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« A new typology for the climate debate | Main | Ben biffs Barry »

Paterson - wind will not work

Owen Paterson has given his first major interview, choosing Farmer's Weekly for this important occasion.

You have a reputation for being a climate change sceptic. Are you?

I’m practical. I’m really amazed by the way this has all blown up. There has been significant opposition in my part of the world to inland wind farms – for the sensible reason there is no wind there.

But I am clear that climate change is happening – climate change has been happening and will continue to happen. And it is quite obvious there is a man-made element to that.

What I want to see is the right measures in the right place delivering the right results.

From my own direct constituency experience I don’t personally think that inland wind farms are effective at reducing carbon. I don’t even think they are effective at producing energy.

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  • Response
    James Delingpole surely spoke for many in fearing that one Owen Paterson does not make a summer of sane energy policy. Nevertheless, as Bishop Hill notes, Paterson has been talking sense, to Farmer's Weekly: From my own direct constituency experience I don?t personally think that inland wind farms are effective at ...

Reader Comments (55)

The only sensible comment I have ever seen from any UK Government.

If it produces affordable energy let's do it. Otherwise, go away.

Sep 15, 2012 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Very sensible, but as a Minister, it is not as positive as things he has said before. He is treading a fine line, but it is better than anything any other Minister has said before.

Sep 15, 2012 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Remember, the Guardian's litmus test on skepticism is, anybody who thinks it's been exaggerated is a skeptic (of unspecified evil variety).

Therefore, by saying "it is quite obvious there is a man-made element to that" instead of "we're doomed", Mr Paterson qualifies a skeptic and will be summarily insulted and shouted at by Carrington and friends.

Sep 15, 2012 at 9:46 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

I think this is a brilliant answer. Of course the climate is changing. None of us disagrees with that. And of course there is a man-made element to that. He never said how big.

But here's the kick in the groin that the wind energy sector has so long deserved:

From my own direct constituency experience I don’t personally think that inland wind farms are effective at reducing carbon. I don’t even think they are effective at producing energy.

Ten out of ten. The Delinquent Teenager can come later.

Sep 15, 2012 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

a good start but not sure we will be putting his name in verse - fortunate really - what rhymes with Paterson?

Sep 15, 2012 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

It is a superbly diplomatic answer. It is the sort of thing I say myself to turn away wrath and start a sensible conversation. However, as omnologos says, it will be enough to earn him the "denier" label amongst the true believers. Can he resist the pressure?

Sep 15, 2012 at 10:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Cue a whole spate of Lefty whining about tipping points, last chance, imminent catastrophe, no time for delay, and all the other items in the My First Struggle Meeting Playbook.

Sep 15, 2012 at 10:18 AM | Registered Commenterrickbradford

I recall (vaguely) a funny article from Farmer's Weekly some time ago that appeared on this site, about a top level meeting. Is it actually a subversive publication?

Mr Paterson seems eminently sensible.

Sep 15, 2012 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Fowle

I also like his first two words, "I'm practical." To me, (an aging electric power engineer) they frame his answer. Well said Mr Paterson!

Sep 15, 2012 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Pittwood

I'm with Richard Drake on this. What would you have wanted him to say: "I think man-made global warming is the looniest and most dangerous conspiracy in history?"

What Paterson said is not softening his position or conceding needless territory to the enemy. It happens to be true. Climate change is happening. There is a man made element.

Sep 15, 2012 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames Delingpole

His position sounds very close to Steve McIntyre's. Steve says that (and I paraphrase) 'of course the climate is changing - how much it's Man's fault is a matter of belief - I'm just interested in getting the science right'.

Steve is on record as saying that politicians should listen to the IPCC and other appointed authoritative bodies. He just wants these bodies not to exaggerate things and provide decent science.

Of course, when we see the lies, smearing and appalling activist cheating that comes out of the CRU and the IPCC, we are inclined to believe that there is probably no climate change whatsoever, that all the reported data are lies, and that no money whatsoever should be spent on this scam any more. Steve stays clear from this position. He would say that activism and science do not mix, and that he is no activist.

Complete disbelief in AGW is just as much a matter of faith as complete belief in it, though the CRU makes the former position easier to hold! I am particularly impressed by Mr McIntyre, because he is not fighting a political battle, but standing up for proper science.

