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By Peter Hoskin
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“Death
knell for wind farms,” blares the front page of today’s Daily Telegraph. “Minister
signals the end of the wind farm,” trumpets the Daily Mail. Both were taking
their cue from John Hayes’s declaration that “enough
is enough”
when it comes to on-shore wind farms. It was a declaration that
even had Christopher Booker wondering
whether the end is now in sight for those vertiginous wind turbines.

Except
there’s a problem: the minister probably let his rhetoric run ahead of the
situation. It turns out
that Mr Hayes’ departmental superior, Ed Davey, blocked him from attacking wind
power in a speech he delivered yesterday — but the attack made it into
interviews anyway. Lib Dem sources are now putting it about that an end to
on-shore wind farms isn’t, and couldn’t ever be, Coalition policy.


So
where does this leave Mr Hayes? It’s worth noting that, beyond the overcooked
rhetoric, he didn’t explicitly say that this was new Coalition policy.  What he did reveal is that he’s commissioned
research into the impact of wind turbines on the landscape and into people’s
lives. That “enough is enough” was likely intended to signal his own personal
determination to do away with on-shore wind-farms.

In
which case, the main question is whether this determination is shared by any of
Hayes’ colleagues — the Tory leadership, perhaps? After all, George Osborne has
been fighting for cuts to those subsidies applied to renewable energy sources.
And that attitude has been reflected in several recent appointments: Mr Hayes’s
own switch to the energy department; Owen Paterson as the Secretary of State in
charge of the environment brief; and Peter Lilley’s ascension, last week, to
the Commons’ energy and climate change select committee. Indeed, you might
almost think that Mr Hayes had been put up to this sort of thing. At the very
least, the idea’s not too fanciful.

All
of which augurs more intra-Coalition splits on renewable energy in future — and
at a time when other
differences
are making it into newsprint. This might suit both sides, increasingly
eager as
they are
to differentiate themselves as the election approaches. But it
doesn’t do much for the clarity of policy now.

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