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Wind Farms: Inefficient, Unfair, Immoral

Graham Stringer MP on the backhanders and bad logic

Published on January 6th 2013.

Wind Farms: Inefficient, Unfair, Immoral

THIS may seem startling, but wind farms are one of the most effective mechanisms for the unwanted redistribution of wealth.

To keep pace with India and China’s extra coal burn 1000 wind turbines a week or 52,000 a year would have to be brought online. 

Whatever good intentions led to their creation across the UK, the effect is to make the rich wealthier and to further impoverish the poor. 

This goes all the way to the top.

The Prime Minister’s father-in-law is Sir Reginald Sheffield. He is making £350,000 a year from the publically subsidised wind farm on his estate. It is expected that these eight ugly, 400ft high turbines, will add £8m to Sir Reginald’s considerable wealth, estimated to be £20m. 

Sir Reginald is not on his own. 

It is estimated that a small number of private land owners, many of them already in receipt of European Union farm subsidies, will share approximately £1bn in rent over the next eight years. 

This huge sum of money will not be paid for by the energy producing and distributing companies (although they will also have their snouts in the subsidy trough), instead the poor consumer will foot the bill. It is estimated that £500 per year on average could be added to every household’s energy bill by 2020. 

Connie HedegaardConnie HedegaardThe lavishly funded wind industry, backed by the hapless Energy Secretary Ed Davey and Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, justifies this policy on the grounds that it creates jobs, reduces carbon dioxide emissions and provides ‘energy security’.

Not one of these alleged benefits survives serious scrutiny. 

The main justification, of course, is the drive to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Connie Hedegaard boasts that carbon emissions in Europe between 1990 and 2009 have fallen by 16%, at a time of significant economic growth. What she fails to mention is that over the same period carbon consumption has increased by 19%.

The policy of restricting carbon emissions in Europe is in effect a de-industrialisation policy as production becomes more expensive in Europe and industry moves to China and India or anywhere else with less expensive and more polluting energy. European politicians rather than boasting should be hanging their heads in shame at the perverse consequences of their targets. 

This is one of the reasons that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now increasing annually at three parts per million not two parts per million. 

I am grateful to Professor McKay of Cambridge and Professor Helm of Oxford for calculating that to keep pace with India and China’s extra coal burn 1000 wind turbines a week or 52,000 a year would have to be brought online. Wind is never going to deal with the problem of increasing carbon dioxide.

The drive for wind is both perverse and futile. 

In one sense now that we know that the targets for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide are leading to increases and the loss of industrial jobs we don’t have to deal with the other justifications for moving to wind energy, it is however instructive to consider these claims. 

It is regularly suggested that tens of thousands of jobs are being created by wind farms and other renewables.

Nice Work If You Can Get It. Peel Group's Scout Moor Windfarm On The Moors Above RochdaleNice work if you can get it. Peel Group's Scout Moor wind farm on the moors above Rochdale

This is only accurate if you count only the jobs created and not the jobs lost either by de-industrialisation, because of the higher costs of energy or the opportunity lost to invest in less expensive jobs. A study provided for the Scottish Parliament showed that for every job created two and a half jobs were lost elsewhere in the UK economy. 

The most absurd reason for moving to wind power is that it gives us energy security. True but only if the wind blows.

The coldest weather is nearly always associated with still air and this illustrates that you always have to have a back-up supply. The cost of this reserve supply is higher because it is only used sporadically.   

Just before Christmas the Government introduced its long awaited Energy Bill, in which this madness will be incorporated into law. Ed Davey’s justification for carrying on with this failed policy is that the price of gas and oil are going to carry on increasing. They may not, and if as is possible they reduce, the cost to industry and the domestic user will be even higher. 

There has been a dramatic drop in the price of gas in the United States following the exploitation of shale gas. This could easily lead to a slump in the world price of gas and oil particularly if Europe uses its own shale gas resources.

What might be a sensible hedge against volatility in the energy market has become a one way bet of about a hundred and ten billion pounds that oil and gas prices will increase.

The results are clear.

