A balanced and measured reponse to James Delingpole

Have you been enjoying the saga about the wind farms that might or might not kill whales? I do hope so. The aspect of it which I have particularly enjoyed is the sanctimonious and hypocritical rage of a vociferous lobby group of self-styled “skeptics.” (See here, here and here.) Though mostly based in Britain, they spell themselves in the American style to distinguish themselves from “sceptics” like me. That’s because, unlike proper sceptics* they – get this! – are card-carrying members of the Church of Climate Change.

I have been insulted by James Delingpole. I have officially made it!

Anyway, the reason James Delingpole claims “we” (I’m not sure why I’ve been lumped in with Ben Goldacre, but I’m honoured) are hypocritical is that we attacked him for using dodgy and distorted facts in this case, and didn’t attack all his other dodgy and distorted facts:

After all, whether or not wind farms harm cetaceans, we do know beyond all reasonable doubt that wind farms:

Despoil countryside, frighten horses, chop up birds, spontaneously combust, drive down property prices, madden those who live nearby with their subsonic humming, drive up electricity prices, promote rentseeking, make rich landowners richer (and everyone else poorer), ruin views, buy more electric sports cars for that dreadful Dale Vince character, require rare earth minerals which cause enormous environmental damage, destroy 3.7 real jobs for every fake “green” job they “create”, blight neighbourhoods, kill off tourism and ruin lives.

So isn’t it, you might argue, ever so slightly odd to get so het up over the issue as to whether or not they harm whales too?

So fair enough, let’s get het up over all of these:

    • Despoil countryside“. That’s kind of subjective, surely. If you think wind turbines look ugly, then yes, they despoil the countryside. But then, so does this. And this. And this. And this.
    • Frighten horses“. True to an extent; horses startle easily after all. However, there are plenty of places where wind farms and stables coexist, and careful design can eliminate the problems caused by flickering shadows worrying the animals.
    • Chop up birds“. Actually, the number of bird deaths associated with wind turbines is much smaller than the number of deaths caused birds flying into other buildings and stationary structures.
    • Spontaneously combust“. As far as I can tell from the limited stats available, wind turbine fires don’t appear to be any more common than any other type of fire. And at least wind turbines only produce smoke and pollution when they are in fact on fire; to paraphrase George Monbiot, wind power causes calamities when it goes wrong, coal causes calamities when it goes right.
    • Drive down property prices“. Yet again, so does coal and nuclear.
    • Madden those who live nearby with subsonic humming“. This is fair enough. That’s one point to Delingpole.
    • Drive up energy prices“. Actually, onshore wind costs as much per MW as coal power, and quite a bit less than nuclear power. Offshore wind is more expensive, but it also solves most of the above problems. Whoops, there goes that point.
    • Promote rentseeking, make rich landowners richer (and everyone else poorer), […] buy more electric sports cars for that dreadful Dale Vince character.” Basically, this comes down to whether you’d rather it was coal power companies or wind power companies who were rich.
    • Ruin views“. No, James, you already did this one with “despoil countryside”. -1 point.
    • Require rare earth minerals which cause enormous environmental damage“. Now, this is a good point. Most of our rare earths at the moment come from China, which until very recently had very lax environmental controls, so the byproducts from mining them is causing environmental damage, and ideally I would rather our rare earths came from more eco-friendly sources. This isn’t just a problem with wind turbines though, it’s a problem with practically every piece of electronics in use today. Rare earth elements are used in making hard-drives, lasers, computer chips, medical images, headphones, guitar pickups and dynamos, not just wind turbines. Besides, once again, oil drilling, coal mining, uranium mining, peat cutting, even making the concrete for dams – all of these have environmental downsides as well. For this to be an argument against wind, you need to show that the damage caused by rare earths is worse than the damage caused by the above.
    • Destroy 3.7 real jobs for every green job they create“. Here’s what Full Fact had to say about that:

However the Verso Economics report was not actually seeking to address indirect benefits or jobs gained through investment in this sector. Further, the BBC reports a spokesman for the Scottish government arguing the report is “misleading”, saying it vastly underestimates the jobs created in the renewables sector and does not consider the impact of private investment. They argue that there is no negative impact on public services or public sector budgets from government support of renewables.
Whether or not these criticisms of the report ring true, there is another potential problem in using its findings to show a net loss of jobs across the UK. The original report does not address the entire UK ‘green’ jobs sector, but is focused on jobs created in the renewables sector in Scotland. Therefore, it is something of an extrapolation, and one in which it is difficult to have full confidence.

