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Editorial: Not seeing the light on solar

Sep 16, 2008

Orange County, Sep 16, 2008 - Environmental extremism is a significant impediment to development of traditional energy sources, such as coal, oil and natural gas. For decades, green extremists have demanded the nation turn away from fossil-fuel and instead develop "affordable," renewable alternatives. For instance, solar power.

The argument is flawed. So-called "affordable" alternatives seldom are affordable, which is why they need tax subsidies to be economically feasible. Fossil-fuel sources not only are less expensive to develop and deliver, they are plentiful, making them even more economical.

Moreover, modern technological advances make it possible to mitigate genuine pollution problems inherent in fossil fuels. This hasn't placated the extreme environmental lobby, which sees catastrophe even in the largely benign fossil-fuel byproduct of CO2.

Nonetheless, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, has introduced a bill that on its face it ought to delight environmentalists opposed to reliance on fossil fuels. Nevertheless, we suspect it will be widely opposed.

Mr. Rohrabacher's legislation would speed government's bureaucratic approval of 130 pending applications for solar power projects on federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The legislation would remove the requirement of extensive environmental impact studies for each application.

Despite a 2005 decision by the Bureau of Land Management to lift a moratorium on new solar projects on public land, applications are backed up because of bureaucratic delays to the point no new permits have been issued, according to John Fund, writing in The Wall Street Journal. Environmental groups reportedly already oppose the bill arguing that acres of solar panels would disrupt vegetation, destroy wildlife habitat and create eyesores.

Mr. Rohrabacher's Democratic opponent, Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook, tells us the bill is unnecessary because the president can administratively clear the way. But Mr. Rohrabacher claims, "every time the president tries to act like that, the environmental groups find some way they can legally tie his hands … then attack him for not going through the legislative process."

We tend to think Mr. Rohrabacher is right when he complains that the environmental lobby is more concerned with preventing "deleterious effects on insects and reptiles" than on meeting humans' needs. Opposition to his bill, Mr. Rohrabacher asserts, is "an example that demonstrates where the values of these people really are." Is he correct? The fate of his bill in the Democratic-controlled Congress, influenced as it is by the environmental lobby, may prove his point.
Original Article: Orange County Register