One short sentence at the height of the Vietnam War became a moment of public epiphany that our view of reality had become distorted.  “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,” an Army major told AP correspondent Peter Arnett.  Just yesterday, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute claimed in the New York Times that U.S. energy policy has adopted the same attitude towards land and renewable energy sources (The Gas is Greener).

             Robert Bryce uses California as just one example of several states that have mandated that certain percentages of their electricity be obtained from renewable energy sources within specific time frames.

             As Bryce explains, California’s mandate is to recover one-third of its electricity (or one-third of 52,000 megawatts) from renewable sources by 2020. 

             Oh really!?  The new $2 billion, 3,600 acre solar farm in the Mojave Desert will only generate a paltry 370 megawatts.  3,600 acres.  370 megawatts. 

             Even I can do this math.  Assuming this one solar farm is typical, then it takes 9.72 acres to produce one megawatt.  Seventeen thousand times 9.72 acres equals 165,240 acres. And since one square mile is 640 acres, 165,240/640 = 258 square miles.  This means that more than half the size of the sprawling city of Los Angeles would be needed to meet California’s renewable resource quota. 

             And when you assume that the new wind and solar farms would mostly be “green” areas, the impact on the environment is clear.

             We would be destroying it to save it.

             I support reducing dependence on foreign energy sources and learning to use the wind, the sun and the tides to power our Sony PlayStations and Maytag Washers.  But, as I wrote in this blog last October 13 (Earth, Wind, Fire . . . and Google) in a post on wind turbines, “it is an interesting irony that wind-generated energy poses a cognitive dissonance for environmentalists who love the idea of clean wind energy but who have great difficulty getting over the fact that wind only exists in pretty places, such as pristine mountain panoramas and gorgeous coastal seascapes.”

             Let California’s zoning battles begin.  I’ll serve the popcorn while the rest of us sit back and watch environmental groups decide which part of their state to save and which to destroy.

 And a Note to Readers

             The nicest comments I occasionally hear fall into the when-will-you-post-another-blog category.  Yes, I’ve been temporarily absent, due entirely to work.  My plate hath runneth over with several smaller matters, coupled with three rather large ones, including recently (and successfully) concluded litigation representing and defending Nash County in a hard fought zoning case –a zoning battle that required fifty depositions but an opportunity to work with wonderful local counsel, a solid county staff and a great Board of Commissioners.

             Thanks for your patience.  In the next few days I’ll give you posts on annexation battles, recent court decisions and the connections between technological innovation and land use.

             To read previous blog posts, continue to scroll down or click on a category of interest in the right hand column.  To be alerted when a new post is published, simply click the “sign me up!” button above.  If you learned something, please forward this link to others who also might benefit.]