Wednesday 7 March 2007

Spinning a windmill

Sometimes PR really sticks in my throat. Putting aside the totally obvious (anything involving the Government or Sir Richard Branson), I find that I have developed a particular aversion to spokespeople for wind farm developers. Every time they encounter a delay in the planning process, one of them pops up with a finely crafted quote, expressing disappointment that “we are unable to get on with our important humanitarian work to cut carbon emissions and help save the planet from global warming”.

When what they actually mean is “we are unable to get on with our cynical task of destroying the countryside to make lots of money by raking in the huge subsidies that the Government has bizarrely decided to chuck at us while it fudges the important question about building more nuclear power stations”.

All right, their sentence is more elegant than mine. But considerably less honest.

They also tend to trot out the line about the “silent majority” being all in favour of wind farms, while their opponents are a small bunch of voluble Nimbys. On this, I’m prepared to concede, they could just be right. Human nature being what it is, if you can’t see the useless 400-foot towers from your front window, you’re probably fairly relaxed about them. And the “spin” for wind power has been quite effective, even if the ironic problem with the turbines is that they don’t actually spin all that often, owing to the vagaries of the weather.

Tidal and wave power seem much more promising, though it can only be a matter of time before someone discovers that they cause dolphins to suffer panic attacks, and all research and development is halted by bomb threats from Flipper-loving protestors.

Solar energy might seem like another way forward, until one realises that the Sun is actually a nuclear furnace, fuelled by hydrogen and helium. And it causes skin cancer. In fact, it’s really high time it was shut down in the interests of public safety.

Of course, no amount of column-writing, protesting or even voting is going to make the slightest bit of difference. It’s a Done Deal. Much of Northumberland is going to be covered in wind farms, as surely as it’s going to get a single unitary council, whatever the public may think about it. Whitehall has decided, and Whitehall knows best. We need a pointless gesture, the contemporary equivalent of hacking down iron railings and pretending that they are going to be transformed into Spitfires.

But wouldn’t it nice if they believed we could be trusted to hear the truth?

Keith Hann is a PR consultant whose career has been seriously marred by reckless honesty.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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