Feds lease prime solar land, but nary a panel is in sight
Photo: Wikipedia CommonsReady for your morning bowl of crazy? Five years ago, Congress set aside millions of acres of public land in the Southwest for the development of solar farms. This was primo real estate for solar, considered one of the best spots in the world. So far not one solar panel has been erected.
Oh, you want us to build something? This discouraging news comes courtesy of the AP’s Jason Dearen, whose investigation shows that the understaffed U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) focused almost all its time on approving oil and gas projects and leased the land on a first-come, first-served basis, often to outfits with little or no experience in actually building solar farms. Case in point: Cogentrix Solar Services, a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs. Cogentrix had zero solar experience, but holds leases on nearly half the Nevada acreage for which applications have been filed. Another sickening stat: In the last five years, the BLM has approved more than 73,000 oil and gas leases on public land, but hasn’t given final approval to one solar lease. Not a one. Writes Dearen:
BLM’s solar leasing system ended up allowing developers to lay claim to prime sites — many located in the deserts that span California, Nevada, and Arizona. All developers had to do was fill out an application, pay a fee and file development plans. But many were so vague that it was difficult for BLM to separate the serious projects from the speculative ones.
The oilman cometh: Bad enough that Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (Alaska) primary loss to Joe Miller likely means another Republican climate change denier ranting in the Senate. Another negative ripple effect is that Murkowski’s place as ranking Republican on the powerful Senate Energy Committee probably will be taken by North Carolina’s Richard Burr. You may remember Burr. He was one of the senators singled out in a League of Conservation Voters video campaign this summer as particularly chummy with Big Oil. A fan of off-shore drilling, Burr has earned a dismal 7 percent voting score from the League. He also ranks eighth in the Senate in terms of receiving oil and gas money — almost $220,000 in this election cycle alone. For a good cry, look at his track record on climate and energy.
This party’s over: Not that it did a lot of good, but the short run of Democrats as the ruling party in Congress looks to be coming to an inglorious end. The latest Gallup Poll of registered voters shows Republicans with a 10 percentage point lead. That just happens to be the largest margin since Gallup started tracking mid-term elections. It gets worse: a USA Today/Gallup Poll released yesterday suggests that when it comes to handling the economy, the top issue for most Americans these days, 49 percent think Republicans would do a better job, compared to 38 percent for Democrats.
A big sucking sound: All of which means, as Grist’s Dave Roberts elegantly concludes, things are pretty much going to suck for the next few years, with Republicans staging a boatload of bogus hearings and silly fishing expeditions. Some Republicans are already looking forward to an attitude change on Capitol Hill by which, for instance, members will stop “demonizing” oil companies, to quote Texas Republican Kevin Brady:
This White House and this Congress is demonizing them — the new drilling moratorium, the new energy taxes — all of that is costing us tens of thousands of jobs in the middle of what’s supposed to be a recovery, but it’s a very poor one.
Class dismissed: One thing you can say about Tea Partiers — they know what they want in a candidate. To help decide on endorsements, a Tea Party group near Sandusky, Ohio asked local candidates whether they agreed or disagreed with position statements on issues ranging from gay marriage to shutting down the Federal Reserve. Global warming also made the hit list. Here’s the survey’s climate change statement that candidates responded to:
The regulation of Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere should be left to God and not government and I oppose all measures of Cap and Trade as well as the teaching of global warming theory in our schools.
With friends like these: It’s one thing for Greenpeace to battle with a company drilling for oil in the Arctic. But Facebook? Isn’t the site just trying to get everyone on the planet to hold hands? Well, it turns out that the giant social network plans to build a huge data storage center in Oregon. Two-thirds of the power for that operation will come from coal. Not only has Greenpeace cried foul, but it says it has rallied 500,000 people to join Facebook groups that are insisting the data center use only renewable energy.
Air transplants: How bad is the smog in Hong Kong? So bad that a green group is now selling fresh air. For just 25 cents, the Fresh Air Network will sell you a baby-blue canister that comes with a breathing mask and a hit of air. Plus, you have a choice of flavors, like vanilla or beach.
And you don’t even get sand in your teeth.