Here’s a U-turn that we can all welcome: felling the wind farms. Matt Ridley described, in a Spectator cover story some while ago, how George Osborne has turned against them. Today, the Observer has more details, saying that Osborne is:
‘demanding cuts of 25 per cent in subsidies, a reduction the industry says would &”kill dead” the development of wind power sites.’
As Ridley argued, wind farms are a ‘monument to the folly of mankind’, representing the triumph of ideology over reason. We could not afford them in the boom years, and we certainly can’t now. The subsidies make a small number of rich people even richer, and a huge number of companies are doing very well from the renewable energy racket. But if you apply rational analysis to it — ie, how much energy does it produce for the money it costs? — there is no reason at all. They generate just 0.6 per cent of our energy.
For Ridley, the root problem is the suspension of reason, which has happened with the global warming debate and other manias that sweep politics from time to time.
‘Psychologists have a term for the wishful thinking by which we accept any means if the end seems virtuous: ‘noble-cause corruption’…Politicians are especially susceptible to this condition. In a wish to be seen as modern, they will embrace all manner of fashionable causes. When this sets in — groupthink grips political parties, and the media therefore decide there is no debate — the gravest of errors can take root. The subsidising of useless wind turbines was born of a deep intellectual error, one incubated by failure to challenge conventional wisdom.’
As for killing the wind farm agenda stone dead, I’m afraid it’s too late. There are some 3,500 wind turbines defacing Britain, with hundreds more under construction. Osborne has had a hellish week, deservedly taking the blame for the U-turns, and his reputation has taken a huge knock. If the Sun on Sunday is correct, and he is in desperation reaching for Keyensian stimulus measures mixed with new methods of debt concealment, the damage to his reputation will be irreparable. But, as James Forsyth argues in the Mail on Sunday, there is still all to play for if (and I fear it’s a big ‘if’) the government suddenly pulls a plan for growth out of the cupboard. (Clue: Germany). Declaring that the wind emperor has no clothes would be, from Osborne, a much-needed lurch back to common sense.