August 25, 2008

Environmentalists and Energy

The sunny predictions that came from this week's National Clean Energy Summit at UNLV largely ignored the dark clouds hovering above the Cox Pavilion. (No, they didn't come from a coal-fired power plant.)

They represented the handful of environmental extremist groups that are all for a renewable revolution, as long as it doesn't involve the construction of wind turbines (they might kill birds), solar power arrays (they take up too much land and displace threatened bugs and rodents) or transmissions lines (they ruin scenic views), and as long as it doesn't allow this country's metropolitan areas to grow larger.

This loyal faction of the Democratic Party's base is using laws and regulations championed by the left to obstruct liberals' single biggest policy goal: decreasing the country's use of fossil fuels and increasing its reliance on alternative energy. Organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity have sued to block various "clean" energy projects for all the reasons listed above, and had, prior to this week, showed no interest in playing nice with their ambitious, progressive pals.

Renewable energy is already significantly more expensive to generate and deliver than coal- and gas-fired electricity - litigation makes it even more costly.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who helped organize the conference, brought some good news to a Wednesday luncheon with Review-Journal journalists. He said the Sierra Club was "on board" with his plan to spur the development of wind, solar and geothermal power generation across unpopulated areas and transmit the electricity to population centers.

"They're being reined in," Sen. Reid said of the environmental extremists, adding that he would publicly condemn environmental groups that try to stop renewable energy projects with frivolous litigation "if I thought it would help."

We wish we could share the senator's confidence. The Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity, in particular, views no minnow or insect as less important than the human race.

It's ironic that this organization and other groups claim human- caused global warming will bring about the extinction of thousands of species over the next century, but they still work to kill renewable energy projects - that could, in theory, abate the damage - if they threaten a single weed.

Of course, the global-warming scare is simply a means to consolidate government power and impose more top-down control over the everyday lives of citizens. And replacing coal-fired power plants with renewable technologies would triple or quadruple the average household's electricity bill.

But Sen. Reid's promise is a start. We'll hold him to it.

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