A lot of climate skeptic sites are jumping on the apparent irony of this story:
Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation in Congress on Monday to protect a million acres of the Mojave Desert in California by scuttling some 13 big solar plants and wind farms planned for the region.
But before the bill to create two new Mojave national monuments has even had its first hearing, the California Democrat has largely achieved her aim. Regardless of the legislation's fate, her opposition means that few if any power plants are likely to be built in the monument area, a complication in California's effort to achieve its aggressive goals for renewable energy.
I think that there is an important lesson here that even "clean" energy sources have environmental downsides. Its funny how things come full circle - thirty years ago I used to argue with people who had obsessive concerns about nuclear waste. I would say that the volume of waste was really small, and in fact coal and oil were no different in that they generated a lot of waste but that they spewed their waste all over the atmosphere -- at least nuclear waste was compact and defined and easy to store.
Anyway, I actually think Feinstein is correct here. Here is the origin of the plot of land:
For Mrs. Feinstein, creation of the Mojave national monuments would make good on a promise by the government a decade ago to protect desert land donated by an environmental group that had acquired the property from the Catellus Development Corporation.
"The Catellus lands were purchased with nearly $45 million in private funds and $18 million in federal funds and donated to the federal government for the purpose of conservation, and that commitment must be upheld. Period," Mrs. Feinstein said in a statement.
I have some bias in this, because my personal charities of choice tend to be private land trusts, that use private funds to buy lands for conservation. I have always argued from an individual liberty angle that people who want land conserved shouldn't be demanding that government take it, they should be putting their money where their mouth is and helping to buy the land. This story actually gives me another argument, because you can see that the private conservation buyers made a mistake in giving it to the Feds. The Bush Administration, looking to score a PR victory in the alternative energy front, reneged on the promised conservation and committed the land to solar projects.