Wednesday, 29 March 2006

It's not rocket science

Something puzzles me.

Way back when in “olde” times, did the marauding masses troop belligerently to the planning office to object when the honourable representatives of our good Lord started whacking up 100ft church steeples? Did they moan about the terrible blight on the landscape? Did they claim that birds would fly straight into them and die in a terrible mess of bells and ropes?

When, a little later in the development of the world, people started to create horrid chimneys protruding from their houses, did the masses rise up and again storm the planning offices to complain about the offensiveness of such filthy protrusions? Did they argue that they looked awful in their nice village conservation areas? Did they complain about how much pollution was being pumped into the atmosphere? Did they claim that England’s green and pleasant land would be ruined forever?

And even later in our journey to greatness – have we summoned the harbingers of doom to bring death and destruction on those who erect TV aerials on their homes, or worse still, Satellite dishes? Have we placed in stocks those who erect electricity pylons or massive TV masts in our beauty spots? Where were the Kite Flying lobby groups back then to stir up mass hysteria over the number of children who would be fried by the evil pylons?

The answer of course is a thumping great NO!

The fact of the matter is that all of the examples I cite (apart from church steeples) have been accepted into our hearts because they make our lives easier and better. They deliver energy and entertainment into our homes and we like that – no matter the cost.

So why, oh why do we have protest groups springing up left, right and centre to prevent the widespread adoption of wind power and other renewable energies to fuel our homes?

Why should wind turbines be seen as any more of a nuisance to beauty than the ubiquitous church steeple or electricity pylon? Why should domestic turbines be seen as any more protruding and offensive than a satellite dish or a chimney? For in all cases, the wind turbine brings good to our environment and with practically none of the costs of our current energy sources.

For centuries, our chimneys enabled us to bring energy into our homes for heating and cooking. Wind turbines would do the same only without the pollution. Electricity pylons bring energy from far away cutting swathes through our woods and pastures. A wind turbine brings energy from 30ft above your head for free.

We complain endlessly that our consumption of fossil fuels endangers our environment through the effects of global warming, yet we object to turbines (big and small) because they don’t look very nice and they will spoil our views. It’s the hypocrisy that gets me, you see. How can we justify pylons and all manner of energy production that harms our planet and then object to harnessing wind at no relative cost to either ourselves or our beloved countryside.

So what’s the solution?

Well if I were David Cameron, I would be promising to divert all the wads of cash currently heading to wards ID cards and a new generation of nuclear power stations, and I would commence the biggest community wind and solar energy creation and delivery programme this country has seen since the national grid.

Localised community energy is the way forward. Schemes combining the resources of wind, solar and biomass that would serve each communities needs. A village might have domestic turbines and solar panels only. A town might need that and a couple of big turbines and perhaps a small biomass generator as well.

Cities are a bigger challenge, but again please tell me how wind turbines dotted around our metropolitan areas makes them any less beautiful than they are already? High rise flats and tower blocks contribute sod all, but we are happy enough with them.

For a modicum of effort, you could have most of rural England weaned off the grid pretty quickly and the rest would follow in quick time. There is a space just 50ft above our heads that goes completely to waste and yet which could bring considerably benefit to our lives if only we used it properly.

And here’s how you sell it – you tell people that if they accept these renewable energy supplies in their communities, they can have the energy FOR FREE. That’s right. No more electricity or gas bills, no more heating oil bills, no more red letters. Just energy delivered for free from the twirly thing above your house and those panels stuck to your roof. I would commit tax payers money to changing the way we produce and deliver the energy that makes our lives so lovely and easy.

I have to come out and say it – our objections to renewable energy power are spurious, hypocritical and incredulous. How can we possibly argue any longer that energy derived from burning irreplaceable fossil fuels & pumping CO2 into the atmosphere and then delivered through a network of hideously unsightly pylons is better than energy derived from a constant source of wind, sun and bio-waste that causes no harm to anything and is delivered from a distance of 30ft.

1 comment:

Iain Dale said...

Richard, I have to say that is an absolute load of rubbish. Wind power is the ultimate white elephant. Even ignoring your spurious arguments about visual pollution, why are Denmark and Germany moving away from wind power when they have done just as you suggest we should, and spent billions on it, with little return? The Government has poured millions of public money into wind power but to no avail. There is a lot of research on the failure of wind power out there. You'e obviously only read one side of the story. Wind turbines may assuage middle class guilt but it does little to actually reduce CO2 emissions.