Fair blows the wind from Texas

The controversial closure of Vestas’ UK capacity for production of wind turbine blades has limped to its inevitable conclusion. Jobs have been lost here in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight.

The solidarity of national environmental campaigners had no answer to what Vestas called “a lack of local political action in certain markets.” This is the diplomatic Danish take on our parochial planning system which has allowed nimbyism to drive wind farms offshore.

All the action on wind energy is in the US. Vestas is opening a new research centre in Houston, declaring that “Texas is the leading wind state in the USA.”

The US environmentalist, Lester Brown, goes further, placing Texas in the vanguard of his mind-boggling goal for the US to cut its CO2 emissions by 80% by 2020. Brown’s updated edition of Plan B 4.0 Mobilizing to Save Civilization warns Americans that they face a choice between exorcising fossil fuel consumption and an apocalyptic global food crisis.

He opts for a reassuringly upbeat tone, claiming that the state of Texas has enough wind generation in the pipeline to meet the needs of its 24 million population.

“In the pipeline” is a phrase greatly in need of a makeover (“in the slipstream”?). But my thought is that, if Texas of all places can convert its image from oil to wind, then there’s no excuse for middle England.

There were signs last week that the Texas bug may be catching. US Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, announced a new tranche of $750 million to underwrite loan guarantees for conventional renewable energy projects, including wind. And I was amazed to learn that a title we feature in OneWorld Books, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, has become something of a publishing sensation in the US.

This is the extraordinary story of William Kamkwamba who built a windmill from scrap material in his village in Malawi, bringing basic power to his incredulous family. But how can a nation which devours books depicting global warming campaigners as fifth-columnists seize on an African tale with a wind machine on the front cover?

It may be because the co-author, US journalist Bryan Mealer, was born in Texas.


this article was first published by OneWorld UK