What a week. First, I fall down a flight of external stairs (please don’t ask why) and then my computer dies. Poof, sput, goes black won’t restart. So while desperate efforts are made to recover my hard drive, I am working on a spare MacBook that we have lying around. It’s a pain, in the sense that Macs are a pain when you’re used to PCs, but it’s kind of nice to be unable to work on anything except this case on solar power that doesn’t require access to old files.
Which brings us to why America can’t have nice things. To really use renewables, you need long-distance power lines. The reason is twofold. First, the sun shines brightest and the wind blows longest and the rivers flow strongest in places far away from the people who need power. Second, the sun and wind are intermittant, so it helps to be able to use power from multiple locations.
Only America is full of bogus environmentalists who class esthetic outrages in the same place as actual environmental threats. In Chile, mostly American environmentalists managed to block the HidroAysén dam project by stalling approvals for the lines to move the power from the dams north to Santiago. One of their tactics (headed up by Douglas Tompkins, of North Face fame) was to purchase land along the route that of the power line.
The Northern Pass line would bring hydropower from Quebec to New England. Great! What’s not to like? The dams are already there. New England relies almost entirely on fossil fuels. So no problem, right?
Wrong. There are a------s out there. They want their views, or whatever. As in Chile, they have bought land in strategic areas to block the route. So on the 40 miles in New Hampshire that requires new land purchases, the developer has promised to bury eight miles of cable ... sending the cost from $200 million to $1.4 billion. And opponents’ response? “We are very happy they discovered the shovel, but if you can figure out how to bury eight miles, you can figure out how to bury 180.”
(Let me add that as with Cape Wind, Governor Patrick has taken the right side. I have my favored 2012 presidential candidate ready for you, although I don’t think he’ll run. The problem, for those readers unfamiliar with New England, lies in the rogue state of New Hampshire.)
I have fulminated about this pseudo-environmental NIMBY in California. It makes me angry. So hats off to my former student, Diana Rivera, who is doing right by America and trying to get the Grain Belt Express Green Line built in the midwest. Good luck and Godspeed to them!
Meanwhile, is there any way to end this NIMBYism without going back to the bad old days of wild freeway building? Which, to be honest, I am becoming increasingly willing to accept ...