Home > Boneheaded stupidity, Environment > The right’s anti-wind campaign is pure scaremongering (updated)

The right’s anti-wind campaign is pure scaremongering (updated)

July 23rd, 2013

That’s the headline for my latest piece in Guardian. Of all of the anti-science nonsense peddled by the political right, here and in Britain, none is more stunningly hypocritical than their campaign against the (non-existent) health risks of wind turbines. The self-image promoted by these guys (and, with a handful of exceptions, they are guys) is one of hardnosed scepticism about unproven risks, disdain for emotive appeals to feelings about the environment. But because wind turbines are supported by their tribal enemies, they swallow and propagate utterly absurd alarmist claims.

Attempts will doubtless be made to draw a comparison with leftwing attitudes to nuclear power. But this fails for numerous reasons
* A substantial number of environmentalists support nuclear power as preferable to coal
* Among those who don’t a substantial number (me for example) base their view on the conclusion that nuclear power is simply more expensive than renewables or energy-efficiency measures
*The health risks associated with nuclear power are real, even if they are sometimes overstated
* Finally, even those environmentalists who are reflexively opposed to nuclear power aren’t guilty of the hypocrisy of their rightwing counterparts. Typically, they simply hold extreme concerns about risks of all kinds.

The only environmentalists I would convict of hypocrisy on this issue are people like Robert F Kennedy Jr, who campaigns against both nuclear and wind power while claiming to care about climate change. But RFK Jr is an anti-vaccine loon, whose only claim to fame is the name he inherited from his father. He has been rightly denounced by genuine environmentalists. Meanwhile, even those on the right who know that the scare campaign about wind is nonsense make excuses for their allies (I quote Greg Hunt in the article, and I anticipate more of the same in comments here).

Update I’m happy to say that my predictions on comments have been more than borne out. A number of rightwing commenters have weighed in with the claim (false, when you take account of the underpricing of CO2 emissions) that wind is subsidised relative to fossil fuels. Several comments have implied that, since wind energy is supposedly subsidised, it is OK to make up anti-scientific lies about it. None of our rightwing tribalists has been willing to call out their fellow tribespeople.

More amusingly, on the pro-science side of the debate, we’ve been testing out Poe’s Law. Check out the comments that reject mainstream climate science and put forward alarmist claims about wind. See if you can tell which are real and which are parodies. I had some genuine difficulty.

Categories: Boneheaded stupidity, Environment Tags:
  1. Angus Cameron
    July 23rd, 2013 at 20:05 | #1

    I am deeply unimpressed with your pieties John Quiggin. Like some very distinguished medical scientists who really ought to know better but joint the ranks of the pious great and good who trust other scientists to be as pure in heart and method as they are or were you really have no qualification to speak with such dismissive authority of the many,and increasing number, of doubters who know perfectly well that greenhouse gases tend to trap infra red radiation, that the earth’s outer layers of sea and atmosphere have been warming ever since the Little Ice Age peaked, and that adaptations, at least need to be considered but don’t believe we should squander vast amounts of money which could be spent better on other things. If you add to your PC the idea that Australia’s reputation in the world (but with whom?) is at stake then you are a presumptuous ass.

    I speak to physicists and climate scientists who have qualifications in physics and its associated mathematics and I am far from convinced that Australia should be wasting money on the least efficient ways of getting in early on the ultimately essential (say in 200 years time) replacement of fossil fuel as our main energy sources. My friends, as many women as men, who got me to sign a petition against a wind farm which threatened the historic and aesthetic value of a famous old National Heritage garden and house may or may not have had any legitimate support for their case in people’s apprehension about low frequency sound but they were spot on with their arguments against buggering up our environment to get the uneconomic product of wind farms on the periphery of a famous garden and landscaped lake.

    Actually I am a bit puzzled by your association of the anti wind farm campaigns on environmental grounds with the political right. It seems to me to be quite as naturally a left wing enthusiasm.

  2. John Quiggin
    July 23rd, 2013 at 20:28 | #2

    Poe’s Law strikes again

  3. frankis
    July 23rd, 2013 at 20:46 | #3
  4. Ikonoclast
    July 23rd, 2013 at 20:54 | #4

    I suppose while one group of capitalists seeks advantage for fossil fuels via subsidies and exemptions from the costs of negative externalities (to protect their assets from being stranded) another group of more entrepreneurial and forward thinking capitalists is cracking on and beginning to make money out of wind and solar power. There is more than one interest even among capitalists. One suspects a changing of the guard will occur eventually. I just hope it isn’t too late to save the biosphere.

  5. Jim Rose
    July 23rd, 2013 at 21:28 | #5

    can wind provide base load power?

  6. GrueBleen
    July 23rd, 2013 at 22:15 | #6

    @Jim Rose

    Why do you ask ?

  7. July 23rd, 2013 at 22:41 | #7

    Jim, the supposed requirement for baseload power isn’t. The bulk of baseload power is soaked up by people heating their water overnight at a cheaper rate, because coal-fired plants can’t easily match actual load requirements.

    See if you can come up with an actual coherent argument next time.

  8. July 23rd, 2013 at 23:04 | #8

    Of course some historic mills were windmills, so we already know just how damaging to our health they are. We have short memories, totally forgetting the hell that was the 19th century windmill. Just try Googling it – you won’t find it anywhere – the green mafia have combed the internet removing all references.

    And don’t get me started about the endangered birds they kill. There is a wind turbine on Rottnest Island near Perth, and while there recently I went for a walk to the base – or should I say I tried to walk to the base. I didn’t get to within 100m before the smell of dead birds overpowered me.

    You have some gall, Professor Q, peddling this scurrilous nonsense!

  9. July 23rd, 2013 at 23:26 | #9

    @John Brookes

    I’m surprised you made it that close.

