The Liberal Democrats have declared war against “stone age” Conservatives over green power, arguing a Tory minister wants to “cull wind turbines faster than he can cull badgers”.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey, a Liberal Democrat, yesterday launched a withering attack on Tory Environment Secretary Owen Paterson over “green retreats”.
Mr Paterson has said wind farms are often “regarded as a complete scam”.
Wind farms are a deeply contentious issue in rural Devon and Cornwall, with 100 large-scale turbines in the region causing outrage among local people.
Speaking in his keynote address at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow, Mr Davey told delegates it was the Lib Dems who were countering Tory scepticism over climate change and renewable energy.
He told delegates: “We have to be in Government. To fight for green advances. And fight off green retreats. Take the battles I fight over wind power.
“Owen Paterson would cull wind turbines faster than he can cull badgers. But we have prevented the stone age wing of the Conservative Party from destroying our leading renewables industry.”
In an interview over the weekend, Mr Davey said he was not a “wind farm evangelist”. In the speech, he added: “I understand the concerns people have about energy’s impact on our beautiful landscape – whether it’s turbines, coal pits or shale gas rigs.
“That’s why I’ve worked hard to ensure that local communities will enjoy much greater benefits from hosting wind farms, nuclear reactors or shale gas drilling.
“Different to Labour. Different to the Tories. Liberal Democrat commitment to communities in action at the national level. Energy and emotions – historically – have come together.”
Conservatives have made little secret of their opposition to wind power, leading the push to slash subsidies amid backbench disquiet over their effectiveness and impact on rural landscapes, tourism and house prices.
Last month, the pair clashed as it emerged the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has commissioned a review of whether wind turbines in rural areas depress prices of properties among other issues.
Mr Paterson has brought in consultants Frontier Economics to establish the loss to house prices caused by onshore wind. Studies to date on the link have been limited in scope.
In 2007, Oxford Brookes University looked at properties in Cornwall and commented that “the ‘threat’ of a wind farm may have a more significant impact than the actual presence of one”.
But another study analysed 201 sales transactions from houses situated within half-a-mile of a 16-turbine wind farm in Cornwall, and found “some evidence” to suggest that both noise and flicker from the turbine blades “could blight certain property and that the view of countryside enjoyed by the occupier had some value which may be affected by a wind farm”.
Mr Davey also said yesterday the Conservatives have reneged on their commitment to be the greenest government ever after “relentlessly attacking” Lib Dem efforts to tackle climate change.
Gary Streeter, Conservative MP for South West Devon, recently claimed he was among half of all Tory MPs that are sceptical global warming is caused by humans.
“We are the greenest party that has ever served in government,” Mr Davey said.
“But our fight – and it is a fight – is to make the coalition the greenest government ever.”
He heaped praise on his Lib Dem colleague, Environment Minister and Somerton and Frome MP David Heath, for “fighting tooth and nail” for green policies.
Before exiting the stage, he made an offer to the Labour Party leader Ed Miliband to join the Lib Dems in the fight against climate change.
He said: “Given his track record, surely he would want to improve Labour’s act on climate change? So today I’m giving him the chance.”
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