Heir to Ignoramus

BY ART CULLEN

Ignoramus, Merriam Webster Dictionary tells us, is the title character in a 1615 farce by George Ruggle. In Latin, the word means “we do not know.” Ruggle set up Ignoramus as a lawyer who fancies himself to be quite shrewd but is actually foolish and ignorant, a metaphor for the British legal system of the time. Thus the word applies perfectly to President Donald Trump, who visited Cedar Rapids last week for one of his rallies devoid of fact but full of snark. In the heart of Iowa, the greatest generator of wind energy per capita in the nation, the Ignoramus in Chief was talking up the dying coal industry and said, “I don’t want to just hope that the wind blows to light up your homes and your factories.” Then he paused, and added: “as the birds fall to the ground.”

First, to the dead birds.

Have you heard the crows? They are everywhere, in the fields and the parks and around the windmills. The police were shooting at them in a coordinated attack. The pigeons. They poop downtown. The geese rule the Storm Lake Marina, the Lake Trail, Scout Park and every other park. They grease the sidewalks and the docks. They escort their little goslings down the greasy runway into the lake when the dog chases by. The red tail hawks are said to be killing the pheasants. These damn birds are everywhere, mulberries purpling the Sunset Park path.

This just four miles from North America’s largest wind turbine complex.

We do not know for certain, but we have never reported a dead Canada goose near a windmill. Or a crow. Or a pigeon. They are probably fertilizing the ground around the towers as this is written. Turbines might have killed all the feral cats around here. No less than the Audubon Society tells us that cats killed 2.4 billion birds last year. Windmills: 33,000 nationwide, almost none in Iowa. Tall buildings like the Trump Towers kill millions more birds than wind turbines.

That’s just one fact that isn’t a fact to someone who ignores the facts.

And about the lights going out: There are windmills in Storm Lake and Clear Lake. When the wind doesn’t blow here it blows there. When it doesn’t blow there it blows in Southwest Minnesota or at Pomeroy or down near Des Moines. If you are a betting man at a Trump Casino, put your money on the wind blowing good and steady right over Storm Lake at any given hour. They don’t call our team the Whitecaps for nothing.

And, if the wind dies down all over Iowa, which generates nearly half its energy from those turbines, then the natural gas power kicks in. Natural gas has been replacing coal in Iowa. We are converting the plants from coal to natural gas. Gas burns cheaper and cleaner than coal. Iowa is building no new coal plants. Or nuclear plants. With natural gas, wind and solar, Iowa has all the power it needs — and then enough still to power Chicagoland — no matter how much the wind blows out of President Trump’s mouth, which is constant.

Six-thousand Iowans are employed by the wind energy industry. It has enriched the Ridgeview and Pocahontas Area School Districts with new property taxes. It has attracted IT companies interested in abundant water supplies and boundless energy supplies to build huge data warehouses in Iowa. It pays royalties to Iowa landowners that far exceed returns from crops. And, unlike coal, wind power is perfectly clean. People who live close to them complain of the noise of the whoosh. Some think stray voltage will affect them or their livestock. But they think that about nuclear and coal-fired power, too.

Those all are facts.

Nothing President Trump said or suggested is factual.

It completely ignored reality in Iowa and Appalachia.

Coal is not coming back. If the President believes it is, he is delusional. Warren Buffett is not a sentimentalist. He is not delusional, and has made exponentially more money on deals than most ignorami could dream about. Buffett did not invest in American Coal. He bought MidAmerican Energy, the largest producer of wind energy in the USA, headquartered in Des Moines. Because he knows what the future holds. Coal is not a part of it.

If Trump spoke a hard truth — that wind energy is too expensive, maybe (although it is cheaper than coal or nuclear, not natural gas) and told Iowans to come to grips with it, we could admire that. If he told West Virginia to get over coal he would be doing the miners a favor. They know the gig is up. And then offer an alternative vision, such as solar and wind to replace those quickly diminishing coal jobs.

What Trump did was insult Iowa. He pooh-poohed renewable energy entirely. He offered baloney as evidence of wind energy’s potential harm. And he did it in front of a crowd that knows better.

We do not know how that adds up to good politics for a man who prides himself on being shrewd. And, we do not understand why Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst stick with the ignoramus. He puts his ignorance on full display while they stand by and say, “Well, he sure is wrong about this, but …”

He is a fool. He is ignorant. People who prop up an ignoramus should question themselves, unless they don’t have the wits to recognize it.