Sunday, March 10, 2013
People concerned about the impacts of wind and solar energy projects on the environment have, I understand, coined a term for the cabal of developers, Big Enviro organizations, and Obama administration lackeys pushing industrial solar and wind energy development on our public lands, offshore, and elsewhere:
I realize that the term also refers to a 1980s hard rock group and to fans of the New York Jets, but it seems especially appropriate when applied to the self-interested sunny-windy enterprises busy industrializing some of the nation’s most pristine environments. Especially, perhaps, to the president and his erstwhile Secretary of the Interior, who mouth platitudes about respect for Indian tribes and then pretend that they’ve addressed tribal concerns through sham "consultation" and by “avoiding” archaeological sites. Not a bad name, either, for the environmental impact assessment and cultural resource management companies that enrich themselves by abetting this enterprise, or for the major environmental organizations that buy into the game with never a peep of protest, suppressing the objections of their own members.
Gangrene, Wikipedia tells us, is “a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that arises when a considerable mass of body tissue dies.” Not a bad metaphor for what’s being perpetrated on the California desert and other places thought ripe for wind and solar development.
Maybe it’s necessary; maybe it’s the only way to get out from under our dependence on fossil fuels. The trouble is, we don’t know that. We haven’t tried, or even seriously considered, such seemingly simpler, less destructive, less expensive alternatives as:
• Subsidized (or not) large-scale deployment of high capacity solar arrays on the flat roofs of warehouses, industrial facilities, and parking structures;
• Placement of such arrays over canals, as is being done in India, thus gaining extra bangs for the buck by cutting down on evaporation;
• Shading parking lots with solar arrays, again multiplying advantages by gaining relief for people parking there from the sun and weather;
• Construction of wind and solar facilities in highway medians;
There are probably lots of other possibilities. But despite the seeming requirements of law and regulations, agencies like the Bureau of Land Management stonily refuse to consider such alternatives when they pretend to analyze the impacts of wind and solar projects on public lands. As far as I know they’re not being considered elsewhere, either – except perhaps in other countries that still have functional, semi-honest, and intellectually viable environmental impact assessment systems. Ours has become a joke, perpetuated as usual on us.