How Obama’s Environmental Policies Are Undermining the US Military and National Security

climate change
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

When President Obama declared earlier this year that “climate change” represents “an immediate risk to our national security” he was absolutely right. (H/T John Droz)

Only, the key detail he forgot to mention is precisely why it represents such a risk: because his administration’s crazed faith that renewable energy represents a solution to “climate change” is severely impacting the defensive capabilities of the US military.

Consider the case of two giant wind projects scheduled imminently for development near vital US defense facilities.

Both have been given the go-ahead in the teeth of opposition from senior members of the US military. Neither is likely to be cancelled because they accord with the Obama administration’s green priority commitments —  which apparently take precedence over trivial issues like hurricane predictions, air defense warnings, and terrorism prevention.

Security risk #1: the Desert Wind project in North Carolina

Comprising 150 turbines, each more than 500 feet tall, this is very shortly to be built on the doorstep of the Hampton Roads Naval military base — home to one of America’s only two Relocatable Over the Horizon Radar (ROTHR) sites.

This state-of-the-art ROTHR facility is a key part of US homeland defense, charged with monitoring criminal operations, terrorist threats, and menacing activity of non-friendly countries in the Gulf of Mexico and northern South America. It also deals with hurricane predictions and climate change monitoring.

The government’s own studies have warned that turbines and radar facilities do not mix:

Current generation wind turbines are extremely large, radiowave-reflecting structures. The turbine blade span can exceed the wingspan of a 747 jumbo jet and the turbine tower heights are equivalent to a 40-story office building. The blades rotate every few seconds so the reflected radio waves are Doppler shifted up to a couple of hundred knots by the velocity of the blade surfaces. OTH radars detect moving targets against a background of backscatter from the earth’s surface, or clutter, by virtue of the speed-induced Doppler separation between their reflections and those of the stationary clutter. However the secondary reflection of those clutter signals off nearby turbines introduce a spectral contamination to the clutter backscatter which spreads it into target Dopplers. This creates a background against which the target returns must now compete, and the radars’ ability to detect targets is reduced, in much the same way that municipal light pollution of the night sky prevents astronomers’ ability to see stars.

This is why the Commanding Officer of the Texas military base near where the only other US ROTHR facility is located pronounced himself “extremely concerned” about the problems caused by industrial wind turbines. Also, last year, General John F Kelly of the US Marine Corps expressed to the House Armed Services Committee similar objections. He said:

I remain concerned about the planned construction of wind farm sites in North Carolina that will interfere with our ROTHR radar system in Virginia. I am also concerned over wind projects in Texas that will impact ROTHR systems in that state. These wind farms could and likely will adversely impact our ROTHR systems….We are working within the Department of Defense and with developers and stakeholders to develop potential mitigation solutions but I have little confidence we will succeed.

General Kelly’s concerns are understandable given that the government study quoted above recommends that wind developments of Desert Winds’ magnitude be sited a minimum of 28 miles from a ROTHR receiver if they are not seriously to degrade its performance. But Desert Winds is just 14 miles away from the ROTHR receiver. Despite this, the Navy was mandated in October 2014 to sign an agreement with the Spanish-owned wind developer Iberdrola. Astonishingly, the agreement says that the Desert Wind project can only be temporarily shut down by a “special” National Security declaration — one signed by the president. Otherwise, it can go about its business unimpeded by any objections the military may care to raise about lost operational performance.

Security Risk #2: Pantego Wind in North Carolina

This development of 50 turbines, each around 500 feet tall, is scheduled to be built near Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro, NC. One of the base’s primary missions is to train fighter pilots to fly low-level routes (eg to avoid radar).

Hence this letter from the base’s conscientious CO — Col Jeannie Leavitt — to the NC governor outlining her concerns about how the wind project would affect the base’s mission and operational performance.She wrote:

…windmill structures and rotating blades have a demonstrable negative effect on the F-15E’s main radar and its terrain following radar system. The effects are significant at both medium and low altitude flight levels.

Subsequently, the CO authorized an in-depth study of the problem. It identified at least three serious concerns:

  1. It would make low-altitude air-to-air intercept training virtually impossible, leaving pilots unable to complete their syllabus.
  2. It would interrupt low-altitude tactical navigation and maneuvring, making training less realistic and leaving combat fliers less proficient.
  3. It would multiply the number of 400+ foot obstacles in the training zone by a factor of five, raising safety of flight risk, especially at night.

As a result, the developer (a company called Invenergy, based, almost inevitably, in Chicago) offered to reduce the number of turbines — though several were still to be left in the flight path of SJ pilots. When Seymour Johnson objected to this non-solution, it was overruled during a Department of Defense Siting process.

Through gritted teeth, Col Leavitt, 4th Fighter Tactical wing commander, was forced to issue a statement praising the “careful balance” of an agreement which capitalized “on the potential of renewable energy in eastern North Carolina, while allowing the 4th Fighter Wing to continue its F-15E, low-level flying mission.

To be clear, there is little if any credible evidence that renewable energy is making any difference towards mitigating climate change. It’s so unreliable it requires constant back up from conventional fossil-fuel power stations operating on spinning reserve. And its contribution to global energy production remains so small as to be negligible.

However, there is plenty of evidence to show that the Obama administration’s prioritization of wind energy is impairing America’s defence capabilities. This has been known for at least five years, as acknowledged during a June 2010 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee called “Wind Farms: Compatible with Military Readiness?” Rep Solomon Ortiz, the chairman, noted:

This IS a serious problem! Is there anything that we can do to preserve the military capabilities threatened by wind development at military bases? In the short term, no.

Perhaps, though, we should leave the last word on the absurdity of the situation to Rep Conaway, during a later part of the hearing, when questioning a starry eyed eco-zealot — one Dr. Dorothy Robyn — from the Department of Defense.

Rep Conaway:

So renewable energy comes in front of other requirements that DOD has?… I have had four-stars tell me that they have to hide all these extra costs, so they can look green. They also say that renewable energy is not mission-critical to what they are doing. You are not going to power an MRAP with a battery or wind.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.