Wind Energy: A Win Wind SituationPublished by Tony Juniper on Thu, 03/10/2013 - 12:00am
The small minority that is fiercely opposed to wind power, and to renewable energy in general, has its reasons for feeling the way it does. While I regard their views as misguided, I can respect their point of view, so long as it is based on facts and reason. And that, frankly, is why I have no respect whatsoever for the twaddle put out by Ben Acheson in his September 23rd blog entitled "Wind energy: chalk it up as a loss".
Let me be specific as to where Acheson gets it wrong - but please bear with me, because in his lengthy tirade there was precious little he got right.
His first helping of tripe comes in his assertion that wind energy is unpopular. Evidently he has spent too much time reading the Daily Mail, rather than the opinion polls that (and despite years of effort) their ridiculous opinion pieces and 'news' items have failed to shift. The fact is that wind power enjoys a strong majority of support, and has done so for years.
Poll after poll confirms this, including a couple of weeks ago when a ComRes survey for the BBC showed that over two thirds (67 per cent) of people are in favour of wind farms being built in their area, (compared to 33 per cent in favour of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas). If Acheson could provide any evidence to the contrary, surely he would have cited it in his blog?
Acheson's next massive error is to claim that "wind energy has not made even the slightest difference to carbon emissions". The fact that wind power in the UK is now reducing by more than 10 million tonnes the amount of CO2 we pump into the atmosphere every year means that it scores pretty high on that front.
This also explains the strong support wind power enjoys from wildlife and environmental organisations, including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Friends of the Earth, who recognise the need for sustainable energy sources in meeting a range of environmental and social challenges.
That's why the RSPB is planning to install a wind turbine at its own headquarters. Surely if this and other conservation organisations are backing wind and other renewables, this too not only gives short shrift to Acheson's claim as to their zero impact on carbon emissions, but also that the technology is disastrous for natural habitats? Wrong again it seems.
On top of the environmental benefits that comes with renewable sources of energy are advantages that will over time help to manage rising electricity bills. Every wind farm or renewables project built makes us just a little less reliant on expensive, imported fossil fuels which are, by a mile, the main cause of our bills going up. (To blame renewable energy as the main cause of rising energy bills is ridiculous.
Acheson also makes groundless claims in relation to the impact of wind farms on people's health. There is absolutely no evidence for this, despite comprehensive research and such scare-mongering has been roundly rejected by respected scientists and the NHS.
As if this wasn't enough rubbish for one article he goes on to repeat another myth in asserting that "pro-wind arguments about green jobs debunked and refuted". He should have a look at the research report published this month by RenewableUK which demonstrates a 74 per cent rise in the number of people working in wind, wave and tidal energy over the last two years, meaning that there now three times more people work in the sector than in the coal industry - a sign of the way the times are changing for the good. If Acheson wishes to talk down a British business success story, in one of the few sectors that has grown in recent years, then surely he should at least have the courtesy to conduct his economic sabotage with the benefit of facts.
I am very happy to debate the choices we face in navigating a path toward a reliable, clean and affordable energy system, but when commentators resort to misinformation, scaremongering and rant in the place of reason and facts, then seeing the light that will help us all move forward is all the harder. We face big and difficult challenges. Acheson is one among a small band that seems hell-bent on making sure they are even harder to resolve.
This article was first published by The Huffington Post.