The Audubon Society — Supporting Smart Deployment of Renewables

For my book on renewables, I just interviewed Brian Rutledge of the Audubon Society in Wyoming. I knew this would be an interesting talk, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I spoke with Brian because I wanted to get a sense for one of renewable energy’s most ironic truths:  renewables (in this case, wind energy) can run afoul of environmentalists. This subject will occupy an entire chapter of the book, but I’d like to try to abbreviate this interview into a few sentences.

In essence, I’ve come to understand from Brian and others that that there is very little similarity between what well-intentioned people would do to alleviate the energy crisis and what is actually happening in the real world — and sadly, this extends into renewables as well as oil, gas and coal. Big private money and big public power have come together to make an insane asylum out of the US energy policy.

The Energy Act of 2005 gave the Bush administration the power to ignore the reports of the nation’s most senior biologists and order drilling wherever it wished. More recently, the stimulus packages calls for those awarded grants to begin work more-less immediately, leaving no time for deliberation that would protect endangered species from the concrete and steel that are fragmenting and otherwise ruining their habitat. Instead of studying the problem and developing solutions that are in everyone’s best interests, the government is rushing to throw money at renewable energy solutions as fast as it can print it, and making a huge mess in the process.

Wyoming is highly prized for its windy plains, but wind power companies are not forced to follow the same Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) guidelines as the fossil fuel people, and can thus do essentially as they please.

“I’m a big proponent of renewable energy, but it’s like anything else: it can be done thoughtfully and deliberately, or it can be rushed and done wrong.  Unformately, what’s happened here in Wyoming is the latter,” Brian laments.  He seems like a tough but sophisticated cowboy — one who understands the true issues and is willing to fight hard for what he believes; I can hear the tenacity in his voice.  But he knows this won’t be easy.  “These wind people are like the gas people — on steroids,” he tells me.

“Are they really worse, or is it just that you were expecting better?” I queried.

“Maybe it’s that,” Brain allowed. “I guess I was expecting better.”

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2 comments on “The Audubon Society — Supporting Smart Deployment of Renewables
  1. I’ve heard him talk before, in a conference and he was brilliant…I wish you all the best

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  1. […] comes at the price of some level of violence to the local environment. In my conversation with Brian Rutledge of the Audubon Society, I ignored this; I made the mistake of referring to proposed solar thermal sites as “desert […]

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