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Feinstein says “No!” to solar panels in desert

Kent Bernhard Jr. has written a very well-thought opinion in Portfolio.com. He discusses the realities of creating energy to support our lifestyles and the inherent difficulty in doing so without disturbing the environment in some way. There are no easy answers and no secret formula to create fuel for our consumption. In fact, the only way that we can not affect the environment is to probably revert to the ways of the historical Native American Indians.

Mr. Bernhard goes into great detail on the subject.  He discusses natural gas, wind power, and nuclear.  Please click through and read the entire article but my version will only focus on the first part. In this sampling he discusses Sen. Diane Feinstein and her efforts to block solar energy from the desert.

Forget about developing massive solar projects in one of the sunniest places on earth.

Senator Dianne Feinstein has put the kibosh on such development on a million acres of the Mojave Desert, freezing numerous planned projects in their tracks and making it tougher for her home state to meet its goals of getting more of its electricity from renewable power.

Now why would a good liberala likely supporter of legislation to cut greenhouse gaseswant to do a thing like that? Of course, its not like thats anything new; the now-canonized liberal lion of the Senate, Edward Kennedy, helped block the development of a wind farm off his beloved Cape Cod for years. So liberals are every bit as NIMBY inclined as anyone else it seems, even when it comes to saving the earth.

But to be fair, Feinsteins opposition to solar plants in the desert isnt just knee-jerk opposition to unsightly industrial-scale development. It comes down to a promise made when the federal government got its hands on that land a decade ago. The feds said they would preserve the desert.

And a bunch of mirrors disturbing the vista and disrupting the delicate desert ecosystem doesnt exactly amount to preservation.

So California companies will have to look elsewhere for their utility-scale solar plants.

But the case of the California solar plants brings up an interesting question as the United States and other countries move to lower their carbon emissions in an attempt to mitigate the worst affects of global warming caused by greenhouse gas. Is there really such a thing as clean energy, at least when it comes to energy produced on the massive scale needed to make a dent in use by a modern economy like that of the United States?

Feinstein is right, for instance, that solar farms and solar thermal plants capable of generating the gigawatts of power California needs to replace the power it gets now from fossil fuel could damage or destroy some of the most scenic and ecologically delicate land in the West. And that goes not just for the Mojave, but for solar plants planned for the deserts throughout the Southwest.

Youre talking giant construction projects that will alter the landscape forever when you talk about solar plants capable of producing big wattage numbers.


Now remember, we have a president who pledged to cut emissions when he campaigned for office, and who has since brokered an incomplete climate deal on the international stage in Copenhagen. We have a House of Representatives that has passed legislation capping carbon emissions and a Senate considering similar caps. Our Environmental Protection Agency has determined that it can issue regulations limiting greenhouse-gas emissions.

And all of that may be a good and necessary thing, and it may help lead the world away from the precipice of disastrous climate change. But lets not pretend the energy we get in any large amounts is clean.

About the best we can hope for is cleaner.

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