Ingham’s Eye View by Sir Bernard Ingham: “Greens, tell us what you want from life”

Provence...is this Hebden Bridge's future, ponders Bernard Ingham?

Provence...is this Hebden Bridge's future, ponders Bernard Ingham?

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After Finn Jensen’s latest expedition into the realms of prejudice (letters May 24), I think the time has come to ask the Greens of Hebden Bridge – indeed of the world – what they want out of life?

Do they exist, as Greens surely should, to preserve and enhance nature? If so, how can they enthusiastically support the industrialisation of every mountain peak, moor, ridge escarpment and crag with a wind turbine? Are they aesthetically dead?

Alternatively, do they exist simply to suppress carbon dioxide (CO2), regardless of the environmental consequences, in order to preserve the world, as they see it, from a fate worse than death – the warming of the planet to such an extent that Hebden Bridge might become the centre of the new Provence?

If so, why do they embrace every method that does not work? Every renewable source of energy, whether wind, waves, tides, solar, geothermal or even water power in the UK is either dilute, unreliable, unpredictable, a gleam in the eye or of marginal use. And biomass (wood) requires so much land that we cannot afford if we are to eat that we would have to import vast amounts of it while pouring ever more CO2 into the atmosphere.

Worse still, their favourite – wind – probably causes more rather than less CO2 to be emitted because every MW of wind supply has to be covered by virtually the same amount of coal or gas power generation for when the wind does not blow or blows too hard.

I do hope that they don’t come that old bit of fantasy that the UK has to give a lead to the world. I am all in favour of Britain looking and feeling good, especially in the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. But if they think that the likes of China and India are going to allow our sacrifice to get in the way of their improving the lot of billions by stunting their economic growth, they must surely be candidates for the funny farm.

Which takes me back to the word “sacrifice”. By going for every impractical solution to their CO2 problem they are imposing on the poorest in Upper Calder Valley. It is no use them bewailing the rise of electricity bills when their very policy – renewables – puts about £100 on existing annual bills and much more if the preoccupation with wind power continues. Energy intensive industry is warning it may be forced to export jobs abroad because it is undermining their competitive position.

There would not be a single wind turbine in Britain but for subsidies, which pay the operators of onshore wind turbines double and offshore treble the market price of power. The days of this scandal may be numbered because the EU’s Energy Commissioner is reported to taker the view that we simply cannot afford these bribes any more.

So where would Greens go then? This raises the question as to whether, for all their talk about reducing CO2, they are not really in the business of killing off nuclear power, even though, after 55 years’ experience of it in the UK, it is safe, reliable, predictable, most economic and least productive of CO2 of any generating system.

Do they not know that France, generating about 80% of its electricity by nuclear means, is making a mint out of exporting it to EU countries and has the cleanest atmosphere and cheapest power prices in Europe?

Finn Jensen apparently expects me to bow down before the intellectual might (I jest) of Sir Jonathon Porritt, Tom Burke, Tony Juniper and Charles Secrett, a quartet of Green gurus guaranteed to lead us into national bankruptcy. They have just tried to make out that nuclear would cost far more in subsidy than wind.

In fact, the Government says nuclear will not be developed if it requires a subsidy. So it is trying to devise incentives that cover all forms of low carbon energy and not just nuclear. Nobody, including the fabulous four, has a clue what it will cost because the Government has so far omitted to talk money as distinct from aim.

But – and this is my final question to Greens – what do you want? Subsidised renewables that are no good to man or beast or subsidised nuclear which will generate low carbon competitive power for up to 60 years at a price a fraction of counter-productive wind power?

When – and if – we get the answers we shall perhaps know what Finn Jensen and his ilk are really up to.