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wind power – a lot of hot air!

April 21, 2012

It’s a funny thing – windmills. A century or more ago they lettered the countryside as each town and village needed a mill to grind the corn that was grown to produce bread. Back then no-one objected, but now…

Now, the turbines are bigger and are used to create energy – I like to think of them powering my home breadmaker in an ironic twist of history. It is here the arguments begin.

Should we allow them to spoil our landscapes? Do they produce any power anyway? Are they simply subsidised white elephants? And it seems everyone has an opinion – even royalty, with the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles speaking out against them, while giving permission for them to be installed on land owned by the crown estate.

Personally I like them, I would far prefer wind power to building traditional power stations, and I say that having lived in the `shadow` of the string of power stations that dominate the skyline in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. They are cleaner – quieter – and a lot more graceful. They do not discharge giant plumes of smoke. Now that is not to say that we should have them all over National Parks or Areas of Natural Beauty (AONB), but otherwise bring them on and lets silence the nimby critics!

It would seem that those who have, whether it is a spectacular view, or like the Royal family are set to enjoy from next year 15% of the crown estates income (including the £1M in subsidies on the turbines that are being installed) want to hold on to it and enjoy it for themselves.

There used to be a concept called “Noblesse oblige” – which simply means that those who have wealth, power, influence – or even just beautiful views – have a duty, a responsibility, an obligation to share what they have with those who have less. It is an argument that we have heard often in recent months and years applied to Bankers (who brought us into recession) still prepared to take £million bonuses, and to the Politicians (who let the Bankers get us into a mess – and them bailed them out!) who were prepared to fiddle expenses to add to their overgenerous salaries. These groups have been (quite rightly) criticised.

Somehow we have stopped short, collectively, from levelling the same argument at Royalty. This unique family that does nothing other than be royal. It has no political power, it produces nothing of value to sell, it offers no service industry. Other than arguably adding some value to our tourism industry, and offering patronage to charities (not doing charitable work, but saying well done to those who do!) it is a dreadful waste of the money given by taxpayers to support our countries infrastructure, educate our children, and to care for our sick and vulnerable.

Now would be the ideal time to call for Noblesse oblige to be applied to the royal family. (Perhaps none of them should take more than the prime minister is paid?) to return the Crown Estate – and indeed the other royal estates – to the people. But, of course I can’t say any of that because I will somehow be unpatriotic!

What I can say is – whatever the rights and wrongs of wind power the Crown Estate really should not be benefiting from any public subsidy.

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