    The sub-normal brainwaves from the air disturbance vibrational vortex often kill thousands of people before they get close enough to be crushed by the putrescence of the extintified wildlife, according to many scientific friends and non-friends from both sides of politics I’ve discussed these topics with.

    I’ve heard that Ferrari sales are up 100% this year because climate scientists are buying them with grant money. On the other hand, a friend who works at CentreLink says that denialist bloggers like JoNova, Bolt and WhatsThat have been coming in recently asking for emergency payments to help make ends meet.

    Another point that gets no coverage in our greeny controlled media is that the wind makes the world spin around on its axis. If the greenies get their way and “harness” the wind there won’t be any left to fly kites for children or make the world spin on its axis.

    These people must be stopped.

  10. jrkrideau
    July 24th, 2013 at 03:03 | #10


    You could not be more correct about the dangers of air disturbance vibrational vorteces.

    I live in Kingston Ontario Canada and the newly established wind turbine farm on the nearly Wolfe Island has forced it’s complete evacuation (est. 2,000 inhabitants) and fears are that the wild life is being driven to extinction.

    It’s a terrible situation that the government is hiding from us. They even have empty cars on the ferry to pretend that people are still living there.


  11. Frednk
  12. Andrew
    July 24th, 2013 at 07:18 | #12

    Recently a wind turbine was proposed near my house. I have personally seen the bodies of several parrots who commited suicide upon merely hearing the news.

    Just imagine what will happen once it’s actually built.

  13. Ikonoclast
  14. Brayin’ Nerd
    July 24th, 2013 at 07:55 | #14

    Another point that gets no coverage in our greeny controlled media is that the wind makes the world spin around on its axis. If the greenies get their way and “harness” the wind there won’t be any left to fly kites for children or make the world spin on its axis.

    No, you are lying.

    The world does not spin around on its axis. This is a lie promoted by the lying tax-eating communists who deny that the sun actually revolves around the earth and that it is fluctuations in the sun’s movement around the earth, rather than life-giving carbon dioxide, that causes climate change.

  15. Hermit
    July 24th, 2013 at 09:21 | #15

    According to a 2012 Grattan Institute report new wind power costs $90-$130 per Mwh though it is not clear if that includes the LGC subsidy currently worth ~$30 per Mwh. An old subcritical coal plant might produce power at say $45 per Mwh if black coal creating a tonne of CO2 per Mwh add $24, call it $70 combined. In round terms new wind power is nearly twice as costly as carbon taxed old coal.

    I therefore make two noteworthy conclusions
    1) most wind power is currently unviable without the RET
    2) the big coal fired power stations will be with us for a long time.

    The firm capacity (minimum output) for windpower in Australia may be under 5% of nameplate, notably during heatwaves when electrical demand is high. Thus we could build 20X peak demand to get coverage but that would be expensive, intrusive and oftentimes redundant. The RET on top of carbon tax/ETS is double dipping since high carbon electricity is already handicapped. Hopefully under a well designed ETS there will be no need for a RET and everybody sinks or swims under their low carbon and reliability merits.

    As for wind turbine syndrome I don’t care for the sneering attitude of some urbanites. If it’s bogus put the wind farms in the suburbs.

  16. July 24th, 2013 at 09:40 | #16

    Jim Rose, currently South Australia has no operating base load power generating capacity and the power is still on, so don’t worry about it.

  17. Sam
    July 24th, 2013 at 09:49 | #17

    I really don’t know why offshore wind isn’t more popular in Australia. It would obviate all these problems, whether real or imagined. Europe seems to be doing it, so why can’t we? Genuine question.

  18. July 24th, 2013 at 10:00 | #18

    “If it’s bogus put the wind farms in the suburbs.”

    Already happening, Hermit. Come to Melbourne and look at the Catholic Uni in Fitzroy.

  19. July 24th, 2013 at 10:04 | #19

    As an unscientific, uneducated blogger who nevertheless had had 50+ years experience of technical change as a consumer, can I make a sweeping generalisation here? New technologies tend to be expensive. Then they tend to get less so (even MUCH less so) as takeup increases, the bugs get ironed out and economies of scale take over. Think of audio technology, computing etc. Therefore “Coal’s still so much cheaper than renewables” doesn’t cut much ice with me, even though my technical knowledge of the industries involved may be less than yours.

  20. Doug
    July 24th, 2013 at 10:08 | #20

    We can start to get an idea of the future combinations of technology that will enable baseload issues to be managed with renewable energy: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/king-island-achieves-100-renewables-wind-solar-storage-98209

    The improvements in energy productivity and cost reduction in wind and solar generation are significant.

  21. July 24th, 2013 at 10:12 | #21

    Hermit, I’m surprised that you didn’t use the figures for the McArthur wind farm as I have fond memories of going over the figures with you and it’s an actual real wind farm built in Australia so its cost should be a fairly precise reflection of the cost of building a wind farm in Australia.

    Anyway, here’s a link to an article you may be interested in about how unsubsidised renewables in Australia are currently cheaper than new gas or coal:


    You may also be interested in a list of some coal capacity that has been put in mothballs over the past few years without being replaced by new coal capacity: Tarong 700 MW, Playford B 250 MW, Swanbank B 125 MW, Munmorrah 600 MW, Yallourn 360 MW. And since it’s switch to seasonal load following you may want to add half of Northern Power Station’s 520 MW. I may have skipped a few, so if you know of any others please let me know.

    And, as I mentioned to Jim, we get by fine with having no baseload generating capacity here in South Australia. In the record breaking heatwave we had not that long ago our grid performed without a problem, with no rolling blackouts like we’ve had in the past, thanks mostly due to the large amount of rooftop solar power that’s been installed.

