Friday, 10 February 2012

All energy is Free

I doubt that I am alone in becoming fed up to the back teeth at hearing that wind energy is free. 

Of course it is, but only in the sense that we don’t have to pay the wind to blow. The costs are those of extraction and distribution, and extraction in particular is expensive, the build cost is extremely high per unreliable megawatt produced and the ongoing maintenance costs are high even ignoring the desecration to the  countryside. Proponents like to class the maintenance as ‘green jobs’, but this is a gross misrepresentation, they are maintenance overheads which don’t earn the economy a penny.

They might just as well instruct all job seekers to stop using household appliances and do all cleaning and washing by hand on the basis this would create jobs. Nonsense of course, because a job created by virtue of simply choosing a less efficient method to achieve the end result is not a productive job, it’s just poor efficiency or make-workThe economic gains and lessons of the modern age put into reverse.

Yet these same people who that claim wind is free will use the cost of oil and gas as a counterargument. But hang on! Coal, oil and gas are just as free as the wind. Miners don’t throw money down a hole to make oil or coal come back up. The cost, exactly as with wind, is the cost of extraction. (As is the case with all minerals and metals unless the price is distorted by shortages and traders).

It may be that there are foreign governments involved slicing off a share before selling imported energy like oil on to us, but with wind power there are foreign companies building, maintaining and selling the meagre wind energy back to us. The only real difference is that wind infrastructure is in the UK, messing up our countryside, rather than somewhere in Asia messing up theirs.

So what if there was plenty of energy resource here in the UK that didn’t require huge investment or ugly infrastructure, enough for all our power needs for the next 50 years. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to use it? Significantly cut the energy cost to industry and to people, reduce balance of payments with the rest of the world and boost the economy, all at absolutely no cost to the taxpayer.
Well there is! Recent finds now estimate enough shale gas under County Fermanagh to power Northern Ireland for decades. There is enough gas under Blackpoolto power the UK for most of the next generation’s needs. There are huge deposits now being investigated under Scotland’s central belt. Of course it’s not risk free, absolutely no activity is ever risk free, including windmills, now shown to affect weather downstream of windfarms.  

Shale gas doesn’t even have a grossly worse CO2 footprint (for those beguiled people that still believe in the CO2 monster) and it's relatively clean burning. So why are our politicians so determined to ignore such a gift from nature? If your family was in debt and struggling to pay the bills then you discovered buried treasure in your garden would you decide not to dig it up?

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