Matt Ridley in the Daily Mail wails that “the way wind power has managed to get politicians and others to think it is uniquely virtuous will deserve close study by future theologians.” Not because he rejects the goal of an inhabitable planet or dreams of obscene profits in apocalyptic wasteland. Because he finds wind power to be a ridiculous way of trying to achieve what its most enthusiastic proponents spend virtually all their waking hours aiming for. If you’re not already aware of Matt Ridley, journalist, businessman and yes genuinely a Viscount, we strongly recommend that you check into his writings and, if you’re a denizen of the Twitter swamp, that you follow him there. His thoughtful investigations into the origins of COVID alone make him an invaluable resource. But it’s his bracing common sense that make him such a relief even on issues where you might not entirely share his views.
When it comes to climate, that common sense is on full display. Including in this piece, that starts “Take a wild guess at how much of the UK’s total primary demand for energy was supplied by wind power in 2020.” And again, a CDN reader might do a lot better than the average citizen concerned about the environment but not fully engaged with the quantity of nonsense regularly pumped out by its self-appointed champions. The actual figure is “less than 4 per cent.”
Well? Is it so bad? Isn’t it an industry about to blossom and get rid of all that stinky diesel? No. No it is not. Instead, Ridley snaps, “That’s right, all those vast wind farms in the North Sea, or disfiguring the hills of Wales and Scotland, give us little more than one-thirtieth of the energy we need to light and heat our homes, power our businesses or move our cars and trains. Just think what this country and its seas would look like if we relied on wind for one-third or half of our energy needs.”
The British government is still struggling to come to its senses on this file. But Ridley is keen to help.
“The wind industry has already been fattened on subsidies of more than £6billion a year (paid for out of green levies on your electricity bills), it has privileged access to the grid and is paid extra compensation when the wind blows too strongly and the grid cannot cope with the energy output…. Its symbols, akin to a post-modern Easter crucifix, now adorn almost any document that purports to be about British energy needs, signalling ‘goodness’. Tousle-headed eco-protesters go weak at the knees when they see an industrial wind farm on wild land, while angry anti-capitalists won’t hear a word against the financial firms that back wind companies, somehow convincing themselves that this is all about re-empowering the common man.”
He's all for the environment, of course. And for energy security. But
“Why, to the exclusion of all else — in particular, fracking and nuclear energy — has arguably the most inefficient solution been privileged? I was once a fan of wind power, because it seemed to be free. But it’s not. It takes a lot of expensive machinery to extract useful power from the wind. And once turbines are up and running, they’re not reliable. Because you cannot store electricity for any length of time without huge cost, wind farms need backing up by fossil-fuel power stations…. The wind turbines are also near impossible to recycle, with the rare earth metals such as neodymium that are vital for the magnets inside most of their generators coming from polluted mines in China.”
The result couldn’t be more counterproductive if the whole policy had been designed to destroy the things it was designed to protect.
“Hundreds of these monsters are required to produce as much electricity as one small gas-powered plant. In terms of land covered, wind takes 700 times as much space to generate the same energy that one low-rise shale gas pad can. It is not as if wind turbines are good for the environment. They kill thousands of birds and bats every year, often rare eagles on land and soaring gannets at sea. If you were even to disturb a bat when adding a conservatory, you could end up in jail.”
There’s more where these quotations came from and we recommend you check them out. But the bottom line is that it is exasperating to contemplate the rhetorical divide that the climate change obsession has created. Even if we were willing to grant the alarmists their premises, that there’s this huge man-made climate crisis and fossil fuels must go, and we ask what they propose we should do, if they rush to propose something as incredibly environmentally and economically harmful as wind, and they respond to the evidence of its utter failure to date with the demand that its usage should be expanded a hundred-fold, we can only despair at the prospect of a meeting of minds.