The Tortoise and the Glare

Plans to scrape hundreds of thousands of acres of the Mojave Desert for solar panel installations may endanger wildlife and are pitting environmentalists against each other.
January 23, 2009, 6am PST | Michael Dudley
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"Although [the desert tortoise] may be the official California state reptile, [it] may also be a casualty of a new national priority, as President Obama is determined to boost renewable energy in a big way, fast.

In hopes of displacing those CO2-spewing coal-fired power plants, no less an advocate than Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is committed to turning tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of acres of remote California desert into vast solar-powered power plants to help light the state's cities and towns. But harvesting sun power comes with its own environmental costs. Some proposed projects would require grading or scraping the desert floor, denuding vegetation and the wildlife that lives in it.

While not all of the projects may get off the ground, the very idea of using hundreds of thousands of acres of public land for renewable energy development has pitted environmentalist against environmentalist, both sides wrestling with urgent priorities.

Critics insist that Westerners can have their solar power and desert animals too."

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Published on Thursday, January 22, 2009 in Salon.com
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