Don Quixote

Tony Abbott vs wind turbines

It appears wind turbines are really getting Tony Abbott’s goat. Wind turbines are the new marriage equality.

Speaking to shock-jock Alan Jones on 2GB, Tony Abbott made his feelings abundantly clear about wind energy and wind turbines. He clearly does not like them visually, and he also thinks they are noisy:

When I’ve been up close to these wind farms, there’s no doubt that not only are they visually awful, but they make a lot of noise.

Despite the national incredulity caused by his comments, Tony Abbott was sticking to his guns and repeated his criticism of ‘ugly’, ‘noisy’ wind turbines a day later, as he recounted his personal experience of a wind turbine he saw during a cycling excursion on Western Australia’s Rottnest Island.

Open-cut coal mineRottnest Island’s sole wind turbine produces almost 40% of the island’s electricity needs, saving about 430,000 litres of diesel and about 1,100 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year. About 200 people live on Rottnest Island, and another 550,000 visit each year. Although the nearest home to the turbine is a mere 395 meters away, there are no complaints by the island’s residents.

One wonders if Tony Abbott ever had the pleasure of seeing close-up the ‘natural beauty’ of an open-cut coal mine or a coal-fired power station.

Coal-fired power stationCattle farmer Hamish Officer disputed the Prime Minister’s claim that wind turbines are noisy. Mr Officer’s property in western Victoria hosts the southern hemisphere’s largest wind farm, consisting of 140 wind turbines across 5,500 hectares of land. Five of the turbines stand within 750 metres of his home which he shares with his wife and two children. Based on his direct, personal experience with wind turbines, Mr Officer disagrees with Tony Abbott’s assessment.

But Tony Abbott was not ready to quit there. He dug himself an even deeper hole by agreeing with Alan Jones’ pseudoscientific assertions about the alleged health effects of wind turbines:

I do take your point about the potential health impact of these things.

This despite the fact no reputable evidence has ever been presented to back up the alleged negative health impacts of wind turbines. Various studies conducted into alleged health effects arrived at the conclusion no harmful health effects can be linked to wind turbines. The government’s own National Health and Medical Research Council concluded recently ‘there is currently no consistent evidence that wind farms cause adverse health effects in humans’: NHMRC Statement: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health (February 2015)

People with ownership of, and financial benefits from, wind farms and wind turbines appear to be unaffected. But those who do not have an emotional connection to, or receive a financial benefit from, wind farms often complain of negative health impacts …

On the other hand, according to the World Health Organisation an estimated 7 million people die prematurely each year from illnesses linked to air pollution, including particles caused by fossil fuels.

Tony Abbott also boasted how the Liberal Party ensured a reduction in the numbers of wind turbines:

What we did recently in the Senate was reduce, Alan, reduce, capital R-E-D-U-C-E, we reduced the number of these things that we’re going to get in the future. Now, I would frankly have liked to reduce the number a lot more but we got the best deal we could out of the Senate. And if we hadn’t had a deal, Alan, we would have been stuck with even more of these things.

Wind turbinesThank you Tony Abbott for working so hard to save us from this ‘ugly”, ‘noisy’ green menace. Clean, unpolluted air … argh!

Given the Liberal Party’s track record on the environment and climate change, these comments by our Prime Minister don’t come as a huge surprise.

Nevertheless, Tony Abbott’s sudden crusade against wind turbines and wind energy remind me of that legendary literary figure Don Quixote tilting at windmills, in an amusing case of life imitating art:

At this point they came in sight of thirty forty windmills that there are on plain, and as soon as Don Quixote saw them he said to his squire, “Fortune is arranging matters for us better than we could have shaped our desires ourselves, for look there, friend Sancho Panza, where thirty or more monstrous giants present themselves, all of whom I mean to engage in battle and slay, and with whose spoils we shall begin to make our fortunes; for this is righteous warfare, and it is God’s good service to sweep so evil a breed from off the face of the earth.”

“What giants?” said Sancho Panza.

“Those thou seest there,” answered his master, “with the long arms, and some have them nearly two leagues long.”

“Look, your worship,” said Sancho; “what we see there are not giants but windmills, and what seem to be their arms are the sails that turned by the wind make the millstone go.”
Don Quixote, by  Miguel de Cervantes (Part 1, Chapter VIII. Of the valourous Don Quixote’s success in the dreadful and never before imagined Adventure of the Windmills, with other events worthy of happy record)

Sadly, Tony Abbott’s comments, and his government’s actions, undermine the renewable energy industry at a time when the future and survival of that industry is linked to our ability to combat climate change and, arguably, to ensuring the long-term future and survival of the human race itself.

This attitude is not surprising in light of the recent cut to the renewable energy target from 41,000 gigawatt hours to 33,000 and the fact the Coalition government turned Australia into a nation considered an international free-rider when it comes to climate change policies and action.

2 Comments

  1. ourweaponofchoice

    Oh, man. This sounds so familiar, except here in the U.S., it was wealthy citizens (Martha’s Vineyard area) of Massachusetts who said they didn’t want wind turbines off their coast because they were an eyesore. Of course, there are health concerns to citizens, and some of the slightly less affluent citizens of MA went to court to prevent turbines from being built in their community of Falmouth. This guy wrote an interesting article: http://www.capenews.net/columns/troy-s-take-reconciling-the-superfecta-of-local-letdowns/article_84d55ca4-110c-11e5-93a0-1b824cc0274d.html

    Like

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