Environment

Save the Planet or Save the Tortoise?

| by CEI

Today’s Greenwire (subscription required) carries a lengthy article on a nasty spat between Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and California environmental groups over the proposed siting of solar electricity plants in the Sun-drenched Mojave Desert.

Kennedy — like his cousin-by-marriage Gov. Schwarzenegger — wants to allow ”alternative energy” companies to build solar power stations in the Mojave. As the Governator was widely quoted as saying, “If we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave Desert, I don’t know where the hell we can put it.”

But according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), David Myers of the Wildlands Conservancy, and others, the solar stations would wreck the habitat of the Desert Tortoise, a threatened species under the California and federal Endangered Species Acts. Feinstein and Myers support legislation (not yet introduced) to designate 1 million acres of the Mojave as a national monument — an action that would preclude commercial development within the area.

On the surface, it looks like a conflict between those, like Kennedy, who believe that no merely “local” concern should interfere with the quest for a ‘clean energy future,’ and those, like Myers, whose loyalties are divided between saving a particular species and saving the planet.

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Two tidbits from the Greenwire article reveal that the situation is a bit more complicated. One is that Kennedy has a financial interest in Brightsource, the company that would be building the solar plants if the Mojave project is approved. The other is that Kennedy opposes a major renewable energy project in his own backyard — a windfarm in Nantucket Sound, near the family compound in Martha’s Vinyard.

Of course, those with any experience of politics should not be surprised if sanctimony walks hand-in-hand with greed, or if the goose insists that sauce is only for the gander.