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Saturday 25 July 2009
Letters: Problems for turbine factory
Government holds out hope for 'doomed' turbine factory
Your front page (23 July) missed the reality of the problems faced by Vestas. The factory makes onshore wind turbines for a different-sized turbine designed solely for the US market. Its products are shipped to the US, and it has now opened a US facility to serve that market.
For months, we have worked with the company to understand what would be required for them to convert their factory to making onshore blades for the UK. The issue for them was not subsidies from government but how they could get sufficient volumes of orders.
Despite a 67 per cent increase in offshore wind generation last year and 29 per cent increase in onshore wind output, they do not yet have sufficient orders. We need to grow the market further to help, and central to that is planning.
Ditlev Engel, the chief executive of Vestas, described Britain as "probably one of the most difficult places in the world to get permission". That is why the planning rules are being changed by the government from April next year.
We are unlikely to be a centre for onshore wind production, if up and down the country, and indeed on the Isle of Wight, onshore wind applications are consistently turned down. So we have to win a political argument that environmentally and industrially, onshore wind is part of the solution.
Vestas are keeping a protoype plant and we are considering an application from them for government help to test and develop offshore wind-blades in a factory employing 150 people on the Isle of Wight initially and potentially more later.
Alongside this, we will invest £120m in offshore wind manufacturing and £60m in the marine industry. This is an active industrial strategy designed to create low-carbon jobs throughout the country.
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, London SW1
Cocaine users have blood on hands
This week, my ex-husband's 19-year-old son was shot four times in the head in Colombia ("Cocaine Britain", front page, 24 July). Two men (one aged 17 and one 21) lay in wait for him and killed him. I don't know the extent of his involvement but he had upset somebody in "The Business" and he paid with his life. The family was torn apart – and not for the first time – by a cocaine-related murder.
Fuelled by the demand for the drug from the West, cocaine is little more than a cash crop in Colombia but more lucrative than coffee and more dangerous, too. Young, uneducated men, they are fodder for the cartels, as those in Pakistan may be to al-Qa'ida, employed as runners, drivers or go-betweens. They may never even see the drug but they are part of the process and they cannot leave it without being at risk of execution.
To those people in the UK or elsewhere who buy cheap cocaine and think it's harmless fun: this week, you have the blood of a 19-year-old boy on your hands and the blood of every other young poor Colombian before him who got sucked into this industry and paid the ultimate price. I hope that your high is worth that.
So we have yet more "shock statistics" on drug use among young British people, this time, on cocaine (up) and cannabis (down). It is plain that the drugs war is being lost and lost badly. Prohibition is expensively failing to stop one million UK cocaine-users funding a trade of extreme violence and venality. But your commentators advocate the tired old status quo.
The president of the College of Emergency Medicine, John Heyworth, calls for the justice system to adopt a "zero-tolerance" approach to cocaine, and we have Kristina Backer giving a personal view that the reclassification of cannabis to Class B was right because of the more potent "skunk" varieties of cannabis now prevalent
Underpinning both views is the discredited idea that prohibition, and the more rigorous enforcement of it, discourages use. With cocaine, there are one million answers to that and, for cannabis, three million. With the justice system spending billions of pounds every year and lengthy prison sentences, it is anyone's guess about what more Mr Heyworth believes can be done in the same vein.
Possession of Class A drugs has a maximum sentence of seven years and, supply, life imprisonment. Is he seriously suggesting this is not enough or that the police should devote more scarce resources to tracking and prosecuting users with greater vigour. Ms Backer refers blithely to smoking a spliff at a party with friends who are smokers. But in her advocacy of the reclassification to Class B, she is plainly forgetting that it is a criminal classification. It means she and her friends face a maximum prison term of five years (up from two years for Class C, cannabis' earlier classification) for possession and 14 years for supply.
Supply can include simply passing around a joint and possession includes past possession, to which Ms Blacker has admitted. Is she really willing to sacrifice herself and her friends' liberty for the specious principle that greater criminal penalties quell demand?
The truth about the Saudi regime
Your commentator Professor Nonneman ("Delicate relationship where national interests and morality often conflict", 20 July) appears to live in a parallel universe where adverse criticism of the Saudi regime is considered to be "simplistic, negative image-making in the British media" while dubious statements by supporters are accepted without question.
For example, with regard to the al-Yamamah deal, Professor Nonneman mentions "persistent allegations of corruption" against BAE and the Saudi royal family, as though these were minor peccadilloes, rather than huge payments through secret bank accounts.
And he is happy to accept BAE and government spin that 30,000 British jobs were supported by the contract when even a Eurofighter-commissioned study suggested about 5,000 jobs. He justifies the halting of the Serious Fraud Office investigation on economic and security grounds but fails to say this came about after the Saudi government threatened the UK government to withdraw diplomatic and intelligence co-operation if the SFO case went ahead.
