Alternative Energy: Solar Power

Posted by Katherine | July 10, 2008 – 11:23 am
Solar power panels in mountainous area
[kabl1992 / Flickr]

Alternative energy occupies an unusually large piece of the stage in this presidential campaign because of gas prices, the Iraq war, and global warming, among other things. Just over a month ago, the government banned new solar-energy projects on public land. The reason: it needed two years to evaluate their environmental impact. Then last week it lifted the ban. The reason: public outrage.

Ido Dubrawsky, a Microsoft employee, thought the moratorium was preposterous and wondered at the politics of its timing (thanks, Sue Salinger):

I agree that environmental studies should be conducted to determine the environmental impact of any large scale solar project — the laying of transmission lines, the reclamation of water used in solar thermal power generation, and other issues are important. But to put a complete freeze on any new solar power generation project across the board for two years is downright short sighted. Especially at a time when the solar power generation industry is just now starting to come up to speed. […]

I’m not going to sit here and say that this is a conspiracy between the Bush administration, the oil industry and energy lobbies, and the BLM…but it sure couldn’t come at a more curious time.

Zane Safrit likes small-business solutions and innovation, and he didn’t appear to see either in the solar-power ban (hat tip again to Sue Salinger):

Coal-fired plant applications are on the rise even though coal-fired power plants are a key source of acid rain, the deforestation of the Great Smoky Mtn National Park, global warm[ing], rising carbon dioxide…devastation to communities throughout West Virginia, acid and other chemicals leeching into ground water…. But there are no moratoriums on new coal-fired power plant applications.

Brian Ertz, in a guest post on a wildlife blog, has an idea that Zane Safrit might like. Ertz agrees that the ban on solar power but not on fossil fuels “made Bush’s resource priorities […] pretty clear.” But he does feel that any development of public land — even for renewable energy — degrades wildlife habitat. So he proposes a smart-sounding alternative:

There is plenty of marginal agricultural land in the states proposed for public land development that is not under profitable production and is already worthless to wildlife. Energy initiatives that promote economic incentives on these private lands would give rural communities and farmers much needed stimulus by promoting private lease of private lands for renewable development. Democrats/Republicans pushing this approach would enjoy rural/ag voters’ support by bringing Westerners green projects as alternative to the tired old-Republican approach of bringing home the same extractive industrial bacon. Unlike subsidized livestock grazing, logging, etc. these solutions provide sustainable economies and ecologies into the future. […]

Put the solar panels and wind generators where they belong - on the rooftops and on private lands amidst the communities that use the energy.

As a coda, here’s a 30-second video from Paul, who doesn’t seem to like John McCain. Paul’s point isn’t specifically about the solar-power ban, but it outlines McCain’s inconsistency on energy and environment. (Thanks, Sarolta Cump.)

Did you notice the looped chuckle?


  1. 2 Responses to “Alternative Energy: Solar Power”

  2. Thanks for the link! Great site. I’ve subscribed to your feeds.

    This whole story, a moratorium on solar power 30 days ago and then its sudden reversal, was…quirky in a number of ways. From the near silence in the media at the time of the initial moratorium’s start through the sudden turnaround and the relative silence yet again from mainstream media.

    Given the obvious need for an energy policy, given the obvious solution that solar presents, given the impact from our failure to wean ourselves off our addiction to oil (drilling for more oil is the same as buying more heroin for heroin addicts), one would think this story would have generated more coverage by our mainstream media.

    One would think.

    Oh, well. Onward.

    By Zane Safrit on Jul 10, 2008

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