Tag Archives: Adam Shaw

An Unusual FTSE Boss

adam-and-paul-iv

Interviewing Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever

(I think my questions are sticking out of my back pocket)

Paul Polman is an unusual man for at least two big reasons. Most obviously, he is unusual because he is Chief Executive of one of the world’s biggest consumer brand companies, Unilever. But in many decades of interviewing senior executives he also strikes me as very unusual because of his willingness to engage in subjects of global concern such as environmental threats.

Much of the time of a CEO is spent trying to keep the support of major shareholders. Polman has been CEO for longer than most and it’s interesting therefore to know that in his early days running the company, rather than trying to keep shareholders on board, he spent much time trying to get rid of them. Many shareholders want short term returns, he told me. What he wanted was owners who were willing to look to the long term and so he tried to change the ownership of the company to those who would support those long term aims.

Polman appears to be a boss genuinely concerned about the environment and believes that companies can play a constructive role in helping improve it.  To that end he is tackling the problem of waste head on. Unilever says all of its factories now have zero waste – 600 factories globally recycling materials to create no waste at all, they say.

That’s quite a claim and something many believe is a model which others could follow,

The world produces nearly four million tonnes of municipal waste every day. If this trend continues, the daily amount is set to more than double by 2050.

CLEANER WORLD

GLOBAL WASTE GENERATION

2010                2020                2030                2040                2050

3.8                   4.1                   6.7                   6.9                   8.5

Unit: Million tonnes per day
Source: Hoornweg, Bhada-Tata & Kennedy, World Bank

 

2060                2070                2080                2090                2100

9.3                   10.2                 10.5                 11.0                 11.6

Source: Peak Waste: When Is It Likely to Occur?
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1111/jiec.12165/

Looking over the river Thames on the roof of Unilever’s headquarters, Polman explained his corporate philosophy to me:

“Our role here is to look after the globe for future generations. Whilst we’ve been incredibly successful lifting enormous amounts of people out of poverty, unfortunately we’ve done it in a way that has resulted in quite a lot of over-consumption, acidification of oceans, plastic in oceans, air pollution, water pollution and frankly, leaving too many people behind.”

I asked him whether he felt it was too much to describe the environmental challenges we face as a crisis?

“No it’s not too much. Only 5% of packaging gets reused. So what we’ve now discovered because of population growth, this enormous level of consumption that has happened is that we need to move to a more circular model, where someone’s waste is someone else’s input.”

So just how is Unilever creating zero waste factories? One of its success stories involves a popular British food – Marmite. This savoury yeast spread is itself a by-product of the brewing industry – And now workers in Burton on Trent have come up with a use for the by-product of the marmite-making process.   They’re turning the sludge left in machines – which would previously have been washed away or been sent into landfill – into biogas.

That’s just one example of a different approach to manufacturing. I put it to Polman that this was rare. Indeed, perhaps it was an approach that other bosses shouldn’t take. After all their job is to make money for their shareholders who are trying to get a return for pensioners and their investors who need the company to make money rather than make an environmental statement.

He disagrees. He tells me that companies are corporate citizens who have a responsibility to lead change. But in leading change they don’t have to stop making money, indeed it’s just a new even more efficient way of creating sustainable profit.

He tells me “You have to believe in the goodness of people, which I sincerely do. You need to educate CEOs themselves to be able to verbalise to the financial community why it is important to invest for the longer term.”

One of the big challenges facing the world is sanitation, or the lack of sanitation. I asked Polman what companies like his do to help that?

“Yeah, it’s a tremendous opportunity actually” he says. “Despite the tragedy that 2.3 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water or sanitation. We have set a goal to actually reach 1 billion people in the world with handwashing. The simple act of handwashing can cut infectious diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea, by 75%. Currently we see every year 650,000 children die unnecessarily of these infectious diseases.

There’s over a billion people that don’t have access to sanitation in the sense of open defecation. Since our bleach cleaner Domestos is single-mindedly focused on building toilets, the brand is growing double digit.”

I asked him whether he felt such acts were part of the company’s charitable works – and he interrupts me before I’ve even finished the question.

“No, it’s not a charitable act for us. It’s an integral part. The more people have toilets, the better it is for Domestos. The more people wash hands, the better you sell your bar soaps.”