  22. Hermit
    July 24th, 2013 at 10:12 | #22

    @Ronald Brak
    That’s news to me. The 1.28 GW Torrens Island power station is Australia’s biggest user of natural gas and is inefficient slow response steam only cycle. That gas is set to double in price when Cooper Basin output heads the other other way next year to make LNG at Gladstone, Qld. After the election dust settles we’ll need to check SA power prices with the other states and see if the comparison fares better than it did a year ago.

  23. rdb
    July 24th, 2013 at 10:15 | #23

    Grid scale energy storage using electric locomotives – good for a dry region if it pans out.

  24. July 24th, 2013 at 10:17 | #24

    Sam, offshore wind isn’t more popular in Australia because it’s more expensive. As it’s cheaper to build on land and we have plenty of great potential sites on land, offshore wind won’t get a look in until its price comes down. But it’s price is dropping.

  25. July 24th, 2013 at 10:18 | #25

    Hermit, glad to hear you remember us going over the McArthur wind farm figures. So, why didn’t you use them?

  26. TerjeP
    July 24th, 2013 at 10:22 | #26

    There are only two serious concerns with wind power:-

    1. They are financed through a rort.
    2. They look ugly.

    Maybe if MRET was abolished and the rotors were painted bright blue I might have a different attitude towards wind farms. However I suspect they will always look ugly.

  27. July 24th, 2013 at 10:39 | #27

    …Compared to the unearthly beauty of a coal fired or nuclear power station?…

  28. July 24th, 2013 at 10:43 | #28

    Terjep, in the absence of a carbon price equal to the cost of removing CO2 from the atmosphere, I don’t see what is wrong with the MRET, given that we are unlikely to get anything better any time soon. I can understand that just having a high carbon price would be simpler, but given that we don’t have that and probably won’t get it anytime soon, what’s the problem with the MRET particularly since it is not going to take much time or much expense for Australia to get to the 20% target?

    By the way, I have a question waiting for you in the sandpit: Do you accept that Andrew Bolt lied when he wrote, “Here he was, receiving film’s highest honour for his smash documentary, in which he warns that within a century the seas will rise up to 6m while monster hurricanes tear through what’s left of our cities.

    Never mind that scientists reject such wild claims.”

    I went through all the trouble of looking the article up and explaining why it was problematic, so I’d like to know if my efforts have had any effect.

  29. Fran Barlow
    July 24th, 2013 at 11:02 | #29

    @Ronald Brak

    I really don’t know why offshore wind isn’t more popular in Australia. It would obviate all these problems, whether real or imagined.

    There is not, by definition, anyway of obviating an imaginary problem. People can always imagine problems. Doubtless, some would say that there would be megadeaths amongst endangered seabirds or that the flicker from the sun would trigger epileptic fits, what with the reflection from the water.

    As Ronald points out, it’s a lot more expensive than on-shore, especially when one includes maintenance. One can build them at larger scale, and of course the ‘topography’ is more conducive to harvest.

  30. Sam
    July 24th, 2013 at 11:27 | #30

    @Fran Barlow
    That was me, not Ronald! I accept those arguments about higher capital costs, but European proponents point out that sea breezes are a lot more constant and predictable than land ones. This means a higher capacity factor, which can more than pay for the extra costs.

    Anyway, I’m not an engineer, so I won’t try to argue the point. Still, it’s surprising there isn’t even a single offshore farm in this country.

  31. Ken Fabian
    July 24th, 2013 at 11:28 | #31

    I do have some sympathy for the NIMBY response to windfarms – I too like unencumbered views – but with the need being great I don’t see it as a sacrifice that I can’t endure.

    Isn’t the real impediment that so many people do not acknowledge any great need? Climate science denial and obstructionism, and support for it within mainstream commerce and politics continues to exert it’s toxic influence on every aspect of the climate and emissions policy. As long as it goes on every policy measure will end up weakened and compromised to fit into the arbitrary bounds of ‘reasonable’ and ‘realistic’ that thoroughly embedded and deliberately cultivated denialism imposes.

  32. David Irving (no relation)
    July 24th, 2013 at 11:45 | #32

    OK, Terje, leaving aside your unsubstantiated claim that windfarm financing is a rort (contentious at best), their aesthetic appeal is very much a matter of opinion. I think they’re beautiful.

  33. July 24th, 2013 at 11:48 | #33

    I think Fran was just replying to both of us there, Sam. At the moment the higher capacity of offshore wind doesn’t make up for its greater expense so it still not competitive with land based turbines in Australia. But one compromise is to put the turbines on islands such as King Island or Kangaroo Island which have strong sea breezes.

  34. Sam
    July 24th, 2013 at 11:51 | #34

    @Ronald Brak
    I see. Well, I’ll defer to your knowledge in these matters. Something to consider for the future, anyway.

  35. July 24th, 2013 at 12:27 | #35

    Imagine if cars and highways were new. Would highways have to be 2km away from houses? Would there be concerns over the rumbling and the exhaust gases? And what about the deaths and injuries?

    Yet I’m sure that cars and roads are on the whole a very positive thing.

    It is easy to demonise stuff.

  36. TerjeP
    July 24th, 2013 at 12:55 | #36

    Ronald – I’ve left a comment in the sandpit for you. I thought I had responded previously but I couldn’t find evidence of it. Sorry.

  37. TerjeP
    July 24th, 2013 at 12:57 | #37

    I think they’re beautiful.

    Then you’re beyond help. :-p

  38. iain
    July 24th, 2013 at 12:58 | #38

    “Yet I’m sure that cars and roads are on the whole a very positive thing.”

    Jane Holtz Kay:

    Fossil fuel use, deaths, obesity, social isolation, urban sprawl and decay, air and noise pollution, marginalisation of walking / cycling, town planning’s lack of focus on community integration with food and energy sources…

    I love the positiv-ity of men.

