It is an admirable aspiration. I do not take issue with the theory that carbon dioxide (CO2) warms the planet Earth, though its likely affect has been grossly and irresponsibly hyped. But I see no reason why, if we can do so economically, we should not clean up our atmosphere. In any case, it is in our interests to minimise the use of such finite fuels as oil and gas.
Where I part company with the greenies is over their apparent belief that they can in the foreseeable future eliminate carbon emissions and the methods they choose to try to achieve the impossible.
I must also say, by way of sincere advice, that spokesmen for “Transition Towns” like Hebden Bridge would better give their full names than presumably nicknames such as “Bear”. This trendiness, if that is what it is, is not best calculated to win friends and influence people.
But that is by the way.
What the Hebden Bridge Transition Town movement is now trying to get you to do is to buy your electricity from so-called often more expensive green companies who may well have a portfolio of renewable power sources in their lockers. But the plain fact is that, to supply “green” power on any scale, they need wind power. That means industrialising wild places such as our Pennine Moors.
It also means that when the wind doesn’t blow the companies will supply you with whatever power they can lay their hands on or lose your custom. That will mean at best you will get some nuclear power – the cleanest – and at worst coal or gas-fired electricity which is carbon intensive. Nobody has the slightest idea what kind of electricity they are using since the grid cannot differentiate.
It also means that those supplying wind are making a mint out of you. First, as a consumer, you have to pay them the market price. Then, under the Government’s Renewables Obligation, they coin it hand over fist by getting, again from you as a consumer as distinct from taxpayer, double that rate for onshore wind and treble it for offshore wind.
No wonder they can afford to pay Hebden Bridge Transition Town a sweetener for every poor, deluded consumer who signs up.
I am sorry if I seem to be a spoilsport. But I seriously object to ordinary folk being conned. Another 1m of them fell into fuel poverty last year – that is paid more than 10 per cent of their disposable income on heat and light – taking the total to about 6.5m. Some are inevitably to be found in Hebden Bridge.
This is partly why I spend a lot of my time attacking the Coalition, just as I attacked Labour’s Ed Miliband as Energy Secretary, for their ludicrous energy policy. I have no quarrel with their objective – to ensure secure supplies of low carbon energy at affordable cost. But their chosen route will achieve none of it.
Indeed, there is only one major element in their mix that can do so: nuclear power. I can already hear the “greens” sneering from 262 miles away.
Wind, waves, tides and solar are either unproven or not continuous. Because they are not continuous, “dirty” coal, oil or gas have to be used when they fall short. They will not close a single fossil-fuelled power station. They are not therefore very “green”.
Geothermal is marginal. Biomass – which used to be called wood – would have to be imported since we simply don’t have the land to grow enough of it. And hydro-electric power, except on a micro-scale, is fully developed.
But worst of all Coalition policy is so cripplingly expensive – more so even than Labour’s before it – that energy intensive industry is warning that operations will go overseas and jobs will be shed if it goes on. All this at a time of austerity.
Just three figures. Utilyx, the energy analysts, say 18 per cent of the price of electricity now comes from “green” measures and will be 38 per cent by 2020. The TaxPayers’ Alliance estimates that every household is paying £500 a year over the odds – that is more than the estimated social cost of carbon emissions – on energy bills. And the Engineering Employers’ Federation says for the largest users over the past five years UK electricity has been 10-25 per cent dearer than in Germany and 60-75 per cent dearer than in nuclear-powered France. That is the route to bankruptcy.
Let us make sure Hebden Bridge as a Transition Town is not in transit to joblessness and penury.