There are many in the world who try to make it better. There are many in the world who try to build companies, offer employment and improve economies. Paul Polman is a man who believes you can do both. Almost his final words, before we shook hands and left were these:

“We find out that every brand that has a strong social mission, because ultimately brands should be there to address issues in society, otherwise why should we accept them to be there? But the brands that have the stronger social mission grow at twice the rate of brands that don’t, and are actually more profitable as well. It makes good business sense.”

 

The interview and report on how to create a cleaner planet can be seen (only outside of the UK I’m afraid)  on BBC World News. For regular updates and behind the scenes pictures of our filming trips – follow @AdamShawBiz

 

 

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Me – The Great American Quarterback

 

IMG_0866Adam Shaw – the new High School Quarterback in Training.                                                                     Who said shoulder pads had gone out of fashion.

At school I played in the rugby team. But at my school you only played rugby if you were rubbish at football. We were so bad – at one point my captain got so confused he ran the wrong way down the pitch. I saw him run past me and delicately put the ball down across our own line, thus scoring points for the other side. This may have been the first time in the history of rugby that such a feat has been achieved. In fact it wasn’t a feat so much as an anti-feat.

I tell you this only to explain that I am not used to the triumphs and kudos that come from sporting achievements or the all-round adoration that attaches to the macho stars of sports.

However rather later in life than it comes to most, in this programme I was to become the quarter back star of an all-American football team.

I was there to test a new safety device which is supposed to reduce head injuries. It comes in the unlikely and rather underwhelming format of a sticker.

The lab behind the invention is based at the Simon Fraser University  Mechatronics Department – which is mechanical and electrical engineering combined.  Daniel Abram has been busy carrying out research to see if it’s possible to reduce injury to that fragile organ, the brain, which is made up of multi-billion neurons.

Adam and Daniel Abram, CEO BrainshieldDaniel Abram – leading the team to invent a sticker to help protect against brain injuries

I have to say when I was told we were visiting the lab – to see a company that has invented a sticker that you put onto a helmet that improves its safety, I was very, very sceptical that it would work.

Daniel told me there’s no magic to his team’s invention which is called the Brainshield sticker. It is all, he says, based on science.

To test the device, we put an American football helmet in a clamp and dropped a heavy block on it to see what happened. It was imitating the effect that a far too cool American teenager might have on my when he jumped on me to wrest a football from my hands.

In the lab under test conditions, we could see what happened with the impact on a dummy head inside a helmet without the Brainshield sticker. The head itself rotated causing potential damage to the brain. However once we put an ordinary sticker on the helmet and repeated the experiment, much to my surprise there was a lot less rotation of the dummy head. That reduced the sharp twisting to the brain that leads to injury.  The spread of force also means there’s also much less compression to the brain.

The sticker is made of microengineered layers. The layers are stacked on each other. And once it receives an impact, the layers move across each other. And by moving, the sticker doesn’t allow the phenomenon that causes that sharp twisting of the brain. Lots of layers within the sticker all shear apart absorbing the twisting motion –so the sticker takes the pain and your brain doesn’t. At least that’s the claim.

There are currently no independent research results for Brainshield, but they’re on the way.

So having tested it in the lab, in the spirit of Horizons, my producer thought it would be a wonderful idea for me to put the sticker to the test on the field. We headed to Handsworth High and their head coach Jay Prepchuk – who was about to put me through my paces as the teams newest yet oldest Quarterback.

He helped me into my kit and then much to my surprise – he started hitting me around the head  with the words ” This last test is just to kinda smack you. How does that feel?”

“Well, you’re hitting me in the head! Stop doing that, it’ll be fine!” I replied in what I hoped was a suitable sense of British reserve.

Adam and Jay Prepchuk, Football Coach

Coach Jay Prepchuk and his new Quarterback for the Wandsworth School team

Jay says the stickers have helped reduce the number of head injuries the team has had. That itself is not enough to prove the value of them – but the evidence we saw was certainly intriguing and looked like it would help.

One thing is for sure, the stickers might save your brain, they don’t make a middle aged Englishman a great American footballer.

 

 

 

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The Money Maker

Water is the liquid of life. We cannot live without. It is a life giver and a life saver – and yet we increasingly hear talk a water crunch. Increased global populations and demand from agriculture already mean that some people around the world are now facing water shortages and many people feel in the future we will all be living in a much thirstier world.

Although the problem is now most keenly felt in the poorer places in the world, I’ve headed off to one of the richest – where exists the rather trendy headquarters of a company which is trying to help those in most need.

