There is no form of power generation, however green, that is not opposed by some gaggle of environmentalists. My grad school colleague Steve Hayward expresses this in logical form at Powerline:
Hayward's First Axiom of Environmental Energy holds that there is no source of energy—"clean" or otherwise—that environmentalists won't oppose if it becomes cheap, practical, and scalable.
That's good, but I think we can firm it up a bit. Here is Blanchard's First Axiom of Environmental Energy:
The strength of environmentalist opposition to any source of energy (S) is directly proportional to its economic viability (V).
I add this corollary:
S is always greater than zero, even where V is less than zero.
Environmentalists have opposed wind farms, especially near Presidential vacation sites, and they are now filing suit to stop the building a large solar power facility.
Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council this week notified the Interior Department that it will sue to block the Calico Solar Power Generating Facility, a proposed 660 megawatt solar power plant in Pisgah Valley in Southern California. The environmentalist groups allege that the Interior Department violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to adequately account for the project's possible effect on the desert tortoise, a federally threatened species.
Now I am all with the DoW, SC, and NRDC on this one. Large scale solar power arrays are full tilt crazy. Oh, and think of the tortoise!
Meanwhile, the opposition to the Keystone pipeline is intense enough to confirm my axiom. The pipeline would extend from Canada's oil sands to refineries on the Gulf coast. It would carry about 850,000 barrels a day. Is this a good idea?
Duh. Robert Samuelson has a fine post on the subject. I will list my reasons (some of which got from Samuelson) for thinking that this is a no-brainer.
- For the foreseeable future, our economy will continue to run on fossil fuels. More fuel is more fuel.
- Oil from Canada is not oil from dictatorial regimes. The left cares about that except when they don't.
- Oil from Canada makes North America (including the U.S.) less dependent on "foreign oil", which is also something the left pretends to care about.
- Extracting oil from the sands involves environmental costs. But blocking Keystone will not stop Canada from extracting the oil. If it doesn't come here, the oil will go west towards China.
- If the oil pipeline goes west rather than south, that will substantially decouple Canada economically from the U.S. That would be very bad for the U.S. strategically.
I have no doubt that a pipeline bisecting the United States will involve inconveniences. Pipelines leak. Land has to be appropriated. I just think that the national interests indicated in my list are overwhelming.
Opposition to the Keystone pipeline is incoherent unless what you really want is to starve the U.S. of energy. I suspect that that is exactly what a lot of the opposition wants, but they are not about to say so and I doubt very much if they have come to grips with what that means.