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Solar energy stopped for squirrels

July 7, 2008

by Roz Kohls

The federal government recently placed a moratorium on new solar power plants for two years to study their effect on the Mojave ground squirrel.

I’m sure the Mojave ground squirrels are just as cute as the chipmunks and squirrels here in Minnesota, but this study is nuts. We need alternative energy sources so badly now that we are paying $4 a gallon for gasoline.

The Bureau of Land Management says it needs to do an environmental impact study to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six western states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, according to Dan Frosch in the June 27 New York Times.

Much of the 119 million surface acres of federally administered land is ideal for solar energy, where sunlight drenches vast, flat desert tracts. The applications filed for solar power installations have the potential to power more than 20 million homes, he said.

Sunlight is clean and doesn’t need to be purchased from hostile foreign countries. If anything, we should build solar plants faster, not more slowly.

Up until now, the plants have been starting up rapidly. The number of photovoltaic solar projects in the US grew by 48 percent in 2007, from 2006. Another type of solar plant, the kind that uses mirrors to focus sunlight on a synthetic fluid to power a team turbine, is doubling its numbers, Frosch said.

This is not surprising. The demand for alternative sources of energy has accelerated rapidly. Everyone is looking for sources of power like wind, ethanol, oil from shale, or technologies that use traditional sources, but make them cleaner than before.

It is appalling that bureaucrats believe ground squirrels are more important to the environment than vast supplies of clean, renewable energy.

My son-in-law teaches at an army base in the Mojave Desert in southern California. Every day he has a long drive on a two-lane highway from Barstow to the base where he teaches.

There have been several bad car accidents on the narrow road, including some in which some base personnel were killed.

The base petitioned to have the road improved. The government then took years to study how the improved road would affect the lifestyle of the desert tortoise. It wasn’t that the tortoises couldn’t crawl over the road to the other side. They had already done so for decades.

The bureaucrats feared the tortoises would think the improved road was a barrier, and allow the improved road to disrupt their movements.

In the meantime, there was another terrible car accident and more people were killed.

Government has got to stop allowing environmentalists to put animals and plants before people, especially when there is so much at stake.