Senators Back & Leyonhjelm Keep Hammering the Great Wind Power Fraud
Following almost 6 months of solid graft, 8 hearings in 4 States and the ACT, dozens of witnesses and almost 500 submissions, the Senate Inquiry into the great wind power fraud delivered its ‘doorstop’ final report, which runs to some 350 pages – available here: Senate Report
The first 200 pages are filled with facts, clarity, common sense and compassion; the balance, labelled “Labor’s dissenting report”, was written by the wind industry’s parasites and spruikers – including the Clean Energy Council (these days a front for Infigen aka Babcock & Brown); theAustralian Wind Alliance; and Leigh Ewbank from the Enemies of the Earth.
Predictably, Labor’s dissenting report is filled with fantasy, fallacy and fiction – pumping up the ‘wonders’ of wind; completely ignoring the cost of the single greatest subsidy rort in the history of the Commonwealth; and treating the wind industry’s hundreds of unnecessary victims – of incessant turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound – with the kind of malice, usually reserved for sworn and bitter foreign enemies.
And the wind industry’s stooge on the Inquiry, Anne Urquhart – is still out their fighting a faltering, rearguard action – long after the battle for wind power supremacy was lost – a bit like the tales of ragged, 80 year old Japanese soldiers that kept fighting the Imperial War, until they were dragged out of the jungle and into the 21st Century. Nevermind the facts, when delusion will do!
Among those Senators on the Committee – who pulled no punches in getting the truth out – were Liberal Senator from WA, Chris Back and STT Champion, Liberal Democratic Party Senator, David Leyonhjelm from NSW.
While the wind industry and its parasites have been praying to the Wind-Gods that the whole thing might just ‘blow over’, those Senators on the Inquiry – not in thrall of Infigen, Vestas & Co – are still in there fighting for a fair-go for rural communities, across the Country; and power consumers, everywhere.
Always pleased to disappoint the beleaguered and dwindling band of wind worshippers in this country, STT is delighted that Chris Back and David Leyonhjelm show no sign of letting up.
Here they are giving the wind industry another whipping in the Senate (video and Hansard transcript)..
Wind Turbines Select Committee
Thursday, 13 August 2015
Senator BACK (Western Australia) (18:11): History will record that Senator Urquhart’s words will come back home to haunt her in the future, as indeed will many of those who have so derisively commented adversely on the outcomes of this report. Let me put on the record that I am very much in favour of aspects of renewable energy. I proudly ordered and had constructed the largest number of small-scale solar units, hot water systems—some 240—ever in Western Australia. I also had responsibility for the first wind turbine in Western Australia. It failed; in fact, the first four all failed. That is history.
I also want to place on the record my strong support for hydroelectricity in your state, Senator Urquhart, and in the Snowy Mountains. When you can generate in the high peak periods and when you can use off-peak periods to pump water back up to generate again the next time it is needed surely has to be the ultimate value of renewable energy. I do not think wind turbines are a renewable energy source.
I reflected on this driving back from Sydney on Sunday. I happened to be looking at the wind turbines just out of Canberra and thought to myself that I want to look at this in both environmental terms and economic terms. I said to myself, ‘What is the environmental benefit of wind turbines?’ Of course, the benefit would be greenhouse gases forgiven during the generation process. I said, ‘That’s good.’ So that is a positive benefit. What are the negatives? What do you have to take off that greenhouse gas forgiven? Firstly, you have to take off the massive cost of greenhouse gases, the carbon dioxide, used in the construction—the original iron ore, the steel, the transportation and the tens of thousands of tonnes of concrete that go into each of these.
The committee had evidence—and Senator Urquhart did not like it much—from Mr Hamish Cumming, whom I found to be a very credible witness, that about 16 years of the use of a wind turbine would be necessary before you would actually get back to the cost-benefit of the greenhouse gases forgiven as a result of the construction.
Secondly, what do you take off that greenhouse gas benefit?
You take off the cost of the baseload generated electricity, the carbon dioxide, required when you need coal, gas or whatever other form of baseload generation you need in reserve, because when the wind does not blow and the ship does not go you do need another form of baseload power. Then something that will have a profound effect on people who are hosting wind turbines—and local governments around this country—will be the environmental cost of decommissioning these wind turbines at the end. So I suspect there is very little, if any, actual environmental benefit.
I then looked at economic benefits. The benefit from wind turbines would be the value of the power generated, but from that what do you deduct? You have got to deduct the huge costs of the renewable energy certificates that are quaintly absorbed and the burden on consumers. Funnily enough, consumers are also taxpayers—isn’t that amazing? This is not a tax, the renewable energy certificate; it is a ‘cost to the consumer’.
Somehow or other I do not think they are different people. Again, in an equation you must take away the dollar value of the baseload power that is sitting there doing nothing in case the wind blows or does not blow. In the future I hope we see effective, valuable battery storage. Whether we do or not, nevertheless it still comes at a cost. If you want to look at the economic benefits of these wind turbines, then it is one of the costs. And again you have the dollar value of the decommissioning process.
