In December 2019, we received multiple enquiries from readers about remarks that U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly made on the subject of wind power. In particular, readers asked us about a Dec. 23 meme published by the left-leaning "Occupy Democrats" Facebook page.
The caption that accompanied the meme read: "Yes, Trump really DID say this last night ..." The meme itself contained the introductory line "Future generations will look back on Trump's latest idiotic wind turbines rant in awe and horror," followed by what was presented as an extended quotation:
"I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much. But they're manufactured tremendous — if you're into this — tremendous fumes. Gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint — fumes are spewing into the air. Right? Spewing. Whether it's in China, Germany, it's going into the air. It's our air, their air, everything — right?"
The quotation included in the Occupy Democrats meme was a highly, though not perfectly, accurate presentation of real remarks made by Trump during a Dec. 21 speech at a conference held by the right-leaning youth organization Turning Point USA.
Appearing before a highly partisan, strongly supportive audience, Trump riffed on various familiar topics, attacking and ridiculing Democrats and boosting his own administration's record, often using hyperbolic language and eliciting laughter and cheers from the crowd. At times, the remarks appeared more like a stand-up comedy routine than an official speech.
Around 30 minutes in, Trump ridiculed the Green New Deal, riffed on the subject of wind power, and attacked wind turbines. The following is a transcript of the most relevant section from his speech, which can also be watched in the official White House video below.
...We'll have an economy based on wind. I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much. I've studied it [sic] better than anybody I know. It's [sic] very expensive. They're made in China and Germany mostly, very few made here, almost none. But they're manufactured -- tremendous, if you're into this, tremendous fumes, gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So [a] tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything -- you talk about the "carbon footprint" -- fumes are spewing into the air, right? Spewing. Whether it's in China, Germany, it's going into the air. It's our air, their air, everything, right?
So they make these things, and then they put them up, and if you own a house within vision of some of these monsters, your house is worth 50 percent of the price. They're noisy, they kill the birds. You want to see a bird graveyard? You just go, take a look, a bird graveyard? Go under a windmill some day. You'll see more birds than you've ever seen ever in your life ...
The remarks included in the meme are shown in boldface above. Occupy Democrats did not misquote Trump and quoted word-for-word from his actual remarks, though the creators of the meme made slightly different punctuation choices to those we made.
They also left out a short section where Trump explained his purported knowledge of windmills: "I've studied it [sic] better than anybody I know. It's [sic] very expensive. They're made in China and Germany mostly, very few made here, almost none." That gap should have been reflected in the quotation with the use of an ellipsis, but the omission did not distort the meaning or sense of what Trump said, and we therefore issue a rating of "Correct Attribution."
Although his remarks were somewhat garbled at times, Trump appeared to have been making the point that the construction of wind turbines causes carbon emissions ("tremendous fumes"). For what it's worth, it's true that building and maintaining wind turbines does leave a carbon footprint, but analyses have shown that the overall negative environmental impact of wind power is far outstripped by that of the fossil fuel energy sources that wind power is intended to replace.