Pathetic politics

Just saw a UK Independence Party political broadcast on Channel 4. (For anyone who doesn’t know, UKIP have emerged as an anti-Europe, right wing, anti environmental force in UK politics. A bit like the Tea Party movement.) Okay, I actually only saw half of it, as I got bored and turned off, but I got the idea. Suffice to say it was pretty pathetic. It centered around wind farms, and how bad they are. I guess that the point is to try and win disaffected Tory voters in rural seats.

They trotted out a lot of the old nonsense about wind farms, clumsily relayed through a bunch of old men talking to camera. ‘It’s the inefficiency that gets me’, said one man, without qualification. Inefficiency of what? What does that even mean in an energy system where the fuel is free? Does he seriously resent the wind energy that gets away? Or does he mean capacity factor (the amount of time it runs at full power), which in the UK is usually around 25%-30% for onshore? In any case, since the generators only get paid for the electricity they produce, it is not exactly inefficiency. ::continue::

Then there were about three people who said they thought wind turbines were ugly. Well, that is a matter of choice. Personally I quite like them. I don’t want them on every piece of land, but that is really not on the cards. I travel all over this country, and to be honest you rarely see wind farms. In the future most turbines in the UK will be offshore in any case.

The next problem was the cost. Okay, I agree that we need to make wind power cheaper, and there are innovations happening in this department all the time. Already costs have fallen around 40% in the last 15 years, and they will likely fall further in the next. I did find it ironic though that UKIP is so outraged by the public subsidies paid to wind farms. I haven’t heard a peep from them about the bank bailout which was several orders of magnitude higher. Also let us not forget that the fossil industry is also heavily subsidised, both now ($250 billion a year worldwide according to the UN) and in the past (coal, oil and nuclear were all developed as strategic state-run industries, with the costs grand-fathered in).

Also, perhaps UKIP should look at the Danish example. The Danish government spent $1.2 billion building up its wind industry in the 1990s… now it is one of the world leaders and its wind industry generates $2.7 billion a year!!!!! The UK’s offshore wind and wave power industries are in a similar position to Danish wind 10-15 years ago…. let’s hope UKIP don’t get to pull the purse strings….

And let’s not forget that it was Godfrey Bloom from UKIP who only a few weeks ago described the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior II as one of the most truly fascist ships since WWII, and congratulated the French for blowing up the original boat in 1989, killing a man. I’m not sure what relation Greenpeace bears to the National Socialists, but I guess somewhere in Godfrey’s brain there is one. Glorification of terrorism aside it was a stupid thing to say… but then that’s UKIP for you – inefficient, expensive, poorly thought out and ugly.

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MushyPea is a UK-based writer and campaigner on environmental issues. Particular interests include wildlife conservation, climate change and renewable energy.

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