Bioenergy, Blogs, Solar, Wind Power

Who Our Friends Are

Renewable energy is a big movement. There are business interests, labor interests, and environmental interests in play. We can’t expect everyone to move in lock-step.

Biogas entrepreneurs like Warren Weisman are never going to call solar energy the first choice. Forbes’ attitude will never be anything but skeptical – I get that.

But there are also professional agitators out there, guns for hire who will support any business, and attack any cause, if they see money or headlines in it. And since the media perceives renewable energy (especially solar) as good guys, some will act in our name, against our interests.

Take Michael Boyd, a Sunnyvale lawyer who runs what he calls Californians for Renewable Energy (CARE) .

But what is he really for? Let’s look at the record.

Boyd is part of the group helping Indian tribes sue to stop large solar projects in the California desert. He has agitated for years against the wind power plant at Altamont. Readers of this site may recognize his name for fighting a wind project off Massachusetts – pretty far from California. He sued federal regulators to try and stop small solar projects as well.

It all begs the question, what renewable energy does he favor?

Or consider California Unions for Reliable Energy, run by the head of a building trades union, Bob Balgenoth. CURE just sued the federal government to stop the 250 megawatt Genesis Solar Energy project near Blythe because it would use 220 acre feet of water a year, about the same as a small subdivision. (This came after Genesis changed its design to cut water use by 80%.)

But CURE is thrilled about a new gas turbine project in Niland, a few hours west. Of course, the gas plant has a contract with the union. The solar plant, owned by a division of Florida Power & Light, says it will put construction out to competitive bids.

Anyone can say they are for the environment, or for renewable energy, just as anyone can claim they’re for health reform. You don’t have to prove it. But a savvy, growing industry should know who its friends are, and who its real friends are.