Sunday, 24 May 2015

No, Graham Lloyd - German doctors haven't banned wind turbines

Update 27/05/2015 - See my follow up, here

In a news article published today, Senator David Leyonhjelm, one Australia's most vociferous libertarians, declares he's keen to create an entirely new government agency dedicated to curbing the impacts of 'wind turbine syndrome':

"Indeed, many health experts and environmentalists have long dismissed turbine-related health concerns as a myth. 
But Senator Leyonhjelm has seized on reports that the German Medical Assembly wants a halt on further wind farm developments near housing pending more research into the possible health impacts"

Unsurprisingly, the German Medical assembly hasn't actually signified they 'want a halt' on further wind turbine development. The story was published last week in an article in The Australian, by its in-house 'wind turbine syndrome' expert, Graham Lloyd:

"The Medical Assembly motion said this required “scientifically sound findings of potential health effects, and a deliberate balance between benefit and validity to be able to make conscious weightings between the benefits and of the disadvantages and risks”"

Since Lloyd's publication, the story followed the trajectory of every single myth of its kind: endless repetition, for the purposes of being decontextualised and repeated to convince communities they ought to feel fear and anxiety around wind turbines.

It's nearly seven years since this disease was first created by a couple living near a proposed wind farm in Malone, New York. Since then, there's been no scientific evidence to suggest that the theory was correct. It's been in 'we're on the cusp of finding the smoking gun' mode for seven years, and it probably will be for another seven. This is why the slightest suggestion that researchers are curious to know more is touted as absolute proof that those living near wind turbines ought to be be scared and anxious.

The German Medical Assembly is the annual meeting of the German Medical Association. It's an authoritative group, but Lloyd interestingly neglects to mention who raised the research throughout his piece - an interesting omission.

You can read the full set of notes from the meeting here, but the interesting part is page 356,  "Intensivierung der Forschung zu möglichen gesundheitlichen Auswirkungen bei  Betrieb und Ausbau von Windenergieanlagen", or roughly translated, "Stepping up research into possible health effects at operation and expansion of wind turbines". The language in the proposal seems curiously strong - presuming that wind turbines are harmful and demanding that science proves a negative.

What's played down by Lloyd and seemingly ignored by Leyonhjelm is the fact that this isn't a 'decision' at all - it was debated, and simply transferred to the executive board for a decision. Nor was this initiated by 'doctors' - the motion was moved by Dr. Bernd Lücke. Lloyd refers to the whole 'medical assembly' calling for a ban, despite the fact it was raised by a single individual, and simply referred to the executive board, rather than accepted.

The head of Germany's equivalent of UKIP, 'Alternative for Germany' or AfD, is an economist named Dr Bernd Lucke, who's deeply opposed to Germany's transition away from nuclear power, towards renewable energy. The Lucke of the AfD, says that:

Lucke: These [citizen's] initiatives [against wind farms] are there so that wind generators are not set up in natural parks or forests, and so that the distance between the wind generators and and residential areas are at least 10 times the maximum blade height. Those are sensible targets that merit support. 
NAEB: So you want to scale back the construction of wind power, solar power and biofuel power. This will lead to job losses. Can we afford that? 
Lucke: We have to look at the entire picture. By making the price of electricity more expensive, we are threatening to cause lots of job losses in the manufacturing sector. Because of the high costs of electricity, many companies are no longer working economically. 

Is it the same Lucke? Maybe not. There's at least one medical practitioner in Germany with the same name. But the motion reads too much like someone who opposes wind farms in general - particularly, the mention of the payback of embedded energy in turbines, a favourite of anti-wind groups. More pertinently, the AfD have spoken at length about the 'health risks' of wind turbines:

In the video above, an AfD representative calls for a halt on wind turbine development until health effects can be ruled out (when it comes to actual science, it's impossible to prove a negative, which is presumably why wind farm opponents love demanding it). My translation is a little rough, but it seems to be pretty much the same demand presented to the Germany Medical Assembly.

The question remains: was it the Bernd Lucke of the AfD that raised the motion reported on by Lloyd and snaffled up by Leyonhjelm? It's a possibility, assuming the Medical Assembly allows motions to be raised by people who aren't medical professionals. But it could be a coincidence.

Regardless, the motion wasn't accepted - it was simply passed up to the executive of the German Medical Association. Lloyd's article is still misleading, and Leyonhjelm is wrong.

But it's going to take more digging to establish which 'Bernd Lucke' was responsible for Lloyd's misleading story. I've emailed the international contact of the GMA - let's see what they say.

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