Construction of farm in core sage grouse country presents too many unknowns-

Wind Farm put on hold. By Dustin Bleizeffer. Casper Star-Tribune energy reporter.

It’s good see them taking the sage grouse issue seriously. Folks will recall WWP has a lawsuit on 30-million acres of sage grouse country.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

5 Responses to Construction of big WY wind farm put indefinitely on hold

  1. avatar vickif says:

    Okay, I am all for helping Sage Grouse. However, I fear I am like many people in that I am completely disenchanted with the extremism that is becoming constant from many environmentalist groups.
    I absolutely know that this move was necessary to save grouse habitat. But the truth is, I stopped posting here, and stopped reading to a great extent, because there is rarely a rational middle ground.
    Like most people I talk with, I am willing to admit I over use energy. Like many, I have cut back a lot. Like everyone I know, I also have demands of life to meet…among them, the ability to get to work, educate and feed my family, and heat and light my home.
    I have long asked what folks like Brian, though well meaning-very uncompromising, are willing to do to help move people into a more energy efficient and less destructive use of energy. I don’t get any answers other than “people need to consume less energy”.
    Though that is a great idea in the ideal world of conservation, it is damn unpractical and even more unthinkable to most people.
    Two thumbs up to the administratiuon that has pushed forth legislation to mandate greener light bulbs. It is a viable move that will have an impact. These type of moves are furthering progress.
    However, all the “use less, just say no to over-use” rhetoric isn’t getting people any where. In fact, it is giving weight to the opposition that argues extremism on behalf of conservation groups. It also gives those who would be swayed the view that to be green it is all or nothing. Again, that’s great in an ideal world…but very counter productive in this real one. It is an ultimatum attitude that will not likely yeild the results wanted.
    At the end of the day, we have helped grouse. But we have not moved forward in efforts to create more efficient energy, or lessen green house emissions, or get anyone to do something. We have placed ourselves in a holding pattern.
    Now, if WWP (a group I generally admire and agree with) were to put forth effort to get studies done to show were the wind turbines would be useful and more environmentally suitable….that would be persuasive. But saying no to any and all efforts being made to push for better (not perfect, but better) options is a real turn off for most people I know.
    Two comparisons: 1.Saying we need to just force people to use less energy is liking telling a heroin addict to quit using cold turkey…ain’t gonna happen and would likely kill the user (or the economy in this case).
    2. There are those people who argue that they don’t want Walmart building in their neighborhood, it would depleat their property value or detract from their old town feelings. They drive 45 miles to the Walmart built in someone else’s neighborhood. The point is, they may not want turbines or walmarts in their back yard….but they need or want the products being offered just as much as the next guy.
    I know this story is a victory for Sage Grouse….but the other problem remains the same,,,,we need cleaner energy and people have got to be willing to make some concessions to get there.

  2. Vickif,

    I can give you my views on energy. They may not be the middle ground, but I think we should try to convince policy makers that they should be.

    1. You cannot directly coerce people into using less energy. Conservation comes through development of efficiency, not persuasion or coercion.

    Over the years, I have purchased a number of major appliances. Each time the washers, driers, refrigerators, water heaters, use less energy and work as well or better than the previous. That is painless conservation.

    2. While I am concerned about sage grouse, I am much more concerned about why they are declining — their habitat. Their habitat is the home many other species of plants and animals. Conserving sage grouse, will probably conserve the rest on the sagebrush steppe.

    3. Alternative energy is not necessarily green energy. Making sure it is green means giving suggestions and opposing projects, such as some wind farms that are not green. The way a new energy system is developed is absolutely critical to its future course. It is far easier to begin it on the right track than change the track years later.

    4. Centralized energy production is inherently insecure and antagonistic to individual freedom. Think about the security around a nuclear facility, or even a large dam. Has anyone visited a large hydro project in recent years? You will probably be checked. Terrorists will not target the solar panels on your house.

    5. Policy makers need to think about not only reducing carbon emissions, but making sure that natural carbon sinks are not degraded, but rather enhanced. If carbon sinks function less well taking up carbon, the result is the same as more carbon emissions.

    A solar farm that destroys the carbon sink over miles of desert could as well be a coal plant that emits CO2 but disturbs much less ground.

