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I hadn’t watched the video before but since …

Comment posted Caithness wind farm rejection by Dr Douglas McKenzie.

I hadn’t watched the video before but since you are so insistent I have now.

Very nice it is too but I’m a bit puzzled as to how you think it will persuade people against either this installation or wind turbines in general Your main thrust seems to be that turbines are big, very big and so are a bad thing per se. Although you show some mock ups with them arrayed in Edinburgh (and one in Glasgow) they are in fact dwarfed by some of the recent buildings in London – the Shard London Bridge Tower is, for instance, twice the height of these turbines – and doesn’t produce much in the way of useful electricity!

The Forth Rail Bridge was a behemoth in its day but is now an iconic image of Scotland. Fort George, the Caledonian Canal, the Blackwater Reservoir Dam and Cruachan power station are all examples of major pieces of engineering that changed their natural environment and the views of those living near them. Humans change things, often in a rather dramatic fashion. But then so will rising sea levels, loss of glaciers, changing weather and what we need to decide on is the balance of development set against its benefits.

As I have said before, there is an argument over the siting of individual wind farms on the basis of visual intrusion,; so not all wind farms are “good”. There is also an argument over what should be the exact mix of electricity generation and what level of subsidies are needed to produce this.

But in your desperate attempts to decry all wind turbines you really are the modern equivalent of the Victorians who opposed electrical lighting and the replacement of the horse.

Dr Douglas McKenzie also commented

  • I think the corner I was actually defending was the small atolls of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, not to mention the future well being of all of our children.

    Sticks and stones Malcolm, sticks and stones.

  • Henri: humans are smarter than just oil.

    It is true that oil is a wonderfully easy and cheap feedstock for plastics but it is not the only route. Plastics are essentially different combinations of CHO (carbon, hydrogen and oxygen). Where else can we obtain CHO molecules from? Plants; indeed cellophane is a plant derived plastic. Another route is to have plants make oil that is then used to make plastics. There is a lot of work going on on algal feedstocks for plastics. There is also an alternative materials route using ceramics. Remember Bakelite and the such? Plastics supplanted ceramics in most applications except for high temperature materials but ceramics can be used to supplant a whole range of plastics if we needed to.

    So no fossil oil doesn’t mean and end to plastics. Nor to transportation. The railways (and indeed the internal combustion engine) predate fossil oil. Railways can be entirely electrified and powered by renewables and nuclear. For urban transport, decent tram networks can cope with large populations. For rural areas transportation is more of an issue and personal transports are required. Pre-oil this was the horse but, just as we can use plants to make feedstocks for plastics we can also use them to make transportation fuels (indeed an increasing proportion of the fuel you already buy at a filling station is biofuel). This can also power aircraft, boats and HGVs – none of which are very easy to power electrically. Speaking of boats, our ancestors had the globe completely circumnavigated long before oil or even coal came on the scene. The fastest clippers could give modern powered vessels a run for their money. Archaeology tells us that humans traded goods over pretty much all of Europe and all the way to China over two thousand years ago.

    So, post oil doesn’t mean a return to the stone age for humanity. But the transition to a post oil world cannot be made overnight and we will have to adjust to things being much more expeensive than they are now. Future generations will probably look back and shake their heads in disbelief at an age where people could travel by air across the globe for a few pounds.

    Must be off now and get on with creating the future!

  • Too late at night for a detailed argument but the latest projections suggest that the investment in wind power (and other renewables) will see a decrease in fuel bills relative to a “no change” scenario, largely because of increasing costs associated with fossil fuels. Wind power is only expensive because fossil fuels are cheap. If the latter statement changes then so does the former. The great thing about renewable technologies is that once the capital costs are sunk then the operational costs (or at least the fuel costs)are minimal. Not the case for fossil fuels.

    Fossil fuels are, in any case, a dead end technology. At some point the fuel runs out.

  • OK, so I just amend my earlier statement to: about the only thing we all agree on here is that energy conservation should be the number one priority (except Malcolm).

    It is true that one of the things that often disappears with age is a sense of balance. You rage against wind turbines because it will change the view out of some houses in rural areas yet you are quite happy to have entire nations lose the land that they have lived on for at least 500 years. Is that because they matter less than we who live in these hallowed isles? Is it because they are dusky skinned or just poor? I’m sure we would all like to know.

