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Cameron needs to take on the flat-earthers and win the argument for wind power

Posted on 27 February 2012 | 8:02am

Back in the days when people seemed to accept at face value David Cameron’s commitment to the environment, today’s revelations that billions of pounds worth of investment in wind farms is on hold would be big news.

Perhaps it will be, but Cameron is very successful at moving from one ‘top priority’ to another, so that by the time he is on the next one, and the next few after that, people have forgotten that his top priority used to be … er … the environment.

The longer he goes on enjoying being Prime Minister, and the opportunities that gives him for travel, meeting interesting people, having top priorities not just in Britain but around the world, the more it becomes apparent that his hug-a-huskie, build-a-wind-turbine-on-your roof commitment to the environment really was just a phase of the ‘detoxify the brand’ PR campaign. All a bit sad when you think of the consequences for the planet.

If he really was concerned, he would be standing up to the well-funded campaign to undermine the fact of man-made climate change, loosely modelled on the campaign that for decades persuaded policy makers that the health case against smoking cigarettes was unproven. The deaths caused by the current flat-earthers will dwarf those caused even by smoking, but hey ho, the Right wing believe in freedom, including the freedom to destroy the planet.

Now we live in a democracy, and the fact that 100 Tory MPs expressed opposition to the government’s stated position on wind farms has to be taken into account. But a Prime Minister who appears willing to face down virtually the enirety of the NHS in his pledge-breaking top down reorganisation can surely take on an argument with backbenchers worried that one of the dreaded wind farms might pop up in their back yard.

Having recently driven through France, where there are some enormous wind farms at fairly regular intervals on the main drive north to south, I am even more firmly of the view that they can add to rather than detract from some views. There are jobs attached to big energy projects too, not to be sniffed at. But the bigger, environmental argument is no longer being made, and the longer the government goes on failing to make it, the greater hold the flat-earthers will take of this particular debate, and the likelier investors are to take their business elsewhere.

It genuinely baffles me why denial of science should become a right-wing virility symbol. But it has happened, and Cameron needs to summon up the leadership to challenge it.

  • Martyn

    Excellent blog. Wish you’d cover the subject more often.

  • John Quinton-barber

    Brilliant. Well articulated. We recently commissioned a UK wide omnibus poll on attitudes towards wind farms. Over 75% of those questioned were in favour. Young people, in particular, were positive. The challenge is to help young people to get their voice heard and listened to in the planning process.

  • Ehtch

    Alastair, you might as well be pissing in the wind.

    Shallow Dave on his bike going up one way streets as shadow PM, with a host of security in cars following him like some sort of kiddie on back wheel sabalisers.

    Fecking pathetic it was. 

    Hate the tory bullshitting hypocritical nonse.

  • Chris

    Bill Gates’s TED talk on carbon emissions and ‘Innovating to Zero’:

  • As a resident of South West France I have wind turbines not far from home.  I personally don’t find them too ugly, and when you drive right past them (you can get to within about 50 metres of the base of one) they’re not noisy.  But there is a huge disadvantage.  They only turn when it’s windy – and that isn’t really very often! Judging by the huge number of lorries (with escorts) carrying the massive blades and “fuselage” sections and the very large workforce to erect them – not forgetting the many road diversions while they were erected – I cannot see that they are economically viable – especially since I am told that they will only last for about five years at most. I’m all for green energy, but the future here – and probably in the UK with climate change – should surely be for solar energy rather than wind turbines.

  • Hayes Thompson

    What did you and Blair do? 

  • Olli Issakainen

    The problem with scientific theories is that they can offer only partial or relative truth.
    As an avid reader of the New Scientist I know that theories come and go.
    And as Thomas S. Kuhn has shown, there is no such a thing as “objective science”. Science develops through paradigms.
    And Hume has stated that we cannot make generalisations or detect causality. (I leave the implications of quantum theory aside here.)
    So it is entirely possible that we are, in fact, heading for a mini ice-age.
    Scotland has 25% of Europe´s tidal power potential. 25% of offshore wind potential. And 10% of wind power potential.
    Independent Scotland will be rich!
    David Cameron has no vision for Britain´s future. All he does is to defuse the issue of the week with some banal statement, and then move to the next one.
    The welfare state was founded on progressive taxation and universal welfare.
    The cuts are an ideological assault on welfare.
    Freud said that humans must manage hatred and greed through structures that contain them.
    Free market is an ideology of the survival of the fittest giving force to primitive moralism.
    The Conservatives are still the same old nasty party.