  39. TerjeP
    July 24th, 2013 at 13:04 | #39

    John – if cars were new they would be banned. Petrol would probably be a prohibited substance. You certainly wouldn’t be able to buy it without showing ID. And there would be rations regarding how much you could buy per transaction. If you bought more than 100L it would have to be reported to a government agency. In the off chance that cars were permitted we would all need to wear helmets, shin, knee and elbow pads. Luckily cars were invented in more enlightened times when fanatics were not running things.

  40. may
    July 24th, 2013 at 13:17 | #40

    you beat me to it.

    i thought they were extraterrestrial terrorists terraforming terrain for tha lizzards.

    i wuz rong.

  41. patrickb
    July 24th, 2013 at 13:37 | #41

    I think they look quite impressive. So looks like we’re hung on that one, we’ll have to look to some other criteria. The point is the the aesthetic argument is invalid, it’s far too subjective and if it was able to trump all we’d probably wouldn’t have a lot of public infrastructure. I mean the Hoover Dam is impressive to me but to others it may be just a large concrete wall that destroyed a beautiful river vista.
    On the health argument, this is just another smoke screen by vested interests. Whenever it has been examined in the media it is always a struggle for the report to show “balance” as the levels of credulity required exceed even the ample guilelessness of the MSM. Nonetheless it has had some effect on stopping projects in Victoria I understand.

  42. patrickb
    July 24th, 2013 at 13:46 | #42

    Lot’s of libertarian angst there. I think if we accept that we know more about the damage caused by the car and it’s attendant infrastructure we might have planned the road system a bit better but I’d speculate that vested interested would have something to say reporting fuel purchases over a certain limit to the govt. I presume the comment is libertarian humour, if such a thing exists.

  43. Sancho
    July 24th, 2013 at 13:51 | #43

    TerjePLuckily cars were invented in more enlightened times when fanatics were not running things.

    Like the easy-going and famously reasonable Henry Ford.

    Let’s see if I understand the logic here: things are being run by fanatics who would prohibit petrol but haven’t prohibited petrol, and would make drivers of cars wear safety gear except that they don’t make drivers wear safety gear.

    Somehow, “the world is run by people who do things they don’t do and was better when they didn’t do what they don’t do” isn’t such a compelling argument.

  44. Crispin Bennett
    July 24th, 2013 at 14:51 | #44

    Sancho :
    Somehow, “the world is run by people who do things they don’t do and was better when they didn’t do what they don’t do” isn’t such a compelling argument.

    It’s not so bad by libertarian standards.

  45. Sancho
    July 24th, 2013 at 15:25 | #45

    By itself it’s asinine; the type of thing that might be satisfying to post on an Andrew Bolt blog while you sit with the heater turned up and the windows open just to annoy greenies, but in the context of this thread it’s simply bizarre.

    John Quiggin published an article demonstrating that opponents of renewable energy are lobbying politicians to legislate in favour of the fossil fuel industry, while Astroturfing fake activist groups that whip up opposition to wind farms by scaring local communities with health risks that don’t exist.

    From that information, Terje concludes that supporters of wind farms are unenlightened fanatics dishonestly try to repress their opponents.

  46. Fran Barlow
    July 24th, 2013 at 15:39 | #46

    As it goes, the American car lobby and Standard Oil conspired to destroy public transport in the major cities so as to promote car usage. Later, they received peppercorn fines under anti-trust laws for this public policy vandalism.

    My apologies Sam and Ronald for misattributing ….

  47. chrisl
    July 24th, 2013 at 16:17 | #47

    There was an excellent post 2 posts ago called “Rent seeking rampant” Please replace FBT with wind turbines and you will understand why people may object.
    To paraphrase ” Is there a wind industry without subsidies?”

  48. Angus Cameron
    July 24th, 2013 at 16:28 | #48


    Well said Hermit, insulated as you may be from fashionable erroneous beliefs.

  49. Crispin Bennett
    July 24th, 2013 at 16:30 | #49

    Pretty much JQ’s point. Because the Right disputes the economic viability of the wind industry, it’ll swallow any superstitious antiscientific nonsense falling on their side of the case. This is the same kind of tribal epistemology that it suffers from with respect to climate change. You’ve nailed it.

  50. Angus Cameron
    July 24th, 2013 at 16:34 | #50


    Your confessed ignorance Helen could have been made up for with a bit of logic. How much improvement in “efficiency” would be needed to make up for the fact that winds are very much intermittent and unreliable? Storage will no doubt improve and it could be storage by raising water in a country with more water but my bet, with just a little more knowledge, is that solar plus storage is a much better bet, including a much better bet for technological improvements and further reductions in cost even beyond what has resulted from Chinese production of photo-voltaic panels.

  51. Angus Cameron
    July 24th, 2013 at 16:37 | #51


    Isn’t it a bit of an overstatement, if not crass misuse of language, to say that Quiggin “demonstrated” anything much. Spat out some opinions fit to accompany a pint at the staff club bar perhaps but that’s about it.

  52. Doug
    July 24th, 2013 at 16:45 | #52

    Wind power is improving in efficiency of production, costs are coming down, production of power reduces coal emissions on a one for one basis. Why the angst?

  53. Angus Cameron
    July 24th, 2013 at 17:06 | #53

    @John Quiggin
    @ John Quiggin

    You lightweight obfuscations are not worthy of a tenured full professor JQ. And an attempt to Pretend that you don’t know whether my argument is truly serious is not a convincing way (except with your usual cheer squad) to deal with why Australia should be spending a lot of money (to gather up all the ways in which bad policy makes Australians poorer) to attempt to reduce CO2 emissions when what we do cannot make the slightest difference to our fate should the rate of warming of the earth’s oceans and atmosphere since the last Little Ice Age continue and eventually reach levels unprecedented in the Holocene.

    As an all purpose blogger perhaps you think you know about diplomacy and influence on the rulers of countries with billions of much poorer people in them (including the US). That would be a big claim when a professional diplomat like Rudd made such a fool of himself before and at the Copenhagen conference when the Chinese wouldn’t even let him join the discussions they were having with the US!.

