Monday, August 4, 2008

A Wolverine County Win -- and an Eye-Roller from Obama

Hats off to the county commissioners in Bingham County. Our neighbors to the south have paved the way for a pretty significant wind power project in the Wolverine Canyon area, or so says one of our local news stations.

The county has weighed this decision pretty much all summer, and had to play against some pretty heavy hitters, including Frank VanderSloot, local political agitator and deep-pocket mogul. He has every right to use his money how he sees fit, to express his opinion and try to sway public opinion. In this case, however, I'm grateful the county commissioners didn't let power get in the way of their decision. No pun intended.

I've written here about how I support efforts for renewable energy, particularly T. Boone Pickens' effort to invest billions in wind power to help wean us off imported oil (more power from wind, he reasons, means less power from domestically-produced natural gas, which could, in turn, be used to power vehicles, rather than gasoline made from imported oil). I'm also pleased to see smaller efforts, like that of Ridgeline Energy, to put into place smaller-scale wind power plants. IF we're to wean ourselves from foreign oil, we're going to have to accept more things liek this -- and the occasional aesthetic affront they may bring. Personally, I've visited Wolverine Canyon, and am here to tell that I was much more disturbed by all the cowpies I encountered than I might be by the presence of the occasional wind turbine perched on a ridge. Besides, I think the plants are aesthetically-pleasing myself. I like driving in to Idaho Falls from the west to see the wind turbine project on the hills east of town. Their presence doesn't bother me at all. I think the opponents to the Wolverine Canyon project will find they're in the same boat, after they get used to the turbines being there. And they can say they're doing their part to wean us from foreign oil.

On other energy fonts: An eye-roller. Barack Obama wants to tax oil company profits in order to give people who are struggling with high energy bills a $1,000 rebate. That's going to solve our energy crisi how, I wonder? I suppose I could put it in the bank and hope, in a few years, to get into a wind power project on a very local scale: I've looked into getting a smaller wind turbine to plant in our back yard, but the least expensive ones I can find run about $12,000. I'd love to do it. Maybe in a few years, after we've saved up enough cash. And we can convince the city to let us do so. But I can't say the idea of taxing the oil giants is a way to do that, especially since most of that rebate money, in the hands of the average recipient, won't go towards energy efficiency. The tax-and-rebate is just a dumb, election-year parlor trick.

To Obama's credit, he's thinking bigger than just a rebate -- He wants to undertake an effort to wean the U.S. from foreign oil (or at least oil from Venezuela and the Middle East) in ten years. That's laudable. He wants the U.S. to invest $150 billion in alternative energy projects, including getting a million hybrid cars on the road. He wants to see private investment in alternative energy be a part of that program. But I just wish he'd drop the windfall-for-rebate idea. It's a dumb one. Now, if he wanted to do the windfall for alternative energy investment, I'm all for that. That's long-term thinking, not political pandering. But since political pandering is the monnaie courant to get into office these days, well then, guess which idea will hold wind.

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