In the Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore looks the costs of being "environmentally friendly".
let's look at a bigger example. About 20 miles away from us, there is a proposal to build 26 wind turbines on Romney Marsh. These will produce clean energy. Again, though, there are problems. The turbines will be nearly two and a half times the size of existing pylons, crowding what is at present an empty, open landscape. They will be sited very close to a 150-acre nature reserve, which averages 34,000 wintering birds a year. These birds are frightened off by the noise of wind farms, and can be killed by the 160mph rotation of their sails. The construction of the turbines will require the use of an enormous amount of concrete, whose production involves very high carbon dioxide emissions. And the energy produced by these giants, which will get enough wind to produce electricity less than a quarter of the time, will be small, less than one per cent of that produced by nearby Dungeness nuclear power station. The Government's target is that 10 per cent of our electricity should come from "renewable" resources by 2010. This would require about 25,000-30,000 wind turbines across the country. At present there are 1,100, the great majority of them highly unpopular with residents. So, in the name of the environment, we are building industrial skyscrapers in the wildest and most beautiful bits of Britain.
These musings were prompted by Mr. Moore's receipt of a new green bin, into which he's to put his newspapers for every-other-weekly pickup for recycling. Aside from the fact that pickup is only once every two weeks, the recycling truck won't drive down his side road to his house. He has to drag the bin out to the road, and he accumulates a lot of newspaper, so it's heavy.
Quite aside from the nuisance value, there are other questions that deserve to be asked:
How much energy is wasted recycling paper (huge amounts of water have to be churned round), and in other forms of recycling? Is there really a shortage of landfill sites? Does it make sense to send thousands of metric tonnes of green bottles not wanted here all the way to Argentina in the name of recycling? Doesn't the hated packaging of modern goods do much to extend their life and therefore ensure that less food is thrown away uneaten? Doesn't consumption often protect the environment by guaranteeing its usefulness? Now that more and more wine is bottled with plastic tops, for example, who will pay to keep the forests of cork oaks? As I watch piles of apples rotting in our garden, I am struck by the fact that waste is part of nature, the greatest overproducer of them all. The problem is not waste, but actual harm. So often now the harm is asserted by governments, not proved. I'm not sure I want to be made to pay for the Green Leap Forward.