Sunday, June 29, 2008

'US Freezes Solar Projects to Study Environmental Impact of Collecting Sunshine in the Desert'

You know what the Bush administration is up to. Article here.

The NY Times story on this latest absurdity from the Department of Interior plays the headline pretty straight: Citing Need for Assessments, US Freezes Solar Energy Projects. And here are the lead paragraphs:

Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.

The Bureau of Land Management says an extensive environmental study is needed 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.

. . .

It's another spiteful move by the administration designed to slow down the development of alternative energy projects. Some of the best solar resources in the country fall on public land, and fledgling solar companies were left frustrated and angry.

Yet just last week, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne saw fit to stand next to President Bush in the Rose Garden when he called on Congress to allow development of oil shale on public lands in the Green River Basin which straddles Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The moment is commemorated on the Department of Interior web site in both a photo and a video.

Bush complained that Congress has blocked the leasing of federal lands for oil shale development, even though here's what needs to happen to recover the oil embeded in shale deposits:

Extracting oil from shale involves heating the stone to 900 degrees F. This used to be done after mining hundreds of tons of shale. Now companies are experimenting with heating it in place, creating a horizontal river of boiling oil deep below the ground. A 2005 study by the RAND Corporation estimates it would require a 1200-megawatt power plant just to unlock 100,000 barrels of shale oil a day (less than 1 percent of our total oil demand). Large enough to serve half a million people, the power plant alone would burn 5 million tons of coal each year and release 10 million tons of global warming pollution.

Moreover, each barrel of shale oil produced by the conventional mining method consumes between 2.1 and 5.2 barrels of water, a commodity already scarce in the region. Runoff from mine tailings – 150,000 tons a day; 55 million tons a year – would threaten water supplies used by cities, farms, and wildlife.

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