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Reid won’t rein in wacko greens

Harry Reid visited the Review-Journal’s offices in August 2008 seeing the world through green-tinted glasses.

The Senate majority leader had just held court at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion as host of the National Clean Energy Summit. Reid was certain the event would help establish Nevada and the desert southwest as the world leader in alternative power and revive its slumping economy with green jobs. The state’s solar, geothermal and wind potential was unmatched, he told a lunchtime gathering of about 40 of the newspaper’s journalists, and the disastrous impacts of man-caused global warming required the immediate development of those resources.

The government — with Reid pulling the strings in Congress — would make it happen fast on federal land, he promised.

I told him the environmentalists who camp in his party’s tent would never let that happen. The Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, in particular, would sue to block the development of clean energy generation facilities and transmission lines on federal land on the false premise that construction would wipe out various insignificant bugs, weeds and critters. These greens would tie up most every project in court for years, running up development costs, ultimately scaring off investors and forcing the companies behind them to scrap the plans altogether.

I asked Reid what he intended to do to bring these wackos in line with his goals.

Reid, who doesn’t much care for the folks associated with this newspaper’s editorial page (yours truly included), was mildly irritated by the question but had a firm response.

“The Sierra Club is on board,” he said. “They know this is too important.”

I hope Reid saw the front page of the Jan. 2 Review-Journal. If the Sierra Club were “on board,” it wouldn’t be pulling out all the stops to delay and derail a massive solar-energy complex just south of Primm. That day’s edition detailed the anti-development group’s fight against the project over two dozen desert tortoises.

BrightSource Energy wants to cover a small part of the expansive Mojave Desert with 400,000 mirrors to power three separate solar power generators. When complete, it would provide a year’s supply of electricity for 142,000 homes.

Already, years of work and investment have gone into the project to address every possible concern. The site is practically right next to the Primm Valley Golf Club, on land used for grazing and off-roading. It has no scenic or historic value and it’s near transmission lines.

With the exception of the protected tortoises sitting around, there are no threatened or endangered species on the land. The property is not part of the 6.4 million acres designated by the federal government as “critical habitat” for the tortoise. The reptiles can simply be picked up and moved elsewhere.

But it’s never that simple with the greens and their allies in government bureaucracies.

Environmentalists — led by the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity — say the BrightSource site is on pristine land that must be preserved. They argue that these two dozen tortoises are the “most genetically distinct” population in the region and therefore can’t be moved. The greens want to be able to decide where BrightSource builds, no matter how much it increases costs and reduces efficiencies.

California and federal biologists, meanwhile, want to mandate that BrightSource purchase and preserve 12,000 acres somewhere else (6.4 million acres aren’t enough?) as penance for stepping up to help the state meet a requirement that one-third of its power come from clean energy sources within the next 10 years. Such a condition would add $25 million in costs.

BrightSource President John Woolard warned last month that these “unbounded and extreme” restrictions might kill the project. “Overburdening this fledgling industry will cause it to be stillborn, ending that promise before it has truly begun,” he wrote.

Why are the greens working so hard to squash a vision they supposedly share with Reid and Democrats everywhere? If global warming is going to cause catastrophic damage to ecosystems everywhere and render thousands of species extinct unless we act now, why are these extremists blocking the projects they say we need to save these doomed creatures, not to mention ourselves?

Because global warming is a scientific and political fraud. These guilt-ridden, cultish anti-capitalists are using this phantom threat, with great assistance from the Endangered Species Act, to try to ratchet down our quality of life. They hate detached houses, automobiles, swimming pools and high-definition TV. If clean energy powers what they consider environmentally unfriendly extravagance, then they’d rather have no energy at all.

So they work to restrict our energy supply and thereby raise costs, which eventually will force us to consume less. The global warming lie is the means to an end they’ve wanted for almost a century.

The Bureau of Land Management has received more than 150 requests to build solar-power projects on 1.8 million acres of federal land. Congress has a simple remedy at its disposal: pass legislation that declares each solar-power site in full compliance with all environmental laws. It’s been done before for urgent projects, such as border fences. Goodbye obstructionist lawsuits. Hello clean energy.

I offered this possibility recently to Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who like Reid is a lawyer. She said she would never support limiting anyone’s access to the courts.

Translation: There is no global warming emergency.

The green extremists have called their own bluff.

Glenn Cook (gcook@reviewjournal.com) is a Review-Journal editorial writer.

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