Wind is an effective source of energy
MR Brown's lament about the rationale for wind turbines, on September 26, misses so many points, it is hard to know where to start.
Far from being useless the latest independent review for the Government of wind energy's contribution so far concludes that "onshore wind is a mature, low-carbon, cost-effective technology which can be deployed at scale now, and can play a vital role as part of a flexible energy mix".
I know this does not square with the way that those with similar views to Mr Brown have presented them on these pages. Unfortunately they use a tactic which is effective in making clever sounding points in debate, but not for strategy analysis for the real world. Let us review the performance of cars in the way they have presented the facts on wind turbines. Cars spend most of their time being completely unproductive. When they are used they operate very inefficiently most of the time because that is all that driving conditions allow. They are unable to get me up my stairs to bed. What is more, the people that sell them are only in it for the money. Therefore we should not have them here.
I think the basis on which most analyse the value of cars is their capacity to provide a unique role as part of our transport needs. Along with walking, cycling, rail, bus, tractor etc. they are an important part of a mixed transport strategy that allows us to be flexible, productive and have a better quality of life than generations before. Similarly, wind power is productive and effective by harnessing wind energy when it is available as part of a broad mixed energy strategy, each complimenting the other (including smoothing the fluctuations in wind power generation), as has been described before on these pages. What is more, the cost per unit of wind energy is tumbling, with costs paid to wind power generators falling each year.
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As for the idea that the only reason to reduce carbon emissions is to be nice to others in developing countries, it is about doing our fair share (no more than that) and then being able to get others to do what is in our interests. Even the head of the OECD just this week said this is how it will work for Britain. I can only think back to a previous correspondent's accusation and that Mr Brown is "wilfully misguided". Let's look at why.
Britain's carbon budget is now becoming clear. At current rates of carbon emissions we will have used up our quota by 2030 if we are to keep climate change within manageable limits and not place unnecessary difficulties on the people of Mendip and Somerset in future. We are not going to become carbon neutral in that time so need to start acting quickly. Planners have calculated that if we needed to be travelling at 100mph to get to a sustainable level of carbon emissions in time our current speed of de-carbonisation is equivalent to travelling at 15mph. That gives an idea of the level of effort we need to make to catch up. Mr Brown appears to be asking us to slow down.
If we were to trade exaggerated images, this is not a proposal to sit around the camp fire singing Kumbaya as Mr Brown suggests. It is about stopping fiddling while Rome burns. Mr Brown seems to want us to fiddle rather than act. I suggest we act more quickly and make our best contribution to get the best climate change and economic outcome for the current and future generations of Mendip and Somerset by using our high potential for wind and solar energy. The best climate change and economic outcome are the same thing.