    And can you, if you are prepared to back your opinion on “the science” (quotes because it is not clear that many of the people who some claim to be “climate scientists” have anything convincing to say about the immensely complex business of climate modelling and prediction especially if they attempt, which none seem to do, to explain every major climatic change even during the Holocene) can you give a succinct statement of your sources of belief? That is to show why you should be regarded as having a more worthwhile opinion on scientific matters pertaining to climate than Bolt. You could burnish your credential by publishing a convincing review of “Taxing Air – Facts and Fallacies About Climate Change” by Bob Carter, John Spooner, with Bill Kininmonth, Martin Feil, Stewart Franks and Bryan Leyland”.

    I suspect you would find it to limiting to your time for offering unsupported opinions to actually read it all. But you could just do the completely fraudulent not-read-at-all jobs which one of the American alarmists managed within hours of publication on “The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert” that, carefully read, shows that the basis for all politicians and nearly all bloggers opinions, namely the IPCC reports are totally unworthy of credit.

  54. patrickb
    July 24th, 2013 at 17:52 | #54

    @Angus Cameron
    “lightweight obfuscations” as opposed to your heavy weight ones. The language is turgid, the logic absent, the cliches abound. The only point that can be sensibly addressed is the one on publishing a review on Carter’s work. It’s been done and the conclusion is it’s rubbish. But you wouldn’t agree so I guess we can expect another 200 word stream on consciousness crapfest.

  55. Hermit
    July 24th, 2013 at 18:05 | #55

    Yes and no. My guess is that the best wind sites near existing transmission have been taken even though the newer bigger turbines are better. The existing turbines may need to be replaced after 25 years having averaged less than 30% capacity whereas a coal fired power station may run for 50 years at 90% capacity. Some thermal plant cannot be switched on and off easily to avoid heat shock or maintain a head of steam. Some ‘spinning reserve’ thermal plant is maintained among other reasons to cope with wind lulls ie there are emissions even if power is not going to the grid. Some gas turbine plant used for wind firming is almost as CO2 intensive as new supercritical coal plant.

    Thermal plant operators resent the fact renewable energy targets oblige them to take a back seat because the quota must be filled under threat of penalty charges. In Europe they are demanding standby fees or capacity payments. A simpler way to solve all this is to have a single target for CO2 and not additional quotas for a subset of technologies. For example nuclear is low carbon but not renewable so doesn’t get a look in. If low carbon is not the main objective why not have a quota for some other irrelevant criterion ? For example electricity sent through purple wires.

  56. July 24th, 2013 at 18:36 | #56

    Sounds like a very ineteresting book, the core premise of which is:

    The earth has been cooling for the last 16 years

    Of course those windmills are like big fans. And fans COOL things down. You fools will have us in another ice-age if you allow these massive fans to exacerbate the natural cooling!

  57. John Quiggin
    July 24th, 2013 at 19:21 | #57

    @Angus Cameron

    Great stuff! The “tenured full professor” opening really captures the tone of the standard rant, especially since it’s easily checkable that my current position has a 5-year term, with no possibility of renewal. Bonus points for great use of scare quotes, but you really need something like suicidal parrots to lift you above the pack.

  58. crocodile
    July 24th, 2013 at 19:27 | #58

    “Of course those windmills are like big fans. And fans COOL things down”

    The air is already moving before it reaches the fan. If anything, the fan will slow the air down as it draws energy in order to rotate.

  59. John Quiggin
    July 24th, 2013 at 19:35 | #59

    I must say it’s striking that SA seems to be the preferred location for those who think that the case for nuclear power requires a demonstration that renewables can’t possibly work, let alone displace coal.

  60. Jim Rose
    July 24th, 2013 at 19:36 | #60

    @John Quiggin btw, does academic tenure count for much these days in terms of job security?

  61. TerjeP
    July 24th, 2013 at 19:44 | #61


    Occasionally the fanatics in charge bump into the ordinary people. But give them time. They’ve been busy regulating other stuff. They’ll get to it.

  62. TerjeP
    July 24th, 2013 at 20:03 | #62

    @John Quiggin

    Nice chart. What is the South Australia CO2 emission rate per watt in 2005/6 versus 2012/13 for electricity? And what has been the cost per tonne of this CO2 reduction? Some have said it is $1500 per tonne but I’m sure you would have access to more accurate data given your position on the climate commission.

  63. John Quiggin
    July 24th, 2013 at 20:07 | #63

    @Jim Rose

    Really, there’s no such thing as academic tenure in Australia. It’s no different from any “permanent” job, where “permanent” means that there is no fixed term. You can still be made redundant, dismissed for poor performance etc. The big difference, for a relatively high-status job, is the large proportion of people on casual and fixed-term appointments.

  64. Jim Rose
    July 24th, 2013 at 20:21 | #64

    @John Quiggin thanks. I had heard different reports for different countries.

    I think there is still tenure in the USA because of all the stories I hear about the publish-or-perish tenure track and up-or-out. a fertile ground for data mining.

    a few nobel prize winners did not get tenure at their first university.

  65. Ron E Joggles
    July 24th, 2013 at 20:25 | #65

    John Quiggin :
    Poe’s Law strikes again

    Sadly, it’s clear that Angus is quite serious!

    And Angus wrote: “Actually I am a bit puzzled by your association of the anti wind farm campaigns on environmental grounds with the political right.” Actually, Angus, insisting that what you wish were true, is true, regardless of the evidence, is an essential characteristic of the fundamentalist right.

    The anti-windfarm alarmists are the quintessential NIMBYs – they want their (inefficiently reticulated) electricity to come from coal burning plants that are comfortably out of sight.

    The second major windfarm proposed for the Atherton Tableland is meeting determined and hysterical opposition – with signs reading “Windmill make you sick”.