Land owners will make money. Energy companies will have guaranteed profits. The consumer will suffer. The countryside will be industrialised. The world will not be saved. 

Graham StringerGraham StringerGraham Stringer is a regular columnist for Manchester Confidential. He is the Labour Member of Parliament for Blackley and Broughton with a majority of 12,303. He was elected to Parliament in 1997 for the now abolished constituency of Manchester Blackley. Prior to this he was the Leader of Manchester City Council from 1984-1996. He is one of the few MPs to have science experience, as a professional analytical chemist. He is a member of The Science and Technology Committee at Westminster. 

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40 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJanuary 6th 2013.

One of the most biased propaganda esque pieces I have had the displeasure to read in a long time. Are fossil fuels not subsidised? The major reason for increased energy bills over the last ten years and over the next ten is the energy companies raising their prices (despite 100's of millions of pounds of profit) due to as they state the increased wholesale prices. Another MP shouting his mouth off about something they know little about with no consideration about the effects their comments may have on people's lives. I wouldn't be surprised if there's one going up near his house as the post seems far too aggressive for an objective, considered point of view. Looking forward to the day these dinosaurs are out of the public eye. If it was left to people like this we'd still be living in the dark ages. No one form of energy generation is the answer. Not wind. Not gas. Not fracking etc. all must work together to provide the UK with the cleanest and most secure energy future possible. The post by Stringer above is just a biased, unfounded, unhelpful rant.

James MillerJanuary 6th 2013.

I agree with Stringer. These things make no sense. They are a power station in nature that are massively inefficient.

John HarrisJanuary 7th 2013.

The whole global warming con is starting to unravel. In time it will come to be seen as the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on our country

1 Response: Reply To This...
Poster BoyJanuary 7th 2013.

Mr. Stringer appears to becoming more confused with every column ManCon publish;

-the propagation of some tired old class war diatribe, because the current Prime Minister’s father-in-law has legally obtained planning permission and obtains rent from a wind farm, is trite.

-is it really being suggested that because the East is a net contributor to emissions, we should give up on wind, which is a small part of an effort to produce electricity from various and alternative sources. The Government’s (ambitious) target is 20% by 2020.

-is Mr. Stringer really prepared to take a bet with the country’s future electricity supply on the price of oil and gas? Oh, the joy of being a backbencher in Opposition.

-where is the alternative proposition –subsidised nuclear, ‘clean’ coal, or is he now an advocate for the potential of the, as yet, unquantified and unregulated shale hype?

-Mr. Stringer’s scepticism about the cause of climate change and advocacy against fuel poverty is known and supported, but his argument is redolent of the drunken cowboy in the saloon bar, shooting at random targets. In this case, wind, family relatives, Europe and Government, get in the line of his wayward and desperate gunfire, in a noble but failed argument to explain a structural disappearance of jobs.

-another Stringer polemic ignites the ManCon constituency one again…

Clem BaileyJanuary 7th 2013.

John, that is a nonsense. Global Warming is here, whether man made made or not. The Thames used to freeze over a couple of hundred years ago, The Romans used to have vineyards as far north as York 1500 years ago. The virus that is the Human Race more than likely isn't helping. But, its coming. The UK has to realise it is a an Island with, in Chinese terms, an insignificant population that consumes more than it produces. There are hard times ahead for our Grandchildren. We need to prepare on their behalf.

Stephen DouglasJanuary 7th 2013.

Ugly? That's a rather subjective statement. I find them quite elegant.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Calum McGJanuary 7th 2013.

Agree. And I would love to know what other solutions Graham proposes. It's a very one-sided argument.

James MillerJanuary 7th 2013.

But Stephen their proliferation is ugly. Efficiency aside, when we go into the high and wild places we seek pure views, not power stations at every cardinal point.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Stephen DouglasJanuary 7th 2013.

That's not what Stringer was talking about though. His "ugly" comment was about 8 turbines being installed on somebody's estate, where views of the wild are not a factor.

Prince_HarmingJanuary 7th 2013.