  3. avatar vickif says:

    Ralph,
    I could not agree more.

    There needs to be more funding for researching appropriate locations for such things as turbines.

    Furthermore, we need to mandate, regulate and fund localized energy redevelopement. Local utility companies should continue to promote the use of roof-top solar, by paying for unused energy. However, we need to push the government to take that one step farther. They have got to start to either fund, insure, or give hefty credits to anyone who places solar or wind on their personal property.

    Thanks for pointing out that this goes beyond energy, green, or convenience. It is a matter of security. The money we save by developing our own energy and lessening our military involvement abroad could be put to far greater use.

    I hear so many folks at odds, solar vs. wind. Coal vs. gas. Those efforts would be far better used to find the right places, and right ways, to utilize new energy.

    I, like you, buy more efficient appliances. I also drive less, and use a more efficient vehicle. I have spent a bundle to time off electricity. I cannot say enough about it.

    I have a ‘lights off when not in use’ policy in the clinic I manage. I say no to bags at the grocery stores. And we recycle several tons (yep, tons) of paper each year at my office.

    They may be baby steps. But they are steps.

    Perhaps you would be willing to help outline who to write to, and I would be happy to commit time to promote these ideas.

    Thanks,
    Vicki

  4. avatar Brian Ertz says:

    People conserve when it is economically beneficial to do so – or economically painful not to do so. One can’t force it, but it is reasonable to imagine an energy economy where we pay the same monthly costs for our use of energy & maintain the same (or better) standard of living – but us dramatically less energy via implementation of conservation technologies. The problem with investing public dollars/subsidies in efforts that make wind or solar artificially cheap is that those very dollars are invested against conservation efforts because without the economic incentive to conserve (i.e. a higher kW cost), people won’t – commercial industry won’t – come close to our potential to conserve.

    It’s not WWP’s job to take on a multi-billion dollar energy industry media campaign to develop mirrors & blades in every nook & cranny of the country by identifying alternative citing or technology or strategy. We simply couldn’t do so in the media if we wanted to. The best place to foster such awareness is in keeping it about the imperiled wildlife & landscape – the important thing – and allowing these concerns to have the opportunity to emerge as a consequence of the tension produced by our willingness to confront these energy developers (or public land ranchers, or oil & gas developers) & agencies unlawful disregard for wildlife & landscape. That’s something we can do something about – and should do something about.

  5. avatar vickif says:

    Brian,
    I agree it is something we can do. However, by admission above, the absolute and most assured way to impact people is not by tugging attheir wildlife heart strings. It is by effecting their wallets.

    If you tell people that you will raise energy prices they will find a way to prevent it.

    If you tell them that you will pay them to find ways to conserve, they will do it.

    If you tell them that putting in a dam can create cheaper electricity, more often than not, wildlife loses.

    Neither people, their energy use, their plight, or the plight of all things environmental are independent. Until we start working with what we have, all we do is day dream. We need action.

    I know it is no more WWP’s job than anyone else’s to go media crazy, or even to put forth efforts to find solutions. But it is no less theirs than anyone else’s job either. We all have an obligation (or atleast those of us with a conscience).

    I see that WWP uses people’s passion about wildlife and landscapes to motivate change. Given that there are far more people motivated by their money, I am suprised we haven’t tapped into that tool for change.

    I am one of those fortunate Americans who gets to pay taxes. I pay them on all sorts of stuff I deplore and oppose. I would love to pay some to fund energy credits for people who place a solar panel atop their home.

    But I am growing tired of the constant fighting over if this is good, or that is bad. Whate a waste of time, money, and brain power. We will not get people to agree to a voluntary increase in energy costs. (Colorado, a leader among “green” states recently failed to pass a bill to stop giving oil industries multi-million dollr tax breaks…simply because people feared natural gas proces would increase.)It won’t happen unless the economy demands it. Right now, the economy is desperate for people to feel confident. That goes out the window when you say “raise prices”.

    If you, or anyone, has a way to make people agree to making energy LESS available or MORE pricey…problem solved. But until then, we are right back at a stale-mate.

    There are innumerable ways to promote good changes. There are many big companies that do it every day. We just need to do it on the home front, and through government mandate. If taxes are for the betterment of the people, the peple deserve for some of their taxes to be spent on energy credits.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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