The blades windmill merrily above the treetops, lording it over
the rural skyline like some freak botanical experiment.
Get closer and you can hear them humming quietly as they perform
their modern-day alchemy: turning gusts of wind into electricity.
The sight of a 200-foot-tall turbine in the English countryside
comes as a surprise. Just 79 wind farms dot the country, providing
less than 1 percent of energy needs.
But that is about to change after the government signaled
recently that it plans to revolutionize the energy-supply picture in
Hundreds of new wind turbines, both inland and offshore, are to
be built in the coming years as part of a grand design to generate
20 percent of energy from so-called "renewable" supplies by 2020.
This, it is hoped, will set Britain on the way to cutting carbon
emissions far more radically than the Kyoto agreement calls for:
Where Kyoto prescribed an 8 percent reduction by 2010, Blair now is
aiming at a 60 percent cut by 2050 - and he wants the EU, including
its newest members, to commit to the target as well.
As of 2000, Scandinavian countries led Europe in the use of
renewable energy. Sweden, for example, relies on "green" energy
sources for 32 percent of its power.
Britain's plan has raised hopes and eyebrows in equal measure.
Environmentalists have naturally welcomed it, but criticized a lack
of concrete policy proposals to help bring about the shift.
"It is frustrating that the government doesn't have the nerve to
commit to formal targets for renewable energy and energy
efficiency," says Alex Evans, a research fellow at the Institute for
Public Policy Research think tank.
Economists say the move will increase energy costs to the British
consumer because of the expense of new technology. The government
says it would cost between 0.5 and 2 percent of the GDP in 2050 to
achieve the 60 percent emissions goal.
For Prime Minister Tony Blair, however, the issue is bigger:
Global warming caused by fossil fuels, he argues, is part of a cycle
of degradation, poverty, and bitterness that makes the world a less
Tackling climate change is as important as tackling terrorism, he
says, in an implicit challenge to the skeptical United States to get
serious about cutting greenhouse gases.
"There can be no lasting peace while there is appalling injustice
and poverty," Mr. Blair said in unveiling the initiative earlier
this spring. The same Kyoto pact which the US said went too far did
not go far enough, Blair insisted, as he bemoaned the foot-
dragging, "especially in some of the world's most powerful nations. …