Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dream Beneath the Desert Sky

victorville The Victorville (Calif.) Daily News writes something we basically agree with:

Monday the Wall Street Journal reported that a Korean-led consortium has won a landmark contract, valued at about $20.4 billion, to build four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates. U.A.E., remember, is awash in oil, yet has opted to build the reactors. Why? U.A.E.’s leaders are not fools. It’s cheaper (and ultimately safer if one considers that nuclear reactors do not emit any of those pollutants enviros consider unsafe to human health and the planet, such as CO2) to build the plants so the oil saved can be sold elsewhere.

But the editorial this appears in is not really about nuclear energy. Instead, it dings Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for wanting to make national monuments out of about one million acres of Mojave desert so as to block development of wind farms and solar arrays. We looked around to see what this was about:

The area of concern to Feinstein is between the Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park, off old Route 66 between Ludlow and Needles. The area includes desert tortoise habitat, wildlife corridors, cactus gardens and the Amboy Crater -- an inactive volcanic crater where portions of the 1959 movie "Journey to the Center of the Earth" were filmed.

"That section of the road is as pristine as it was when travelers came across it in the 1920s and '30s," said James Conkle, chairman of the Route 66 Alliance.

And:

Feinstein said in a Capitol Hill interview Tuesday that she was sending her staff to the desert -- and would probably visit the area herself next month -- to consider what areas should be made off limits to green-energy projects and where they should be permitted.

And then of course, she has to convince a bunch of other senators to support her effort. And that might be tough if the effort is less about monuments than about blocking economic development. (On the other hand, keeping the desert pristine is a life’s mission for many more people than only environmentalists.) The Victorville folks, who would benefit considerably from a “green” project, are not pleased:

This is all so typical, and reflects the not-in-my-backyard stand on energy development taken by liberals, captives of the enviro-activists.

Well, actually, NIMBY is pretty non-partisan, depending on whose backyard we’re talking about (though we think Captives of the Enviroactivists could be pretty exciting at the multiplex). Since Feinstein supports renewable energy sources (you can see a roundup of her views here), we tend to trust that her goal here is to prevent overbuilding on what is, after all, land that has been as it is – well, pretty much forever – even desert towns like Victorville are widely spaced and individually fairly compact. (We admit we’re prejudiced, as we love desert landscapes.)

Given Victorville’s support for nuclear energy, perhaps this will make them happier:

Areva SA announced Tuesday that the French company plans to work with Fresno Nuclear Energy Group to develop new-generation reactors in the Central Valley of California, according to Associated Press.

Nowhere near the desert, so no immediate impact on jobs or the tax base there, but capable of bringing a good deal of low cost electricity to all parts of California. (AREVA must think the state’s ban on new construction will fall.)

Desert sky; Dream beneath the desert sky; The rivers run, but soon run dry; We need new dreams tonight – U2 – The Joshua Tree.

Looking down Quartzite Mountain toward Victorville.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

People made fun of North Carolina for continually re-electing Jesse Helms, but I think that between Pelosi and Feinstein, California is now gunning to take the trophy for "loony incumbents."

Also, given California's historical aversion to cheap reliable power, I suggest Areva look elsewhere, for their own sake.

DocForesight said...

While I rarely agree with Sen. Feinstein's policy positions, I do so here - and I'm in the solar arena. Considering the land-use footprint, the lack of storage capacity, the need for new long distance transmission lines to end users, I think there is better use for the desert and financial resources pertaining to energy production.

Repeal the ban on new nuclear power plants in California so we can get dual/triple use from NPPs: Desalination, electricity, process heat for industry.

Rod Adams said...

Anonymous - California does not have an aversion to reliable power. The political leaders LOVE burning natural gas; so do major political contributors like Chevron.

The whole battle is a great example of diversionary tactics. The actual struggle is one over market share and profitability, but the visible aspects have been purposely made to look more like a competition between those who want development and those who think that humans are an infection.

It never ceases to amaze me how effective the strategy has been.

Anonymous said...

Rod--

Granted, but I said "cheap reliable power," which natural gas is not.

--Anon@3:52

David Walters said...

Anon, natural gas is VERY cheap...where have you been for the last 6 years??? Statically, it's cheap. This is why the US generally has no forsight beyond, say, 2 years: they function is if things 'stay the way they are and never change' (kind of like "Intelligent Design" but applied to energy systems). They don't really look far back and never look to the future except what the 'futures market' looks like and right now it looks cheap. For the planners, this is what is going on.

Secondly, Feinsteins is considered very non-loony even by the far right in this state. She's in fact considered very 'safe' because her votes are consistent, doesn't fly off the handle and is on the conservative side of the Democratic party in the state.

Someone like Chuck De Vore is considered "loony right wing", unfortunately, because he has vast knowledge of the energy system in the state and is an articulate defender of nuclear energy. Unfortunatly his politics put him at the far end of the right wing in the State and thus he associates his rather good position on nuclear energy with the rest of those politics. Inevitable, I suppose, given he is a politicican.