Sept. 21, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Rohrabacher: Greens Interfere With Alternatives

Lizards: 1, American security and economy: 0.

That is the latest scorecard for the environmentalists who have won another victory in their movement to block any new sources of energy that would solve so many of our problems here at home.

Just a few short weeks ago, BrightSource Energy Inc. decided to abandon efforts to build a solar power facility in the Mojave Desert because of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) proposal to turn a vast tract of desolate desert land, where BrightSource wanted to build, into a national monument. The reason? Biologists are in the middle of studying a certain type of lizard that lives on the land in question. And so the story continues — those who claim the mantle of environmentalism champion and aggressively oppose the building of clean, environmentally friendly, solar energy projects on federally controlled lands.

Despite repeated demands from the public to take advantage of the resources we have here at home, attempts to develop these resources are adamantly opposed by the same environmentalists who claim to be in favor of domestic development of renewable energy, and as a result, the American people suffer the consequences.

The byproduct of this policy contradiction from the radical environmentalists forces us to continue buying foreign oil from countries that harm the environment because they have little to no environmentally conscious safeguards. They further insist on jeopardizing the environment because the oil has to be shipped long distances over treacherous seas, where oil spills become much more likely than if it were extracted locally.

The national security implications seem to escape the radical environmental lobby considering that with every dollar we send to a foreign and oftentimes hostile regime, we put our citizens at risk. And with every job that’s given to a foreigner instead of to an American here at home, we jeopardize our economy.

The frustrating fact of the matter is we have ample resources right here in the U.S. that would seriously curtail the amount of energy we import, if we could only tap into it. I’m not just talking about fossil fuels; I’m talking about those sources of energy that we have infinite access to and would address the three aforementioned concerns — environment, national security and economy. One promising resource that has faced significant challenges is solar energy.

Solar energy technology has made leaps and bounds since it first became popular in the 1970s. The cost of solar power has decreased and will continue to decrease relative to what will inevitably be the rising cost of other fossil fuels. While fossil fuel is usually thought of in the context of the gasoline we put into our cars, approximately 70 percent of the fossil fuels used in this country actually produce electricity.

The radical environmental lobbies consistently cite their desire for reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Nearly everyone agrees this is a noble goal. However, their actions contradict that objective because they continue to stand in the way of the most effective renewable energy development every chance they get. If we are serious about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, including in our transportation sector, the obstructionists must step aside.

Since 2005, more than 200 applications have been submitted to the Bureau of Land Management for permission to build solar power projects on federally controlled land. The good news: The BLM has not denied one application; the bad news: NO applications have been approved. That’s right — the BLM has failed to process a single application in more than four years! According to the BLM, one obstacle in the applicant approval process is the extremely burdensome, but required, environmental impact statement. Ironically, the very policy that was intended to protect the environment has actively blocked environmentally friendly energy from reaching the marketplace.

As a result, I introduced the Emergency Solar Power Permit Act (H.R. 964) to waive the requirement to complete an EIS for solar power projects built on BLM-controlled land. Unfortunately, although not surprisingly, not a single environmental lobby has endorsed my bill. Worse yet, the environmental lobby has offered no proposed solutions that would expedite these applications. Neither has a single Democrat co-sponsored my legislation.

If they were serious about their interest in promoting renewable energy, they would be willing to put more resources into solving this problem. Instead, we are stuck with the status quo, which continues to place the importance of a lizard’s habitat before that of humans. The result? We continue to restrict jobs for our citizens, continue sending money overseas to hostile regimes and jeopardize the environment by extracting oil in countries that have little or no environmental regulations.

The time has come for the American people to break free from the chains of the hypocritical, obstructionist, group of “no” that we see in the environmental lobby. The time is now to take advantage of the technological advances in renewable energy resources like solar power to help secure a more energy-efficient future for generations to come.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) is a member of the House Science and Technology Committee.

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