Rolf Harris’s Stylophone, the platform shoe, Smurfs and Trolls, the mullet, CB radio, the Sinclair C5, the SDP, Moon landings, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: history is littered with the detritus of fads which never quite took off.
John Hutton, the Secretary of State for Business, has just unveiled plans to build around 7,000 wind turbines off the coast of Britain. This adds up to roughly one wind turbine for every half mile of coast.
Politicians of every hue and odour are delighted by the news. “We’re an island nation. There’s a lot of wind around,” puffs the Conservative Alan Duncan. “We should use that offshore capacity for generating electricity that’s clean and secure.” Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are over the moon.
My late father-in-law, Colin Welch, noted that whenever politicians are in firm agreement on any particular issue, you can absolutely be sure they are wrong. One look at a wind turbine should convince any non-politician of its silliness: in 20 years’ time, they will come to be seen as the DeLorean sports cars of their day. It is easy to forget that in the 1980s, De Lorean was greeted as a saviour by MPs from all parties.
Those who drive up and down the M4 can’t miss the sight of a solitary wind turbine somewhere near Reading. It looks absurd and ungainly, and rarely seems to be going round.
Heaven knows how much energy it took to construct and erect, but I suspect a lot more energy would be generated by a classroom of schoolboys all trained to sit simultaneously on a line of whoopee cushions.
Those wind turbines that do work certainly succeed in killing birds: an estimated 5,500 birds are ripped to shreds each year by a single wind farm near San Francisco.
The low-frequency noise they generate can also cause depression, migraine and sleeplessness in those who live up to a mile away. Of course, none of this matters to politicians, who are besotted by visions of the future, however dated.
By Craig Brown
11 December 2007
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