    I have been to these atolls, indeed I have friends and acquaintances who live on Tuvalu, the likeliest first nation to be abandoned to the rising waters. There are only 10,000 of them so they don’t matter much. Only the population of Oban and a long, long way away. So much easier to keep burning fossil fuels as if there is no tomorrow.

    But let’s look at that for a moment. If you don’t care a toss for your fellow human beings (albeit dusky skinned and along way away) what about your own self-interest then Malcolm. Unless you are (and let’s use the “n” word) a nutter, you must recognise that fossil fuels are finite and it is gross stupidity to advocate burning them as quickly as possible. Eventually the last hydrocarbon molecule is burnt then when where will you be without renewables? A long time before we exhaust fossil fuels we will hit peak oil where supply cannot meet demand and we see spiralling prices and fuel shortages. Surely it is prudent to conserve our fossil fuel supplies so as to put the evil day off as long as possible?

    Your air quality argument is fatuous. The problem we face now is not NOx or SOx (unless you have the misfortune to live in China) but CO2 which has risen relentlessly over the past almost 300 years to the extent that one in three molecules of CO2 in the atmosphere is of human production. You are correct in saying that both CO2 and temperature have been higher in the past but the worry at present is not the absolute levels but the rate of change. This gives little chance for Nature never less ourselves time to adapt.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe all the climate scientists are wrong. maybe all the world’s governments are wrong and you are right. But given the option is between paying a bit more for our electricity and the presence of some turbines out of your window or the risk of extinction – what would the sensible person choose?

  • Henri: about the only thing we all agree on here is that energy conservation should be the number one priority. On electric vehicles, while the electricity to power them is coming from non-renewable sources then it makes more sense to focus on lean burn internal combustion engines than on making electric vehicles better. Good news here is that car manufacturers in particular are making great strides in petrol engine design and are delivering diesel like fuel efficiency whilst retaining excellent performance from comparatively tiny engines.

    Domestically, about 60% of the total energy consumption of an average house goes into heating it so heat conservation is both the easiest and most important target for conservation measures. Again, the UK and Scottish governments have been pushing insulation programmes hard but this becomes a game of diminishing returns for existing buildings. The new building regulations due in 2013 will push things much further and we will see a move to passive house technologies (that actually don’t require any heating at all).

    However, even if we reduce our energy consumption by 50% (which would be an ambitious target) that still leaves a lot of fossil derived power that needs to be replaced by either renewables or nuclear or a mix of both.

Recent comments by Dr Douglas McKenzie

  • Rustle with Russell
    More utter rubbish from Lynda Henderson. Have you actually spoken to Bob Allen? Whoever told you the story sold you a pup and in your arrogance you cannot admit to be wrong so you make up this story that he was persuaded not to resign.

    Your position is completely untenable.

  • Russell back in the bathtub, now trying to sink Keith Brown’s boat
    I’m afraid you condemn yourself by your own words. I don’t think that anyone reading what you have written here and the language you have used would conclude anything other than that you have a deep dislike for Mr Russell and that dislike is leading you to basically lose all sense of either proportion or impartiality. It doesn’t matter how well (or otherwise) you know Mr Russell you are clearly exercised by your interpretation of his actions and it is leading you well beyond the pale in what I would consider fair comment.

    This vendetta against Mr Russell and the SNP is destroying FA’s credibility and I have to confess that I’m seriously considering whether or not to continue reading FA (which will cheer Malcolm up if nothing else). I for one am becoming increasingly disenchanted by the constant negativity and sheer nastiness that has crept into this blog. I say that with a lot more sorrow than anger because I think that FA could have been great and indeed still could but there has to be a degree of balance, civility and indeed humour. All we are getting here is bile and it is causing me heartburn.

  • Russell back in the bathtub, now trying to sink Keith Brown’s boat
    To be honest, this post clearly shows that you are speaking from your personal dislike of Mr Russell rather than an unbiased analysis of the man. Phrases such as “publicity hungry coward” are well beyond what is reasonable comment.
  • Russell back in the bathtub, now trying to sink Keith Brown’s boat
    You don’t seem to understand the separation of a MSP’s duty to his or her constituency and their responsibilities as a Government Minister.

    Yet again, this is another instance where a member of the Government can do no right: speak up and be condemned as “desperate” or stay silent and be accused of not serving your constituents’ interests.

    It is just as well that Mr Russell has broad shoulders!

  • Atlantic Islands Centre for Luing: biggest investment in island’s history
    Well done Luing – an inspiration to all of Argyll’s communities.

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