Wales was once the richest part of Britain. It had the lot. Gold was found nowhere else.The silver persuaded kings to set up mints here. The bare hills of Ceredigion were created by mining companies that cut down trees to provide timber for the industry. Welsh copper, lead, iron, slate and coal drove the industrial revolution, roofed the cities, put saucepans into kitchens and canned the food.
All this natural wealth, and the money made by exploiting it, was carted eastwards. They came, they saw, and they ripped it all off.
Wales became one of the poorest parts of Britain, and all it was left with was the unique culture of the industrialised valleys and dereliction on land and shoreline.
The same principle of exploitation was applied to water. And now something similar is happening with the electricity generating power stations, misnamed as the more benevolent-sounding wind farms.
This is the issue that most infuriates people in rural Wales, and impacts most on their lives and homes. And no wonder. It’s an outrage conducted under our noses with the collusion of bureaucrats and politicians, however well intentioned, in local and national government.
The concerns of those who live nearby, about noise and vibrations, are ignored. They can’t sell their houses, television and radio reception is ruined, the landscape scarred.
No one in Wales will benefit. The industry is dominated by large companies, operating under cover of subsidiaries with Welsh-sounding names, attracted by large amounts of public subsidy.
Now the Welsh Assembly Government is reviewing its planning policies to make it easier to have more of the monsters. As owner of the Welsh Forest, it plans to cut down trees and replace them with turbines. You couldn’t make it up.
There are obvious questions about the wisdom of cutting down carbon-converting trees and replacing them with structures with a large carbon deficit. The latest ones are around 110 metres high – nearly 361ft. They require massive concrete platforms sunk into hillsides that will stay there forever. The small amount of electricity generated is carried, reducing all the time, on new overhead cables to the grid.
All this, in a country that already produces more electricity than it uses, for something that has much less effect on carbon emissions than would spending the same money on solar and photovoltaic panels and insulation. But no one in Cardiff Bay is addressing any of this.
Two prominent Labour politicians warned at the weekend that unless the party won seats in rural Wales it would never be able to form a majority government. A sign that the party had a sensible and sustainable approach to climate change instead of ushering in the money grabbers to upset people and despoil the countryside might be a useful way to begin.
Steve Dube, Western Mail
19 February 2008
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