The Next Four Years

The President today nominated REI chief and former Mobil Oil executive Sally Jewell to be the next Secretary of Interior.  I do not envy Jewell because the President and his outgoing Secretary of Interior -- Ken Salazar -- have made it imperative that the next four years look starkly different than the last four years.  After the first four years, President Obama has used administrative powers to protect 186,077 acres of public lands, according to the New York Times, which means he'll have serious catching up to do if he wants to reach George W. Bush's 700,000 acres, although that is a very low bar to set.

Rather than preserve our natural resources, Obama and Salazar during the first four years opened up millions of acres to the energy industry -- including oil, gas, solar and wind projects -- that have fragmented and destroyed our deserts, grasslands and forests (not to mention the offshore drilling they have approved).   The President's "all of the above" energy strategy gives something to just about every industry, but mostly excludes conservation.  In Nevada alone there are plans to industrialize over 400 square miles of public lands for wind and solar facilities,  despite ample rooftops and parking lots for more efficient local solar generation.  Our public lands carry the burden of the President's acquiescence to fossil fuels, and the burden of his vision of change, which still involves handing over wildlands to energy companies.

The Google Earth image above shows the extent of destruction planned or taking place in the Ivanpah Valley as part of the Obama administration's support for utility-scale solar in the desert. Instead of creating incentives for more distributed generation, the administration has fast-tracked nearly 20 square miles of industrial development on pristine habitat in the valley, on top of dozens of square miles of approved projects throughout California, Nevada and Arizona.
Hopefully the President and his new (pending confirmation in the Senate) Secretary of Interior will recognize that we are on the wrong path.  We need true change and forward thinking to support a significant shift in our energy policy -- invest in energy efficiency, energy conservation, and local clean energy -- and give our wildlands a break. 

Bulldozers clearing Joshua Tree woodland in the western Mojave Desert for the Alta Wind energy center, converting open desert into an industrial zone.  Photo by Friends of Mojave.

Solar panels adorn a small municipal building in Ohio.  As rooftop solar generation adds up, it can have a significant impact on energy demand and pricing.

Comments

  1. The new Secretary must pay attention to the real preservation of our last wild horses and burros in the West. The past years have devastated their existence to being at serious risk of extinction. No more round ups and cruel harassment into holding pens is a priority to be dealt with. Reform from Salazar's path of destruction, lies and clever deception to all Americans is key here - Americans demand change to help ensure our last wild herds have a future for our future generations - we want in the wild management, where they can live in peace, free from the monopolizing schemes by ranchers and special interests. Sally Jewel, you must protect these icons from the agenda of scape goating special interests, period. You have a duty to preserve the horses on whose back this nation was built.

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