Tuesday, December 22, 2009

California Sun Block

You knew this had to happen. Mandates for transitioning from oil to solar and wind power were established. After the cheering subsided, a little reality began to appear. It oges like this.

First, angry voters demand a reduction in the use of oil and gas, doing everything they can imagine to stop the drilling, tranporting, refining and marketing of hydrocarbon products.

The angry voters claim that solar power and wind power can replace the power that would have generated with oil, gas or coal. They repeat the same old song about how sunlight and wind are free. Okay. But oil, gas and coal are also free.

Yeah, but drilling for oil, gas and coal creates a mess on the ground. Well, not any longer. The energy companies are good at minimizing the eye-sores of drilling sites. On the other hand, if you want to capture the free sunlight, you have to cover vast tracts of land with solar collectors, and it is essential to put the collectors in the sunniest spots.

Okay. But the sunniest place in the country is the Mojave Desert. And, as we now know, there is no chance that politicians will allow energy companies to cover the Mojave Desert with solar collectors.

Thus, the government that mandated the use of alternative energy has now blocked efforts to meet that goal.

That's great news for oil & gas and coal companies. It's also great news for consumers.

Desert Vistas vs. Solar Power

AMBOY, Calif. — Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation in Congress on Monday to protect a million acres of the Mojave Desert in California by scuttling some 13 big solar plants and wind farms planned for the region.

But before the bill to create two new Mojave national monuments has even had its first hearing, the California Democrat has largely achieved her aim. Regardless of the legislation’s fate, her opposition means that few if any power plants are likely to be built in the monument area, a complication in California’s effort to achieve its aggressive goals for renewable energy.

Developers of the projects have already postponed several proposals or abandoned them entirely. The California agency charged with planning a renewable energy transmission grid has rerouted proposed power lines to avoid the monument.

“The very existence of the monument proposal has certainly chilled development within its boundaries,” said Karen Douglas, chairwoman of the California Energy Commission.

For Mrs. Feinstein, creation of the Mojave national monuments would make good on a promise by the government a decade ago to protect desert land donated by an environmental group that had acquired the property from the Catellus Development Corporation.

“The Catellus lands were purchased with nearly $45 million in private funds and $18 million in federal funds and donated to the federal government for the purpose of conservation, and that commitment must be upheld. Period,” Mrs. Feinstein said in a statement.

The federal government made a competing commitment in 2005, though, when President George W. Bush ordered that renewable energy production be accelerated on public lands, including the Catellus holdings. The Obama administration is trying to balance conservation demands with its goal of radically increasing solar and wind generation by identifying areas suitable for large-scale projects across the West.

Mrs. Feinstein heads the Senate subcommittee that oversees the budget of the Interior Department, giving her substantial clout over that agency, which manages the government’s landholdings. Her intervention in the Mojave means it will be more difficult for California utilities to achieve a goal, set by the state, of obtaining a third of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020; projects in the monument area could have supplied a substantial portion of that power.

“This is arguably the best solar land in the world, and Senator Feinstein shouldn’t be allowed to take this land off the table without a proper and scientific environmental review,” said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the environmentalist and a partner with a venture capital firm that invested in a solar developer called BrightSource Energy. In September, BrightSource canceled a large project in the monument area.

Union officials, power industry executives, regulators and some environmentalists have also expressed concern about the impact of the monument legislation, but few would speak publicly for fear of antagonizing one of California’s most powerful politicians.

Not only is the desert land some of the sunniest in the country, and thus suitable for large-scale power production, it is also some of the most scenic territory in the West. The Mojave lands have sweeping vistas of an ancient landscape that is home to desert tortoises, bighorn sheep, fringe-toed lizards and other rare animals and plants.

As conflicts over building solar farms in the Mojave escalated earlier this year, Mrs. Feinstein trekked to the desert in April. The senator’s caravan, including the heads of two of the nation’s largest utilities, top energy regulators and a group of environmentalists, bumped along a dirt track and pulled up to a wind-whipped tent. Inside, executives with a Goldman Sachs-owned developer waited to make their case for building two multibillion-dollar solar power plants.

The presentation over, the entourage rolled on to the next solar project site to hear the developer’s pitch. Mrs. Feinstein gave the developers a hearing but was not moved by their arguments, according to five people present on the tour. The senator seemed concerned about the visual effect of huge solar farms on Route 66, the highway that runs through the Mojave, they said.

“When we attended the onsite desert meeting with Senator Feinstein, it was clear she was very serious about this,” said Gary Palo, vice president for development with Cogentrix Energy, a solar developer owned by Goldman Sachs. “It would make no sense for us politically or practically to go forward with those projects.”

Another project, a huge 12,000-acre solar farm by Tessera Solar, was canceled last week, and the company cited Mrs. Feinstein’s opposition.

“Unfortunately, Senator Feinstein wants to wall off a large part of the desert based on historical land ownership rather than science,” said Marc D. Joseph, a lawyer for California Unions for Reliable Energy. “It seems the wrong approach to where solar should go and where it shouldn’t go.”

John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies in Sacramento, said, “if you take a million acres off the table, what are you going to replace it with?”


Blogger SNAKE HUNTERS said...

Take a million acres of Mojave Solar off the table, and replace it with clean and safe nuclear power, at a fraction of the cost per kilowatt.


10:53 PM  
Blogger SNAKE HUNTERS said...

************* 2009 *************



12:11 AM  
Blogger Winfred Mann said...

These wackos oppose everything.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blow up the world and you won't have these problems anymore!

6:28 PM  

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