This is a biased, unpleasant piece of writing. You can complain about wind turbines as much as you like, you can call them ugly and you can point out that the system for placing them is corrupt, and you can remind people that even if it wasn't, they would never make up for China and India's fossil fuel consumption.

And then you can pull your head out of your rear and stop creating completely irrelevant straw man arguments against which it's easy to win.

Firstly, no-one has EVER claimed that wind turbines will compensate for the masses of waste being produced by two gargantuan developing economies, so pointing out that they won't is irrelevant.

Secondly, calling them ugly is (as mentioned above) completely subjective. I personally find them very aesthetically pleasing.

Thirdly, pointing out that the system that places them is massively flawed and that wealthy land owners are lining their pockets with public money IS NOT AN ARGUMENT AGAINST WIND POWER. It's an argument against corruption and cronyism in government.

No-one has EVER claimed that wind power is the future of all power and that we won't need other alternative sources and back-ups. It's just never been said. So smugly pointing out that they only produce power when the wind is blowing is insulting and misleading.

Also, the point about shale gas bringing UK prices down is, frankly, bollocks.

I'm surprised and disappointed that ManCon would publish such a biased rant that has literally no connection to Manchester save that of the author.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 7th 2013.

Maybe he should be doing something about the backhanders and corruption instead.

AnonymousJanuary 7th 2013.

If action is not taken now then climate change becomes more likely - perhaps not guaranteed, but certainly more likely.
If it does happen, I for one would like to say I tried to help - not stand on the sidelines saying someone should have done something about it when it's too late.
Sure, wind won't keep pace with China, but telling industrialising nations to stop polluting whilst changing nothing about our behaviour ourselves won't work either.

AnonymousJanuary 7th 2013.

Were all these wind farms not the product of Grahame's labour government? Hasnt the coalition just carried on the old policy till it decides on somethng better? too much smoke and mirrors in this piece.

Incidentaly the only relitively carbon free and scalable source of power is nuclear. But no government seems to have the bottle to build more nuclear power plants which is probably the real reason our grandchildren are being sold out.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 7th 2013.

The coalition government has BACKED wind farms, not just 'carried on the old policy'.

If you're looking to blame people then your government without a majority is just as culpable.

the Whalley RangerJanuary 7th 2013.


I must say you are way behind the times on this one. Of course it is true that turbines receive subsidies, of course it is true that they are less efficient than CCGT power stations running at optimum capacity.

But now please tell us: which form of energy production does not receive subsidies today? The answer to this you of course know, but it might startle others: nuclear is the worst delinquent, the construction of 20 newly approved gas fired power station will receive subsidies, local Thorium-based test facilities received wads of cash, even fracking (which isn't even up and running yet) is talked about for receiving tax breaks.

The bitter truth is: they ALL receive subsidies. That's the name of the game.

Now, given this undeniable fact, and given the fact that hardly anyone would run a considerably sized enterprise without an incentive to make profits (you do agree that's how business works?), there are some strategic decisions to be made.

The price of fossil fuels has risen 10 fold in thirty years. Yes, before Iraq the oil price was well below $30/barrel brent crude, now it is continuously above $100. Cheap peak oil is a thing of the past, even though we (Britain) are in recession and use less of it.

So here is the thing: how do we ensure that in a market of ever-increasing price hikes, we retain an ability to move towards GRADUAL ENERGY INDEPENDENCE? It's not difficult to see the answer - by investing into all kinds of harvesting of abundant renewable sources, wind being an obvious one due to our unique exposure to it.

The alternatives would be going to war (again) for oil - how did that work out?

Or relying on the Almighty not to see a Level 7 nuclear event every twenty five years, as seen on Ukrainian of Japanese TV.

For these reasons, opting for the investment into renewables is a scientific, long term economic and moral no brainer...

Andy MycockJanuary 7th 2013.

For someone who supposedly has 'science experience', this is a most unscientific polemical piece. Mr Stringer makes a range of claims but provides no evidence to support his assertions beyond a vague acknolwedgement of a Scottish government report and name-checking two researchers. Discard as Tea Party-esque nonsense.

AnonymousJanuary 7th 2013.

If an activity makes money people will do it voluntarily.

