One of the most genuinely shocking developments in the disputed push for wind generated energy emerged today with revelations in the Daily Mail that three major Scottish environmental and wildlife organisations have admitted accepting money from top wind farm developers.
The three that have been outed and have put their hands up to the accusation – they call their relationships with the wind energy developers ‘partnerships’ – are:
• World Wildlife Fund Scotland – supported by Scottish and Southern Energy
• Friends of the Earth Scotland – supported by Scottish Power Renewables
• Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland – supported by various unnamed wind farm developers
This undermines even further the ability of straightforward folk to tease out what is reliable and what is not in the overheated conflict on whether or not Scotland should be going as bald-headedly as it is for wind energy.
We now discount – without reading or listening – anything or anyone promoting wind as ‘clean green energy’.
Why? Because any pitch running under this sort of banner headline is either underinformed or deliberately deceiving. Wind energy is neither clean nor green.
Turbines of any description need magnets – and magnets are made from rare earths in a production process which results in significant volumes of highly toxic fluid waste.
Yes, we need and use a variety of personal and household appliances that rely on magnets – which of course are similarly produced. That however, does not negate the serious environmental impact of ramping up to produce the sheer volume of magnets required in a booming worldwide turbine-driven renewables industry.
The magnets are, inevitably, produced in someone else’s back yard. The Mongolian city of Baotou – where there are extensive concentrations of rare earths, is the major production area. It has a man made lake of waste at a level of toxicity that has seen wildlife vanish from the area and peasant villages decimated by cancers.
But that is someone else’s problem. Here in Scotland, wind energy is still ‘clean and green’.
Whether or not wind, at the indiscriminate level Scotland is going for it may, even at this cost, be either desirable or the least worst option, as yet neither of these arguments has progressed beyond consensual persuasion. This is not enough.
Now all of us honest but searching and wind-blown havering agnostics, discover that three of the most senior agencies supposed to be independent guardians of the natural world are receiving financial support from major wind farm developers.
Until now, we had naively assumed that if these agencies said that a particular wind farm application was acceptable, their opinion had to be accepted without question.
We cannot ever assume that again – and that is the damage.
The Mail quotes:
• Dr Richard Dixon, partner at WWF Scotland, as saying that ‘it is clearly important to realise’ that whoever WWF may enter into partnerships with, it retains the right to comment independently on industrial and environmental developments.
• Aedan Smith, of RSPB Scotland, as saying: ‘We are quite happy to be critical of individual wind farm developers, even if they happen to be in partnership with us’.
The trouble with both of these positions is that they cannot sustain public credibility.
As the wise recognise, it is not only important to be right but to be seen to be right.
It is impossible for these three previously trusted organisations to be clean handed in this arrangement.
Even if they feel that they can comment independently from within such a partnership, they can no longer be believed, trusted or respected for their intelligence any more than for their integrity.
They may feel free to differ in public with their partners – but the money they are taking is coming from the profits made on selling the turbines whose magnets are devastating the wildlife – and the peasants – of Mongolia.
Who can we believe – or at least listen to with some confidence?
Murdo Fraser MSP, just seen on television chairing the Scottish Parliament’s Energy Committee session with Donald Trump, has said, following this revelation: ‘It is interesting that other environmental groups such as the John Muir Trust, which do not receive support of this kind, are much more hostile to wind farm development because of the negative impact on wild land.’