Lets deal with the subsidies first; because relatively cheap coal and gas are still available and the renewables energy sector is still developing, subsidies are needed to enable the widespread installation of energy derived from wind and solar. The solar industry recently created 25,000 much needed jobs in the UK, which are now under threat because the government has attempted to reduce subsidies. The irony is that none of those on the 'free' market right seem to have any objection to subsidies for nuclear power, which is not only uneconomic and produces a toxic waste problem, but has needed subsidies in the UK from day one. Research in the USA shows that all energy sources have received energy subsidies in the past hundred years with oil and gas receiving the highest subsidy of all. Wind power provides the cheapest form of renewable energy. Its critics claim it is intermittent and unreliable but these myths have been debunked according to this post by Damian Carrington in the Guardian. Furthermore, it has been calculated that;
"The best wind farms in the world already produce power as economically as coal, gas and nuclear generators; the average wind farm will be fully competitive by 2016".And in the UK the costs of switching to low carbon energy will be no greater than continuing with business as usual.
I accept that people have a perfect right to object to wind farms being built in their locality, and there are some legitimate concerns about windfarms being built too close to dwellings, and the possible health risks form being subjected to noise. But we need to embrace this new cleaner technology for the sake of the future. I wonder how many people objected when the railways were being built in Britain?
Finally, you have to ask - why is it that climate change has become a left vs right issue over the past decade or so? Why do right-wingers like Nigel Lawson, of the GWPF, Tory MPs, and Ruth Lea seem to think that all environmentalists are lefties and climate change is a left-wing plot to bring about an eco-socialist world? Why do they object so strongly? The answer is simple - capitalism and corporate profits. The 'free' market right have recognised that climate change is a potential threat to established big businesses and capitalist accumulation, which relies on compound growth. They fear that adaptation to climate change and a low carbon, lower energy, lower consumption future will kill capitalist expansion, and they are probably right. If you want to find out more read Naomi Klein's excellent article on Capitalism vs the Climate. I'll just finish with this quote which sums up why this battle is being fought so fiercely:
"The bottom line is that an ecological crisis that has its roots in the overconsumption of natural resources must be addressed not just by improving the efficiency of our economies but by reducing the amount of material stuff we produce and consume. Yet that idea is anathema to the large corporations that dominate the global economy, which are controlled by footloose investors who demand ever greater profits year after year. We are therefore caught in the untenable bind of, as Jackson puts it, "trash the system or crash the planet."