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Conservatives for Conservation?

Conservatives for conservation? In the US, despite the historical embrace of conservationism by Republicans and a growing right-leaning environmental movement (see first comment, from Emily), the Vice President notoriously referred to electricity conservation as little more than "a sign of personal virtue." But the Tories in the United Kingdom, certainly no slouches when it comes to conservatism, seem to be taking a very different path. The Guardian reports that the Tories had this to say in opposition to the Labour government's push for wind power:

The shadow environment secretary, Tim Yeo, said "ministers have bet everything" on land-based wind farms.

Conservatives would produce a "more balanced" policy later in the year, focusing more heavily on energy efficiency, he said.

"We do not believe that onshore wind should be the only show in town," he said. "We do not want to put all our eggs in one basket.

"We will look at all types of renewable energy in order to find the best long-term solution for Britain. As an island nation, why are we not doing more to harness power from wave and tide?"
(Boldface mine.)

As with all statements from politicians, it's good to be skeptical -- the Tories have signed on with a major advocate of nuclear power in the UK, for example, in the campaign against wind farms -- but I look forward to the day when the default American conservative energy position is to emphasize efficiency and diversity of renewable sources.


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Comments (9)

Emily Gertz:

I believe there is actually cause for hope here, although it is going to be hope undergirded by years of grassroots effort. There are more conservative allies in the U.S. than you might think.

REP America, Republicans for Environmental Protection, is a grassroots group aiming to return the party to the ethos of Theodore Roosevelt (who, even allowing for Haraway-esque deconstructions, was quite the conservationist).


For a BushGreenwatch.org article on PNW salmon policy I interviewed Glenn Spain, Northwest Regional Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. I feel he is indicative of a growing current of "not-liberal" citizens who increasingly see the links between economic security and good environmental practice--people who are living the results of bad policies that serve industries and leave individuals behind to fend for themselves. I quoted him in the article:

"I'm a registered Republican, but I did not vote for a rollback in the fundamental protections of public resources that support sustainable industries, such as fishing," Spain added. "We have tens of thousands of family-wage jobs at risk. The fishing industry is worth one billion dollars in the Pacific Northwest, and over $150 billion nationwide. No fish, no fishermen, no fishing jobs."


You're right, Emily. In trying to come up with a snappy intro for what felt to me like a sea-change in UK conservative policies, I over-reached. I'll try to address that with a re-edit.

Although I would love to believe that the Tories have discovered the environment in a positive way, I suspect that what they have discovered is that land-based wind farms are a strong NIMBY issue in the UK. (I've often wondered if those who hate the idea of having a wind farm near by would feel better if it were a coal-fired power plant.)

The overall trend, of environmental issues becoming a cross-spectrum concern, is a worthy one. In the case of the UK Conservatives, I rather suspect that they are searching for issues with which to get some kind of traction against Labour.


I have always loved wind turbines. But I must admit I dont like the look of the sterile icky modern ones. Maybe a good part of the problem isnt the turbine its simply how it looks.

After all everyone likes those little windmills that whirl and do silly things. Maybe we just need to find a form of windmill that doesnt look soo sterily industrial. Heck maybe they just need a better paint job.

Thanks for the link! I'll be checking that out!

I certainly hope that these issues are going to become universal concerns. That, more than anything, will help further them.

I agree with the aesthic issue of windmills.

There are new turbines coming out now that are microturbines that can be used on houses and commercial buildings. See http://www.islam-online.net/English/Science/2004/07/article06.shtml and http://www.renewabledevices.com/swift.htm to see them. The one from renewabledevices.com look really cool, although they are on the modern side.

I would like to see residential turbines looking like lawn ornaments or weathervanes.


Whups, didn't mean to come down like a ton of bricks there, Jamais!

Christophe, you're certainly correct that the Tories have grabbed this as a way of using NIMBYism to bootstrap their electoral chances. But there are many ways familiar to Americans in which the Tories could have pushed back against the wind farms -- calling for more studies, asserting that the renewable technolgies weren't "ready for the market," openly pushing more nuclear plants -- that I found the Tory minister's emphasis on efficiency and diverse renewables to be notable. It may be greenwashing, sure, but it's a sign that the debate has shifted, at least in the UK.

Emily Gertz:

Indeed. Are they actually manifesting that movement bromide, "environmental issues cut across political lines"?


In my work in the alternative energy field, I've noticed that a large percentage of "off the grid" utilizers of renewable energy are on the conservative end of the spectrum. Maybe it's the "rugged individualism" aspect of telling the utility to shove it.

I've got friends who are anarchists and animal rights activists, friends who are hate-Bush leftists and global warming true believers, and friends who are to the right of Cheney. Working in alternative energy exposed me to the wide spectrum of people who want to get away from petroleum and nuclear energy. Too many leftists just don't want to face that diversity, says the libertarian who hates politics.


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