Gore vs. the Greens in the Golden State?

By Noel SheppardAssociate Editor, Newsbusters.org

In a move that could only come straight out of Hollywood, environmental groups are trying to block the construction of solar farms in California's Mojave Desert.

Almost straight from Mel Brooks' classic comedy "Blazing Saddles," the projects are supported by Repower America, the clean energy advocate connected to -- wait for it!!! -- Nobel Laureate Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection:


Despite Gore's best intentions, at least three environmental groups are trying to nix these projects. As the East County magazine reportedon Monday, March 23:

"It would destroy the entire Mojave Desert ecosystem," David Myers, executive director of the Wildlands Conservancy, said of a Mojave Desert solar project which Feinstein seeks to block. Solar farms would do great harm to the desert tortoise, a threatened species and California's state reptile, he warned.

Gary Thomas, a board member of the Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep, charges that "those (energy) farms are nothing more than an open pit mine without a pit. They are going to go in and clean everything out to bare dirt, then they fence them and everything that was living in that place will be gone." [...]

Larry Hogue of the Desert Protection Council described details of potential damage to desert wildlife and terrain in his blog . "We don't see forests being clearcut to make way for solar mirrors, because that would clearly be absurd. Yet thousands and even millions of acres of desert are currently proposed to be scraped to make way for solar power plants and their accompanying transmission lines," he wrote.

Further complicating matters for green power enthusiasts is the opposition by a powerful California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein. She has announced her intention to block solar power from desert lands in the Mojave and have the acreage in question declared a national monument. The Democratic Senator cites concern over severe environmental impact. In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Feinstein wrote:

"This is unacceptable...I urge you to direct the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] to suspend any further consideration of leases to develop former railroad lands for renewable energy or for any other purposes."

Yet, the really delicious irony is that, according to the Desert Protection Council's Larry Hogue, such projects actually run counter to Gore's mission. Hogue said scraping deserts for solar farms could actually contribute to global warming.

As reported here previously, studies have shown that the Mojave Desert in particular stores as much carbon as some temperate forests. . .Scraping the ground cover, including microbiotic crusts, would remove this function of the desert as a carbon sink, offsetting to some (currently unknown) extent the greenhouse gas reductions provided by the solar power project.

Honestly, you can't make this stuff up.

Noel Sheppard is associate editor of the MediaResearchCenter's NewsBusters.org. He welcomes feedback at nsheppard@newsbusters.org.