Martin Fisher is the CEO of Kickstart. He spent decades in Africa working on community projects –many involved improving access to fresh water.

Standing in his New York office, what I am looking at – is rather like a heavy metal version of a gym Stairmaster workout kit. It is a bit of simple tech – using a tried and tested reciprocating pump valve that relies on suction and pressure – powered by humans.

The KickStarter

Its purpose is to help farmers irrigate their land. One person does the work out on the foot operated pump – the other takes the hose. The more you walk, the more water you pump.

It looks simple and indeed I was surprised this isn’t part of the basic agricultural tools many farmers must already have. But even today in many poorer parts of the world, traditional agriculture still relies on regular rain during the one or two rainy seasons. If it doesn’t rain – the food doesn’t grow.

When you can only grow food when it rains – there’s an economic problem as well as an agricultural one.

When all of the farmers pick their crops at once, the market becomes flooded with produce during certain months and as a result at the very time farmers have something to sell – the over supply of produce forces prices down.

It’s a painful Catch 22. When prices are high – farmers have nothing to sell and when they are low farmers have too much produce.

Seasonal farming can leave communities stuck in a cycle of poverty and hunger.

KickStart introduced human powered pumps for irrigation in 1997 to address this problem. The pumps are sold for between US$35 and US$100. KickStart estimates that farmers using irrigation during dry seasons increase their annual incomes by over US$1000. It’s why they’ve called their foot pump – The Money Maker.

As I hear the trucks of New York delivering produce to warehouses, as we hear planes fly overhead and as we sip on coffees which no doubt would cost more than the average weekly wage of many of those we are talking to – the simple bit of kit in front of us looks rather unimpressive.

But KickStart estimates that its irrigation pumps have brought over US$100 million to rural communities throughout the developing world. They believe this is helping solve not just a water issue, but it’s alleviating hunger and helping economies at the same time.

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Richard Branson and The Expensive Hotel Room

Did you know that Richard Branson’s middle names are: Charles Nicholas? No neither did I. But it is a measure of just how famous he is that I feel that must be the only things I don’t know about him.

Branson holds a place in our national consciousness not because he is famous or because he is rich or because he is a gung-ho entrepreneur with his own island – but because he is all those things and yet seems to still be the sort of guy who would be perfectly happy to sit with you with a cup of tea and chat abut what was on TV last night.

What is remarkable about him is that he appears to be normal and unusual at the same time.

We are used to politicians wanting to grab the limelight and commenting on anything and everything but business leaders are much more reticent. Although arguably the leader of an international business has more influence than the average MP, we usually know little about these men and women of commerce.

There are a few exceptions and Richard Branson is one of them. Despite owning an airline, an island and a train service and now the beginnings of a Space Shuttle tourist service– he still appears one of us. Whatever you might criticise him for, having met him a couple of time, I feel that this is more than good PR – he is genuinely approachable, likeable and apparently normal. That in itself is an achievement.

At one point I was due to meet him on his island in the Caribbean but his diary didn’t match with our filming schedule and so despite both of us living in London, the only time we could find a date to meet was when he was attending an accountancy software conference in Chicago. I still wonder if I understood that correctly as neither did the accountancy get together seem to be glossy enough for him or for that matter, relevant.

We set up to meet him in a rather grander hotel than our filming budget normally allows. We couldn’t afford to actually stay there so we just got one room and set up the lights and the filming positions the night before our planned meeting and our sound man got to sleep in the posh hotel whilst the rest of us made it to the regular budget variety we normally stay in.

Having crossed the Atlantic by boat faster than anyone else and then crossed it again in a hot air balloon – Branson is now trying something even more adventurous. He s starting what he claims will be the world’s first spaceline and that is what we went to talk to him about.

I was surprised the meeting was going ahead after an explosion on a test flight had killed one pilot and seriously injured another, and Branson had a rather ill tempered interview on Channel 4 about it. I thought that may have meant he would cancel our interview. But as the date for our meeting neared, we heard nothing and assumed the interview was going ahead.

The Branson space company, called Virgin Galactic has two main projects: SpaceShipTwo and LauncherOne. SpaceShip Two is an air-launched suborbital spaceplane designed for space tourism. It is manufactured by The Spaceship Company, a California-based company owned by Virgin Galactic. The SpaceShip actually looks like three executive jets whose wings have somehow been joined together. The bit that is actually launched is the central aircraft, which rockets away from the mothership once it has been carried sufficiently high into the sky.