Sep 15, 2012 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

He's just talking common and scientific sense. I don't believe it's possible for governments to ignore the IPCC it is after all an intergovernmental panel. What we need to do is purge the IPCC of the activists that now infest it, but I doubt we'll do that until it's well and truly obvious that there's going to be no catastrophe. Or until the silent majority of scientists speak out about the lack of transparency and the SPMs not reflecting the actual science.

Sep 15, 2012 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

+1 with James Delingpole.. Paterson's words speak to the general public..

Sep 15, 2012 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Mike F., was this the article you were thinking of? A top-quality piece of writing, highly recommended, ahem ahem....

Sep 15, 2012 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Flindt

In the US, Princeton, MA expected wind to be profitable, but they were mistaken. :)

In 2011, the wind turbine project lost $628,000. From Jan. 1, 2010 through June 20, 2012, the wind turbine project has lost $1,875,000. That is after credits for renewable energy production.

Original projections for the wind turbine project showed that Princeton residents would receive a financial advantage, wrote Allen. “In fact, Princeton residents have suffered a financial loss. The original projections overstated both the kilowatt hours produced, as well as the price of electricity and understated the expenses associated with the project.


Allen expects the wind turbine losses to continue at the rate of approximately $600,000 a year, assuming current wholesale electricity rates, no need for extraordinary repair and that both wind turbines continue operating. If any major repairs are needed that would mean additional expense. The original warranties on the turbines have expired and extended warranty options are not available.

Initially, the wind turbines were projected to produce roughly 9,000 megawatt hours each year, but based on the past two and a half years of experience, a better estimate is 6,500 megawatts a year with both turbines running, wrote Allen. That is roughly 28 percent less than anticipated. Also, the original projections were made when wholesale electricity rates were higher and assumed the excess wind turbine production would sell for $80 a megawatt hour.

Sep 15, 2012 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

"I’m practical."

Mr Paterson, bless his practical soul, fails to appreciate how significant and rarefied a distinction this is.

If Paul Nurse is anything to go by, it is worth a skip-full of Nobel laurels and as for ennoblements, well, the relevant titles are surely not inscribed on soft enough paper, eh Lord Deben?

Sep 15, 2012 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterdread0

There's one in every family, eh Latimer.

Sep 15, 2012 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

I am encouraged. Well done mr Paterson. More of the same please.

Sep 15, 2012 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterfenbeagle

With barely 0.04% of the atmosphere composed of CO2 & with barely 4% of that measely 0.04% being man's contribution annually, as evidenced by UNIPCC AR4 WG1, the scientific basis, supplying that evidence, it's a pretty bloody small effect in the first instance, & twice a very very small is still a very very small number! As for Presidents of the Royal Society, or anyone else of similar disposition, speaking with great authority from a lofty tower, "Heavier than air flying machines are impossible!", Lord Kelvin, 1895. So just how do those tens of thousands of UNIPCC rent seekers gad about the planet to congregate at the world's most luxurious resorts at huge taxpayer funded jollies? Answers on a post card addressed to, The Global Guvment, AN Other Luxury Resort, The Global Benefits Department................................

Sep 15, 2012 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

A good starting position to bring some reason to the matter. I don't think he will be the type of man to read his briefs without questioning the underlying mantra.

Sep 15, 2012 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Things are seldom what they seem.

Over the past three years or so I have moved from “Give them the benefit of the doubt” to hard-line sceptic. I am not about to give up the conviction borne of looking into the issues to the best of my abilities, and rejecting all the feeble excuses offered for green action to eliminate carbon production, and hearing so many meaningless political weasel words leading, in effect, to policy based evidence.

I will not abandon my well dug-in scepticism until I see evidence based policy actually put into practice. Good luck to all the optimists posting above.

Sep 15, 2012 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark Well

Yet the egregious Geoffrey Lean, further on in the DT, has this to say: "Here’s a small cheer for Owen Paterson, the new Environment Secretary."

Sep 15, 2012 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket


'There's one in every family, eh Latimer.

Perhaps you meant this for somebody else. If not, I'm completely baffled ;-(

Sep 15, 2012 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder


Cue a whole spate of Lefty whining about tipping points, last chance, imminent catastrophe, no time for delay, and all the other items in the My First Struggle Meeting Playbook.

Wasn't the last chance to save the planet meant to be the Copenhagen Summit? Have we been given another last chance? It is so perplexing. How is one to know when to start running down the port cellar?

Sep 15, 2012 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Nicholas - in April 2009 we were 99 months from disaster. I'll leave computation of the deadline to the reader.