I admire that Senator Urquhart and indeed, in Cairns, Deputy President Senator Marshall attended each one of the hearings. That is to their credit. I have got to say that unfortunately the Greens political party—despite the fact that Senator Siewert chaired the inquiry in 2009—chose not to participate at all in this inquiry. I do not think that is to their credit.
Senator Urquhart mentioned the Canadian study, which has been put out there as a very credible study—until you get some advice from other credible Canadian scientists, who told us that when the data was collated, this mass of Canadian data, they just happened to reject, with no reasons given, the majority of the data that was captured and collated. They decided to ignore it—no reasons given.
The other interesting thing is that they also decided to eliminate all people under the age of 18 and older than 79 years. No reason was given; they just dropped them off. Under 18 and over 79—they do not count. In the days when I was around as a scientist if without explanation somebody were to produce international results and ask for them to be credited I would expect them to give some explanation as to why they would wipe out a significant proportion of the population and indeed a significant amount of the dataset.
Our dear friend Professor Chapman speaks of the nocebo effect. This is the effect that you think you are going to get sick from wind turbines, or you think you are going to get sick going out in a boat, so you do. Initially Professor Chapman would always say, ‘I’ve never ever heard of a host who, if he or she is making money out of these, got sick.’
The first ones, unfortunately for dear old Professor Chapman, were Mr and Mrs Mortimer. Mr Mortimer is a retired naval officer whose sphere of influence happened to be the movement of waves through solids, liquids and gases, so he knew a little bit about this. Mortimer was the first person to stand up and say, ‘Despite the fact that the income we are getting from these couple of turbines is enormously important to our retirement income, we can’t live on our farm.’ Funnily enough, they could not see the turbines but they knew when they were on. When they went away from their home for a week or so, strangely enough the nocebo effect seemed to disappear.
The other interesting case was that of a Mr and Mrs Gare, who appeared before us in Adelaide. Mr and Mrs Gare make $200,000 a year from hosting wind turbines. Mr and Mrs Gare said to us, ‘If we could have our time over again, if we could get rid of these wind turbines and get rid of the $200,000 so that we could go back to living on our farm and working on our farm, we would do it tomorrow.’ I do not know where the nocebo effect came in there, Professor Chapman.
In the time available left to me, all I will do is ask this question. I ask it of Senator Urquhart and I ask it of others who spoke before us. Why do these people carry on the way they do?
The case down at Cape Bridgewater—five generations of the family have lived on their farm, so what is in it for them to walk away from their community? People say that they are not really sick at all, that it is just in their heads. It is in their heads. You are quite right. Nausea, anxiety, annoyance and sleeplessness are sure as hell in your head. The question is: why would that family walk away? Why would their children not be able to go to school? Do they get compensation like in the old RSI days? No, they do not; there is no compensation out there. There is no hope of any reward for carrying on like this. They lose their friends in their communities. We know that in many rural communities it tears communities apart.
I have said before in this place that we have circumstances now in my home state of Western Australia where bushfire brigade members do not turn out if there happens to be a fire on the farm of someone they are opposed to on this. CWA members—and they are the two pillars of rural communities: bushfire brigades and CWAs. People are not going. They are not shopping in the towns. Why is that? Is it that they all of a sudden woke up one day and, as Senator Urquhart said, they are not sick at all?
The value of their properties—we learnt all over Australia that their properties are effectively worthless. They have not just gone down significantly. People who moved into the Barossa Valley for their change of lifestyle, the tree change, are now in a situation where they have had to walk away. So what is in it for them? Generally there has got to be a motivator if you are going to change your whole lifestyle, if you are going to walk away from your friends—you bet your life. Do not worry about Senator Urquhart going on about English speaking—Germany, Finland. Why did the Prime Minister of the UK go into the election saying he is going to stop subsidising on-land turbines and win the election? There is a long way to go in this story. I assure you it is not finished.
Senator Leyonhjelm (New South Wales) (18:21): Today I take the opportunity to inform the Senate about the final report of the Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines, as the previous two speakers have done, and why I moved to establish the inquiry. I wish to highlight three critical inquiry findings. First, there is no dispute that wind turbines emit infrasound; second, since 2009 the federal government has known and reported that inappropriate levels of infrasound cause adverse health impacts, whatever the source; and, third, wind farm guidelines and regulations do not require the measurement or restraint of infrasound levels.
As a distant observer of the debate on wind farms, I came to the inquiry with an open mind. I was opposed to the subsidies, but otherwise had no firm views. What prompted me to establish an inquiry was a meeting in my electorate office with half a dozen people from various rural communities. These were ordinary, down-to-earth people, people you would be pleased to have as neighbours. What became apparent was that something was terribly wrong with the planning and regulatory regime governing wind farms. I listened to their concerns with a growing sense of unease as they documented a litany of failures by government and the wind industry to address, or even acknowledge, what seemed like genuine issues.