  • davyh

    The problem is that the right wing dominated press give liar Cameron an easy ride.
    If Brown was still PM and following the same policies as liar Cameron, they would be hounding him for the state of the economy, unemployment, borrowing, immigration, crime, the NHS, the armed forces, the police, bankers bonuses, the green industry, student loans and the prospect of the break up of the UK  to name just a few.

    Something needs to be done to end the Murdoch media mafia.

    Murdoch essentialy decides who gets to be PM and what he does when he gets there.

  •  Who tells you this 5 year figure?



  • Michele

    I don’t think there’s much chance of Dave reneging on reward schemes for wind turbines, many large estates are funded by them and Sam’s real Dad is planning many more.  Her step-Dad too?

    It crosses my mind btw (and it should have before) that there’s something not right about there being family members of any MP at all in HoL.  As for a PM having two (or even more?) there?

  • Anonymous

    The “fact of man-made climate change”, Alastair? The fact is that less than one hundred self-selected scientists, whose research grants depend on the threat of climate change, cherry-picked from a survey of over ten thousand scientists, barely a quarter of whom even bothered to respond, assert that the climate is changing and that humans are ‘likely’ in part responsible. That is the “97% of climate scientists” to whom you allude. (Doran & Zimmerman 2009)

    The fact is that there is no scientific evidence to support the hypothesis that climate change is or will be catastrophic, or that it requires mitigation. Physical sciences (gas laws) state that climate sensitivity (the term for a doubling of CO2, whether natural, man-made or both) is about 1.2 degrees Celsius. No scientist argues that this would be catastrophic for us or for the planet. None. The concept of catastrophic global warming is entirely a political imperative, not a scientifically supported one. Climate changes; it has always changed; it will always change.

    Wind farms deliver on average less than 10% of their theoretical capacity. A 10GW windfarm can only be depended on, therefore, to deliver less than 1GW of power to the grid. Moreover, during severely cold times and extremely warm times, both when power generation is most required, the wind simply does not blow. These are the real-world meteorological characteristics of high-pressure systems. The problem is that while, in theory, reality and theory are the same, in reality they are not. Wind power is great in theory. But only in theory.

    The expense on the taxpayer through subsidies, and the ineffectual nature of wind-generated electricity both on our energy needs and also as a means of CO2 mitigation, will inevitably lead to widespread Fuel Poverty in the UK. It is already happening, but will become worse as more and more of our poorest are forced to choose between warmth and food. As the tax burden to protect our poorest from cold-related death as a result of an incoherent windfarm policy increases, so more of our less-poor will be faced with Fuel Poverty. This is the future that your ideological commitment to a feel-good “environmentally friendly” energy future promises. 

    And that, Alastair, is all that windfarms really are; a self-flagellation for the sake of a misguided yuppie feel-good factor; it’s an “at least we’re doing something for the environment” feeling. Oh, and it’s a taxpayer-funded cash-cow for already-rich land owners.

  • Anonymous

    If you are ‘genuinely baffled’, perhaps you should look carefully at the arguments and stop ranting about ‘flat-earthers’ and ‘denial of science’ .

    Can’t you understand that windfarms are useless because they don’t produce any power when the wind isn’t blowing?

    It is the proponents of wind power who are those who don’t understand the science, not the opponents.

  • Michael

    Yes Scotland could be rich on this basis – but don’t forget the anti-windfarm brigade now have a certain Mr Trump funding their nimby approach – so unless half of Europe goes to play golf at Donald’s private park for the wealthy then im afraid that’s not going to happen either!