They don't have to be bribed with huge subsidies like landowners or told by the government like power companies.

Without these measures not one single wind turbine would have been erected in the UK for the simple reason that every one of them loses money.

SoapysudsJanuary 7th 2013.

The amount of money that goes towards renewable energy is trivial compared to the £50 billion that went into nuclear energy and another £50 billion to decommission them. In the 70s the UK had the chance to invest in renewables such as wave, as well as wind. Instead the Government subsidised the exploitation of North oil and gas. These companies are still receiving tax-breaks, and therefore are being subsidised. I have invested in Triodos Renewable energy fund, which helps community develop community wind turbine projects. Some of the problems communities find in trying to set-up their own projects, is political hostility from councils (such as Manchester City Council) and banks unwilling to lend money. Our electrical transmission grid is dated and needs renewing and this is where a lot of money is going not into wind-power. It is because of people like Stringer, that this country is 40 years behind Europe.

1 Response: Reply To This...
the Whalley RangerJanuary 7th 2013.


Steve5839January 7th 2013.

I sit here in complete incredulity at the idiotic spouting’s of Mr Stringer, surely by providing a diverse power base we decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. If we are to have a gas / oil jump start power station or its cold and we have still air then by having wind a farm reducing our dependency at other times means we can then use the oil we would have used at the peak time??

I am surprised that a left wing "lets creates jobs for the boys" type of guy does not see the benefit in this wealth distribution. I can only think the left wing out of town hand wringers must be haranguing the man because they are having a wind farm built in their back gardens.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 9th 2013.

...Or more realistically, 'right wing out of town hand wringers' haranguing the man.

crisbyJanuary 7th 2013.

Mr Stringer said it himself - wind power is "a sensible hedge against volatility in the energy market". If he wants an 'efficient' form of electricity generation he should be campaigning for large scale tidal and nuclear generation - both controversial for different reasons. He doesn't seem to have the courage to say what his solution is.

(By the way, the 'efficiency' of wind generation, if those who use the word mean % of maximum theoretical generation, is about 30 % onshore -35% offshore. Conventional coal and gas stations are 50-60%. Not as big a difference as all that especially when you take into account the cost of emissions.)

1 Response: Reply To This...
Steve5839January 7th 2013.

Not so sure the 50 - 60 % is correct, would suggest 40 - 45 % as being more appropriate for our genearlly old PS (nuclear - yes at 50%). That also excludes line losses too - both systems.

AnonymousJanuary 7th 2013.

I don't recall Graham Stringer being so against wind farms when his party was in power.

And what alternatives does he suggest?

And who cares if the Prime Minister's father in law is one of those that benefits from the subsidy.

As others have said, this article is garbage.

Tim EvansJanuary 7th 2013.

One of the best ways to reduce carbon emissions is to recycle and buy fewer consumer goods, the vast majority of which are produced in China and whose production is therefore powered mostly by coal.

As to Stringer's rant, it is parthetic- industrial wind power is a relatively new form of power generation which has received very little funding until now. We are just starting to invest and innovate in renewable resources and to demand absolute perfection at the start of this process is ludicrous- lessons will be learned and renewable generation will be improved.

Charlie ButterworthJanuary 7th 2013.

I find it interesting the absolutist nature of the environmental lobby. You're either a full convert and with them all the way or a heretic and therefore an anti-Christ. Lord save our democracy from the absolutists.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 7th 2013.

Lord save our planet from the anti-Christs.

AnonymousJanuary 7th 2013.

What he doesn't seem to have grasped is that fossil fuels will run out. I don't think politicians have the capacity to see beyond a few years, as planning for the future in 50 or 60 years isn't important to him because he'll no longer be around. It'll be my generation that'll be left to pick up the pieces. As for wind power lining the rich's pockets, what's new there? That's the same with most energy suppliers.

Richard HJJanuary 7th 2013.

Think wind farms are unattractive? Try staring at Drax twenty four hours a day.

Charlie ButterworthJanuary 7th 2013.

