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Offshore Wind and the Stress on Commercial Fishermen

January 25, 2024

Congressional Republicans are sounding the Mayday alarm this weekend to the grave challenges commercial fishermen face resulting from the Biden administration’s offshore wind agenda.

Offshore wind development is placing enormous stress on the American commercial fishing fleet, which may not survive these challenges. A trio of coastal lawmakers, Reps. Andy. Harris (R-Md.), Chris Smith (R.-N.J.), and Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) will explore offshore wind farm interactions at an upcoming hearing, which their colleagues and the public should heed.

President Joe Biden casts himself as a friend to American workers, but his poor treatment of fishermen and their communities puts the lie to this claim. Biden’s plan to produce 30 GW of offshore wind energy by the year 2030 is based solely on political goals, not any true scientific investigation of our ocean’s offshore ecosystems. The science is unresolved. Coastal economies are forgotten. Energy and food security questions are ignored. And that’s just for starters.

There are many significant gaps in our understanding of offshore wind’s interactions with all facets of the marine environment, as an exhaustive research document from the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) reflects.

What will the well-documented wind-wake effect do to ocean primary production – the upwelling and downwelling of the ocean – which is the building block of marine food webs? What of European modeling that shows increased sea surface temperatures relative to offshore wind turbines? Those models indicate said warming mimics the effects of climate change, and could extend up to 60 miles past lease areas? Would that hurt the ocean?

Wind turbines in the UK (such as the Thanet wind farm) have created continuous sand sediment plumes underwater that extend for miles and destroy fishing grounds. Could that happen in the U.S.? How do electromagnetic fields that subsea cables generate affect fish migration? Could it affect species development?

We don’t know the answers to these questions, and the administration has not made even a good faith effort to do the science required before leasing began.

Despite the uncertain science, the administration is speeding ocean industrialization along to the benefit of foreign entities and governments. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) offers a 30% tax credit for projects that begin construction before 2026 as a way to turbocharge offshore wind development.

Nearly all the lease holders are multi-national entities, in some cases majority-owned by foreign governments. For example, administration officials in November trumpeted federal approval of two offshore wind farms south of Long Island, Empire Wind 1 and Empire Wind 2. The developers behind these projects are British Petroleum and Equinor, a Norwegian government-owned energy company. 

These projects, and others like them will undermine and perhaps destroy, local commercial fishing fleets coastwide. We know from experience that offshore wind infrastructure is not compatible with their fishing gear. Radar scatter and false targets create such dangers that fishermen cannot safely access lease areas, if entrance is allowed at all.

But instead of the Biden administration removing commercial fishing grounds from offshore wind lease areas first, industry backers in the U.S., such as Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), have crafted bills to instead compensate fishermen for lost catch.

But that doesn’t solve the problem. Fishermen don’t want a hand-out. Cutting checks for destroying a sustainable heritage industry is technocracy at its ugliest.

That approach will also force us to rely more heavily on farmed and wild-caught seafood from places like Russia and China with non-existent environmental and public health oversight. Didn’t the pandemic teach us that domestic food production and national food security matters?

Put simply: the Biden administration is offering tax credits to foreign-government-owned energy companies and/or foreign developers (or their U.S. subsidiaries) who will put US commercial fishermen out of work, seed dysfunction in US coastal fishing communities, risk destroying the ocean’s productivity, and replace a sustainable domestic wild-caught high protein food source with subpar and sometimes unsafe foreign products.

Unfortunately, so far many Republicans have missed the boat on this poignant story about the systematic destruction of our nation’s oldest industry at the hands of the Biden administration and Democrats’ offshore wind policy. But if they replace fishing with another resource user type, like logging, farming or ranching, they have probably lived it in their own state.

Reps. Harris, Smith and Van Drew have been relentless in uncovering the multiple conflicts that offshore wind presents to our coastline and this country. Their colleagues and the public at-large needs to understand quickly what Joe from Scranton’s administration is trying to do to this iconic industry, our wild-caught seafood supply, our nation’s safety, security and the ocean itself, before it’s too late.


Craig Rucker is President of a Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow. 

This article was originally published by RealClearEnergy and made available via RealClearWire.
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