LePage Spins Windmill Conspiracy Theory

UMPI photo | BDN

Governor LePage has a habit of using false anecdotes to back up his policy positions. It started during his campaign and has continued throughout his time in office. He routinely makes up regulations that don’t exist, conversations that never happened and discriminatory practices that have never occurred. LePage has repeated some of these claims even after they have been proven to be false.

What these lies have in common is that they all seem designed to highlight some extreme example of what LePage sees as wrong with the world and justify his policy prescriptions. If any of them were true, they would be very compelling.

LePage added a new false anecdote to his repertoire on Tuesday as he spoke to the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce. At the end of long rant against the wind power industry, filled with claims that the renewable resource doesn’t create jobs and leads to higher electricity rates, LePage took aim at one wind turbine in particular.

“Now, to add insult to injury, The University of Maine, Presque Isle – anybody here been up there to see that damn windmill in the back yard? Guess what, if it’s not blowing wind outside and they have somebody visiting the campus, they have a little electric motor that turns the blades. I’m serious. They have an electric motor so that they can show people wind power works. Unbelievable. And that’s the government that you have here in the state of Maine,” said LePage.

Listen here in mp3.

UMPI photo | BDN

The University of Maine at Presque Isle’s award-winning wind turbine was built in 2009 and serves as both a source of power for the campus and a demonstration of clean energy in action. Since the turbine’s metering was reset in July of last year, it has produced the clean energy equivalent of 684.6 barrels of oil. You can see live readings of wind speed, rotor RPM and power generation of the turbine any time at UMPI’s website.

When I asked UMPI director of community and media relations Rachel Rice if there was a little electric motor that spun the blades in order to trick people into thinking it was working, her first reaction was to laugh out loud.

When I explained that I was following up on an actual statement from Maine’s governor, she was nice enough to provide a more technical refutation. The turbine blades begin spinning at around 4-5 mph of wind speed, begin generating power at 10 mph and can continue generation with winds of up to around 65 mph.

“If there’s no wind, the turbine won’t spin,” explained Rice. “There has to be naturally-occurring wind in order for the turbine to spin.”

LePage’s anecdote wasn’t just hilariously inaccurate. According to Judy Berk, communications director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (an organization that supports responsibly-sited wind development), the sentiment behind it is also highly counterproductive for Maine.

“Wind power is an important part of our energy future. As we phase out dirtier sources of energy, we should be phasing in some of these new ones. Maine is poised to be a leader in wind power, if only we’ll let it,” said Berk. “We have many companies that are leaders in installing wind power and Maine has developed an expertise that is recognized outside the state as well. UMPI’s wind power program is working to train the next generation of energy producers.”

LePage’s false anecdotes, like this one, aren’t just a source of confusion and comedy. They also provide some troubling insight into the way he makes and justifies his decisions as governor. It’s hard to trust any policy stance of someone who is either so incredibly gullible or is willing to cynically and habitually lie in such a transparent way in order to advance his own agenda.

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike writes about Maine politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center, writes a political column for the Portland Press Herald