Do the forces now in charge of our energy future prefer that the American economy continue to grow based on the exploitation of plentiful and less-expensive coal and other fossil fuels, or by replacing those older power sources with wind, solar and other "renewables," regardless of the cost?
Based on developments here in Southern Nevada last week, the answer would appear to be ... that it was a trick question to begin with. Those in charge today have no intention of providing the foundering American economy with the new energy resources it needs to resume its growth, at all.
Last week, tired of wasting time promoting a relatively clean, low-cost energy option opposed by the entire ruling political class, from President Obama and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid on down, utility NV Energy formally withdrew its application through the state Public Utilities Commission to build the Ely Energy Center.
The $5 billion, 1,500-megawatt central Nevada plant would have generated enough energy to power 900,000 homes. It will now be delayed at least a decade, until costly technologies can be developed to capture all such a plant's harmless emissions of carbon dioxide -- a gas necessary to life on Earth, a gas of which mankind's production is dwarfed by that churned out by the oceans and volcanoes, but to which eco-extremists attribute the supposed danger of "global warming."
Meantime, Air Force officials urged the federal government to deny construction applications for a $700 million solar power plant near the Nellis flight-training range, up Tonopah way, about 175 miles northwest of Las Vegas -- even though the company had already shifted its site 25 miles further away from Air Force lands than originally planned.
The Nevada plant was supposed to be a showcase for the Los Angeles outfit SolarReserve; one of the largest solar plants in the world, using heat-transfer technology developed for space rockets by United Technologies and powering about 50,000 homes.
But Nellis Air Force Base commander Col. Howard "Dave" Belote said in a statement Monday that locating the solar plant anywhere near the huge Nellis range "is incompatible with our vital national security operations." The Air Force recently -- and similarly -- also blocked a proposed wind power project near its range.
Oh well. Time to turn back to developing our own, domestic supplies of oil and natural gas.
Or ... maybe not. In another high-profile reversal, the Obama administration's Bureau of Land Management decided immediately after its latest lease auction Tuesday to suspend the sale of all 31 Utah oil and gas drilling parcels offered and purchased.
The decision was reminiscent of action taken by new -- and oh-so-green -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in February, scrapping leases on 77 Utah parcels "near wild areas or national parks" sold in the final days of the Bush administration.
The BLM had initially described Tuesday's auction as protest-free, meaning none of the 42 parcels offered were encumbered by a formal protest from conservation or other groups.
The Denver-based Center for Native Ecosystems had, in fact, filed a protest covering all the parcels that were offered Tuesday, but the BLM rejected the complaint because it came in too late. For the same reason, the agency dismissed other objections filed by the Washington, D.C.-based Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. (Note such groups protest all the parcels. None are judged acceptable.)
But in Tuesday's reversal, Selma Sierra, the director of the BLM's operations in Utah, decided to accept protests from both groups despite the fact they were filed after a May 13 deadline.
Bidders -- some of whom already have hundreds of thousands of dollars tied up in leases that haven't been issued from two previous Utah auctions -- will still be expected to pay for their parcels, even though the BLM won't be issuing any actual leases.
If the green-dominated federal government is going to block both solar and wind power development here in the desert Southwest -- at the same time it blocks new oil and gas leases on millions of acres of God-forsaken desert scrub -- what's America's energy-hungry economy going to use to replace coal and nuclear and natural gas in the years to come? Hamsters on treadmills?
The answer is that the green extreme doesn't care if we starve in the dark. They think there are too many humans on the planet to begin with.