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Dam Folly?

17 Oct

Well, the Severn Barrage is shelved ….. the dream of endless free tidal power has been abandoned so that resources can be put into WIND TURBINES ….

One assumes that every scientific and economic aspect of this has been studied. After all, the government has many thousands of  advisors and experts to call on. And yet – on past experience – does one really trust the wisdom of government decisions? From where I sit, the following points need to be made and questions asked:

Against wind-turbines?

  • Wind-power is notoriously ineffective. I personally suspect it is a bit of a PC-greencoloured faddishness. Turbines only work when it is windy; they cost a lot to erect and maintain and their carbon footprint is very high. Apart from that they are a noisy eyesore.
  • Export? Every man and his uncle is making wind-turbines. Spain has taken a world lead. And how on earth are we going to compete against China once they start mass-producing them? The UK as major exporter of wind turbines? I don’t see it.

For the barrage?

  • A Severn barrage would cost a lot, of course. But the tidal power it would provide would be free and endless. It is exactly the sort of long-term infrastructure project that we should be building for the sake of future generations
  • The employment it would provide over a decade would be very high. This considerably reduces the cost through the taxes paid and unemployment and other benefits saved.
  • Massive cuts are being made in frivolities and current expenditure – great, but we should not cut major long-term infrastructure expenditure; our future depends on it.
  • It would reduce the dangers of severe flooding in the Severn, which has in the past caused devastating damage.
  • A Severn barrage would produce at least as much power as two nuclear power stations. I myself see the latter as essential if our current way of life is to be maintained, but anything that reduced their number in such a tiny country as the UK would be welcome.

Against the barrage?

  • It would be very expensive; we haven’t got the money now. But the money doesn’t all have to be spent at once. And in any case the start could be delayed a year or two.
  • The Greens have banged on about the ecological damage, but this is a red-herring. Wildlife is extremely tenacious; if the habitat along the barrier changed most species would just move on somewhere else. If you’re going to abandon every major building project because it would damage the environment then nothing would get built at all. No doubt if you razed London to the ground and returned it to nature then within a few years it would be teeming with wildlife. So what? In the end, we have to cut carbon emissions or our species will die, and a lot of other species with us. A Severn barrier would have produced a vast amount of power with almost ZERO carbon emissions.

My feeling is that this is the wrong decision, but I’d love to hear counter-arguments.

All in all, the government shows no sign at present of developing a coherent power-generation strategy for the UK. Existing nuclear power-stations are running down slowly, but the government has said there will be no public money for new ones. Yet everyone seems to agree that private industry could not build new ones WITHOUT public money and in any case the Lib-Dems are dead against nuclear. The boat is going round in circles as we approach the rapids, and I see no rabbit about to be pulled out of the hat.

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