s an amazing thing when you think — you know, where they can, out of nowhere, out of the wind, they make energy.”)
The moderator pressed him, you’re okay with the subsidies? Trump replied, “I’m okay with subsidies, to an extent. I don’t like subsidies when you have $19 trillion in debt.” That said, he was clearly supportive: “If oil goes up [in price], it’s great. But if oil stays low, it’s a very tough business.”
To his credit, Trump more-or-less maintained his détente with wind farmers until this week, when this paranoia-infused ridicule of the industry suddenly re-emerged in his on-the-stump natterings. But the industry remains important to the state of Iowa, and Trump’s commentary forced the hand of that state’s senior senator, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who on Wednesday told reporters that the president’s comments were “idiotic” and, referring to himself in the third person, failed to “show respect for Chuck Grassley as the grandfather of the wind energy tax credit.”
Not all Iowa officials have been as quick to correct the president. On Wednesday, Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, got caught up in Trump’s bizarre claims that the noise from wind turbines caused cancer. Asked to clarify the truth about the matter, Reynolds dodged, claiming that it was not “[her] place” to say either way — an unusual position for someone tasked with touting Iowa’s wind energy industry to out-of-state investors to take.
Reynolds continued: “You know how those things change — one year coffee is good for you, the next year coffee causes cancer. I mean that’s just what happens.” (This is literally not what happens.)