  66. July 24th, 2013 at 20:30 | #66

    @John Quiggin

    “dismissal for poor performance”

    Or, as was the case with Bob Carter from JCU, for being a modern day Galileo (and forgetting to do a bit of paperwork around the place – too) and challenging the alarmists with factoids!

  67. July 24th, 2013 at 20:51 | #67

    @Ron E Joggles

    Surely you mean:

    ““Windmill make you sick”. [sic]

  68. Sancho
    July 24th, 2013 at 21:55 | #68

    Crispin Bennett :
    Pretty much JQ’s point. Because the Right disputes the economic viability of the wind industry, it’ll swallow any superstitious antiscientific nonsense falling on their side of the case. This is the same kind of tribal epistemology that it suffers from with respect to climate change. You’ve nailed it.

    But why? If the economic argument is solid, why do they embrace pseudoscience and conspiracy theories on top?

    Angus Cameron :
    Isn’t it a bit of an overstatement, if not crass misuse of language, to say that Quiggin “demonstrated” anything much. Spat out some opinions fit to accompany a pint at the staff club bar perhaps but that’s about it.

    Australian Environment Foundation, Waubra Foundation, Australian Landscape Guardians. 0.11 seconds to locate via Google.

    Also worth considering why the IPA et al don’t make any effort to deny their Astroturfing. If JQ’s claims were false slurs, published in a major newspaper, don’t you think the innocent victims would come out swinging?

    Tell ya what. Head along to a comment site hosted by someone at the IPA and ask them directly if the IPA runs Astroturf groups. It’ll be entertaining.

  69. Sancho
    July 24th, 2013 at 22:01 | #69

    Galileo was persecuted for producing observable scientific data that undermined the authority of wealthy and powerful organisations.

    In 2013, who is Galileo? The climatologists producing observable scientific data, or the wealthy and powerful fossil fuel lobby?

    And by “Bob Carter…forgetting to do a bit of paperwork around the place”, you mean “Bob Carter lied about being paid by the Heartland Institute”, right?

  70. Ernestine Gross
    July 24th, 2013 at 23:30 | #70

    Windmills for power generation are relatively new. Hence long term studies on their effects on health and wellbeing aren’t in yet. I wouldn’t give much weight to the NZ study, referenced in the post, involving an experiment lasting for 10 minutes. I would give a zero weight to this study to be precise. Firstly, it ignores the cumulative effects over time. Second, the inference drawn by the authors about psychological effects of media exposure is not watertight. For example, media exposure can convey terminology which enables people to express how they feel or what they experience.

    The general point I am trying to make, sound as a public health issue is a well recognised branch of scientific inquiry (see the publications by the International Congress on Noise as a Public Health Problem, ICBEN).

    Having said that, I state now the obvious, namely it does not follow that therefore windmills to generate electricity should be opposed. The precautionary principle suggests care should be taken as to where the objects are placed in the landscape or offshore.

    Disclosure: I came across the topic of noise as a public health issue in the context of aircraft noise in Sydney. I did present my research at ICBEN..

  71. Luke Elford
    July 24th, 2013 at 23:44 | #71


    Windmills are basically fans, Megan, but you’re wrong about the danger of cooling. Fans run on oxygen and spit out carbon dioxide. Wind farms will make global warming worse! People living near them should run for their lives because the blades chop up the air molecules and then you can’t breathe!

  72. Ernestine Gross
    July 24th, 2013 at 23:56 | #72

    Some commenters seem to forget to put an irony alert on their posts.

  73. jrkrideau
    July 25th, 2013 at 00:24 | #73

    @Jim Rose

    RE Tenure
    USA and Canada both have it.
    It is a bit like the Holy Grail but it exists

  74. July 25th, 2013 at 00:35 | #74

    @Luke Elford

    But if you are right, which you can’t possibly be because that would validate your point, I believe we humans could use our (Western) genius and ability to engineer a wind turbine (it could run on coal, uranium, hydrogen or even oil – if necessary) which would run backwards and split those CO2 molecules into harmless oxygen and some useful form of carbon, like pencils or diamonds.

    Or maybe even coal, or oil. You would need a scientist or a News Ltd columnist to check that, though.

  75. jrkrideau
    July 25th, 2013 at 00:39 | #75


    Re Galileo;
    It was a bit more complicated than that. One of Galileo’s real problems was that he published a book (which under an earlier agreement with the Church was a bit dicy ) and the Pope thought that one of the characters (Simplissimus) was a parody of him. He had other political/scientific enemies and so on.

    And there was at least one minor problem with the theory: it predicted only one tide a day. Galileo as an Italian who had AFAIK never even lived on the sea coast of Italy did not seem to realise the problem. However I am sure there were many of his enemies from places like Spain or Portugal or France who saw the problem and went, “Gotcha”. Similar to academic debates today.

    What got Galileo was a combination of things and the theory was key but not sufficient. In fact if it was not for the Pope’s reaction to the book even the theory probably would not have been a real problem as it could/would have been passed of as nothing but philosophical musing and not an attempt to overturn Aristotelian science.

    I believe while under house arrest after the trial he managed to publish 1 or 2 more books in Amsterdam so the repression, while not nice, was not too repressive. Of course, during the actual trial there probably was some chance of doing getting burnt at the stake.

  76. jrkrideau
    July 25th, 2013 at 00:42 | #76

    Blast that last post was supposed to be:
    @Jim Rose
    Sorry for the confusion.

    A bit off topic but here an interesting report on a carbon tax in Canada http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2013/07/23/bc-carbon-sustainable-prosperity-premiers.html

  77. TerjeP
    July 25th, 2013 at 05:29 | #77


    I thought his trial hinged on him using biblical references to “prove” his new theory. That he would have been okay if he had not sought to give his theory the authority of God. However I have not studied his trial and this is just Internet hearsay.

