Environmentalists may cause power shortages in California

Environmental activists are blocking efforts to construct badly needed new power plants, experts report, and the effect will be increasing electricity shortages during this decade. Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) complains that, "whatever suggestion you make, they find something wrong with it and bring more lawsuits." Here are some examples:

  • To augment electricity supplies in California this summer, PG&E Corp. wanted to anchor a floating power plant in San Francisco Bay – but the company caved in after environmentalists threatened to blockade the barge, citing pollution and potential fuel spills.

  • Plans for a wind farm near Los Angeles were thwarted by bird enthusiasts.

  • Activists attacked plans for a high-tech gas plant in New York's Hudson River Valley on the grounds it would be an eyesore.

  • Environmentalists championing wild rivers have fought proposed hydroelectric projects along the West Coast.

    While electric utilities and environmentalists are contending with each other coast to coast, the debate is particularly evident in California, where the economic boom and the development of energy-guzzling high-tech industries have all but eliminated comfortable supply margins. Peak consumption there has approached the state's generating capacity of about 46,000 megawatts.

    Throughout the country, power producers must jump through regulatory hoops to get new plants approved – with less assurance than ever that environmentalists won't mobilise to quash their plans.

    Faced with the question of where new energy supplies are going to come from now and in the future, environmentalists answer: "conservation." But experts respond that both conservation and new resources are needed – not one or the other.

    Source: Jim Carleton, An Electricity Crunch May Force the Nation into Tough Tradeoffs, Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2000.

    For text (WSJ subscriptions)

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