Political correctness shifts away from wind in the UK

I have a theory that political correctness is transient and driven by electoral advantage. But common sense – over time – provides the restoring force.

The move away from wind power euphoria is becoming all more evident in the UK. It is a shift that is inevitable since – eventually – common sense does prevail. And as with all such shifts of political correctness it is accompanied (or is it caused) by a change which appears to provide some electoral advantage for somebody. Causes which once provided electoral advantage to the Greens across Europe – because they were seen (partly) as being the “minority” view being suppressed by the establishment – are now themselves part of the establishment view across most parties. But these views are now perceived as being suppressive and coercive and the backlash is beginning to move us back towards common sense.

No doubt the coming Age of Gas will be supported by all the political parties as reduced energy costs provide electoral advantage. And being cynical, it will also – just like wind power – be exploited to excess, to the point where it becomes coercive and suppressive of other alternatives and then political correctness will shift again.

Benedict Brogan writes in The Telegraph:

A government re-think on costly green energy resources is a winning statement of intent. .. 

Mr Cameron is struggling again. Conservatives yearn for red meat policies to please the voters. They want a political Plan B for a Tory majority in 2015 to replace the one based on the assumption of economic recovery and tax cuts that blew up in George Osborne’s hands last year. MPs wondering how to achieve a victory in today’s darkened circumstances want compelling measures that can be described in a few crisp words on the doorstep.

…. In a few weeks, as part of the Energy Bill, ministers will announce a reduction of up to a quarter in the value of Renewable Obligation Certificates – or “Rocs”. Yes, I realise that’s hardly a sentence to set the pulse racing. But if one considers that Rocs are the means by which the taxpayer subsidises the wind farm industry, and that the Chancellor proposes to slash that giveaway by 25 per cent, then translated into plain English it means this: onshore wind farms will be killed stone dead.

A simple tweak of the financial incentives will halt the march of the turbines across the British landscape. An issue that has poisoned the relationship between millions of affected voters and the politicians who represent them will be resolved. Conservatives will be able to say: “We did that. We stopped the wind farm madness.” No wonder some optimists on the backbenches speak of a defining moment that will give them something to cheer – and be cheered for.

Of course, nothing can ever be quite as simple. Cabinet negotiations are not complete. The politics of so-called green energy remain painfully complex. The legacy of the last government’s enthusiasm for piling burdens on the taxpayer has not been eliminated. In all probability, the industry is not going to give up easily. There are already 3,000 turbines spinning (or, too often, not) across the landscape, with a further 4,500 planned. It may well be that some will sprout where they already have permission, and if the promoters are prepared to press on without a guaranteed income far higher than the market price of the electricity they produce. And while campaigners hope that those new turbines will now be stayed, there is uncertainty about the fate of those already in existence. Will their operators want to keep them if – as a leaked memo from Oliver Letwin, one of the Government’s greenest Tories, indicated this week – the subsidy is not only cut by a quarter straightaway, but eliminated altogether by 2020? …

.. It reflects another force at play, too, which may well transform not just our physical landscapes by making wind farms obsolete, but our economic prospects as well. We saw it in yesterday’s fall in inflation: the price of energy is plummeting. With little fanfare, the discovery of vast reserves of accessible shale gas in the United States and elsewhere is rapidly changing the economics of this sector. Contrary to most predictions of barely five years ago, the US may turn out to be self-sufficient in energy. As a result, it is increasingly likely that the developed world’s reliance on Middle East oil is about to end, with untold consequences for the West’s involvement in the region.

It should also transform our economic competitiveness, as effectively unlimited quantities of relatively clean, cheap gas come on to the market, but only if we embrace a politics of cheap energy, too. Suddenly, all those trendy renewable energies whose success was predicated on an assumption that gas prices would rise inexorably, making them relatively affordable, are left looking like unjustifiable luxuries. Even James Lovelock, the nonagenarian green guru who invented the Gaia thesis, in a Guardian interview last week turned on wind farms as “ugly and useless”, renewable energy schemes as “largely hopelessly inefficient and unpleasant”, and urged Britain to “go mad” for shale. ..

This wind of change is building across Europe and it is symbolised by the insignificance of the agreement that is to be signed at Rio+20. As EU Referendum puts it:

… Existing bird choppers – of which there are about 3,000 in the UK – are unlikely to be affected in the short to medium term, as these are already locked into lucrative supply contracts, to which subsidies are attached. But the cut will affect the erection of new turbines, of which a notional 4,000 more are planned.

Given that the offshore programme is not exactly galloping ahead, this makes it almost certain that the government will fail to meet its 2020 renewable energy target, thus falling foul of its own and EU targets. … 

The UK, of course, is not alone in clawing back ground from the Greens. In Germany, there are complaints that the “energy revolution”, although hardly begun, is already running out of steam. There is, says Spiegel, a lack of political decisiveness and companies are complaining of a dearth of incentives to invest billions in necessary infrastructure.

Consumers, on the other hand, are being swamped with meaningless corporate greenwash, while the flagship EU carbon trading system is collapsing and, to add insult to injury, there is talk of the EU rebranding gas as “low carbon” energy.

As the great climate change fantasy declines in intensity, the greens are at last on the back foot. Even the intervention of the famous Nick Clegg isn’t helping them, as Brogan realises there might be votes in cheap electricity.

Switching off subsidies for wind farms puts clear blue water between the Tories and the Lib Dems, says Brogan. And if played right, it could put Mr Cameron on the side of a global energy revolution that promises to keep the lights on, lower the cost to voters, and energise his electoral prospects when he most needs it.

And if the chatterati see it in these terms, the greens have nowhere to go.

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