Back in 2006, David Cameron wanted voters to believe that they should “vote blue to go green”. Now, as Prime Minister, he has signalled a change of direction. It has been suggested that the Conservative leader could go into the next election promising to “rid” the countryside of onshore wind farms. This might involve capping the number that can be built, toughening up planning laws or even withdrawing some subsidies.
Given the popular disdain for the green policies introduced by Labour – and supported, it should be said, by the Conservatives – Mr Cameron’s review of policy is to be commended. Indeed, he should go further and reduce offshore wind power, too, which is even more expensive to subsidise than the onshore variety.
The Conservatives are right to respond to growing rural anger at the hitherto unstoppable growth of wind farms. They have generated little power but massive profits for the owners of the land on which they are built. Doubtless Mr Cameron remains as concerned as ever about need to reduce carbon emissions, but he also needs to acknowledge both the pressure from voters for a rethink and the baleful economic impact of green subsidies.
Happily, there are much more efficient alternatives to wind power. Fracking has the potential to create many new jobs and lower prices, as it has done in the United States. Nuclear requires massive long-term investment but could produce power in abundance. Even coal, hit by falling international prices but also carbon targets, could help – just ask the Germans, whose coal use is at its highest level since 1990. The Government should be promoting a more realistic energy strategy. Perhaps the next manifesto should read: vote blue and the lights stay on.
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