Jeremy Corbyn spent much of his childhood in a lovely corner of Shropshire, which happens to be the county of my birth.
He was fortunate to live close to the idyllic spot where P.G. Wodehouse located his fictional Blandings Castle.
I like to imagine the young Jeremy scampering out from his agreeable family home, Yew Tree Manor, to collect conkers or pick blackberries.
I see him innocently enjoying the bucolic delights in the Eden where fate had generously set him down.
So far as I know, the part of Shropshire where he grew up has been spared the blight of wind turbines, although there are some hideous pylons carrying electricity to the great conurbations of the West Midlands.
Now, however, there is a possibility that Jeremy’s childhood patch will be covered with wind turbines – if he should ever become prime minister.
Labour could perhaps start by placing them on top of the Wrekin, a nearby hill celebrated by the poet A. E. Housman in A Shropshire Lad.
There are 7,100 onshore wind turbines in Britain, and just under 2,000 off shore. Corbyn’s plan, unveiled in a briefing note at Labour’s Party Conference, is to double the number of turbines on land.
He also intends to add a further 12,000 offshore turbines, amounting to an almost sevenfold increase.
The country will be carpeted with wind farms if Corbyn gets his way. One of the best things that can be said about this Government is that the removal of lavish subsidies in 2016 for erecting onshore wind farms dramatically reduced the number of new unsightly turbines.
Labour threatens to reverse all that. Note that modern turbines are at least twice as tall as the first-generation ones, which were hardly minuscule.
These days a typical turbine towers at over 400 feet, which is more than twice the height of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.
What is Corbyn up to? Notwithstanding his early years of pastoral bliss as he roamed through fields and along hedgerows, he seems intent on doing his best to despoil the English countryside.
Without doubt he wants to appeal to green-minded young voters, who generally love the idea of wind farms while remaining oddly oblivious to their environmental menace (especially to birds) and the noise made by these infernal machines. Most of all, they are blind to their grotesque ugliness.
This last oversight staggers me. How can anyone who claims to care about the environment not mind when these monstrous, alien structures are plonked down in beautiful places?
But the justifiable fear of climate change, and Labour’s consequent pledge to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050, override all other considerations – and good sense flies out of the window.
My objections are not merely aesthetic. While it is true that the cost of producing electricity from wind turbines has fallen in recent years, they still have inevitable limitations because the wind does not always blow. During the ‘Beast from the East’ storm in March, turbine blades were whirring merrily. On one particularly stormy day, wind power accounted for 35 per cent of Britain’s electricity – far ahead of gas on 20 per cent, nuclear on 17 per cent and coal on 12 per cent.
Yet during the hot summer, when the lightest breeze was a godsend, the turbines were often at a standstill. On the first Sunday in June, wind power accounted for just 1.8 per cent of all the electricity consumed.
A couple of weeks ago, the energy company SSE disclosed that, largely because of the ‘wind drought’ during the summer, profits would be substantially lower than expected. About 17 per cent of the electricity generated by SSE last year came from wind.
What this means is that too great a reliance on wind power is perilous – and costly, too. Because of the vagaries of the wind, suppliers are paid to switch off wind turbines when they are not needed, or when they stand idle.
Last year, for example, £68million was doled out by the Government to switch off turbines between January and August. The cost is passed on to the customer, who is expected to stump up ‘green taxes’, which are said by British Gas to add more than £200 to an annual bill.
Despite these idiotic subsidies, wind turbines have a useful role as part of a general mix. But let’s have them off shore, where they present less of an eyesore, though sometimes not a negligible one.
And that brings me to the gaping hole in Labour’s plans. Neither in its briefing note, nor in Jeremy Corbyn’s speech yesterday in which he extolled his green revolution, was there any mention of fracking.
That is because, for almost all green-minded people, fracking for oil and gas is the work of the Devil. They don’t care that more than half of America’s oil output is now supplied by fracking, or that it is responsible for a considerable fall in U.S. carbon emissions.
Nor is there any evidence that fracking carries the lurid dangers invoked by its militant opponents. Although it obviously has some environmental impact, this pales into insignificance when compared to wind farms with their colossal turbines, not to mention unsightly pylons erected to carry electricity.
To increase by such a massive amount our dependence on wind farms – ugly, over-subsidised and unreliable – while refusing to investigate the prospects of fracking is as good an example of Labour’s blinkered thinking as you will find.
Like every other plan announced over the past few days, Jeremy Corbyn’s green revolution comes at a price – £12.8billion to be precise.
This enormous sum includes the £1.3billion project for a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay, recently abandoned due to ruinous costs. Electricity produced by this vanity project would almost certainly be even more expensive than subsidised offshore wind farms, and far more costly than the prospective new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
Nevertheless, Swansea Bay is embraced by profligate Labour because it is carbon neutral and eminently green. Why fret about the cost when you are already dreaming of spending hundreds of billions of pounds on all kinds of projects!
After three days of proposals aimed at emasculating wealth creators, Corbyn’s green revolution, and in particular his desire to cover England with wind turbines, may seem less damaging than some of his other more obviously daft ideas. I don’t believe it is.
By the way, his plans relate specifically to England, because the Labour administration in Wales and the SNP government in Scotland are already doing their utmost to desecrate their countries with new onshore wind farms.
Do we really want Labour to do the same in England? Corbyn’s Labour Party, if elected, could harm this country in all sorts of ways. But there would be a chance of it being thrown out after five years, leaving the usual economic mess for the Tories to clear up.
A new plague of gigantic wind turbines would not be so easily dealt with. They would stand for decades, a monument to Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of feeling for England and its countryside.
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