  • Anonymous

    I am 95% convinced about global warming, and it seems that even if the science “is not settled” most scientists including nasa believe in it and I reckon they know more than me about that!

    However I am not convinced by what the correct response to global warming is and am unsure about wind farms – isn’t there truth in the argument that we are subsidising them at the minute and that they are making our fuel dearer? (Which has its worst effects on the poor, the pensioners, etc.)

  • Chris lancashire

    For “Cameron” substitute “Blair” – just as applicable.

  • Gilliebc

    On the subject of these ineffectual bird-killing monstrous eyesores known as wind farms I am most definitely not in favour of them.

    Doesn’t the fact that already wealthy land owners such as Cameron’s father-in-law for one and many others also are making huge amounts of money by having them on their land tell us all we need to know?

    So-called wind-farms are a money-making scam, no more no less.

  • Michele

    Although I really like the look of the fans I’m not sure they will ever produce electricity economically. 

    Aren’t sun panels proven to be more efficient (as well as surely being more easily screened off – on land at least –  by bushes etc to satisfy the climate change denyers that will say anything to thwart modern supply methods)?

  • Ehtch

    Each farm in the land could have a windturbine on it, doesn’t have to be that big, and that would produce quite a lot of leccy back into the grid. Modern solar panels produce electricity with just any light, if it is light as day to your eyes, it will produce. Tidal energy is extremely interesting, and I hope they do something in the Severn estuary. It does have to to all across it, but sections on it as like old salmon traps, but on a bigger scale, with generators at the end of it. Tidal wave technology too, it has enormous energy available.

    But yes, traditional powerstations to have well over 100% capacity for national needs, other forms aside, should be available on tap, where nuclear is good because it can come on stream quite quickly. And for the kettles being switched on after the Queen’s speech on Christmas Day, a couple more hydro powerstations as Dinorwic in North Wales, which is even more instantaneous.

    It seems energy providers and politicians are all over the place trying to organise the future energy needs, and keep going round in circles. It is all confusion.

  • Ehtch

    Climate change is quite obtuse in north-western Europe, which leads to warmer summers and colder winters, as like North America on the same latitude. Do you know Madrid is on the same latitude as New York City, but experiences different annual weather? That could change, as the last three winters have suggested, which co-incides to some sort of oscillation changes in the atmosphere above and near the Arctic, due to it melting away. Myself been noticing it when amateur interest researching, so have no hidden agendas.

    BBC news article from the last day or two suggests something is going on,

    See what next winter brings, this one has been barking mad for eastern Europe.

  • Ehtch

    Furthermore, practically all farms have three phase electricity supply to them, because of old cow milking machinary, so would be able to efficiently feed wind turbine produced electricity into the grid, unlike normal households, who have a single either red-yellow-blue phase supply with a neutral.

    Sorry to might have baffled some with electrical technology speak – ask your local electrician to explain what I am saying.

  • Dave Simons

     Wondered what had happened to you. Was going to organise a search party. No big change though – same old one-line sniper shot! Welcome back.

  • Chris lancashire

    I find a luxury sunshine holiday at this time of year most restorative. Glad you missed me.

  • Anonymous

    “Something is going on”? That sounds scary and ominous. But is it? 

    Yes, climate changes, as it has and always will change. That climate changes does not therefore mean that man is responsible for any or all climate changes. Nor does it mean that it is within man’s means, by whatever method, to control it.

    Ten thousand years ago, half of Britain rested under a mile-thick layer of ice. Nature is immense, its power inconceivable. It seems to me a mark of extraordinary arrogance to believe that mankind has anything but the most minuscule sway with nature, or that by our self-sacrificial environmentalist actions we can defeat nature’s own natural cycles.

  • Ehtch

    And when I say confusion, it is 100% Manchester confusion, cotton balls or not from old times,

  • Ehtch

    “Something is going on”, but as I said, let’s wait until next winter, it is only a fart away, on the grander scale of time. Makes me laugh we are unable to export water to the south-east of England due to numpties that organise infrastructure in this country. Us in Wales have more water than we know what to do with it. SE England wil be plastic lawn city soon, as like Arizona, US of A.

