June 30, 2008

No Sun Intended

Alternative Energy: Washington has placed a moratorium on solar power projects on federal land.
Is this the work of evil oil companies?
No, it's the fault of environmentalists.


The Bureau of Land Management quietly decided in May that the development of solar plants in 119 million sun-soaked, federally owned acres in the western states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah would have to wait at least two years while bureaucrats sorted out their environmental impact.

For decades environmental groups have been pushing the government and private sector to develop more alternative sources of energy. But that campaign is beginning to look like a sham to cover the groups' BANANA — Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything — activism.

To be fair, it appears the BLM acted without being forced by an environmentalist-filed lawsuit or activist pressure. And so far, the media are reporting that only a single group — the Wilderness Society — has expressed support for the moratorium.

Make no mistake, though. The environmental groups are the reason the BLM made its decision. Had they not spent the past 30 years rabidly crusading against development, reflexively defending wildlife habitats from minor and imaginary threats and demonizing economic progress, the solar projects would not have been interrupted.

Washington has become so overly sensitive to the possibility of vocal opposition on anything that has an environmental impact that it feels it must inoculate itself from the radicals — even when the project is one they should support without reservation.

Environmental groups at one time served a noble purpose. We are a cleaner nation and world now than we were in the groups' formative years because they helped the West understand that it needed to clean up the mess from the Industrial Revolution.

But now they have become BANANA's and CAVE — Citizens Against Virtually Everything — people. They are more interested in choking capitalism and imposing on the world a future without energy than they are with a clean planet.

Though a great deal of land has been set aside, it would take only about 1% of the total area now off-limits to generate through solar plants enough energy to power more than 20 million homes.

We have no particular affinity for solar power, but blocking an energy source for 20 million homes seems significant to us, especially when the price of our primary source continues to climb.

What's more, we don't like to see business opportunities shut down by government decree. There are companies that have sunk capital into solar power projects on federal land that will now have to wait at least two years, perhaps more, before they can begin to recoup their investments. Turning a profit will take even longer.

The moratorium conceivably could kill businesses and the jobs that go with them. It will have the same economic effect as the Kyoto Treaty on global warming but on a smaller scale.

Some on the left, Democratic Rep. John Hall being a prominent example, are attacking the moratorium as the Bush administration's favoritism toward the president's oil buddies. This sort of obfuscation is to be expected. The environmentalists' political partners can't afford to let the groups' real objective — wounding our free market system — be revealed.