Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Will Cosmetic Energy Schemes Save the World?

The artful reader will see that there is only one reasonable answer to this question, and that would be "no"! But what kind of scheme is cosmetic, and likely to prevent real measures that are really responsible and necessary reactions to climate change? And what is wrong with Gordon Brown being allowed to feel good about himself, by committing to 15% renewable energy? Surely no right minded person would quarrel with that?

Let us start our search for the right green energy strategy locally, with the Torrs Hydro Project and be as fair minded as possible. In New Mills, Tom Levitt has put his considerable parliamentary clout - although in the above video nobody seems to take much notice of him speaking, and the Speaker has to call the House to order to allow him to do so - to bring to the Nations attention a hydro-electric scheme in New Mills. Apparently this scheme can generate enough power for a few hundred homes - hardly a major impact on the 10,000 inhabitants of New Mills then and maybe why Jack Straw saw the funny side and can be seen laughing and joking throughout!

Although it is dubbed a "community project" it is probably safe to assume the energy would be simply handed straight over for a payment to the national grid, so where is the community in that - except the impact on the community resource of the Torrs, where visitors will apparently have an Archimedean Screw to negotiate?

So our verdict on the project, without wishing to be harsh, is that is probably more than a little "cosmetic" when one considers its size and the disproportionate amount one hears about it even at National Level. Why Tom Levitt has latched onto it with such vigour is fairly clear, as I will explain below, but it is worth pointing out that it would be not the only hydro electric plant in his constituency, perhaps not the most productive, but seemingly the one he likes to talk up his green credentials with.

And make no mistake Tom Levitt, whilst being a supporter of the highly un-environmental A628 Bypass, is very keen to be portrayed as an Environmentalist, taking pride in his roots as an erstwhile teacher of environmental science. As such, Tom Levitt is in our view completely symptomatic of the current national malaise of political groups stealing the green clothes of the "Eco movement" now that environmental concerns have suddenly become pressing, or as these people probably see it "fashionable". They like the idea of small unproductive projects simply because they allow development in green belt areas and allow them to avoid "biting the bullet" (as Tom would say) that one day will have to be bit - of reducing car and plane emissions.

In my view, a major part of Gordon Brown's entire "renewable energy strategy" is to offer respectability and careers to silence green groups that call for emissions cuts in transport, and who can be found to support cosmetic schemes at the expense of the countryside and the planet in terms of putting off what really needs doing.

My understanding is that there is a component of off-shore wind farms within the Bill that has a grain of sense in it, and that will be meaningfully productive, and to these I would cautiously lend support. However this component is completely undermined as I see it by the specious attempt of the Strategy - in partnership with the dangerous Planning Reform Bill - to gain infrastructure and planning access for developers into hitherto restricted open countryside and green belt.

The fact of the parliamentary exchange between Tom and Gordon Brown - set up through mention of the "tiny" New Mills scheme to allow the PM to put on his "green suit" again - is to my eyes a seriously worrying assault on the intelligence of the nation. Hopefully people are too smart to fall for this. Otherwise cue the "greying of the UK" courtesy of the Grey PM and his grey MPs, a "greying" where every sustainable project has to have a hidden agenda of allowing motorway junction expansion, or releasing some coveted but previously unattainable beauty spot to the JCBs.

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