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December 05, 2006

Come Back Don Quixote, We Need You

Posted by Christie Davies

Christie Davies returns from his beloved Spain with a hatred of windmills, windfarms and politicians and calls for the return of Don Quijote.

Every year I go to Spain at least twice, out of an affection for the people and the scenery. This year I took my dear lady wife to Tarifa, the southern-most peninsular in Spain, indeed in Europe, facing Africa. My good lady is a keen ornithologist and I was taking her to see the annual bird migrations from autumnal Europe to sunny Africa. We arrived in Tarifa laden down with all the customary impedimenta of the amateur twitcher. In my jaunty naval holiday cap and with my massive old-fashioned Zeiss binoculars round my neck, I could have been taken for a U-boat captain, who had just refuelled in one of the Caudillo's wartime ports. We shall never let them have Gibraltar.

When we got to the top of the mountain above Tarifa, I saw to my horror that it was no longer the inspiring landscape that I remembered from a visit long ago in bachelor days and which I had promised my wife. Instead there stretched in front of me long lines of horrid windmills. Rarely have I seen anything so ugly, so defacing of a landscape. The Spaniards have made an equal mess of Galicia with windmills placed on hilltops, clustered thickly in Aeolic farms and have marred the skyline above Avila. How could the Spanish, one of Europe's most aesthetically sensitive peoples tolerate these pylonic monstrosities. We should not feel superior, though. Already the greedy wind farmers are clustering around the edges of our own national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. We too have succumbed to ugliness in the name of greed, fake Greenism and Euro-regulation.

Behind it all lies some wretched Euro-directive forcing us to produce an ever-increasing proportion of our energy from renewable sources, the easiest of which is windmills. In the Spanish case it is pure farce. Spain produces ever-larger quantities of carbon dioxide at an accelerating rate. The absurd windmill compliance directive has made no difference and indeed has probably deceived people into thinking that Spain is truly combating global warming.

The reason for the increased production of carbon dioxide in Spain is the same as the reason for the proliferation of windmills, namely the hopeless and often corrupt way in which government is conducted in Spain. Matters have improved very little since the time of the Habsburgs. First, we should notice the row between factions concerned with energy regulation in Spain and the involvement of the oligopoly of energy providers with whom the regulators deal. For reasons that are political and have nothing to do with an effective energy policy, the large Spanish energy producer which burns a great deal of coal has won out over its somewhat smaller rival which burns gas and draws on hydroelectricity.

It is perhaps worth noting in passing that foreign companies who would like to enter the Spanish or French energy markets to compete with these big local interests are unable to do so. So much for the EU's supposed policy of free entry and free competition. By contrast Spanish corporations receive a large tax rebate from the Spanish state if they buy up companies in foreign countries such as the UK. This has been declared illegal by the European Court of Justice but it has declined to enforce its own verdict. In consequence the Spaniards are able to buy up other people's economies with state help but no-one can get into theirs. It is this closed nature of the Spanish economy that enables them to flout any general agreement about reducing the output of global warming gasses.

No doubt the Spanish state will have to pay a fine or at least to put money into a Euro fund under carbon trading agreements but this will have been set at such a low level that they can afford to ignore it. Again one is reminded of the wilful refusal of the Spaniards to stop over-fishing within European waters. The Spaniards both negotiate levels of catch that are far too high and then, when no-one is looking they break the rules anyway.

Windmills are the visible sign of the green hypocrisy of the wretched Spanish government run by Mr Shoemaker.

The second reason why the Spaniards are producing more carbon dioxide is that their building industry has got stuck in to ruining such few parts of the Spanish coast as remain unspoiled. I note, for example, that buildings are encroaching on the previously pristine Cabo de Gata. Do not believe that only heating and travel produce global warming gases, a fiction invented by the Greenists to make ordinary people feel guilty.

One of the big sources of carbon dioxide is the building industry through the manufacture of its basic raw materials, cement, mortar, bricks, concrete, and of course, chopped-down trees let alone the energy used in the actual construction. This is one more reason why China makes such a massive contribution to global warming.

When we put together the enormous increase in the production of carbon dioxide in Spain, the building boom on the coast, much of it to be sold to Cockneys with criminal records, and the plastering of the world's finest landscapes with windmills, we can see that the Spanish politicians have nothing but contempt for the environment.

That is why Spain needs a new Don Quixote who will charge at these wretched windmills. I am not of course suggesting that some indignant hidalgo should try and take out a windmill by putting a bullet into its generator or cutting its cables. No-one could possibly condone such an act of wicked, if highly amusing, vandalism. Rather I want a gentleman from La Mancha to take up the anti-windmill cause and to do so in the name of modern science.

The original Don Quixote we rightly see as a fool. He was trying to hold back the modern world. He not only attacked windmills, he attacked a water-powered fulling mill; at that time wind and water driven machinery were the route to the commercial transformation of Europe. We can see it at its high point in the Netherlands where almost any manufacturing concern you can think of was powered by windmills. Think of the wonders of Zaandam. In the 17th century the Dutch led the world on the basis of their own wind. It was only the coming of the British coal fired steam engine that dislodged them. Don Quixote rightly saw that the development of commerce through wind in Spain was bound to demolish the heroic chivalric society for which he stood. He was not completely irrational. He was merely trying to hold back the future.

Today by contrast, it is the builders of windmills who try to hold back the future. They are Luddites. If indeed there is a serious problem of global warming, and I suspect that there is, it will only be solved by a massive building of nuclear power stations, to the point where the proportion of energy produced by nuclear power in Britain as well as in Spain is comparable to that of France or Japan. The only thing that prevents this happening in Britain is pressure from contemptible Luddite Greenists.

Windmills provide energy erratically and expensively and it is doubtful whether some of them will ever recover the energy that went into providing the aluminium used in their construction. They appeal to Greenists because they are primitive. They are a reminder of those old windmills with slats that ground corn in early modern England and which are periodically rebuilt by silly enthusiasts. One of these days there will be an explosion of the dust-air mixture in these reconstructed windmills, killing numerous tourists and then the European Commission will close them all down on the basis of the precautionary principle.

We will be left with the pseudo-modern three-bladed turbines on posts that disfigure the countryside. We will be told that birds and bats never fly into them, despite the high death rate of sea eagles and flitter-mice sliced by their propellors, whereas nuclear power stations are real and potential bird reserves. We will be told that these three-fingered V-signs are actually the beautiful creations of some daft post-modern architect. Let us have none of it. Come back, Don Quixote, we need you to defend modernity.

Professor Christie Davies is an economics graduate of Cambridge University and a one-time Wrenbury scholar in political economy of that university. In his recent work of fiction Dewi the Dragon, the character of St George, whom Dewi defeats in a battle, draws on Miguel de Cervantes' immortal creation, Don Quijote.

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There are only two sources of uranium that are not in politically unstable lands: the American Four Corners region and inland Australia. These are insufficient. And besides, the remaining uranium sources are as just as politically nasty as Saudi Arabia. Note France's cynical entanglements in Niger. As a Yank, I'd rather pass on that. And also, as a Yank, I've been to the Four Corners, where uranium tailings have caused a persistent problem of various cancers among the Navajo Indians. Perhaps you should go to Kayenta, Arizona and ask about how the uranium mining went there.

Posted by: Omri at December 5, 2006 06:36 PM
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