Cameron’s wind bagging hypocrisy

The Tories have let slip that indeed they will oppose onshore wind farms after the next election, cutting subsidies and encouraging councils to block such developments. Cameron was explaining this decision on the basis that after a decade or two of subsidy, surely wind power should be able to get by without subsidy?

A fair point I’ll agree, but equally he is proposing to provide a massive subsidy to nuclear power…an industry that has been dependant on massive government subsidy for the best part of 50 years (not just to building nuclear plants, but also costs such as the £73 billion and counting to dispose of nuclear waste). If subsidies to renewables are to be cut, then surely we should cut all nuclear subsidies too? Won’t that be the free market response?

Also its worth remembering that part of the point of subsidies to renewables (or nuclear for that matter) is to get around the fact that fossil fuel use is also in receipt of significant subsidies. Indeed as I discuss on my energy blog, the grand total for these actually exceeds renewable and energy conservation related subsidies by a significant margin. So will he be cutting those subsidies too?…noting that it includes things like the winter heating allowance (that will make him popular!).

Indeed Cameron, who is keen on fracking for shale gas, has been talking about effectively subsidising this process (by bribing cash strapped councils into accepting such schemes), so clearly those subsidies and incentives towards shale gas will have to be dropped too.

And let’s not even begin to consider the subsidy that involves dumping climate changing gas into the atmosphere free of charge, even though it is the state who usually gets stiffed with the bill for cleaning up the mess after a storm. The fact is subsidising renewables has always been part of a messy compromise to get around the fact that governments are reluctant to make the public pay the true cost of our fossil fuel use.

And the political reality, as Chris Huhme discussed recently, is that despite whatever Cameron says the real thing driving this policy is Tory election fears regarding UKIP, a party well known for its climate skeptic leanings (to the point of wanting to ban the teaching of climate physics in schools…as well as evolution and this thing called “science” one assumes!). The Tories are in essence playing politics with the UK’s energy supply…again!

Indeed its entirely possible that such attempts to cut back on onshore wind will fail anyway. There’s numerous ways such a cut could be challenged both in the EU or WTO, given that it would amount to unfair competition. Already the government’s subsidy towards nuclear is under scrutiny by the EU commission, and this is in the context of an assumption that renewable subsidies would continue. And the fact is that energy companies actually like wind farms. Not just because of subsidies (though of course they help level the playing field with other energy sources), but as they can be a useful hedge against future rises in wholesale gas prices. Thus the industry might well decide to just defy the government and carry on regardless.

Yet again, what the Tories really need to do is grow a spine and confront UKIP.


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