Trump says windmills aren’t working too well

Comment at G-7 summit stirs anxiety in offshore wind industry

AT THE END of a long press conference after the Group of 7 summit in Biarritz, France, President Trump responded to a question about his climate change skepticism in a way that didn’t sound promising for those trying to build an offshore wind industry in the United States.

“The US has tremendous wealth. The wealth is under its feet. I’ve made that wealth come alive,” Trump said (starting at 1:08), noting that the US has more liquefied natural gas than anybody in the world. “We are the No. 1 energy producer in the world.”

Trump said he’s not going to lose that wealth. “I’m not going to lose it on dreams, on windmills, which, frankly, aren’t working too well,” he said.

The president’s comments have to be concerning for Vineyard Wind, the company trying to build the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts. Vineyard Wind’s project is in jeopardy because federal regulators have indefinitely postponed action on the company’s environmental impact statement while they try to assess the cumulative impact of the many wind farms being proposed along the East Coast.

Officials at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management have insisted they are just being prudent, but Trump’s comments in France suggest the president may not be interested in wind power. It’s the wind industry’s biggest fear, that the federal bureaucracy is just bending to the whims of a president whose first love is fossil fuels.

“When it comes to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Trump administration has cut every corner and moved through the environmental review period at record speed,” said US Rep. Joseph Kennedy III. “But when it comes to the nation’s first major offshore wind project — which has gone through years of extensive study, public comment, and mitigation plans for impacted communities — they are trying to delay it to death. Their double standard on energy infrastructure is putting jobs, manufacturing, and economic activity at risk, from southeastern New England to Texas to Louisiana.”

For Massachusetts, the stakes are high. It’s counting on offshore wind to help the state reach its carbon emission goals. State officials are also hoping offshore wind can develop into a major new industry, spinning off onshore jobs and investment.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The federal government until now has been an active participant, leasing ocean tracts to wind farm companies and laying the foundation for a new industry. No one really knows if Trump’s comments mean a change in course. (A number of other statements he made at the G-7 summit raised eyebrows.) But it’s clear the president’s idea of environmentalism is very different from what is espoused by most politicians in Massachusetts

“In a nutshell, I want the cleanest water on earth. I want the cleanest air on earth. And that’s what we’re doing. I’m an environmentalist. A lot of people don’t understand that. I’ve done more environmental impact statements than anybody,” Trump said. “I think I know more about the environment than most people.”