  78. TerjeP
    July 25th, 2013 at 05:44 | #78

    Scrap that. The whole fiasco leading up to the trial seems rather involved but the trial itself amounted to ~ we don’t like your opinion and we’re really tied of hearing it ~.


  79. John Quiggin
    July 25th, 2013 at 07:10 | #79


    I assume Poe’s Law applies to your comment, but as a matter of interest I was a professor at JCU in the 1990s. Carter had already been pushed out of his former position as department head then, and was hanging on to some kind of peripheral appointment. I never found out why, but this was long before his emergence as a climate sceptic.

  80. Ikonoclast
    July 25th, 2013 at 07:11 | #80

    The article linked to below starts off quite chatty and even seemingly trite. Then it gets down to some reasonable discussion. E. Gross might find it interesting relative to airport and aircraft noise.

    The article asserts, perhaps even demonstrates, that wind turbine infra-sound dB level is well below the levels shown to cause distress or harm to humans. For example, waves on a surf beach produce more infrasound than wind turbines.


  81. John Quiggin
    July 25th, 2013 at 07:18 | #81


    “Some have said $1500/tonne”. That would be the same “some” mentioned in the OP, I suppose, who also make nonsense claims about health risks.

    It’s easy to check that the correct figure is around $50/tonne.

    Here’s an offer. If you’ll make an honest commenter of yourself by agreeing that the post has demonstrated that the IPA, Devine etc are anti-science hacks, I’ll be happy to do the work for you. But I know in advance that you will stick by your tribal allies at all times, so there is no point showing you why they are wrong on any particular point.

  82. Ikonoclast
    July 25th, 2013 at 07:23 | #82

    I must say the disproportion in reaction from the right-wing tribe amuses me. The slightest hint or fabrication about wind turbine infrasound dangers has the tribal right up in arms. But when a nuclear power station blows up spectacularly (hydrogen-oxygen explosion) and emits large amounts of radioactive material necessitating evacuation over a wide area and a (now) $50 billion clean-up bill… What do we hear from the right? We hear that nuclear power is safe!

    The absurd disproportion in reaction and judgement is mind-boggling. How do I express the absurdity of it? Words fail me.


  83. Jack Mehoff
    July 25th, 2013 at 08:03 | #83

    @Angus Cameron is on point. quiggin is a sarcastic monkey who is about as talented as jk rowling

  84. Hermit
    July 25th, 2013 at 08:27 | #84

    To be fair to SA there are electricity price hikes looming in other states notably Qld. If I recall a year or so ago the Electricity Supply Association claimed that SA had the world’s third highest electricity prices after Denmark and Germany. According to AEMO’s (latest) 2011 supply and demand outlook report 44% of SA’s electricity was from burning gas and 26% from wind power, now 30% according to Climate Spectator. While SA has nearly mothballed coal, avoids interstate electricity imports and has many solar roofs the heavy gas fraction makes them vulnerable.

    Therefore we should review the interstate power price comparison later in the year. If Rudd gets up I presume black coal burners (Qld, NSW) will still be paying $24 carbon tax while brown coal burners (Vic) pay near $30 for the same energy. The threatened gas price rises may not hit home until late 2014 when east coast LNG exports start. In the washout SA power prices may be less unflattering at least for a year or so.

  85. Michael
    July 25th, 2013 at 10:03 | #85

    “For example, waves on a surf beach produce more infrasound than wind turbines.” – Ikonoclast

    Can we expect the neo-environmentalists to campaign for a closure of beaches on the basis of the threat to human health?

  86. John Quiggin
    July 25th, 2013 at 10:13 | #86

    Jack Mehoff :
    @Angus Cameron is on point. quiggin is a sarcastic monkey who is about as talented as jk rowling

    Thanks! Look out for my new bestseller “Harry Potter and the Phantom Menace”, once we can get it past the legal department.

  87. July 25th, 2013 at 10:17 | #87

    Hermit, I would like you to pay close attention to what I am about to write. Currently natural gas is about $5.50 a gigajoule. There are 3.6 megajoules in a kilowatt-hour and in South Australia it gets burned at about 35% efficiency. This means that if the price of natural gas doubled it would increase the cost of grid electricity by less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour which is a fairly small amount compared to the huge run up in distribution costs we’ve had in the past few years. Fortunately South Australia has reduced its natural gas use through the use of wind and solar power and will continue to do so, further reducing the effect of any increases in natural gas prices.

  88. Hermit
    July 25th, 2013 at 11:55 | #88

    @Ronald Brak
    I get 11.3c. Using your figures and assumptions a MJ of gas goes from 0.55 to 1.1c. We need 1.1/.35 = 3.14c to produce an MJ of electricity. Times that by 3.6.

    Put it this way; when Canberra stops paying bribes to Holden they will relocate somewhere else with cheaper power.

  89. July 25th, 2013 at 12:38 | #89

    Hermit, not every kilowatt-hour of grid electricity comes from gas.

  90. July 25th, 2013 at 12:54 | #90

    Hermit, even if you are talking about just the increase in the cost of producing electricity from gas, how did you get 11.3 cents? There are 3.6 MJ in a kilowatt-hour. At 35% efficiency we need 10.29 MJ of gas to produce a kilowatt-hour. Which means we get a bit over 97 kilowatt-hours from a gigajoule of gas. That makes the current fuel cost of a kilowatt-hour of electricity from natural gas about 5.66 cents. So doubling the cost of natural gas would increase its cost by about 5.66 cents. Or since South Australia gets about half its electricity from gas it should increase the cost of electricity by less than three cents. The 11.3 cent figure you got would be the total fuel cost of a kilowatt-hour of electricity produced by gas if the price of gas doubled. It is not how much electricity bills would go up by per kilowatt-hour if the price of gas doubled.

