On Monday morning the BBC, God bless ’em, trumpeted an Independent report saying that “68% of the public support on-shore wind-farm development”. My first thought was: “That’s odd. How come I never meet any of them?”.
But with opinion polls, it all depends on who’s asking the question. I haven’t been able to find the full details of the survey on line, and I can’t phone pollster ComRes because of the bank holiday. But I did find a ComRes report on a similar survey undertaken amongst political candidates — of which more in a moment. Suffice it to say it was commissioned by Renewable UK, a pro-wind lobbying organisation.
Consider two possible questions.
“Do you approve of clean energy from a free resource — wind?”. Or:
“Do you approve of wind farms which blight the landscape; deliver an intermittent, unreliable trickle of very expensive electricity; require conventional back-up; drive pensioners into fuel poverty; undermine our industrial competitiveness; prevent economic recovery; and cost jobs?”
I suspect that these two questions might get a very different answer.
Coming back to the candidates’ questionnaire, we should bear in mind the “Emperor’s Clothes” fallacy. There has been so much relentless green propaganda pumped out by the BBC and papers like the Independent that large organisations, political parties, and candidates, are terrified of taking a different line. So there is an in-built “Yes” bias. It takes a certain independence of mind to go against the flow and speak up for common sense against well-entrenched nonsense, which is perhaps why it falls to UKIP to make the case for a rational energy policy.
But the actual questions in the survey are interesting, and appear to me designed to muddy the water. “Do you agree that Britain should have 15% of its energy from renewables by 2020?”. Nothing specific about wind, much less on-shore wind. Candidates could answer “Yes”, yet have in mind solar photo-voltaic, tidal, Severn Barrage, hydroelectric, or even off-shore wind.
Or this: “Do you agree that investment in new electricity grid infrastructure, renewable generation (including wind farms) and other forms of generating capacity is a top priority over the next 20 years?”. Their parentheses, not mine. They’ve slipped in renewables as just one item in the middle of the list — and who could argue with new grid infrastructure and “other forms of generating capacity”? And after all that, they’ve slipped in wind in parentheses. Even then, no reference to on-shore wind.
This sort of research is deliberately self serving, deliberately misleading. We need to take “research” from the renewables lobby with a pinch of salt.