Here are two stories which show how badly we are losing the war against green fundamentalism:
The first, courtesy of Christopher Booker, concerns the British government’s attempts to rush through a truly insane plan for a £1 billion tidal lagoon project in Swansea.
Why the unseemly haste? Because, as Booker explains, the scheme is so utterly barmy and wrongheaded that the last thing the government wants is for it to be subjected to serious scrutiny.
On the developer’s figures, the 16 tidal-powered giant turbines, built into a six-mile long breakwater round Swansea Bay, will intermittently generate only a pitiful amount of the most expensive and heavily subsidised electricity in the world. They will require constant back-up from fossil-fuel power stations for all the many hours when they are producing little or no power. In return for the developers receiving a mind-boggling £168 per megawatt hour for electricity, including a subsidy of 240 per cent, even more than that for offshore wind, we shall on average get just a derisory 57 megawatts. Yet the £1 billion gas-fired power station recently built down the coast at Pembroke can produce 35 times as much electricity, whenever needed, without a penny of subsidy.
And the second, from that other scourge of green lunacy David Rose, concerns Drax – formerly Britain’s largest coal-fired power station but now apparently more interested in burning taxpayer-subsidised biomass imported from US forests.
At £80 per MW/hr, Drax’s biomass energy is two-and-a-half times more expensive than coal – a cost passed on to customers. Last year Drax soaked up £340 million in ‘green’ subsidies that were added to British consumers’ power bills – a sum set to rocket still further. Without these subsidies, its biomass operation would collapse.
Perhaps most damningly of all, its hunger for wood fuel is devastating hardwood forests in America, to the fury of US environmentalists, who say that far from saving the planet, companies like Drax are destroying it. Drax denies this, saying it only uses dust and residues from sawmills, as well as wood left over when others log trees for purposes such as construction. Inquiries by The Mail on Sunday investigation suggests this claim is highly questionable.
I was given a tour of Drax myself, a few years ago, just as they were starting to develop their biomass programme. What my hosts could never successfully explain is how the plantations of elephant grass growing nearby were ever going to make a credible part-substitute for coal. I felt – as perhaps they did in their embarrassed or guilty hearts – is that what they were showing me was the energy industry equivalent of a Potemkin village. Quite simply, the Industrial Revolution could never have happened in Britain if it had attempted to do something so frivolous and ineffective as to try and power itself with “biofuels”. Even taking into account its Colonies and Dominions, Britain simply didn’t have the acreage to grow its own fuel. And why would it have even considered such a nonsense anyway when a far more effective source of energy – coal – was available on its doorstep?
Yet against all scientific and historical evidence, our political masters would have us believe that returning to the pre-Industrial Age (or – in the case of the Swansea project – the pre-Canute Age) is not a retrograde step but a bold and brilliant and environmentally sensible initiative.
But then David Cameron did promise us once he wanted to lead the “greenest government ever.” If he meant “greenest” in the sense of “naive”, “foolish”, “easily gulled” and “prone to ludicrous superstition” then, suddenly, it makes an awful lot of sense.