A new era is dawning, we’re assured. The dark clouds of industrial pollution (OK, carbon dioxide is colorless, odorless, and non-toxic, but let’s not get bogged down in details) are about to be banished, ushering in a glorious new day of hygienic energy cleanliness and perfectly balanced global neither-warming-nor-cooling.
Not a single new nuclear or coal-fired power plant will be built in America, yay! Instead, all mankind will join hands, sing Kumbaya, and march united into a brilliant, clean, energy self-sufficient future.
OK, there’s that teensy problem that over the next few years and then well into the middle of the century our electric bills may triple, while our total national output of coal-free electricity may drop to less than half of what we actually need. But the key here is to re-define “need.” Do we really “need” to air condition Las Vegas hotels and casinos till they’re cooler than 90 degrees all summer? To heat the homes of old and sick people in the snowy north till they’re above 40 degrees in the winter?
So what if our streetlights flicker out and most of our remaining factories have to close? Foreigners will be happy to send us everything we need, in exchange for bales of greenback dollars which they can use to buy our rap music and our television game shows.
There won’t be any unemployment, because everyone will be pleased as punch to roll up their sleeves and get to work for their new government paychecks — funded by the new 90 percent taxes on any greedy rich folk lucky enough to stay out of jail — building our vast new windmill farms and solar arrays, which will be located … um, wait just a second, which will be located …
In Washington this week, a U.S. Senator moved to rule vast swaths of Southern California’s Mojave Desert — pretty at sunset, but for the most part the area you’d photograph to illustrate an encyclopedia entry on “God-forsaken scrub” — off limits for wind or solar energy development.
Who was this recalcitrant troglodyte? Some far-right Republican hoping to throw a monkey-wrench into all of President Obama’s fine alternative energy planning?
Actually, it’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — who might as well have “Big Government” tattooed on one biceps, and “Further Left” on the other. Sen. Feinstein is now drafting legislation to bar energy development on a vast tract that could end up totaling a million acres between the Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park, off old Route 66 between Ludlow and Needles. Fans of the plan enthuse that the area includes desert tortoise habitat, wildlife corridors, cactus gardens and the Amboy Crater — an inactive volcanic pit where portions of the 1959 movie “Journey to the Center of the Earth” were filmed.
Maybe they’ll call it the “Pat Boone-Arlene Dahl National Monument,” with a special footnote on the plaque for their co-star, Gertrude the pet duck.
Boundaries for the proposed monument have yet to be drawn up, but David Myers, executive director the Wildlands Conservancy, said it likely would be in excess of 800,000 acres. Feinstein said in a Capitol Hill interview Tuesday she’s sending her staff to the desert (If I’d suggested that it would have been considered “hate speech”) — and will probably visit the area herself next month (no comment) — to consider which areas should be ruled off limits to green-energy projects.
So popular is the desolate area for such undertakings that the BLM is currently reviewing 130 applications for solar and wind energy development in the California desert, covering more than 1 million acres of public land. At least 19 projects have been suggested in the very area where her new monument has been proposed, Mr. Myers reports.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans did not fail to note the irony.
“If there is such strong support for renewable energy, then why are they moving to block renewable energy production in their own state?” asked Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee.
Myron Ebell, an energy expert with the pro-market Competitive Enterprise Institute, called Feinstein’s effort “just the first example of how hard it is going to be to realize President Obama’s dream of a green-energy economy.”
“It’s frustrating,” adds Paul Whitworth, whose San Diego-based LightSource Renewables hopes to develop a solar project on about 6,000 acres near Amboy, Calif. “We spent a lot of time researching the desert, and consulting with the BLM to make sure we didn’t apply on top of an area of critical environmental concern, or area with other issues. … Now, there’s uncertainty on whether these projects will go ahead.”
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a speech at a Yale University climate-change conference last year, “If we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave Desert, I don’t know where the hell we can put it.”
A representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agrees.
“If you’re going to take the desert away from us, where are you going to allow it — Los Angeles?” said Bill Kovacs, the chamber’s vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs.
Since green extremists can also be counted on to fight any proposed transmission line route, Mr. Kovacs’ suggestion may prove more prescient than he realizes.
Washington’s Ellipse, perhaps? New York’s Central Park?