Monday, 29 November 2004

More Hot air for the wind farm debate

According to an article I picked up in the internet
"...renewable energy specialist Bryony Worthington of pressure group Friends of the Earth countered that the climate crisis was now so grave that birds had to take second place to saving the planet."

This seems anexceptionally bizarre position from an organisation who's director, Tony Juniper, is a well-known and internationally respected ornithologist.

Bryony Worthington may well be a "renewable energy specialist", but that does not give her the right to condemn thousands of birds and bats to death. And I somehow doubt she's that well informed on the mortalities caused by wind turbines. Nor does it make renewable energy a solution to the climate crisis. Anyone who has been around for a decade or more following conservation issues, will realise that the linkage of climate change to non-renewable energy is simplistic to the point of naivety. No the real problem is that of burgeoning human populations, mostly aspiring to US standards of living and resource consumption. And those aspirations are fuelled not only by international communications, but also by the imperial aspirations of the US itself, imposing its version of 'democracy' on the rest of the world.

The issue that most energy conservationists, and renewable energy advocates, have failed to address is nothing to do with energy, per se, but to do with wealth. Saving energy, saves money, so what do the already wealthy do with that surplus wealth? The answer is, of course, they normally spend it on something that uses even more energy, such as international travel. Even the majority of FoE supporters are not of the dark-green, hair-shirted variety; they/we are all energy consumers on a grand scale. The only way of conserving energy, and preventing this vicious cycle, is to dramatically increase the price of energy - which of course, in the US style free-market economies, dominated by cheap energy, is impossible. With air fuel virtually untaxed, cheap airlines flourish, and it becomes economic to import luxury goods from countries with high levels of pollution, and poor health and safety records. But that's what the free market is all about. We have chosen that route, through our democratically elected governments ......

Many years ago I worked as Friends of the Earth's Wildlife Consultant, and one of my first tasks was to research some of the scientific data relating to commercial whaling. It was widely known that one of the reasons that whales were heading towards extinction was that it did not make economic sense to conserve them, if whaling was being operated in a free market economy. In fact it rarely, if ever makes sense to practice conservation of finite natural resources if you are an investor. No; it is better to exploit the resource as fast as possible, maximise your profits, then sell up and use the profits to invest in something else. Ideally getting out of one industry, at the time when the technology and other capital equipment is becoming obsolete.

The British coal industry, forestry, fisheries and many other resource-based industries illustrate this model. Of course, renewable energy is a good thing. But the problem is actually not so much to do with whether or not it is renewable, but the fact it is too cheap. However much energy is produced, whether renewable or not, while it is cheap, we will all use too much - and that is the real problem. And the other problem, which for the past two decades, has been swept further and further under the carpet, is the human population of the world. It is out of control, and it is only when (when, not if) catastrophic distaster hits, that this issue will be resolved. This is the real crisis.


  1. i beiieve wind farms are going to be a thing of the future and eight miles of the coast is a good place for them and if you watch them turning they can be quite relaxing'as for the birds they will be able to land on the tops think of the land birds on migration at last gasp life saving landing site .they could put one in my back garden if council would let them

  2. But, uinfortunately, this does not alter the fact that the tip of a turbine can be travelling at speeds in excess of 100mph, and if sited in the wrong place, can kill significant numbers of birds. It is essential that detailed stufdies are carried out BEFORE they are put in place. And however you look at it, I find it bizarre that FoE is taking this line.