the right, upwind against the wind turbines

Wind turbines are an issue of this presidential campaign. France already has more than 8,000, especially in the countryside in the north and west of the country, and we will soon see them also at sea. On the ground, oppositions are being organized. And the political class, in particular the right and the extreme right, are stepping up to the plate. RFI went into contact with residents facing a wind power project in central France.

We are in the village of Varennes Changy, a rural town in Loiret which has 1,500 inhabitants and several projects for a few wind turbines in the area. In the village hall rented by the citizen collective “Vents Rageurs du Gâtinais” for this information meeting in October, the residents are raging.

I’m furious, such monsters in the landscape ! “, whispers Jean-Claude, a retired executive, in front of the wind turbine model installed near the stage. At the microphone one of the organizers specifies: it is to scale, it is a wind turbine 180 meters high, and you can see the size in relation to the vegetation, a plane, a church, a house … “.

Jean-Claude, inhabitant of the area, fears ” nuisance for wildlife, infrasound, flashes “. ” This is not beautiful ! », Adds Françoise, a former worker and cleaning lady of 69 years. ” We should still have a President of the Republic who sees that this distorts France, in a lot of regions », She is moved. Joël, 56, is a truck driver. He considers that wind turbines are only used to line the pockets of developers And fears that his house will lose value.

An information meeting in October, in the village hall rented by the citizen collective
An information meeting in October, in the village hall rented by the citizen collective “Vents Rageurs du Gâtinais” © RFI

Above all, for one of the organizers of this information meeting, Franck Deloince, faced with the intermittence of wind turbines, nuclear power is more efficient and made in France. ” Nuclear power is a French industry that we export while wind turbines, there is no French workforce, we hardly install them. », Affirms this trader.

For these residents, the issue of wind turbines will weigh heavily when voting next April for the presidential election. ” Between a candidate who wants to develop nuclear energy or stop it, the choice will be quickly made », Announces Francis Moran, president of the anti-wind collective Vents Rageurs du Gâtinais, created in 2006 and reactivated in recent months.

The right seizes the subject

In the last regional elections already, the right and the extreme right had seized the subject by forcing the line on this cleavage between wind power and the revival of nuclear power. Five months before the presidential election, the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen wants to completely dismantle the wind turbines. Among the candidates for the nomination on the right, Xavier Bertrand is the most virulent. He does not hesitate to wave the red rag of a risk ” clashes ” with ” people who will be surrounded by wind turbines “. ” The French art of living is landscapes and nature is degraded with wind turbines. In addition, in the increase in the electricity bill, a large part of the additional taxes are there to finance wind power, so basta “, He blasts at the microphone of RFI in Marck-en Calaisie, in the north of France. The Hauts-de-France region, chaired by Xavier Bertrand, is the one with the most wind turbines in France.

But to achieve the objective of carbon neutrality in thirty years, the French nuclear fleet is aging. So the president of Hauts-de France promises to build ten new EPRs. The first EPR, that of Flamanville, is still not in service, it is more than ten years behind schedule and its cost has skyrocketed.

The Flamanville nuclear power plant in 2019.
The Flamanville nuclear power plant in 2019. REUTERS / Benoit Tessier / File photo

To listen: In the Somme department, wind turbines are no longer on the rise

No wind if there is no agreement of the populations and local communities, defends for his part the former European commissioner Michel barnier who also wants to relaunch nuclear power and push the French to save energy. Valerie Pécresse is on the same line.

Wind power, you have to know how to coordinate, you have to know how to convince, and if you can’t do it, you have to give up “, She believes at the microphone of RFI during a trip to Montargis, in the Loiret. ” We want to decarbonize France and get out of our dependence on fossil fuels which are inflaming the French wallet, and for that we must develop renewable energies and reinvest in nuclear power. She adds.

73% of French people favor wind power

In the village of Varennes-Changy, the inhabitants who oppose the wind turbines are the loudest, the most mobilized, but when you push the door of the bakery, opinions are much less clear-cut.

I don’t know whether it’s good or not good, it’s very hard to know “, explains Viviane, the postwoman who has just bought her bread. In front of the tobacco, Jacques says point blank that he prefers to have a wind turbine in front of his house ” rather than a nuclear power plant “. ” The highway passes the same distance and I don’t mind He adds. Julien, 23, is a real estate agent in a nearby village where wind turbines are also being planned. It is favorable to masts. ” This is a good thing “, He says” but I believe that in France unfortunately we are not yet ready to give up our comfort in the name of ecology.

On a national level, 73% of French people say they are in favor of wind power according to a Harris Interactive poll published in early October and commissioned by the Ministry of Ecological Transition. It is even 80% for people living near a wind farm and 88% for those under 35. At the local level, the compensation paid by wind turbine promoters for the use of land attracts many farmers and municipalities.

A strategy for the right

The wind turbine has become a symbol. By opposing it, the LR candidates intend to speak to this rural France, attached to heritage and landscapes, rather than to the France of cities which votes more for Emmanuel Macron or the ecologists. It is the traditional electorate of the conservative party and it is a way of opposing the head of state.

As the energy bills of the French explode, the president has lowered his ambitions. At the start of his mandate, he had promised to reduce the share of nuclear power and defended wind turbines. He now speaks of ” case by case for wind turbines and wants to revive the atom. A turnaround that does not fail to tackle the right.

Read also: Energy transition: in France, the political debate often misses the point