A blog post defending President Trump’s false claim that noise from windmills causes cancer has been published on MasterResource.org, a blog run by a think tank backed by the powerful Koch network.

MasterResource.org is a project of the Institute for Energy Research (IER), a group that together with its advocacy arm the American Energy Alliance (AEA) has received millions of dollars from the Koch network, as well as money from the coal, oil and gas industries.

AEA endorsed Trump for president during the 2016 election, and some of the group’s staff went on the fill key energy positions on Trump’s transition team and in his administration.

Regular contributors to MasterResource.org, which launched in 2008, include Robert L. Bradley, the founder and CEO of IER and AEA, and a Who’s Who of climate change skeptics and “grassroots” anti-wind power activists.

Trump once cited the anti-wind activist who is now defending him on MasterResource.org

The blog post defending Trump’s misleading remarks about wind power was authored by Sherri Lange, who is the leader of a number of anti-wind groups, including the North American Platform Against Wind (NA-PAW).

“President Donald Trump frequently asserts that, ‘I know a LOT about wind, a LOT.’,” Lange writes.

“I do not disagree,” she concludes.

Fact checkers strongly disagree, and they are not alone. Trump’s latest overblown remarks about wind power have been lampooned on social media and by late night hosts like the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, as Lange notes in her blog post. Michael Mann, a prominent climate scientist, called Trump’s anti-wind rhetoric “weaponized stupidity.

Back in 2012, the Trump Organization emailed  a press release from Lange and NA-PAW to Scottish authorities, as part of Trump’s ongoing and unsuccessful fight against an offshore wind farm that is now in operation near his golf course in Aberdeen. The email came from an executive assistant at the Trump Org.

“From the Office of Donald Trump,” the subject line read.

The press release from Lange and NA-PAW attacked a forthcoming major study from Health Canada. When the study’s preliminary findings were later published in 2014, and finalized in 2016, they found that the illnesses, sleep disorders and stress that anti-wind activists often refer to as “wind turbine syndrome” were in fact not related to wind turbine noise.  

Unreliable sources used to defend Trump

As some journalists correctly pointed out after Trump made his “ridiculous” false claim that noise from wind turbines can cause cancer, there is also no real evidence that wind turbines can cause other health problems like sleep and stress disorders, another anti-wind claim that Trump has echoed in the past.   

Lange, in her blog post defending Trump on MasterResource.org, nonetheless argues that noise from wind turbines can cause sleep and stress disorders, which in turn can cause cancer.

Lange points to info she says can be found on “the web,” including a 2007 study by Mariana Alves Pereira and Castelo Branco on “Vibro Acoustic Disease” in making her case for Trump:

The President has stated that “Turbine Noise causes Cancer.”

Support for this statement can come from broadly accepting “noise,” as we mostly do in common parlance, to include vibration, low frequency and Infra Sound, Pulsation and chaotic bouncing of those impacts between turbines. It is easy to scan the web and find the association between these impacts and disease.

Mariana Alves Pereira and Castelo Branco’s study on VAD (Vibro Acoustic Disease) is germane. They call it “whole body” cascade of impacts, pathology…

Simon Chapman and Alexis St. George, Australian researchers at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health, published a 2013 analysis on how misleading claims attributing “vibroacoustic disease” (VAD) to wind turbines have proliferated across the internet.  They concluded:

VAD has received virtually no scientific recognition beyond the group who coined and promoted the concept. There is no evidence of even rudimentary quality that vibroacoustic disease is associated with or caused by wind turbines.

“The claim that wind turbines cause VAD is a factoid that has gone ‘viral’ in cyberspace and may be contributing to nocebo effects among those living near turbines,” Chapman and St. George also warned.

Research suggests it’s actually anti-wind disinformation campaigns that are making people feel sick, and the Institute for Energy Research promotes that disinformation

A 2017 book by Chapman and Fiona Crichton took a broader look at the problem of disinformation about “wind turbine syndrome” being disseminated by anti-wind power groups. A summary of their book found on the University of Sydney’s website includes the following:

… At last count an astonishing 247 symptoms had been attributed to wind turbines, from back pain and accelerated ageing to herpes and multiple sclerosis. Repeated reviews of the scientific evidence have found no grounds for these claims, yet they have continued to spread in some communities. Wind turbine syndrome shows all the hallmarks of a communicated disease: that is, an illness that is spread by people talking and writing write about it. In short: people are worrying themselves sick.

IER and MasterResource.org are one source of this disinformation. The blog has for years been promoting the views of anti-wind activists like John Droz of the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions, who also recently sent out a newsletter to his followers defending Trump’s false claims about wind turbines and cancer. After the 2016 election, Droz wrote about his personal connections inside the incoming Trump administration.

Lisa Linowes of the New Hampshire-based Industrial Wind Action Group is another “principal” contributor to MasterResource.org. Linowes joined IER’s newly formed Advisory Council in December, and she also serves as a senior fellow for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, another group backed by Koch money that’s fighting a war against wind power in the Lone Star state and has close ties to the Trump administration.

Tom Stacy, who serves on the National Wind Watch’s board of directors, is an Ohio-based anti-wind activist and MasterResource.org contributor who became a paid consultant for IER and other special interest groups backed by the fossil fuel industry. Travis Fisher, a former IER staffer, continued to email with Stacy about attacks on renewable energy in Ohio after he joined the Trump team at the Department of Energy.  

The coordination between IER and anti-wind activists has gone beyond online communications. In 2013, for example, IER hosted an anti-wind event in Washington, D.C., featuring Linowes, Stacy, and Kevon Martis of the Michigan-based Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition.

In 2016, Bradley marked the eighth anniversary of MasterResource.org with a blog post that celebrated the contributions of the “grassroots talent fighting against industrial wind turbines.” Since then, he’s been busy defending anti-wind operatives like Droz, Stacy, and Martis, all of whom have cozy partnerships with special interest groups backed by the fossil fuel industry.

MasterResource.org is where the “grassroots” anti-wind power movement that Bradley works tirelessly to promote merges with the fossil fuel industry’s astroturf campaign against renewable energy.

Top photo courtesy of the Beyond Coal and Gas Image Library. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 

Posted by Dave Anderson

Dave Anderson is the policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. Dave has been working at the nexus of clean energy and public policy since 2008. Prior to joining the Energy and Policy Institute, he was an outreach coordinator for the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He is also an alumnus of the Sierra Club and the Alliance for Climate Protection (now the Climate Reality Project). Dave’s research has helped to spur public scrutiny of political attacks on clean energy and climate science by powerful special interests, such as ExxonMobil and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). His work has been cited by major media outlets, such as CBS News and the Wall Street Journal, and he has served as a speaker on panels at national solar industry conferences. Dave holds a MA in Political Science from the University of New Hampshire, where he also received a BA in Humanities.