The Sun Shine In

Via Firedoglake, we see the New York Times couldn’t be more ambivalent about the Bureau of Land Management’s two-year freeze and study of – get this – the environmental impact of large-scale solar power projects on public land. Look at the distancing language not at all in action here:

DENVER — Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.

The Bureau of Land Management says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

But the decision to freeze new solar proposals temporarily, reached late last month, has caused widespread concern in the alternative-energy industry, as fledgling solar companies must wait to see if they can realize their hopes of harnessing power from swaths of sun-baked public land, just as the demand for viable alternative energy is accelerating.

Flying Spaghetti Monster, does this make sense?

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Holly Gordon, vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs for Ausra, a solar thermal energy company in Palo Alto, Calif. “The Bureau of Land Management land has some of the best solar resources in the world. This could completely stunt the growth of the industry.”

Hey, did you know our executive branch is full of oil men? You do now!

Much of the 119 million surface acres of federally administered land in the West is ideal for solar energy, particularly in Arizona, Nevada and Southern California, where sunlight drenches vast, flat desert tracts.

The Bureau owns vast swaths of sun-drenched desert it could lease to fledgling solar power companies, which would make money for the taxpayers, but it would prefer to wait. And study. And wait. Study what? you ask. Good question.

The manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s environmental impact study, Linda Resseguie, said that many factors must be considered when deciding whether to allow solar projects on the scale being proposed, among them the impact of construction and transmission lines on native vegetation and wildlife. In California, for example, solar developers often hire environmental experts to assess the effects of construction on the desert tortoise and Mojave ground squirrel.

Water use can be a factor as well, especially in the parched areas where virtually all of the proposed plants would be built. Concentrating solar plants may require water to condense the steam used to power the turbine.

“Reclamation is another big issue,” Ms. Resseguie said. “These plants potentially have a 20- to 30-year life span. How to restore that land is a big question for us.”

Because after the sun burns out, we’ll have to go back to coal.

Another benefit of the study will be a single set of environmental criteria to weigh future solar proposals, which will ultimately speed the application process, said the assistant Interior Department secretary for land and minerals management, C. Stephen Allred. The land agency’s manager of energy policy, Ray Brady, said the moratorium on new applications was necessary to “ensure that we are doing an adequate level of analysis of the impacts.”

Studying water in the desert, and studying their ability to study! Studying after those studious do-gooder capitalists pay professional studiers. That, friends, is truly the doublespeak of a public relations master. My gardening hat is off to Misters Allred and Brady. Nothing abashed about those uses of language! FDL:

Cameron Scott, a blogger for the San Francisco Chronicle, writes that he appreciates the government’s caution, noting that such ecological prudence would have been useful before the country jumped into the ethanol business, but that he sees something of a double standard:

[T]he government rarely proceeds with caution when it comes to public lands. In the last couple years, the Bush administration has proposed allowing commerce, roads, off-road vehicles, and concealed weapons on public lands, and has eagerly embraced drilling for oil and natural gas. If fossil fuels warrant endangering these lands, then surely solar power does, too.

Is the Bush administration really so set against decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels that it would fabricate concern for the environment in order to block alternative energy projects? It would appear so.

The Economist notes that the solar industry is now facing a double-whammy, thanks to Congress’s failure to renew a solar tax-credit:

Congress has been dithering over extending a valuable investment tax credit for solar-energy projects, which solar advocates say is critical to the future of their industry but which is due to expire at the end of the year. The latest attempt failed in the Senate earlier this month: prospects for a deal before November’s presidential and congressional elections now look dim. Uncertainty has led some investors to delay or abandon projects in the past few months. Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said if the tax credits are allowed to expire at the end of the year, “it will result in the loss of billions of dollars in new investments in solar.”

At this rate, I’m SO going to be on a “Morning, Sam” “Morning, Ralph”-basis with my Congresspersons. Feel free to contact yours.

Broken link correction courtesy of Politics.Answers.com Thanks for contacting me, Stuart Hultgren. I have no connection to this service.

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