Sep 15, 2012 at 2:32 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

99 months from April 2009 and he still wont be king.

Sep 15, 2012 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

"And it is quite obvious there is a man-made element to that." I'd say it was very likely rather than "obvious", with two caveats. Man-made is not the same thing as 'caused by CO2 releases'. I doubt that man's agricultural activities over thousands of years can have had no effects, for instance. The second caveat is that I have no idea how big man's effects have been (nor in which directions): they may be so small as to be dwarfed by natural effects and so be of no practical consequence at all. Nor do I know how to make a decent estimate of the size of the effects, handicapped as I am by the common incompetence and dishonesty of the Climate Science people who might otherwise provide information useful to that end.

Sep 15, 2012 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Excellent points dearieme. But they just accentuate how skillful Paterson's answers were. He didn't mention CO2 and he left it open that the man-made element might be net positive. Didn't he? We're so used to the alarmists code being behind everything. In this case they can hardly fault the guy but he may be as unconvinced as you and I are. Happy days.

Sep 15, 2012 at 2:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake


:-) There was a nice Private Eye cover recently where Chas is waxing slightly unenthusiastically about the national anthem, and the line, 'long live the Queen'...

Sep 15, 2012 at 3:01 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

@nicholas hallam

You ask

'How is one to know when to start running down the port cellar?'

My dear chap! One never 'runs down the port cellar'.

One sends one's underbutler with strict instructions to treat the Cockburn '47 as if it was a sleeping baby.

Sep 15, 2012 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

To even hear such words falling from the lips of a senior goverment minister is progress in itself. Factor in diplomatic double-speak and this is already a sea-change in outlook. Now we need a sea-change in policy, starting with a stop on ALL new land-based wind farms.

Sep 15, 2012 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshireRed

He sounds quite sensible, I expect an attack by flying monkeys any day now.

Sep 15, 2012 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterg1lgam3sh

Feel sorry for the Republicans.
Her majesty the Queen .We will all die of old age before she does.

Sep 15, 2012 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Charlie Flindt at 12.31pm.

Yes it was. Many thanks for the link. I enjoyed reading it again.

Sep 15, 2012 at 3:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Fowle

CHFTT(Can't Help Feeding The Troll)

constituency = monthly surgeries

Got it thanks

Sep 15, 2012 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Interesting to consider Cameron's motives for giving Paterson his job, Owen has really been dropped into the deep end, presumably to see if he floats. His ally is Osborne but further than that? If he manages to move policy considering the big Green dipsticks he is facing then he gets my vote for leader.

Sep 15, 2012 at 4:58 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Advocates just never stop spinning tall tales and selling gullible people on their snake oil. I'm sure activists will claim that Princeton Mass. (USA) project is too small to realize the proper gains, but the point is that two generations of wind power turbines on that site have proved a financial fiasco, fallling vastly short of promises and projections even though they are on a mountaintop. According to Don B's link, one of the two turbines spent 1 of the past 3 years off-line due to failure of the gearbox.

Only 3 years ago the advocates were claiming they should be able to get 40% of the town's power from those 2 windmills, after 25 years of disastrous results with a previous windmill project:

"The [old] windmills never produced more than 2 percent of the town's energy needs. By contrast, the new turbines are expected to generate about 40 percent of the town's capacity."

Princeton, Mass. wind power fiasco

btw, this is not Princeton, New Jersey where the somewhat famous university is located and where Einstein and Godel spent their later years at the (separate) Institute for Advanced Studies... although I have no doubt there are lots of supposedly clever people in Princeton, NJ who are sold on the promises of wind power, too, and if only they had a mountaintop nearby then Princeton NJ would be doing the same nonsense.... maybe they are in some other ways, I don't know.

Sep 15, 2012 at 6:13 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Sep 15, 2012 at 1:35 PM | Snotrocket

Maybe our Geoff wrote his piece before reading the FW article. The rest of Geoff's column is up to his usual standard, including a dubious description of the 'discovery' of the 'hole' in the ozone layer. It makes one appreciate the few weeks in August when he goes off to sun himself somewhere.

Sep 15, 2012 at 6:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Government was warned in late 2010 that the IPCC 'consensus' was probably the biggest scientific fraud in history [now fully quantified and on the way to publication]. However, in politics of this kind with massive forces in play, in particular the carbon traders like Shell and the banks, it takes a particularly courageous character to face down these vested interests, the troughers and the other politicians they control.

