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Environmentalists continue fight against renewable energy January 6, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, anti-renewable energy, balanced approach, Energy policy, environmentalists, renewable energy, Snake River Alliance, Solar energy, Wind energy.
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Normally, the media are very starry-eyed when reporting on renewable energy. When it comes to coverage of nuclear power, the media are extremely skeptical and ask the tough questions (as all good journalists should), but renewable get a pass and questions about reliability, viability, environmental impact and public support are rarely raised.

That’s not the case in last week’s Idaho Statesman and kudos to Rocky Barker for taking a realistic look at renewable energy. He writes, “Greener energy sources such as geothermal wells and sprawling wind farms are being touted as the nation’s environmentally friendly answer to energy independence, but so far, alternative energy developers are finding that they face many of the same conflicts as traditional generation plants.”

Among other projects, Barker looked at “the most controversial wind farm in the state,” the proposed China Mountain project, a 185-turbine farm in Twin Falls County. The project, on 30,000 acres of public land, would produce more than 400 megawatts of electricity (by comparison, our plant would produce four times that amount of energy on four percent of the area, and at 95 percent reliability, compared to around 20 for wind). Environmentalists have opposed wind farms nationwide, not just Idaho.

As Barker reports, in July, a regional Fish and Game supervisor voiced concerns about the effects the wind farm could have on wildlife, including the endangered sage grouse. Neighbors complained about the effect the wind farm would have on the views from their cabins and Advocates of the West, a group that provides lawyers for environmental groups, is preparing to challenge several wind projects planned in sagebrush habitat.

July 1, 2008, was a good example of where the priorities of some environmentalist lie. The embattled China Mountain wind farm was facing a crucial public hearing, but it was the same night as a meeting to organize opposition to our nuclear plant. When push came to shove, “We were not present at the China Mountain scoping meeting because it occurred the same night as our public meeting about the AEHI plant.” Liz Woodruff, SRA energy policy analyst, said the SRA “submitted comments regarding the proposal” but tellingly doesn’t say if they actually supported China Mountain or urged officials to approve it. The Snake River Alliance’s own mission statement declares that it can oppose specific facilities, but advocating for specific facilities isn’t part of the mission (at least give the SRA credit for sticking to its real game plan).

I think the radical environmentalist veneer is starting to fall. Something tells me the SRA didn’t try to “educate and inform” residents opposed to China Mountain, as they have done to rally opposition to our plant. Personally, I think the SRA lacks the stomach to face an angry group of neighbors and declare that a wind farm should be approved because it’s in the broader public interest. If the Snake River Alliance is out there directly supporting specific renewable facilities in public hearings, they’re doing a good job keeping it quiet.

Some environmentalists take opposition to renewable a step further. Laird Lucas, lead attorney for Advocates of the West, says he’s “skeptical that wind, solar and geothermal plants spread out across the wide open spaces of the West and linked to populated areas through vast transmissions systems are the answer to increasing carbon-free energy supplies,” according to Barker’s story.

“I think there’s a chance that these big solar farms and wind farms will be obsolete almost as soon as we develop them,” Lucas says in the story. “We need to somehow get people engaged directly in producing our own energy.”

I think some environmentalists are really aiming for a larger target and their ultimate goal is to “power down” and de-industrialize our society. I’m not making any of this up – see it at http://www.postcarbon.org and similar sites, where discussion of “societal collapse” and hopeless peak oil scenarios are enough to make you end it all today. An industrial society needs industrial energy sources and combating those sources is one way to “power down” our civilization.

In the meantime, out-of-the-mainstream environmentalists will have to content themselves with paying lip service to renewable energy, by opposing it or failing to speak up for it every chance they get. I hope the media educate the public about this more.

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