Patrick Harvie: Trump the clown in windfarm media circus
LAST week the Scottish Parliament played host to a media circus like nothing I've ever seen before.
The star turn they'd come to see was Donald Trump - and as far as I was concerned he was the biggest clown of the show.
I'm a member of the Energy, Economy and Tourism Committee, and for weeks now we've been holding an inquiry into renewable energy.
It's a long piece of work - we're not due to report until September - but Mr Trump's appearance had been hyped up as the chance for those against wind turbines to have their say.
Sadly Communities Against Turbines, sitting alongside Trump, didn't do their cause much good.
CATS have a legitimate complaint about the level of democratic accountability in the planning system, but instead of focusing on that they were drawn into Trump's nonsensical arguments.
Mr Trump claimed that wind turbines in Scotland are being made in China. This is untrue.
He claims that they "kill massive amounts of birds". This is untrue.
He claims that they do not reduce emissions. This is untrue.
He claims that climate change is not caused by human behaviour. This is untrue.
By allowing themselves to be drawn into this rubbish, CATS only harm their own credibility. I disagree with them about turbines, but if they kept the focus on the need for a fairer planning system they would find me an ally on that point.
Sadly none of this takes forward the renewables agenda in the way which benefits people in Scotland. I hope that as the media circus leaves town, the inquiry will get down some more serious work, and examine ideas like local energy companies and the benefit they could create.
The idea works like this. Each local council would set up its own company with a remit to invest in the renewable technology which works best in their own area. Some rural areas might invest in wind, and even Glasgow City Council might find ways to do that outside of the built-up urban environment where wind resources are limited. But for the most part Glasgow would be looking at things like heat pumps, combined heat & power plants, solar (yes, even in Glasgow!) and district heating systems.
Local government is able to borrow, unlike the Scottish Government, so we'd be able to make sure that every housing development was built to the highest energy efficiency standards and was able to generate energy locally to meet people's needs at low cost, which would then repay the borrowing.
Local energy companies could do more, like collective bargaining with the energy retailers to help people get the best deal possible, or even supplying energy direct to local residents at a lower rate than the market can deliver.
The renewables revolution is a vital part of the effort to tackle climate change. It simply has to happen. But we're missing a trick if we allow all of it to sit in the private sector generating profit for the multinationals.
At least a share of the energy industry should be in the hands of the public sector or community ownership, and this would see the profits channelled back into the public good. It doesn't need new laws, or huge up-front resources. It just needs the political will.
Let's make sure that the City Council we elect this week has the political will to make energy work for the local communities it serves, instead of just lining the pockets of wealthy shareholders.
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