Friday, June 27, 2008

Bush puts halt on solar energy projects

The price of oil is above $140 per barrel. The price of gas is more than $4 per gallon. President Bush says the energy crisis is so grave that congress must lift a ban on offshore drilling projects, and must do so now.

Meanwhile, the president is deliberately hobbling the development of technology to tap the greatest alternative to oil, which happens also to be the greatest source of energy in our solar system.

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.

“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.”
This could completely stunt the growth of the industry.

It could, indeed.

And is it too cynical of me to suggest that this is exactly the point of Bush's "environmental impact" study?

Solar energy holds the greatest promise for independence from oil. The kinds of facilities whose development Bush is stopping are exactly the kinds of facilities that could help us break the addiction to oil that the president used to think was a problem.

Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources -- and we are on the threshold of incredible advances.
And now, Bush is pulling us back from the threshold of realizing the promise of "cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable energy sources" at the exact moment that we need them the most.

The development of solar energy plants on desert land has enormous potential to get Big Oil's boot off of America's neck.

What if you could provide the world with an endless supply of virtually carbon-free electricity; ensure a constant source of drinkable water to the world's most vulnerable areas; avert some of the world's future humanitarian crises; and save billions of dollars in the process? Certain concentrated solar power (CSP) proponents say there is no "could" about it -- it's more a case of "can."


Proponents of CSP say you don't need to use up much of the desert space to make CSP effective. A solar farm taking up 92 by 92 miles of desert could power the entire U.S., for example, according to Green Wombat, referring to a calculation made by the chairman of solar company Ausra, David Mills.
Think about that. Ninety-two square miles of desert land soaking up sunlight could power the entire United States. Who could object to such a thing?

Nobody but the people who get rich selling oil and the politicians who reside in their pockets.

Bush stopped California from imposing stricter environmental standards, an act that benefitted the automobile industry.

Now, like a cartoon bad guy, Bush is trying to block out the sun. ExxonMobil must be so pleased.

I hope the rest of us will be forgiven for concluding that Bush isn't as committed to breaking our oil addiction as he pretends to be.

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