  • Dave Simons

     ‘Luxury sunshine holiday’? Let me guess. Ah yes…Skeggy! Lovely place to be in February!

  • Ehtch

    And by the way, since I have also worked in the aircraft electrical equipement industry at a sharp electronic black box level, take out and replace, they call their phases A, B and C, where B is used also as the neutral, since onviously an aircraft can’t have a copper stick in the ground, flying about. And it is at 400Hz, so can have smaller lighter transformers withit’s equipement. and not 50 Hz that gets sent round the country to come out of your household 50 Hz sockets for your tea kettles and tvs. Aircraft also have a 24v DC supply, using the B phase as it’s negative.

    Think this has really lost people, and if I say the yellow-green earth wire is your local earth to your house, unlike the grids neutral might just blow their minds, rather than fuses.

    But this is why electricians get paid more than plumbers, outside winter that is, when the temperature doesn’t drop suddenly.

  • Ehtch

    WHOOPS! maybe said 24v DC there, that is trucks of course, unlike cars 12v. It is 28v DC for aircraft I meant, and 115v AC three phase for aircraft, not as like 240v singl phase for your house.

  • Banburylass

    Mr Cambell how close were these turbines to people’s homes? You need to do some urgent research if you think that wind energy is the way forward. Good on the 100 Conservatives have have had the back bone to stand up and be counted a pity a few more from your party didn’t have the spine to do it. there are other less invassive ways of generating electricity than 427ft industrial machines 500m from someone’s front door. It is labours fault for signing us up to unrealistic targets, but then I guess you knew all along that you wouldn’t be there to pick up the tab. If you did proper research you would also find that most EU countries are turning their backs on wind power as it is too expensive,that is why a lot of the UK’s industry is going abroad because the electric costs in the UK are too expensive, due to the high subsidies that we are forking out for an intermittent supply. As for saying the MP’s are only concerned for their own back yard, just shows how silly you are, it is virtually in eveyone’s back yard. It should not be in anyone’s back yard when they are proposed to be so close to people’s homes. Why not do something useful for a change and lobby for a min 2km set back.

  • Ehtch

    By the way, notice on this lat/long world map that Britain is on the same latitude, more or less, as Hudson Bay in Canada, that freezes over each winter. And the Great Lakes in North America, which freezes over, more so, even souther, on the same latitude as Bordeaux, mainly, which is frightening.

    So more the Arctic Sea ice Cap melts, the more the Atlantic Gulf stream will miss us, or even diminish, so prepare for colder winters, warmer summers, etc. The first sign will be an expolsion of supper evening meal biting midges, I suppose, but you will have to ask zoologists that what they predict. Anyway, a good lat/long map of the world here,

  • Ehtch

    Don’t want to panic anyone, but new species of midges do evolve very quickly with sudden changing climate, faster than mammals like us, let alone viruses and batceria,
    Now I said don’t panic, Don’t Panic DON’T PANIC…

    And all the best to Phillip Madoc, a very interesting welsh, sometimes dark, welsh actorrr, who sometimes asked, what is your name, and then when told, responded, you’re on the list,

    Since Phillip was welsh, as I am, he told me, sadly, we could easily be on the list, very sadly. Love seeing Phillip on The Saint for instance telly programmes from the 1960’s, and other things, but never saw him on stage, since I am allergic to people sitting next to me – don’t know where they have been, no matter what class they are, they might keep horses. So why don’t you get a box then, old boy, they say, and I think, mmm, haven’t got a landrover to tow it.

    song/can for Phillip Madoc, can i ti fy wedi dod i hydi fi nawr yn chwilio. Diolch Phil.

  • Ehtch

    OOPS! used the abbreviated youtube search address there on he late Philip Madoc in Dad’s Army, here is the full address, on ze list,

  • Brendan Morley

    Brilliant. Well said, Board_Member.