Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Living the Dream

Been a funny old day, working in the dark. Interviewed for S4/C about Julie Christie, someone that I don't know personally but who lives nearby, and also interviewed on Post Cynta and Good Evening Wales about an issue that I'd not had a chance to study in any sort of depth - today's publication by Assembly Environment Minister, Jane Davidson of an 'energy route map' for Wales up until 2020. Why do they use a meaningless term like 'route map'? Since I was being interviewed as President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, I decided not to be 'oppositional'. Mind you, listeners were also told that I am a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate. BBC must be some protocol about this I suppose.

Anyway, I said that I 'cautiously welcomed' the document - on the basis of what I've heard and read so far. Had to reserve my position though, until I read and discuss it further. Assembly Government publications are so self congratulatory that they should carry a truth warning, and are often not what they seem. But firstly, it seems to broaden the target sources of renewable energy from a almost total dependence on onshore wind, by reference to a target of deriving 50% of Wales' renewable energy from the sea. At least the direction seems right. There's also something about being self-sufficient by 2020 which I neither fully understand or believe. But its nice to see focus on wave, tide, hydro, micro-generation, solar and biomass - even if its probably just PR to counteract the vociferous opposition that is growing to covering great swathes of Wales in wind farms. Cynical or what! I also welcomed the line which promised 'a measured approach' to energy from wind. Perhaps that's part of a PR strategy as well. Truth is that's its too early to make any meaningful comment without further study - but did my best.

Most awkward moment was when Felicity Evans asked me (and its always Felicity who puts me on the spot) if I accepted that renewable energy from wind turbines should be part of the mix of renewables. Many members of CPRW and the Conservative Party would have preferred me to say No - but I answered with a qualified Yes. Two reasons. Firstly and factually, existing wind and approved wind farms will operate until well beyond 2020. But more controversially, I believe an absolutist stance nearly always loses the argument. I genuinely don't think wind farms are efficient enough to justify the damage they inflict on the landscape, particularly when cumulative impact is considered - but where a local community and a Local Planning Authority are supportive, standing in the way makes one look irrelevant and obstructive for its own sake. I will be discussing this position with my Director and Chairman over the next few days. Could be a 'change of emphasis' as we politicians sometimes say.

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