California has the progressive vision to go all-electric, with laws and regulations that phase out gas water heaters, furnaces, and cars in the near future — while transitioning away from the production of electricity through the use of nuclear and natural gas technologies. Putting the teensy-weensy engineering questions aside and embracing the unicorn, this deep blue vision of the future means the state needs to build wind and solar power facilities in massive quantities, and now. California currently has about half the power it needs to do what it says it plans to do in just ten years.
But President Joe Biden just announced a move that aggressively advances the progressive vision of preserving wilderness and preventing development, naming the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in the Mojave Desert — preventing solar and wind development on 506,814 acres of lightly populated and federally owned desert land. The coalition of tribal and community groups that has worked to get the national monument designated make the anti-solar point explicit on their website:
Where progressive coastal urbanites see the progressive project of decarbonization, people in wilderness-adjacent areas see industrial blight, and express that view in the language of progressive conservationism. To a degree not explored by the false binary of media-defined American politics, in which good people on the left face bad people on the right, California’s future is an increasingly sharp conflict between left and left — and note what kind of permits energy companies have to get to build big wind and solar plants in the desert:
When progressive California builds its progressive energy infrastructure, it’s going to incidentally take a shit-ton of bighorns and tortoises and birds. I assume I don’t have to explain the euphemism.
The Biden administration’s announcement about Avi Kwa Ame assures Marin County Tesla owners that they’ll still get plenty of their progressive energy:
The designation will not slow the positive momentum of clean energy development in the State of Nevada, which will continue to play a leading role in helping the nation meet its goal of permitting 25 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2025. Outside of the national monument boundaries, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has identified more than 9 million acres of public lands within the State of Nevada that may be appropriate for solar development. Additionally, BLM is currently reviewing more than three dozen proposed renewable energy projects in the state that would add more than 13 GW of potential clean energy generation to the grid if constructed.
But increasingly, the progressive vision that will feed coastal California its clean energy by covering Nevada and Arizona (and rural California) in solar panels and wind turbines is being contested. It’s not just being contested from the political right, and the Biden administration just moved firmly against it, even as they pretend otherwise.
Tell Me How This Ends is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
See also, for examples from energy industry and Mojave Desert local perspectives:
Let me be honest. I don't just oppose moving to solar and wind power because it's inconsistent and not practical. I also just think these wind turbines and solar panels are so ugly covering the land. Further, the wind turbines kill thousands of birds every year.