Ben Buchwalter


Ken Salazar’s Cape Wind Dilemma
February 17, 2010, 10:58 pm
Filed under: change.org, energy, Environment | Tags: , , , , ,

That’s some unique NIMBYism. The Cape Wind project, a proposed renewable energy facility off of Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound, hit an unusual snag when the Mashpee and Wampanoag Native Americans opposed the site because it blocked their view of the sunrise, an important part of a daily ritual. The facility, which was also opposed by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, presents an important dilemma for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. I summed up the dilemma for change.org.

Setting aside the merits and drawbacks of Cape Wind, killing the project would be a major victory for NIMBY politics over clean renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Sure, it’s easy to support renewable energy in the abstract. But when your sunrise or porch’s mountainous view is obstructed by a hulking white wind mill? Forget about it, some say. But spiking Cape Wind would not eliminate the NIMBY headache that has plagued the project since its inception. It would only add fire to anti-wind movements at other proposed locations.

Secretary Salazar has asked for a final round of public comments to help parse that complexity. But depending on what he decides in April, Cape Wind will either be a historic victory for wind power, or put wind in the sails of NIMBY-ists everywhere.



Pentagon Pushes for Climate Action
February 17, 2010, 8:58 pm
Filed under: change.org, Environment, Military | Tags: , ,

Earlier this month, the Pentagon released a report warning that climate change would threaten more than just our coast lines if Congress did not act quickly to delay or reverse environmental degradation. Climate change could even put American troops serving abroad at risk. The announcement seems surprising, but it’s consistent with two decades of military dogma on the environment that was largely ignored by the Bush administration. I broke down the unrequited friendship between the earth and the military for change.org:

Good working relationships between the Pentagon and concerned climate scientists dates back to the early years of the Clinton administration, which implemented a program that urges the DOD to share classified satellite photographs of the Arctic Ocean with climate scientists.

In 1992, then-Senator Al Gore floated the idea with representatives from George H. W. Bush’s CIA and DOD, and as vice-president, he implemented the program along with Leon Panetta — Clinton’s chief of staff at the time — and departing CIA director Robert Gates. Bush II disbanded the program in 2001 but the New York Times reported earlier this year that the Obama administration plans to resurrect it.  “Decision makers need information and analysis on the effects climate change can have on security,” said CIA Director Panetta in a press release when the agency opened a center on climate change and national security last fall. “The CIA is well positioned to deliver that intelligence.”



Is Renewable Energy Headed for a Nuclear Wedgie?
February 17, 2010, 8:40 pm
Filed under: change.org, Congress, Environment | Tags: , , ,

In January, I started blogging for change.org’s environment page. In my first post, I wrote about the strain expanding our nuclear program will place on the prospects for a comprehensive renewable energy system in the US. Despite almost universal acknowledgement in the environmental community that nuclear power is dirty, obstructive, and less efficient than its proponents suggest, Congress plans to flood the industry with billions in loan guarantees in order to get a climate bill passed. We’re already starting to see the results of this renewed commitment to nuclear power:

The result? The proposal of new nuclear plant in California, once a hotbed for anti-nuclear activism. In 2006, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a global warming bill that requires the state to increase renewable energy production 30 percent by 2020 and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. Nuclear critics didn’t expect is that those goals could lead the state to go nuclear.

“When you look at the need to cut carbon emissions, and California is in the lead in that department, you have to consider nuclear power,” says a spokesman for Areva, the French utilities company that proposed the California plant.