Donald Trump has an incredible capacity to divide opinion – and he is doing it over here in Scotland just as much as he does in the United States. Mr. Trump recently wrote to the Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond accusing him of being “hell bent on destroying Scotland’s coast line and therefore Scotland itself.” His quarrel is over plans for an offshore wind test site a mile or so from Mr. Trump’s proposed golf resort development in Aberdeenshire (Northeast Scotland).
Now Mr. Trump has launched and apparently funded a campaign to stop offshore wind development around Scotland (surely not just to protect the view from his golf hotel). He says: “I’m doing this to save Scotland and honor my mother.” (His mother was from the Hebridean Island of Lewis on the west of Scotland.)
Trump’s reaction to an offshore wind farm within view of his investment might say something about the way “the Donald” conducts his business, but it’s also symbolic of where the renewables debate currently lies.
In Scotland there is a broad political consensus in favor of renewables, recognition of the opportunity provided by Scotland’s natural endowment of wind and tidal resources, and a desire to take a lead in combating climate change. But there is a gap between the idea and the execution of it. Despite recent strides, the potential for renewable energy in Scotland far exceeds what has been achieved thus far.
The reality is that just like views on Donald Trump, views on wind turbines have become very polarized. While I wouldn’t want to speculate on what is going on in Mr. Trump’s mind, it does seem as though the general public is experiencing a disconnect between understanding the need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, and the impact of wind turbines on their view.
Policy on climate change feels like it’s a long way off, but wind turbines are appearing now. Objectors have moved on from complaining about the impact on their view (which most people recognize as largely a matter of opinion) to also complaining about the technology itself. One recent objection to offshore wind centered on how much more appropriate a tidal energy system would be. Now, most people reading this blog probably agree that it is obvious that the answer isn’t exclusively wind or tidal, it is both. A diverse mix of renewables (and lots of them) is what is needed. The object of protestors is to stop what development is in front of them at the time, but that kind of short-sighted outlook could prevent us from developing the energy supply system of the future.
With the support of Donald Trump, those who object to renewables development just gained a well-organized and well-funded ally. Love him or hate him, he has a very good record of getting what he wants.