  • Blight neighbourhoods“. Pretty sure you’ve already done that one too.
  • Kill off tourism“. In fact, wind turbines have negligible effect on tourism.
  • Ruin lives“. Quite unlike climate change and global warming, which I’m sure has never ruined lives. OH WAIT.

* So let me get this straight. Fake sceptics are sceptical about the things they read, “proper sceptics” blindly regurgitate whatever they read in blogs or press releases into national newspapers without doing even the briefest of fact checks. Good to know.


  1. #1 by jon on Wednesday, 23rd March 2011 - 22:21 GMT+0100

    Cracking post, Gromit.

  2. #2 by Jo on Wednesday, 23rd March 2011 - 22:25 GMT+0100

    Great piece :0)

  3. #3 by Daz on Wednesday, 23rd March 2011 - 23:43 GMT+0100

    Just a few points I’d like to add to your already great list.

    “Despoil countryside.“ Actually, I think they look kind of graceful, but that’s personal taste.

    “Frighten horses.“ On this logic, would Delingpole also get rid of cars, trains, aircraft, pet dogs, and in the case of some more easily spooked horses, ramblers?

    “Chop up birds.“ He’s not worried about the countless dead hedgehogs, badgers, rabbits and so forth that line our country roads then? (And hows that for a “despoiled view”?) Just the occasional bird.

  4. #4 by mm1145 on Thursday, 24th March 2011 - 9:33 GMT+0100

    whail I agree with 95% of what you said. this article


    say that the prices for wind are fixed at a hi lvl in the form of feed in tarifs I can not find the pice where it gives the numbers at the moment and I realy should probley be working rather than replying to you

    • #5 by atomicspin on Thursday, 24th March 2011 - 13:00 GMT+0100

      I’m using the government’s own figures, which take feed in etc. into account.

      The Register is not the best source for information about energy and the environment; they tend to distort the facts a bit to try to downplay climate change etc..

      • #6 by mm1145 on Thursday, 24th March 2011 - 13:55 GMT+0100

        I am well aware of there stand on thouse things and that was one of the reasion I was asking what figgers you where using

        it is intresting to look throught a few diffrent sorces for cost


        Click to access Cost_Generation_Commentary.pdf

        there dose not seam to be much concensus on the costs
        but it is intresting that the feed in price for wind is between 35p/kwh to 10/kwh where as the price for electricity is between 9 and 12/kwh

        personley I am in favor or new nuclear builds but I will admint to a bias as I have friends and family who work in the indstry

        as I sadi before you where bang on on 95% of you defence of wind power I was just takeing issue with the mony aspect as it is the one oftern lvled at my personal prefrance

    • #7 by knightofthedropdowntable on Saturday, 26th March 2011 - 21:41 GMT+0100

      This article is absolutely appalling in the amount of misleading ‘facts’ there are in it.

      *puts on energy-industry-job hat*

      There are three tariffs and taxes the British Government put on electricity and gas prices, all of which are only charged to businesses and commericial properties. This includes the Feed-In Tariffs, which are currently charged at less than 1 penny per MWh, so even if domestic properties had to pay them it would increase your annual bill by a couple of pence. Like hell would that ‘lift millions out of fuel poverty’ – to do that you would need to release the UK energy markets from depending so much on oil prices (and therefore gas prices) and market speculation.

      • #8 by knightofthedropdowntable on Saturday, 26th March 2011 - 21:43 GMT+0100

        (Just realised, I meant The Registry article, but didn’t make that very clear!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: