Response to a Reader Comment
Rod Adams makes a good point in his comment about a statement in my last December posting. I was reacting to the proposed legislation that would restrict the development of renewable energy technologies in the Mojave Desert. I agree with Rod that I did make an overly broad statement. Furthermore, he is right that there is value to maintaining some unspoiled landscapes, and he is right that remotely sited power plants require more transmission lines--and transmission losses--than power plants sited near population centers.
However, I made my statements because I did not see the legislation as being aimed at reducing transmission costs and losses. Rather, I saw it as a NIMBY type reaction--in this case, Not in My Recreation Area (NIMRA). And although I fully agree with Rod that underground nuclear power plants take up far less space than solar plants, have far less visual impact on the environment, and can be sited closer to areas of demand, I somehow doubt that those supporting this legislation would embrace nuclear plants as an alternative to degrading the desert. The truth is that they don't want either.
I was reacting to a narrower concern--my growing frustration with a population, or at least a significant percentage of the population, that doesn't seem to recognize that modern society requires infrastructure that has to go someplace. I don't see anyone who wants to give up the comforts and conveniences we have come to enjoy. Oh, they pay lip service to being more energy efficient, but not to the extent it will remove the demand for more infrastructure over time--power plants, factories, mines, waste disposal sites (of all types), etc.
And I am frustrated particularly with those who dismiss the role of nuclear energy because they believe that renewable energy is "the" answer, never realizing that renewable energy has its own set of drawbacks, not the least of which is that it has far greater land requirements than nuclear power does.
So when it comes to trying to put anything--and in particular, all these solar and wind farms--somewhere, we end up with a contradictory list that looks a lot like NOPE (Not on Planet Earth). Let's see:
• We shouldn't put things in suburban neighborhoods because that's where most people live;
• We shouldn't put things in deserts, because we want to preserve the pristine areas that remain;
• We shouldn't put things in scenic areas, because that will disturb our views;
• We shouldn't put things in economically disadvantaged areas because of historical injustices;
• We shouldn't put things where the wealthy live, because they have the clout to fight it;
• We shouldn't put things in rural areas, because they're not the ones who benefit most.
I'm not being sarcastic or dismissive. I happen to be sympathetic to most of these desires for restrictions. To a degree. I believe we have to be careful of our impacts on different environments and populations. But I also believe we have to make some compromises in all these areas to have the benefits of sufficient clean energy. I believe that we have to have a mix of ALL technologies. I believe we have to put some in some undeveloped or scenic areas--so we have to be able to make some rational decisions about how to preserve some of this area while using other parts of it. I believe we have to put some where rich people live, some where poor people live, some in urban or suburban areas, some in rural areas--so we have to make some fair decisions to share the impacts.
And, of course, underlying all these, I agree with Rod that choosing technologies with smaller impacts on the land would give us a huge head start in sorting out these other problems. But, given the evidence, I wonder if we can do it.
In any event, in order not to end on a note of despair, I propose NIMRA as well as three more acronyms that occurred to me as I was writing this. To my knowledge, these are all brand new ones:
NIMRA: Not in my recreation area
NIRUA: Not in remote, undeveloped areas
NIRPY: Not in rich people's yards
NIEDA: Not in economically disadvantaged areas