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Wind turbines on farmland near Tow Law, County Durham, UK. Photo: Jonathan Pearson via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).
Wind turbines on farmland near Tow Law, County Durham, UK. Photo: Jonathan Pearson via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).
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Wind farm subsidies bad, farm subsidies good?

Brendan Montague /

10th August 2013

Major funders of the pro-fossil fuel Global Warming Policy Foundation are always keen to speak out against public support for renewable energy, writes Brendan Montague. So how come they're so keen to help themselves to a fortune in farm subsidies?

We do know that the valiant fighters of wind farm subsidies have claimed at least £429,086 in farming subsidies between them in a single year.

Climate change deniers have huffed and puffed in their war against wind farms in Britain, claiming that environmental subsidies are a pernicious evil taxing the poor and distorting the market.

And their cries were heard. In June, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) blocked subsidies for new onshore windfarms. One month later, the department has now turned its sights to solar as Amber Rudd, head of DECC, announced cuts to small scale solar power.

But while renewable energy subsidies remain in the crosshairs, the funders and supporters of Lord Lawson's climate denying Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) are more than willing to claim any farm subsidies that come their way.

George Orwell would not be surprised that the most vocal opponents against wind farm subsidies have quietly been claiming farm subsidies for years.

This is while the subsidies for wind farms come from energy bills - which means heavy industry is likely to take more of the burden than families. The farm subsidies they are pocketing are from direct taxation funnelled through the European Union.

Wealthy landowners cash in at the public expense

Dr Benny Peiser, director of the GWPF, has voiced the opposition to wind farms shared by most of the members of this secretly funded think tank. "The public backlash against wind farms is not surprising", he claims.

"It is the inevitable and inexorable consequence of a costly, unpopular and completely pointless policy that is butchering Britain's green and pleasant landscape without having any effect on the climate."

He warns: "These green projects are only viable because of multi-million subsidies supporting a few hundred wealthy landowners and a handful of energy companies."

Dr Matt Ridley, the most influential member of the GWPF academic advisory board, has personally lambasted subsidies for wind farms and farmers.

"I get letters from the post from not only wind developers but solar developers offering mouthwatering sums of money if I would let them build on my land", he said in a recent interview. "But those sums of money would come from the energy bills of the people.

"That's the way we do it in this country: We add a stealth tax onto energy bills. You know, they are pure public subsidies, tax subsidies, but they are not called tax subsidies. They are just additions to the bills of people.

"Now, energy bills are a more important part of the budget for poor people than they are for rich people, so this is a regressive tax, going from poor people to rich people. And I'm sorry, but I won't do it."

Generous payouts

But, as revealed by DeSmog UK last week, he claimed a total of £333,860 in Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments during 2014 both directly, and through his family trusts and farming business.

The member of the House of Lords inherited a beautiful manor house, expansive estate and his own private open cast mine - but still relies on the taxpayer to feather his nest.

And he is not alone. Figures recently released by the Rural Payments Agency reveal that at least two funders of the GWPF - who had tried to keep their identity secret - also have their hand in the CAP cookie jar.

Lord Cavendish is among the country's wealthiest landowners, having inherited the delightful Holker Estate. He confirmed that he has donated to the GWPF. And his Holker Estate Company Limited is listed as receiving £93,905.60 during 2014 in taxpayer-financed and Brussels-administered farming subsidies.

Lord Vinson, a vocal opponent to wind farm subsidies, also received a generous payout on behalf of hardworking taxpayers. He is named as receiving £1,320 last year. Vinson attacked wind turbines and subsidies during our conversation in 2013. He said:

"What worries me [about] the whole thing is you now have a so-called energy policy which is subsidising the rich, paid for by the poor."

We do not know all the names of the GWPF donors, and we do not know how much they have been paid in taxpayer subsidies.

But we do know that the valiant fighters of wind farm subsidies have claimed at least £429,086 in farming subsidies between them in a single year.



Brendan Montague writes for DeSmogUK. Follow him on Twitter @Brendanmontague.

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