I read the reports and the recommendations from the 2011 and 2012 Senate inquiries into wind farms and excessive sound, and noted that these all-party inquiries had recommended health and acoustical studies be undertaken as a priority.
At the time of the 2011 inquiry report, the Clean Energy Council welcomed these recommendations for medical research. But these recommendations were never acted upon, either by the Gillard government or the National Health and Medical Research Council, at least not prior to the establishment of the select committee.
The NHMRC only undertook backward looking literature reviews. They failed to commission research into the claimed link between wind turbine sound emissions and adverse health impacts. The NHMRC is the primary oversight body for medical research. Planning and health ministers, local councils, local GPs, the media and the wind industry all look for authoritative guidance from the NHMRC when responding to those complaining of being affected. The fact is that the NHMRC has been sitting on this issue for the best part of a decade. This has led to unnecessary anguish for many affected residents.
During the course of the inquiry, the NHMRC announced the first research grants to study wind farm sound emissions. Their grants are for a total of $2.5 million over five years. This is almost certainly entirely inadequate.
In evidence, acoustician Dr Bob Thorne noted this amount ‘would barely scratch the surface’. In fact, the NHMRC behaviour could be summarised as follows: ignore the problem as long as you can, equivocate when asked for guidance, and then grudgingly allocate a paltry sum stretched over five years to almost guarantee a non-result.
The inquiry report noted that ‘senior public health figures have also recognised that the quality of research of the NHMRC’s systemic review was sub-optimal’. In evidence, prominent New Zealand pyschoacoustician Dr Daniel Shepherd stated how surprised he was at how politicised the conduct of the NHMRC had been, to the point where health and medicine had been sidelined.
The wind industry also relies on the Australian Medical Association, the AMA. The committee found the AMA’s position statement lacked rigour. It described the AMA actions as ‘irresponsible and harmful’, and noted that the AMA ‘received pointed criticism’ for its position. Speaking for myself, I do not understand why the doctors’ union should be taken more seriously than any other union. They are not experts in anything.
One of the stand-out contributions to the inquiry was the evidence by acoustician Steven Cooper about his study of the Cape Bridgewater wind farm, commissioned by developer Pacific Hydro.
This was the first time a wind farm operator had cooperated in this type of study by providing wind speed data and allowing the stop and start of wind turbines. Cooper’s study demonstrated a correlation between certain phases of wind turbine operation and impacts felt by residents—some severe. His work was hailed as ground breaking by prominent acousticians from around the world.
Cooper’s report provides a platform from which health professionals can launch further research to determine definitively whether there is a causal link between turbine operations and adverse health impacts. This is a game-changer in providing researchers with an informed place to start their research. But it requires other wind turbine operators to cooperate, as Pacific Hydro did, and release their operating data. That indeed was the reason for the recommendations in the interim and final reports.
The inquiry heard many truly distressing stories of people driven from their homes by sound emitted from wind turbines. Residents told how, when they could take no more and left their homes for respite, they would recover, but when they returned, if the turbines were operating, they again suffered adverse impacts.
The inquiry heard from turbine hosts who receive $200,000 a year in rent and regret they ever agreed to host turbines. Senator Back has just referred to them. These people were previously enthusiastic supporters of wind power generation, but now would not live within 20 kilometres of a wind farm. It beggars belief that people who were so supportive of wind power and so financially rewarded now oppose the establishment of wind farms too close to residences, unless they suffer real rather than imagined effects on their lives.
Committee senators witnessed firsthand the callous indifference of some wind farm operators and their cheerleaders, who ridiculed and denigrated those who they described as ‘nutty anti-wind activists’. Wind farm operators argued that if they conformed to regulations, shown to be manifestly inadequate in protecting residents, they owed no further duty of care. This is eerily similar to evidence many years ago from tobacco companies, and I suspect the same fate awaits them.
The planning and regulatory governance for wind farms in every state was also shown to be shambolic, incompetent and not fit for purpose. The Victorian government cannot decide who should give approval for wind farms and who should monitor ongoing compliance. In the last few years this has gone from controlling at a state level to devolving it to local councils, and now the state government is taking back the approval stage while leaving compliance with councils.
Councillors and council officers gave evidence of incompetent state regulators providing little technical assistance to poorly resourced local councils which were responsible for assessing and approving billion dollar wind projects. Ongoing compliance monitoring costs tens of thousands of dollars, and this needs to be funded by ratepayers in financially strapped rural shires.
This inquiry report—the third in the last five years—is the most comprehensive in its recommendations and addresses the festering issues arising from the abject failure of the states to provide an appropriate planning and governance regime.
The states are rightly responsible for these matters, but the federal government, through the Renewable Energy Target and the large subsidies available to turbine operators, has driven the growth of the wind industry. If state governments choose not to have a robust governance regime for the wind industry they must expect to forgo the benefits of those subsidies flowing to their state, as per the recommendations of this inquiry.
I commend the inquiry report to the Senate, and urge the government to bring an end to this long, sorry saga by adopting the report’s recommendations. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Hansard, 13 August 2015
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