In the national rush to develop renewable, "green" energy sources, primarily solar, wind, biofuels and wave power, some projects and proposals are now being opposed by environmental activists. In some of the latest developments, politicians are taking sides on the issue and "greens" are being pitted against "cleans" in an intensifying debate over energy versus environment.
Recently, BrightSource Energy, an Oakland, California, based solar energy developer announced plans for building a major solar thermal facility in the Mojave Desert area of California. (Solar thermal technology involves the use of collection mirrors to heat water and generate steam which, in turn, is used to power electric generators.) The majority of land in the Mojave is federal and administered by the Interior Department through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In 2005, the United States Congress passed legislation that opened most federal lands for solar and wind energy projects. Immediately following the passage of the new laws, several companies, including BrightSource, "staked" out sites for development and applied for licenses to construct their facilities.
Following those applications, opposition began to appear including groups opposed to any construction on empty land; water conservationists who argue that solar thermal plants use four times the water of a natural gas fired plant and twice as much as a nuclear or coal fired plant; wildlife advocates who insist that plant construction will inevitably destroy natural habitat and lead to species extinction.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is sponsoring legislation to turn much of the Mojave Desert into a national monument which would preclude any solar (or wind) power development. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), who has advocated and passed numerous "green" and renewable energy proposals in California, responded to Senator Feinstein's proposal with "If we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave desert, I don't know where the hell we can put it!"
The increasing animosity between "cleans" and "greens" on the topic of renewable energy will, undoubtedly, slow the development of new renewable energy sources. The cleanest, most efficient and economically viable path for US power demands, in the immediate future, will be the conversion of coal fired plants to natural gas; building new nuclear power plants and upgrading the national electrical power grid.