ANAHEIM, C.A. -- Philanthropist and CNN founder Ted Turner has turned his sights to renewable energy -- and he had some fighting words for the wind industry at the kickoff to its annual convention on Monday.
Turbine manufacturers and clean energy utilities can't sit idly by while the coal industry touts its "clean coal" plan and oil companies flood the airwaves, Turner said. He noted that he had "nightmares" caused by clean coal advertisements.
Wind energy companies, which created a quarter of the nation's new electricity capacity last year, need to fight back, Turner said.
"Let's go out and kick their asses. That's what they need, a good ass-kicking," Turner told the group assembled for the American Wind Energy Association's conference. He was speaking in an unscripted conversation with the group's CEO, Denise Bode.
So far, Turner hasn't found it feasible to build large-scale wind operations on his own vast land holdings in the American West, but he hopes to change that soon.
Turner acknowledged that wind energy faces an uphill battle, with critical tax credits expiring over the next two years and formidable push-back from carbon-based energy producers. The political calculus is particularly tricky in coal country, as Turner illustrated with an anecdote about a conversation he said he had with Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.):
"I'm a good friend and admirer of Jay Rockefeller, the senator from West Virginia," Turner said. "I lobbied him, a year or so ago, and he said, 'Ted, I can't go against coal.' He said, 'I can't. It's the biggest employer in my state.' He said, 'I do a lot of good work in other areas, you're just going to have to give me a bye on this one.'"
Rockefeller's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rockefeller voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which included cash grants for renewable energy projects, but he has also pledged to put a halt to the EPA's attempts to tighten climate regulations.
The only way advocates of wind power and other renewable resources like solar power will overcome such staunch opposition, Turner believes, is by committing their own money to public relations and lobbying.
Turner seemed particularly pleased that one of his oldest adversaries, General Electric, could be critical in that effort. GE owned NBC -- a competitor of Turner's cable empire -- from 1986 until this year. GE is now the largest producer of wind turbines in the United States.
"I fought against GE my whole life and now I'm pulling for 'em," Turner told the crowd to applause and laughter.
Turner believes renewable energy is critical for avoiding disruptive climate change over the next century -- but he also thinks global warming is already behind events like the tornado that tore through Missouri over the weekend.
Such severe weather is being caused, Turned said, "by the heating up of the atmosphere because of the goddamned carbon dioxide."
"I'd rather have a nuclear than a coal plant built, because one might kill ya and the other one will for sure. But wind doesn't kill anybody," Turner added.