Anyone who thought the world of renewable energy would be a Disney-like setting where protests and court challenges were relegated to history books just got a rude dose of reality.
In California, a state that has mandated utilities to acquire at least 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2010, an effort is under way to build a mammoth solar plant in the desert. Plans are to eventually make it big enough to power 750,000 homes.
And some environmentalists are up in arms.
The reason? In order to get power from this plant to the state's heavily populated San Diego area, the plant will need large transmission lines, and 141 of these would cut through Anza-Borrego, a California state park at a height of 130 feet.
Of course, there is no other way to move electricity. You can't e-mail it to San Diego. No matter where the route goes, someone will be unhappy with the power lines.
Environmentalists, according to The Associated Press, would prefer renewable energy be generated either close to or inside heavily populated areas. They'd rather have solar panels stuck on rooftops. Experts say that wouldn't produce nearly enough juice to satisfy California's needs, unlike giant solar panels, windmills and other generators out in the desert.
Power generation, it seems, intrudes on the environment no matter how it is done. Perhaps the same could be said for the entire human race. Eliminate homo sapiens and the parks would remain pristine and the air crystal clean, except for the occasional volcanic eruption. But it's not like anyone would care.
Utah has enough coal to continue generating cheap electricity for many years, but California and other states have made it clear they no longer will accept more power from coal, which is believed to be contributing to global warming. Nuclear plants offer the best environmentally friendly solution for large-scale production, but environmentalists oppose them because of the waste they generate, among other things. Now the long-touted solar-panels-in-the-desert solution is facing its own opposition.
It's time for elected and appointed officials, from Congress on down to state legislatures and the commissions that regulate utilities, to let common sense guide the way. Without adequate and affordable electricity, the world's largest economy would crumble, leading to a steep decline in living standards. Ultimately, that would lead to environmental concerns on a much more personal level than transmission lines through a state park.
Everyone in the debate over energy's future must accept the inevitability of trade-offs and compromises.