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Guest Editorial: President wrong to disparage wind industry

LM Wind Power is a Grand Forks company that employs 800, with realistic hopes of adding more jobs. Late last year, the city's Job Development Authority approved an expansion for LM Wind to add infrastructure that will house office space and also accommodate construction of 203-feet-long turbine blades.

It is an important local company working in an important statewide industry.

So when President Trump this week mocked the nation's wind industry with insults and scary rhetoric, we instantly thought of those employees working at LM Wind, creating a product that adds to the nation's energy pool while helping drive the local economy.

At a Republican fundraising event recently, President Trump said wind turbines decrease property values.

"If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations. Your house just went down 75 percent in value," he said.

He said wind turbines are "a graveyard for birds. If you love birds, you never want to walk under a windmill, because it's a sad, sad sight."

And he said the noise from wind turbines is a dire health hazard.

"They say the noise causes cancer," he said.

The president doesn't like wind power. Some reports say this goes back to a fight he had with a wind company that built near a golf course he owns. He is a booster of oil and coal, and some people consider wind an enemy of carbon-based energy sources.

We are oil and coal boosters, too, because we know the country cannot move without them and we know how much they mean to an energy-producing state like North Dakota. Yet we also believe wind has a place, not only on the literal American landscape — the Great Plains are naturally suited for wind power — but on the nation's business landscape as well.

We don't know the size of LM Wind's annual payroll. Therefore, we invite readers to determine it themselves: Estimate an employee's annual salary and multiply that times 800 or 900 (roughly the number of employees at LM Wind). The sum will be tens of millions of dollars, with the bulk of that money coming from outside the region. Like eddies in the wake of a wind turbine, those dollars circulate through the community and immediate region in an endless swirl of economic impact.

According to the American Wind Industry Association, the industry has invested more than $5 billion in North Dakota, supporting 3,000 to 4,000 jobs while providing annual land lease payments of $5 million to $10 million.

Although studies correctly show that some birds do die because of turbines, we have walked among wind farms but have not seen "bird graveyards" at their base. Actually, there were no dead birds to be seen.

We know people who live near wind farms who have had no adverse health reactions.

And the American Cancer Society says it is "unaware of any credible evidence linking the noise from windmills to cancer."

The president is wrong to disparage wind power, and it's frustrating to hear him do so with such dramatic overstatements and misinformation. Republicans from windy states—including North Dakota—should speak up and remind the president of the importance of this industry.