Thursday, 29 March 2012
Tilting at Windmills
Matt, the fifth Viscount Ridley, is one of the people that I am thankful for. A businessman, a libertarian and a journalist, he has done so much to expose bogus and fashionable nostrums. Rather like a modern Don Quixote he has tilted at windmills, wind turbines, to be exact, relentlessly exposing what I am convinced is the greatest ‘alternative energy’ scam of the age.
Writing previously about wind farms I made the following points;
Wind farms, who does not hate the sight of wind-farms? I certainly do. You may think they are necessary as a source of clean and renewable power. If you do I urge you to think again, think of the implications of these hideous blots on the landscape for the landscape. As foreign investors rush in to capitalise on British wind - and the wind of British politicians - just remember that it would take require a farm the size of Greater London to generate as much energy as a single coal-fired power station, assuming a never ending windy day.
Oh, but think of the money to be made; think of the money being made, for example, by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, effectively bribed by developers to stop them complaining about the killing of eagles by wind turbines. Then there are the bats, of course, the damage these things cause to them; but who cares about the bats? You should care about yourself, though, enough to make sure that you live nowhere near these monstrous carbuncles, because the noise generated has caused health problems for those who do. The difficulty here is that, as the contagion spreads, it will be difficult for any of us to escape them.
Writing recently in the Spectator, Ridley tabled a fresh indictment. As he says, to the nearest round number the amount of energy that has been generated by wind farms comes to exactly zero. But the cost has been huge; the cost in fuel poverty for the elderly, in regressive subsidies which pass wealth to the wealth, in the destruction of rural communities and landscapes, in the loss of jobs, the felling of forests and the destruction of wildlife. Things have gone that can never be replaced.
But for so long the politicians were blind to all of this. In Bath, one of England’s most beautiful cities, the Liberal Democrat-led council even proposed to erect a 240ft wind turbine on the hills just to the south. The scheme was heavily promoted by a local landowner, the only person who stood to benefit in windfall profits. It was only after mass protests, and a threat by UNESCO to take away the city’s world heritage status, was the proposal reluctantly dropped.
Now, it would seem, central government is beginning to blow less wind. The big multinationals, who are investing heavily in offshore wind, are beginning to worry that the cornucopia is not endless, that subsidies may no longer he as easy to get in future as they were in the past. Vestas, which wants to build a turbine factory in the county of Kent, is seeking assurances from David Cameron, the Prime Minister, that he is still behind wind energy. Thankfully, George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer and master of the purse strings, has made it clear that he at least is dead set against further expansion, all on the grounds of cost.
Quite frankly we have been scandalously misled by an unholy alliance between stupid politicians, the self-regarding green lobby, covetous manufacturers and venal land owners. Even in economically vibrant times the policy made no sense. One would have to cover this fair land from end to end with wind farms to meet even a fraction of our future energy needs. But in these economically straightened times wind appears to be just that – wind. It took austerity to expose this scandal.