The purpose of the SpaceShipTwo is to give its passengers an experiences of entering space and experiencing weightlessness which lasts approximately 6 minutes. Passengers will be able to release themselves from their seats during these 6 minutes and float around the cabin. It doesn’t come cheap of course, a seat or on the spaceflight costs $250,000.

Virgin Galactic’s other space project is LauncherOne. It ‘s designed to launch “smallsat” payloads into Earth orbit.

All of this sounds great fun but there is some scepticism of the benefit of extending tourism to space. But Richard Branson makes much of the benefits of bringing a new generation to the wonders not only of space but how launching oneself above the world gives people a new perspective on life back down on earth.

His engineers join the small ranks of people who, as astronauts, have sat in spaceships looking down on the blue globe to say it has shown them that there is more that unites the people of the world than divides them. It has, they say, shown them the fragility of the earth and how as a small speck in a an ocean of nothingness, we must do more to protect our planet.

Whilst NASA or the European Space Agency may be exploring space for science the Virgin venture SpaceShp is more a fun ride. It seems to some at least, a little frivolous, When I asked Richard abut the polluting side effects of such tourist trips he said that we had created more carbon pollution together in flying to the USA for the interview than a passenger would on a trip to space on his spaceship and my concern was misplaced.

Some may remain unconvinced about the value of space tourism. I am sure it would be a great, if dangerous trip. For those who go, I can see the appeal. But it worries me that apparently we need to leave the Earth to see its value.

People often say that travel expands the horizons. That can be true. But many frequent travellers are also amongst the most jaded I have met. It’s equally possible to understand the value of what you have by just pausing where you are and thinking about it.

Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic may be on the verge of helping create a new era. If they do, it will be big news. He will add his name to the many which history have seen as the big game changers.   It is also true that many of those who have changed the world have been met with scepticism and criticism. Their achievement is to prove all the naysayers wrong and that is something Richard Branson is confident he can do.

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My Night With Sparkles and Kevo – Homeless in Chicago

It was so cold that I sent out a Tweet asking if I must have misunderstood. Could it really be -23 degrees centigrade? It was early evening in Chicago and I was on the streets with two homeless locals called Kevo and his girlfriend Sparkles.

Homeless in ChicagoMichael, Kevo, Sparkles and Adam

Sparkles was an effervescent woman in her early 20s and Kevo was a quiet man who looked older – although it was difficult to tell. He was wary of us and we were wary of him. He looked rough and none-too friendly. Though so would I, if I was about to sleep on the streets in weather that was already so cold, I couldn’t feel my fingers, my throat was aching, my ears were throbbing and I long since stopped worrying about whether I looked good on camera or not and had wrapped my scarf over my hat – so my head looked like a badly wrapped present.

We were walking through the unlit alleyways of Chicago looking for the ventilation shafts of office blocks, as Kevo and Sparkles said you could get some heat form them if you stood close enough.

We had also come to meet Michael Rakowitz, a local artist that had been working on a scheme to provide some warmth and much needed safe shelter for many of the city’s homeless.

Chicago’s Homeless Alliance claims that there were over 139,000 homeless people in the city – a rise of 19% from the year before. Their figures don’t mean that many are living on the streets as many stay with friends or families doubling up in the homes of others. I was suspicious of the claim as you don’t see hundreds or thousands of people on the streets, but even if they were a small fraction of that claim – it would be a major problem for many many people.

Michael has been working on a project to provide some relief to those who can’t find a place indoors to sleep. It’s called the Parasite. It is a makeshift shelter made of plastic bags that uses the hot air from a building’s ventilation system.

Basically it’s a network of tubes that’s created by cutting the bottoms off rubbish bags. You tape the bags together to form a network of plastic tubes that fill with the hot air from the ventilation shaft of a building. It’s like the small bags of air that are sometimes used to pack expensive electronic products in boxes.

The inlet tube is hooked to the ventilation shaft of a building by some twisted metal coat hangers.

A person can slide themselves in between the sealed bags of air, so that they are never coming into direct contact with the warm air that’s leaving the exhaust system.

