So far, Labour's effort in reducing carbon emissions has been a failure, with CO2 emissions increasing since 1997 despite countless speeches on the dangers of climate change. In particular it's handling of renewables has been pathetic, the incompetent management of micro renewables grants a specific case in point.
The only plus I can think of was the introduction of the Climate Change Bill, but since that had cross party support, and Miliband's minions ripped the guts out of it, I won't include that as a Labour success unless it hits the books as a strong climate law.
The Conservatives, apparently recent converts to green politics, seem to be suffering from a split personality - one side wanting to continue with more flights and more roads, the other trying to grasp the green nettle. It looks like Redwood's carbon spewing proposals have the Cameron favour at the moment, possibly because they are not too far from Gordon Brown's "concrete it" attitude to the environment. Depending on which personality wins will confirm if the Tories are genuine on the environment or just copying Labour's greenwashing.
So it's refreshing to see at the Lib Dem conference Environment honcho Chris Huhne calling for the country to be 50 per cent carbon neutral, with energy from "clean, non-carbon-emitting sources" by 2020, rising to 100 per cent by 2050. It's a courageous idea (for a 'mainstream' party) and what's needed - a strong target with a clear objective.
What's telling is that we haven't so far heard a peep in response out of Hilary Benn. Labour are so keen to try and outstep the Conservatives that they've missed the Lib Dems, although I'm not sure if that really worries them.
Let's hope that Hebburn Lib Dem Councillor Joe Abbott pricks up his ears and thinks about how the Lib Dems' new proposals can be realised in local terms, especially considering his objection to the proposed wind turbine at the A&P yard in Hebburn. Cllr Abbott has also got into the unusual frames of reference for the measurement of objects, saying that the turbine would be "six Angels of the North on top of each other". Since that particular gem seems to have originated from a Northumberland "No to Wind Turbines" group it suggests what's really informing his thoughts, and it's not what's coming from Chris Huhne.
Realistically, if we want renewable energy, we need wind turbines. Of course wind won't be able to provide all of our energy, so solar, tidal power, wave energy and other renewables as part of a balanced mix also need to be developed urgently, along with initiatives to reduce energy use.
In terms of siting wind turbines, my personal sequential preference is for offshore, then industrial site, brownfield site, urban areas and finally rural areas. Also, land based sites should be as close to the point of use as possible to minimise transmission losses through our aged grid. There is a fly in my preference ointment though - on the land wind tends to be stronger and more consistent in upland rural areas, so I wouldn't rule out rural areas - they need electricity too.
The infrastructure isn't yet in place to support offshore, so until it is we've got to go with onshore for quick wind energy wins and personally I think industrial, brownfield and urban sites should be treated as the next best option.
This is where the A&P development fits in. It's a working industrial site and most of the energy produced will be used in the yard. I can understand the concerns about the noise and the size of the turbine. Bejaysus, at 80m high plus the blades (or two Concorde jet planes placed nose to tail) it's big. But we need to remember this is a river which once had a skyline dominated by cranes, so I think in terms of visual intrusion it's replacing one industrial structure with another. As for noise, it's an industrial site and if the level isn't worse than what is already produced then there's no net disadvantage. Being a previous resident of Hebburn Village I can attest to the audible volume of ship hull sandblasting, but accepted it as the price for purchasing a house in an industrial area.
It's disappointing though that the planned turbine (as with others erected locally) is going to be imported. As shipbuilding was winding down on the river an opportunity was lost to shift the massive resource of first class engineering skills from building ships to building renewable generation units for wind, wave and tidal power. In the past the Tyne was famous for exporting coal; in the future the Tyne could be exporting clean green energy. Even though I don't believe in Karma, if I did there would be a poetic green Karmic balance somewhere in there.
Hopefully in light of the Lib Dems' new aspirations for CO2 reductions Cllr Abbott will reconsider the plans more seriously than dismiss them with a knee jerk. However, given his (and Newcastle Lib Dems) support for the second Tyne road tunnel, I'll not be surprised if he continues his business as usual attitude.
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