Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Turbines keep us alive"

Millour windfarm
With these words a primary school child at an Ayrshire school summed up his knowledge of the community benefits of wind turbines in a video presented at a RenewableUK seminar earlier this week.

With its pathetic highlighting of the indoctrination of our children, these words marked the low point in the presentation.  The onshore wind seminar was one of a number of presentations throughout the UK by RenewableUK, 'The voice of wind and marine energy'.

Surprisingly, RenewableUK chose to focus their pitch (to a mixed audience - planners, local residents, tourism representatives, councillors, wind farm objectors, manufacturers) on the creation of jobs as the 'main benefit' of wind energy.  Green jobs.

There was time for questions and one guest gently asked about the contradiction with recent reports of each green job replacing more than one in the wider economy. Spain was mentioned.  Adam from RenewableUK dismissed the Verso report alluded to, with a comment about there being other problems in the Spanish economy.

I thought it was time to refer to the Hughes reports, The Myth of Green Jobs, and Why is Wind so Expensive? Adam was quick to point out that Hughes (Professor of Environmental Economics at Edinburgh University) had his reports published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, 'and they have an agenda'.  Um, what about you, Adam?

It seems Hughes was  using 'out of date data' and Adam later explained that the newer more efficient combined cycle gas plants were now much more efficient at plugging the gaps of intermittent wind.  In any case the 'first report depended on the calculations in the second'. I'm still trying to understand why that was the killer argument intended.

Questions covering a wide range of issues were raised.  The flicker, health and low frequency noise effects were all reported on by attendees who had knowledge or experience of them.  Some contributions were passionate.

Then a lady from the tourism industry, concerned about the negative tone, berated us for disrupting the purpose of the seminar which she said was 'to learn about the wider economic benefits critical to the economy'. 

Time to point out that some of us consider there are a few disbenefits of wind power to the economy and that her purpose was presumptious and narrow on behalf of many of those in attendance.  Not least amongst the economic disbenefits were the very substantial subsidies.

The chair responded by pointing to the significant subsidies to fossil fuels* and questioned why I had not factored other 'externalities' as benefits.  She referred to reduced pollution.  Guessing that this reference might be to reduced CO2 emissions and the mitigation of climate change I ventured that increased CO2 might not be so dangerous as some claimed and that the assumption of dangerous climate change was hardly well based in science.

The chair's air of courtesy shifted to one of contempt.  We were not to waste time with such outlandish rubbish.

But someone also raised the issue of a survey of public opinion on wind farms which had inexplicably discounted the views of respondents over 64.  Ah, responded Adam, that was a Mori poll not a RenewableUK poll.  If I heard him correctly he declaimed that it had anything to do with renewableUK.  As this was getting tiresome I pointed out that RenewableUK had made use of the poll quoting the results which excluded a significant portion of respondents.  I now note from the BBC report that the poll was indeed commissioned by our hosts.

Now, how do we go about removing the 'fact pollution' from that unnamed Ayrshire child in the video.  And his head teacher.

NB * A discussion about subsidies can be seen here.

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