In weather that would bring London to a halt, we were looking for a decent hot air outlet to get the parasite working for Sparkles and Kevo. Because the building owners don’t give, indeed are never asked for permission, no one was entirely sure of whether we would get in trouble – so there was an air of furtiveness about our trip. Not least because we were heading down what looked like very dodgy alleyways.

Although US cities seem to be full of vents billowing clouds of condensation into the air, now we needed one, we couldn’t find any. Finally we tried to hook the system to a ventilation shaft where we thought the air was a little warmer – although I thought it barely perceptible.

Michael’s plastic bag tube system slowly filled up and eventually Sparkles not so much slipped in, but wedged herself in the small space between the filling air bags.

It wasn’t much but it was certainly better than laying in the street and perhaps even a very real lifesaver for those who have nowhere else to go.

Kevo and Sparkles told us they leave their belongings in various bags around the City in dark corners and hope they are not stolen. There are few shelters – in one they were robbed in another they got bed bugs. So despite the hardship, they prefer the streets. Sparkles has family and keeps in touch with her sister on Facebook and Kevo seemed to have been in the armed forces.

Like many people, I suspect, I would never have got into conversation with them had it not been for the filming. But they seemed a nice, quiet and thoughtful couple. Nicer then many more privileged people I have had to spend the evening with.

Nonetheless I was cautious when Michael invited them back to our hotel for a hot chocolate after we had filmed. It was a good gesture but what would our rather trendy hotel think of us brining two homeless people into their bar. What’s more, it was bad enough having to leave them on the street but what were we going to do after our drinks – send them out onto the street as we headed upstairs to our room?

In the end Kevo and Sparkles looked no different to any other grunge like artist that may have been staying at the hotel and Michael bought them a room for the night. It was a lovely thing to do. Kevo told us he and sparkles make money by painting and I asked if he would paint me something, which we did as we sat in the bar drinking hot chocolate. I bought it for the office.

The night in the hotel was a kind offer. The plastic bag tent is a great idea. Neither unfortunately will solve the problem of homelessness, which Kevo and Sparkles and thousands of others are suffering from. But on that night in temperatures I didn’t believe – they provided a warm and welcome respite for two very nice people.

You can see more about Michael Rakowitz’s Parasite designs at http://michaelrakowitz.com/projects/parasite/

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The New Millionaires

Texan Farmer and his Cotton

The eccentric looking successful US investor, Jim Rogers thinks farming could be one of the most profitable industry if the future. He told me: “It’s going to be the farmers who are driving Lamborghinis. The smart MBAs and stock brokers will learn to drive tractors and they will learn to drive tractors for the farmers. We‘re going to have a dramatic shift, we‘re going to have serious food shortages. I‘m talking about real famine, the kind that you read about in the Bible and your history book. There are going to be dramatic food shortages coming up which is one of the reasons that farming is going to be such a major industry and exciting profession.”

That if course is a very dramatic and stark prediction of the future. If true it will mean huge hardship for millions and of course a fundamental change in the balance of economic power.

The US is arguable the most successful farming nation in the world and so I have come here to Texas to see what innovations farmers both big and small are coming up with to prepare them for the future.

The farmers are already facing huge environmental
problems. According to the UN, every year, between 20,000 – 50,000 sq km of arable land is lost due to soil degradation. While land is a major issue, so is water, Agriculture swallows up around 70% of our useable global water supply and it takes 3,000 litres of water to produce one persons daily food intake.

To see how they are coping with those challenges I’ve come to a huge farm, stretching as far as the eye can see. With me are five Texans each with their own monster pick-up truck. We are looking at how new irrigation techniques are helping the farmers control their crops and increase output.

Wandering around the farm looking for good filming spots,
I hear myself telling the producer, “Look there is a real cowboy” as I watch a man in a Stetson walk John Wayne like through fields of cotton. He’s not on a horse but he walks as if he just got off one. It’s a slow pondering wide legged gamble and I half expect him to spit some tobacco and shout howdi.

This is the middle of the bible belt and in keeping with that, there is no alcohol on sale for miles around. The farmers offer to get us lunch and I rather sheepishly explain that despite being in cattle country, I am a vegetarian butt they shouldn’t worry if they don’t have anything for me. They promise to have a look and drive off. Half an hour later they come back with a huge bags of burgers and a salad.

As I start eating I notice my salad has bacon in it. “That’s a Texan vegetarian meal” I’m told as that was the thing with the least amount of meat available.

These are some of the most hospitable friendly people I have met on any of my trips around the world. They are quiet hard working men who are clearly trying hard to make us welcome.