  91. Luke Elford
    July 25th, 2013 at 13:13 | #91

    @Ernestine Gross

    What do you mean? I don’t know where you get your facts, but I have it on good authority from Fox News that wind farms aren’t just baby pigeon murderers, they’re actually the cause of global warming: http://nation.foxnews.com/global-warming/2012/04/30/new-research-shows-wind-farms-cause-global-warming#ixzz2a1NA21xD.

    By the way, try reading the update to the post.

  92. TerjeP
    July 25th, 2013 at 14:00 | #92

    “Some have said $1500/tonne”. That would be the same “some” mentioned in the OP, I suppose, who also make nonsense claims about health risks.

    No it wasn’t. But if they have given a figure I’d be keen to hear it as well.

    It’s easy to check that the correct figure is around $50/tonne.


    Here’s an offer. If you’ll make an honest commenter of yourself by agreeing that the post has demonstrated that the IPA, Devine etc are anti-science hacks, I’ll be happy to do the work for you.

    I thought you just did the work. You said it was about $50.

  93. TerjeP
    July 25th, 2013 at 14:20 | #93

    JQ – Your article seems to identify the IPA as a hub around which a bunch of crazy right wingers orbit. Your comment to me about the IPA being anti science hacks furthers that point. So I take it the IPA is the centre of the anti science craziness that concerns you. Some of your links in your article to the IPA have nothing to do with wind power so I didn’t bother reading them. Which leaves one IPA article of relevance which is the following one:-


    So I read this paper by Alan Moran to see what so upset you. And I really don’t get it.

    Basically the paper from 2009 says that increasing the MRET to 20% will make electricity more expensive. It says that MRET is about picking winners and a ETS would be a more sound economic option. Admittedly the conclusion has some hyped remarks about civilisations in decline but that was more a historical comment than a scientific one. Leaving that aside I pretty much agreed with the cut and thrust of what Alan had to say. Maybe others can have a look through this paper and see what got you hyper ventilating about the IPA but personally I can’t see it.

  94. frankis
    July 25th, 2013 at 14:28 | #94

    I suppose the credulous or naive might be won over by Terje’s equanimity in accepting JQ’s authority on this, Andrew Bolt’s on that, and so on.

    How about my authority Terje when I assure you that scientists and professors of economics normally prefer a learned reference or three from somebody who’s just told them their prior assumption has been out by a factor of thirty?

  95. Angus Cameron
    July 25th, 2013 at 14:49 | #95

    @John Quiggin
    Yes “full professor” would have made the point (in part that I know the difference between what young journalists often call a “professor” and a full professor. When sitting on professorial selection committees I am happy to say we never had applications from the truly grade inflated American Assistant Professors!). Since you apparently only have 5 years in which to do some useful work for your employer I wonder why you are demeaning yourself with this blog.

    “Scare quotes”. That’s not even a fair reading of what I wrote and further demeans someone with the title (albeit guaranteed only for a limited period) of Professor because I was explicitly putting “the science” in quotes to allow me to draw attention to some problems of definition which non-scientists, in particular, ignore or don’t recognise and, secondly, because you could hardly fail to pick up the reference to believers and/or partisans’ repeated statements that “the science [sic] is settled”. Well, maybe you could fail to, so just allow me a little tutoring help by inviting you to consider whether the word “the” isn’t very important here.

    You really are wasting your employer’s time aren’t you? Why throw in a gratuitous reference to parrots when I made perfectly clear that my anti-windfarm activity related to a particular blight on the landscape affecting an important part of our built and natural heritage? You don’t deserve to be taken seriously I now find after reading some of your stuff in the past which made you sound quite like a regular mainstream economist who knew when he was saying something interestingly different.

    @Ron E Joggles

  96. TerjeP
    July 25th, 2013 at 14:53 | #96

    How about my authority Terje when I assure you that scientists and professors of economics normally prefer a learned reference or three from somebody who’s just told them their prior assumption has been out by a factor of thirty?

    I said $1500. I gave no reference. I then said JQ probably had better numbers. JQ said $50. He gave no reference. What part of this exchange are you concerned about?

  97. Angus Cameron
    July 25th, 2013 at 14:57 | #97

    Start please with a demonstration that you have any standing whatsoever for assertive abuse on the matter of style, or logic. Just tell me what the clichés are?

    If you can’t follow the logic that is your problem of intelligence or education.

    I’ll give you a pass on “turgid” because you are obviously limited in your ability to express objection to my discourteously long parenthetical sentences. (Discourteous because, though they are nearly all grammatical and logical, they should have time taken on them to make the finished whole easier to read).

  98. frankis
    July 25th, 2013 at 15:07 | #98

    I’m unconcerned and barely even amused, truth be told. The bit that barely amuses me is the way in which you may think you’ve cleverly avoided Professor Q’s challenge to you.

  99. Angus Cameron
    July 25th, 2013 at 15:07 | #99

    @Ron E Joggles

    Perhaps you are too young to remember or otherwise to have learned of the course of opinion on environmental matters over the last 60 years. Conservation was a typical upper middle class enthusiasm. Even the Australian Conservation Foundation had its origins with people like Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Sir Garfield Barwick and Baillieu Myer, none of them lefty. The English National Trust likewise was not a leftwing cause though dealing with landscape as well as old houses and other buildings. I would be surprised if many lefties had planted as many trees as I have (not for forestry) or done as much to preserve houses and gardens.

    As for the reference to NIMBYs – which was totally irrelevant to my limited interest in protecting a historic garden and landscape from some greedy ex-friends of my friends who wanted to take the money for a windfarm site and then get out – what on earth has NIMBYism to do with being right or left!?!

  100. Ernestine Gross
    July 25th, 2013 at 16:10 | #100

    @Luke Elford

    You managed to distort even the foxnews content by substituting “global” for “local”.

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