So, Paterson is saying let's look at the objective data and onshore can't work, which is what has been found in Germany. As for offshore, you need real lifetime data. And then you need to figure out the effect on the grid.

Sep 15, 2012 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

".......inland wind farms – for the sensible reason there is no wind there."

Oh dear. Only an idiot would publicly make a statement so visibly incorrect that it allows an opponent to instantly shoot-down his entire argument.

Sep 15, 2012 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Joe Public

It is not instantly clear which visibly incorrect statement you refer to? If you refer to the "no wind here" comment do you have personal experience that can add weight to your view?

Sep 15, 2012 at 8:18 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I would be happy to see the boundary of his constituency redrawn to include the whole of the United Kingdom.

Sep 15, 2012 at 8:20 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

More thoughts on Cameron:

I think Cameron has shot himself in the foot here (maybe both feet), he seems to be responding to Osborne, Lawson and others and recognising that his "Greenest Government ever" quote was a big mistake. However rather than stand up and admit it he has given Paterson the job of fixing our energy policy without Cameron having to admit an error. This is not leadership.

Sep 15, 2012 at 8:27 PM | Registered CommenterDung

@ Dung 8:18 pm.

Owen Paterson's part of the world is North Shropshire.

He mentions wind farms (plural).

Are you suggesting that there is more than one place in that part of Shropshire where the wind doesn't blow? [Is there anywhere in the UK that the wind never blows?]

Proposers of wind farms are (IMHO) unlikely to be stupid enough to to spend money where they'd get absolutely £zilch revenue.

Sep 15, 2012 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Proposers of wind farms are (IMHO) unlikely to be stupid enough to to spend money where they'd get absolutely £zilch revenue.

You are, naturally, entitled to your opinion. As it happens this time you are wrong. Plenty of people have put up windfarms only to find that they make no money at all.

We had a discussion on this group not so long ago about the ones in NZ which have never made a profit, and quite possibly never will. (Fortunately, in that case they are not subsidised. Your UK ones not only cost the owner money, but cost the taxpayer too.)

Sep 15, 2012 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterMooloo

Joe Public,
when the installation of a wind farm is motivated by profits from subsidies, the absence of wind is probably a plus factor for the installers in that the lack of wind defers big spends on repairs.
I was impressed that the Olympic Committee actually saw sense and did not go ahead with installing a windmill on the Olympic site as the wind there is usually notable for its absence. I lived a few miles away for five years and had to give away flying kites in the local parks to entertain my wee grandson as there is rarely wind enough to get a kite to stay aloft over that part of the UK.

Sep 15, 2012 at 11:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Joe Public

OK my comments are based on trust to a certain extent, there are statistical differences between different parts of the UK in terms of how often and how strongly the wind blows. I have assumed that
Paterson has been honest in stating that his constituency is not a good place. Do you have any references to show that he is wrong?

Sep 15, 2012 at 11:40 PM | Registered CommenterDung

@Mooloo 10:39

Please explain why you consider I'm wrong.

Perhaps you'd care to re-read my statement to realise why I deliberately chose the word "revenue" rather than, say, 'profit'.

@ Dung 11:40

I don't doubt that he considers his constituency is not a good place. I simply (& only) dispute his statement as fact ".....that there is no wind there".

Sep 16, 2012 at 12:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Just as nuclear power had a "little problem" with radioactive waste ;so too, wind energy has a "little problem". There is no way to store the generated power. This means a standby generator must be ready whenever the wind dies down. And it must be a rapid response generator like a combustion turbine. Such turbine power is very expensive and generates more pollutants than a coal fired plant ;which takes many minutes to bring up to speed. The net result is energy costs to the consumer that are more than triple regular coal generated power. If you add solar power( which also has the same"little problem") then energy costs will increase more than 5 or 6 times. England is already seeing considerable cost increases because of their wind power system.

Sep 16, 2012 at 2:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterCurt Lampkin

Please explain why you consider I'm wrong.

Certainly. Because, as you know, revenue is no basis for any business (with the dubious exception of money-laundering). Who cares what the revenue is, if the thing is a money-sink?

Focusing an argument on a trivial literal meaning of "no wind" when what he obviously meant in context to mean "no suitable wind of sufficient duration" may strike you as the way to win an argument. For the rest of us, well, we understand context is everything in normal speech.

Sep 16, 2012 at 3:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterMooloo

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