Ah but they didn't put Drax up on the moors, on the fringes of the Lake District and in our areas of outstanding natural beauty. They put it in the flat wetlands of the dullest part of Yorkshire instead. Great name though Drax. Wasn't he in Flash Gordon

1 Response: Reply To This...
Richard HJJanuary 8th 2013.

Very true. Not much consolation for the people of Selby though. Oddly I called my daughter Drax hoping that she would one day grow up to take over the world and put a wind farm in the garden of every Daily Mail reader. The plan is going well thus far. I'm adding Mr Stringer to the delivery list.

Jane WeightmanJanuary 7th 2013.

I am delighted that someone is stating the obvious. why dispoil the countryside with so little power generated and give money to the landowners who do not need benefits. surely we as tax payers would prefer the money to be spent on Health, education or transport. Or to reduce the debt left by the Labour govt.

John NuttallJanuary 8th 2013.

I couldn't agree more with Graham, I've worked in the renewable energy sector and it's complete Alice in Wonderland. WRAP, which is the quango that subsidises anaerobic digestion technology which was the area I was in, gives more subsidies the more inefficient the technology is compared to conventional generation methods. So, because we were developing an efficient system we were not eligible for funding unlike the companies using old, expensive, inefficient technology who received 40% subsidies.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2013.

Actually the 'Countryside' gets a pretty big subsidy too from CAP. But where are all these wind farms despoiling the country. There has only been one approved for Cheshire, but at least three for Lancs and many more apparently in the pipeline.

Has everyone commenting actually visited them?

Actually I rather like the one outside Ilkey.

But with fracking to follow (far less elegant) you have seen nothing yet. Incidentally it is NY State USA who is the currently the biggest anti-fracking champion. Will GS be supporting them.

1 Response: Reply To This...
crisbyJanuary 10th 2013.

I went to see the one at Scout Moor, which you can see from various places around N Manchester. There was a burger van doing a roaring trade among my fellow sightseers and the pub nearby was heaving. If you want to see proliferation, I suggest you visit mid Wales or north and west Cumbria ie beyond the Lake District.

SoapysudsJanuary 9th 2013.

One must not forget that Stringer has also decided dyslexia does not exist and is also just made up nonsense. How can anyone take this man seriously? A BBC documentary he should watch from 2005. http://youtu.be/p8RyNSzQDaU

AnonymousJanuary 9th 2013.

I'd like to see a more balanced debate when discussing these environmental style topics? MP John Leech at least has signed an early day motion against fracking! Ahah Since when is Mr Stringer qualified to talk about nepotism to do with the Prime Minister? So what? Thats another debate! Maybe hes been smoking too much? Stick to the point in question Graham. His party esp in this city is absolutely full of nepotism! Half the councillors are either married to each other seeing each other, related to each other or are mates so come on Graham pot and kettle!! I remember writing to him about renewable energy and why he isnt open to this and he wrote back in less than 5 lines stating its not what his constituents want!! Whalley Ranger and Soapysuds you are both absolutely spot on!! some common sense at last!! The Fylde coast is full of medium scale turbines mostly within farmland and they arent that much of a problem there from what i can see, they do fear the return of fracking though which is definitely not wanted!! Hence the FAFF (Fylde Action Fracking Forum) group that has been set up on Facebook if anyone wants to support them on there. Calderdale council over Todmorden/Hebden Bridge way was offering a share incentive scheme for those who wish to fund a local turbine which i thought was a great pioneering move from an obviously progressive council unlike ours. Has the geothermal energy generation story in Ardwick been put to bed now then?

Jonathan SchofieldJanuary 9th 2013.

This is a comment piece and thus the viewpoint of the writer. I've asked MPs from the Lib Dems and the Conservatives in the NW to write columns for us but Mr Stringer is the only one seemingly with the desire to communicate with the Manchester Confidential constituency. But the door is always open.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Poster BoyJanuary 11th 2013.

Have you asked any of the MEP's?

...just a thought.

SoapysudsJanuary 9th 2013.

All Stringer has done is repeat myths published in the Daily Mail which have been shown to be false: www.carbonbrief.org/…/checking-five-mail-facts-on-wind-power…

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