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The Bureau of Land Management has just decided to call a two-year moratorium on solar projects placed on public land, most notably including the Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, in order to conduct extensive environmental impact studies.

Environmental impact studies are good. But note that other projects with similar tower foundations and shade effects have not been shown to have any deleterious effects, so it seems the likelihood of negative impact is small. A moratorium seems a bit draconian.

Meanwhile, Congress is being pressured to run pell-mell into drilling for oil in the Alaskan wilderness and the waters of the continental shelf, despite the well-known negative environmental impacts of oil drilling and oil spills.

I suppose the requirement is merely that an environmental impact study be done, not that it must conclude that a project is relatively benign. We KNOW oil drilling does a lot of damage, while we only THINK that solar panels cause minimal disturbance. Obviously, oil drilling is therefore preferable to setting up solar panels.

Meanwhile, federal solar investment tax credits are set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress renews them. Federal tax credits for speculative drilling and ridiculously low public land leases to oil companies (usually with no charge for the oil they remove) continue unabated. That's the way the current administration likes it.

The CLEAN energy act (H.R. 6) would remove the "preferential tax treatment afforded intangible domestic drilling expenses (primarily labor and material costs associated with finding and exploiting oil and gas fields)", and use that money to subsidize alternative energy.

The Cato institute, in their critique of the CLEAN energy act, mentions that "the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that eliminating those preferences for intangible drilling expenses would save the taxpayer $7.6 billion over ten years."

With Congress behind taking investment out of oil and into solar, the oil-backed administration has resorted to green-sounding environmental concerns to justify a unilateral administrative delay. It's a clever move -- how can environmentalists protest an environmental impact statement?


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August 2016

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