“We need green energy. Just not here.”
Do those words sound familiar? That’s quite often the case with so-called proponents of green energy. The acronym NIMBY (not in my back yard) should really be replaced with BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything), according to Ryan Yonk, coauthor of a new book, “Green vs. Green.” Together, Yonk and Randy T. Simmons researched the regulatory environment faced by green energy producers, and their findings should surprise readers.
It turns out that regulatory and environmental opposition to green energy projects are about the same as those encountered by non-renewable energy projects. Wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biofuel projects all face opposition from so-called “green” groups. Cape Wind, Ivanpah Solar Farm, Telephone Flats and Four Mile Hill, Glen Canyon Dam, and Uintah Basin projects have all been opposed by environmental groups that say they favor the development of green energy.
At a recent panel discussion at Heritage, Yonk and Simmons explained that because the ideal locations for many of these green energy projects are situated on government land, proposed projects face a slew of regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles, all of which delay and discourage the development of green energy projects. This problem is made worse by the Obama Administration’s hyper-regulation over the past three years and its recent rulemaking delays, which only add uncertainty in an already murky regulatory environment. Yonk and Simmons set aside the technological and economic pitfalls of renewable energy and focused on the regulatory pitfalls.
If there is one difference between proposals for green energy and proposals for non-renewable energy, it’s that green groups are divided on the national and local level when it comes to their opposition toward green-energy projects.
When plans for a solar facility were announced near Ivanpah, CA, the Sierra Club’s national headquarters supported the project but the local chapter opposed it, once the endangered desert tortoise was discovered to inhabit the area. Eventually, the Sierra Club’s national headquarters instructed its local chapter to give up the fight. (The local group still opposed the project but no longer under the Sierra Club name). What Yonk and Simmons found in their study is that green groups and other stakeholders are more concerned about local issues then they are about any larger societal benefit of cleaner energy.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has compiled a list called “Project No Project” of the “broad range of energy projects that are being stalled, stopped, or outright killed nationwide due to ‘Not In My Back Yard’ (NIMBY) activism, a broken permitting process and a system that allows limitless challenges by opponents of development.” About 45 percent of the challenged energy projects on this list are renewable energy projects. “Project No Project” allows online users to browse the list of stalled energy projects either by state or by energy type.
Environmentalists and other “green groups” say they favor green energy, but then they oppose green energy projects every bit as much as they do non-renewable projects. The problem is that at some point an algae pond becomes a protected wetland, Yonk notes. Human existence affects the environment, and no energy project is going to be perfect.
During the panel discussion, Simmons pointed out that wind turbines are often dependent on natural gas as a backup for wind. Increasing the number of wind turbines also increases the demand for natural gas production. In a recent Foundry post, “Installing Windmills Doesn’t Make the Wind Blow,” David Kreutzer writes about the shortcomings of windmills when it comes to actually generating electricity. Harnessing energy is always going to involve the use of property, and, with a troubled job market and an unstable Middle East, the United States should be utilizing all its energy sources.
Look to North Dakota, which is experiencing an economic boom right now. Despite the country’s lethargic economy, North Dakota has an extremely low unemployment rate, and the state government is sitting on a record $2 billion surplus – this in a state which only has about a $4 billion total budget. North Dakota’s remarkable story is told in the Heritage video, “The North Dakota Miracle: Fracking In the Bakken.”