the Messiah’s Pres-elect Obama’s good ideas is updating and expanding the nation’s electricity grid, which will make possible the practical use of wind power, concentrated solar, engineered geo-thermal, etc. It would be the energy equivalent of what the interstate highway system did for surface transportation, and requires, like Eisenhower’s push for the Interstates in the 1950s, a high level presidential commitment; a few lines in a state of the union speech won’t do.
Last month I was on a panel at the National Press Club on this subject, reflecting on Peter Huber’s proposal for how to do this. A representative from the Natural Resources Defense Council was on hand to pay lip service to the idea, but when I pressed him about the caveats of the environmental community, he admitted that they were "not yet on board" with the idea. Translation: Get ready for lots of lawsuits if the NRDC doesn’t get to plan the nation’s new energy grid. Great.
This morning’s New York Times has a splendid story of how red tape prevents the development of eco-friendly energy projects right now in NYC. An Episcopal Seminary (which means money is no object if the cause is the Green God) wants to drill some geothermal wells, which will reduce their annual carbon footprint by 1,400 tons. You’d think the government would encourage this. You’d be wrong:
“We had to answer to 10 agencies,” Ms. Burnley said. “It took three times as long as it should have. The left and the right hand did not know what the other was doing. . ." This is the future that virtually everyone in the city wants. But the people at the seminary are, in Ms. Burnley’s phrase, “institutionally exhausted” by the four-year siege of red tape, and after spending 50 percent more money than they had expected. “At a certain point we became angry, and determined, and wouldn’t give up,” she said. “But you can’t create public policy that depends on having obsessed, hardheaded people to get these projects done."
At one point, the seminary waited three months for the city Department of Transportation’s permission to drill into the sidewalk, Ms. Burnley said. “The conversation went like this: ‘What is the status?’ ‘It has no status.’ ‘Do you need more information?’ ‘No, we have what we need.’ ‘Then how can we get it moving?’ ‘You can’t get it moving.’
Now imagine the roadblocks that could be placed in the way of modernizing the nation’s electricity grid. Oh well, I guess we can just keep burning more coal.