Most British people do not want to sell arms to a secretive and abusive regime such as Saudi Arabia, nor do they want to see the justice process undermined or the UK succumb to blackmail.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), London N4
The airline industry and climate change
Thank goodness for a sensible summary of the state of the climate change debate ("The Big Question: Will it really be possible to meet the G8's climate change targets?", 10 July).
It's true that people don't like being told to "make do with less", especially as it often comes from those who patently don't. Nowhere is this dilemma more acute than air travel, whose successes in wresting flying from the hands of an elite, and helping halt the UK's relative decline, are a good thing, and a reason why we argue for expansion where it's needed, at airports such as Heathrow.
But aviation has to be grown up about its environmental impact, a pressing reason for us to help drive technological progress though the cross-sector forum "Sustainable Aviation". Biofuels are a part of its work (and more promising than Michael McCarthy suggests), but we have to deliver on a range of fronts, from revolutionary aircraft design to carbon-neutral airports.
Chief Executive, Airport Operators Association, London SW1
Aid can still help Africa prosper
Dominic Lawson's critique of aid (Comment, 14 July) ignores the millions of people in the developing world who have had life-saving healthcare and life-changing education paid for by the UK and other donors. He is right that the ultimate aim of aid must be to help Africa to stand tall on the world stage without outside help. He is also correct that if Africa is to realise its potential it requires fair access to overseas markets.
With Africa expected to lose $245bn this year as a result of the economic crisis, aid remains vital to efforts to combat poverty, hunger and disease. Mr Lawson's indifference to the suffering of poor people abroad is revealed by his attitude to climate change. This is a problem that is already devastating the lives of millions and it is a problem rich countries, not poor, have caused.
Climate change is not someone else's problem, and it is worrying that he is unable to comprehend the biggest threat to human development of the 21st century.
Oxfam GB, Oxford
What's the panic over swine flu?
I have just been diagnosed by the NHS national pandemic website as probably having swine flu (although the advice is so vague as to be almost meaningless, I might have swine flu but then I might have other, underlying symptoms as well).
I am a reasonably fit 53-year-old male. I have had worse colds than this but it did knock me sideways for a couple of days and I had to take time off from work, so I know some people will be affected a lot worse.
What concerns me is the hype and over-reaction of the governing bodies, panicking people into near-hysteria about avoiding a deadly disease that could have shocking mortality rates, when it is now admitted by those same governing bodies that it is merely a new form of influenza that could make vulnerable groups (the elderly, children and immuno-compromised persons) seriously ill.
In any flu outbreak people die, but to cause all this panic and exhaust all this time and money over what is no more than a different strain that will make most sufferers ill for a few days is grossly irresponsible. This is the third time the authorities have cried wolf over health issues, after the overblown Sars and bird-flu fiascos. If something really serious breaks out, such as smallpox, ebola virus or bubonic plague, there will be apathy and unresponsiveness because people will be fed up with vague and confusing advice lines and websites.
And the helpline advice does not deal in certainties but in "could bes" and "might haves", and the individual making their own choices about whether they have swine flu or not. People who are ill cannot usually take such decisions and rely on a medical person to make those decisions for them.
Do those in power think the panic is a good way to distract us from giving them a hard time over the mismanagement of the economy, the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the scandal of MPs' finances, etc etc?
Out of tune
It wasn't six years ago that the Tony Blair government decided on curbing live music in pubs and clubs (Comment, 21 July). As an ex-publican ( and guitarist) I can assure people that laws had been in place for decades. More than one musician playing live requires a music licence issued by the local council and approved by the police, fire services and the health and safety department.
Behind green taxes
Allan Williams says, "the purpose of an 'environmental tax' is to reduce the amount of pollution from the source being taxed" (letters, 24 July). Green taxes and other economic instruments are only partly aimed at changing behaviour. The other purpose is to compensate for the loss suffered by one party who is the victim of the polluting behaviour of another. In this case, the government, as custodian of the environment, is entitled to be compensated for the harm done to its ward (the environment) by companies who earn from flying.
Port Louis, Mauritius
Bus problem solved
Maggie Humphreys (letters, 24 July) describes the absurdity of a shorter bus journey costing more than a longer one. The passenger should just get off the bus at the earlier stop. There is no way he can be legally or physically held on the bus and forced to make a journey he does not want.
Tehran's Islamic fanatics (letters, 21, 23 July) should learn from the Middle East's one true democracy. When a regime wishes to dispute an election result the acceptable procedure is: One, call the victors terrorists and assassinate their activists; two, recognise a powerless government of the defeated party and install a president of proven subservience; and, three, intensify confiscation of the electorate's property, corral them into a narrow strip of land and obliterate schools, hospitals, and political infrastructure. You can ignore protests; your nuclear arsenal will remain unmolested, and arms and finance will flow unimpeded.
You've bean told
Reading Brian Viner's article, "Scottish Grub" (Life, 23 July), reminded me of the time I went to a café in Ayr with "Coffee" in the name. I asked the proprietor what sort of coffee they had and was told, "Broon, whit else would it be?".
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