Edward Abbey and the Great American Desert

Chris Clarke over at Coyote Crossing found this old film of Edward Abbey -- an ardent defender of the desert -- that intended to air in 1985, but ended up getting shelved by a broadcast company that apparently rejected his efforts to protect nature.  I read Edward Abbey's Desert Solitude in high school, and have to say that it was one of the few books I loved reading back then. I did not know at the time, though, what the desert would mean to me later in my life.  I cherished the desert's quiet open space, the challenge of an unrelenting sun, and the reward of the most beautiful sunsets. I just took all of that for granted. Essay Here is another great work on Edward Abbey recently featured in the new ARID: Journal of Desert Art, Design and Ecology .  The piece is an interactive web experience titled " Canyonlands: Edward Abbey and the Great American Desert " that takes you from Ed's arrival at Arches National Park in the late 1950s to the end of his life

Energy Is Costly, But It Does Not Have To Be Greedy

Our clean energy path will not be cheap, but it should not involve subsidizing the same corporate greed that continues to wreck our wildlands. The Los Angeles Times published an article detailing the costs to taxpayers and ratepayers for giant solar facilities responsible for destroying desert habitat, and the fact that companies investing in these projects receive an incredible return on their investment.  Some of these companies responsible for remote desert solar facilities will probably be familiar to you -- JP Morgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, General Electric, and Berkshire Hathaway. These are the same companies that also profit from fossil fuels.   It does not matter if the bulldozer is making way for a natural gas well or a wind turbine -- for these companies, the end is profit, and the means is anything that will increase that profit. As we advocate for a clean energy future, we should ask ourselves if we're willing to take shortcuts that destroy the things we lo

NPCA Warns of Unnecessary Desert Destruction

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) released a report warning about the "solar energy tsunami" heading for America's southwestern deserts, referring to plans by energy companies to destroy hundreds of square miles of intact desert ecosystems for industrial-scale solar facilities.  In discussing the report and accompanying video , NPCA California Desert senior program manager urges a more innovative clean energy path that does not force America to lose natural and cultural treasures in desert landscapes: "I think that part of the message we want to share today is that we do want to encourage both the public and the administration to stand strong in support of national parks. We recognize that it's really important to forward our solar future, but we think that can best be accomplished by a diversified portfolio where we're looking at options like not just roof-top solar, but also looking at development on disturbed lands." -- David Lamfro

BrightSource Energy Challenges Military Training Mission

The Department of Defense has expressed concern that BrightSource Energy's solar "power tower" technology could obstruct military testing and training activities in the Mojave Desert, since the heated towers standing hundreds of feet over the desert could become an attractive target for heat seeking sensors and weapons.  Two BrightSource Energy projects in particular are proposed for desert habitat bordering the US Marine Corps' base at Twentynine Palms, where air and ground live fire exercises are conducted. The Siberia Solar project would be built just north of the Marine base, but within view of an active training ground.  The project would also be adjacent to the proposed Mojave Trails National Monument, a conservation effort to protect desert landscapes and wildlife along the historic Route 66.  The Department of the Interior has shown a propensity to permit energy projects despite environmental concerns in its "fast track" permitting process, but it

Desert Conservation Proposal Languishes in Washington

A gridlocked Congress has sat on top of a proposal to conserve desert wildlands for two years now, and it appears that the only hope for Senator Feinstein's California Desert Protetion Act of 2011 (S. 138 - originally introduced in 2010) may be a Presidential designation under the Antiquities Act.   Although a Presidential monument designation is sure to draw fire from opponents, the Antiquities Act of 1906 has been used by Republicans and Democrats alike to protect natural treasures and Congress' indecision over land stewardship is unlikely to be resolved soon. Public lands are caught in a political spectrum that has trended toward destruction and away from conservation, with Utah Governor Herbert looking to seize treasured public lands and dole them out to private companies, and a Presidential candidate that wants to ramp up fossil fuel extraction in every corner of the country. The Obama Administration's mark on desert wildlands so far has been regrettable  wit

Wind Developer Taking Aim at Mojave National Preserve

Oak Creek Energy Systems, under a subsidiary known as Crescent Peak Renewables LLC, has submitted initial plans to install up to 220 giant wind turbines in southern Nevada, just outside of the scenic Mojave National Preserve, according to documents submitted to the Nevada Public Utilities Commission and obtained by Basin and Range Watch .  If built, the Crescent Peak Wind project would fragment and industrialize approximately 58 square miles of remote desert habitat, threaten raptors and likely impact nearby Wilderness Areas and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. [Click on image to expand] The Google Earth image above depicts the approximate boundaries of the proposed Crescent Peak Wind energy project in red, which is located in Nevada along the border with California.  The scenic Mojave National Preserve is just across the border to the west and south, as well as the beleaguered Ivanpah Valley. Oak Creek Energy Systems, which is ultimately controlled by the Japan-b

Solar Trends Show Wildlands Sacrifice is Not Necessary

Solar energy is a rapidly growing piece of the energy pie necessary to kick our habit of dirty fossil fuels, but trends in solar energy growth so far, and an abundance of suitable spaces for solar panels in our cities and on already-disturbed lands suggests there is no need to sacrifice our open wildlands.    Making Progress Without Desert Destruction Solar energy generation has grown to over 5,100 megawatts in the United States according to GTM research -- enough to replace roughly nine Reid Gardner coal power plants. How did we reach this goal?  A good chunk is from rooftop solar, while most of the larger solar facilities contributing to this number were built on already-disturbed lands.  Most utility-scale projects that are destroying desert wildlands, such as BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar project, are not included in this number because they are not yet plugged into the grid. Looking to Already-Disturbed Lands Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency made a ma