They are at the sharp end of a problem which is affecting many parts of the world. More land is being lost to urbanisation and soil degradation – at the same time water is becoming scarcer and climate change is making the seasons less predictable. So the pressure is on to produce more food from limited resources.

Texas is suffering its worst drought in nearly 100 years, and the underground lake is running dry.

Already this year, drought has cost the State $5.2 billion.

One way of tackling the problem is a more efficient method of irrigation. What at first glance looks like the simple job of watering crops, is becoming a fine applied science.

I’ve come to see how one company is trying to provide a water solution. Lindsay Irrigation has been working on the problem for over 50 years. Their Zimmatic irrigation pivot enables farmers to increase crop yields while using less water, energy, labor and chemicals.

Using a mobile phone to connect to the Internet, I send an instruction to a huge array of automatic watering arms that cover all the fields I can see to the Horizon. Slowly the arms respond to my instruction and careful and precise irrigation begins to happen.

Instead of spraying the crops the water is drip fed onto the plants, ensuring that as much water as possible reaches the roots and is not lost in evaporation or run-off. It’s a simple idea but the farmers claim it revolutionises their water usage and dramatically improves crop production. The company claims that more than 100,000 Lindsay Zimmatic automated irrigation systems are irrigating millions of hectares of cropland worldwide.

It’s hard standing in the fields with my new Texan friends, to think that this is the new growth industry. It’ a stretch to believe, as Jim Rogers does, that the farrmers I am standing with could be the new dot com style millionaires of the future. But if he is right, it will no doubt be the biggest shift in the world economy seen in a lifetime.

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In The Land of The Big Everything

I have arrived in the land of big meals, big skies and big welcomes. This is Texas, USA, where everyone calls you m’am or sir.

Texas was already one of the most important centres for the world’s oil industry but the state is busy recasting itself. It is also fast becoming a global centre for the wind industry.  I’ve come here to see the biggest wind farm in the world.

Ironically although this is a state where everything from hats to characters, come in different versions of big and very big, I find myself starting the journey in the smallest of places. Roscoe would have been the original one horse town, except even the horse has left. The main street is straight out of a Hollywood designer’s drawing. The one restaurant in town is a Mexican. A sparse inside is lightened by certificates claiming this has won the award for the best restaurant for a first date. It being the only restaurant in town, has not dimmed their pride in the award.

It’s a small town with big ideas. The German energy company E.ON has come to build its wind turbines on the town’s surrounding farmland. It’s brought new life to the community  which had otherwise been bypassed when they built a new highway which skirted the town and left it lone and largely unnoticed by the speeding cars, money and people which no longer made a stop in Roscoe.

Such is the novelty of a foreign visitor in town that within minutes of us arriving, the town manager, which I assume is a kind of Mayor, rapped on our car window.  He must have heard there were some English people in town and he offered to open the town museum for us in case we wanted somewhere to sit. Rather embarrassed by the hospitality we chose to stay in the car waiting for the interviewee to turn up but he said he would leave the museum open anyway as it was perfectly safe and no one would take anything.

This part of Texas is a windy place. For years the farmers have tried to protect their crops and homes from it. It’s not just the regular wind that they worry about, tornadoes sweep across the landscape and you can see large concrete boxes on the roadside being sold as storm shelters. The man from E-on explains to me that the local farming community has spent years worrying about the wind, now they bless it. E-on is paying them rent to put the turbines on their land. So they now  have two crops to harvest: cotton and wind.

The wind farms they build in this state, offer substantial help to the farmers. They now get rent from E.ON which can help make the difference between the farm making a profit or a loss. Clearly the wind farms also help the power companies which now have a new product to sell and they help the environment by producing clean energy. But despite all the good the wind farms create, there is a cost.

Wind energy is only viable because it receives a government subsidy. The bill for what is uneconomic power generation is landing on the doormat of taxpayers. Generating wind energy means covering vast areas of land with huge and hefty turbines and in itself wind energy can make only a minor contribution to our energy needs. It alone is not the answer to our energy crisis – but it does make an important contribution and one which is being taken increasingly seriously by governments and energy companies.

Roscoe hopes the wind industry will help revitalise its local economy. What happens there is yet to be seen. But if you are ever on a first date in Texas I can recommend an excellent Mexican restaurant close to some picturesque wind turbines.

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