- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2001

The nation's most draconian environmental regulations, most virulent environmental extremism, and most pervasive "not in my back yard" philosophy have finally come home to roost. After years of tolerating the obstruction of new power plants by California environmentalists, rolling blackouts hit the state like a cold shower and left millions without electricity. In spite of a mad rush to complete several plants already under construction, the situation promises to get worse over the mid term as new generating capacity slowly struggles to keep up with the mothballing of older plants that should have been replaced years ago.

Democrats are freaked out by the situation, and no wonder. After decades of genuflecting before the crackpot energy ideas of druids like Ralph Nader and Governor Moonbeam, they're now dizzy from trying to spin this real-world energy crisis into a conservative deregulation problem. The liberal media, meanwhile, pontificates over whether the cause of the blackouts is financial mismanagement by the utilities, manipulation of power supplies by the wholesalers, or simple corporate greed.

What a hoot.

There's nothing complicated about California's energy crisis. California is out of power because it let environmentalists sit at the table with the adults and kneecap every major power project conceived in the last decade. And they've been very good at it. Department of Energy statistics show that both the number of California utilities and their total electric generating capacity actually declined from 1988-1998, and that the Golden State ranks dead last nationwide in total electric generation per capita.

The solution to this mess is simple: Slap down the environmental obstructionists responsible for the energy crisis in the first place, and bring more power plants on line. Neutering the environmentalists shouldn't be too hard, unless the world's sixth largest economy wants to permanently relegate itself to Third World status. California brand environmentalism now looks as silly as mood rings, and as dangerous as the Ebola virus.

Completing the power plants shouldn't be that hard either assuming of course that private sector power companies still want to operate in California. Unfortunately, in a tofu-inspired stroke of intrepid boldness reminiscent of Michael Dukakis in helmet and tank, the best that Gov. Gray Davis has been able to muster is the appointment of a power plant "czar" to "honcho" construction.

Aside from power supplies that resemble those in the Congo, all California has to show for decades of environmental arrogance is the export to its neighbors of the very environmental impacts that it has fought at home. That's industrial imperialism at its worst. The states that are bailing out California should charge full market value for their megawatts, and maybe slap a hefty NIMBY tax on that power to boot just to drive home the lesson that environmental extremism has consequences for the neighbors, as well as at home.

In Washington, the Bush administration should move aggressively to end federal land lockdowns, and the practice of abusing environmental laws to stop development of the infrastructure that powers the nation. The Great Generation, like adults everywhere, clearly understood that you have to break some eggs to make mayonnaise. Unfortunately, they didn't teach their children very well. The baby boomers think "sustainable development" is using the federal licensing process to tear out the hydropower dams their parents built; designating national monuments by presidential fiat to lock down energy resources on federal lands; and abusing endangered species and wetlands regulations to obstruct energy development on private and public property alike. None of which, of course, is either "sustainable" or "development."

More generating capacity also means searching for new energy supplies. Including on federal multiple use areas like the national forests and national wildlife refuges, where there is a long history of energy production. After all, the public lands are public; they belong to the people, not the environmentalists. Environmentalists will, as usual, try to make this sound like the rape of Yosemite. But there's no reason why energy production on wildlife refuges can't be environmentally friendly. Ask the Audubon Society it has been happily producing oil for 50 years on refuges like the Rainey wildlife sanctuary on Vermillion Bay.

Environmentalists aren't conservationists. And in spite of their focus groups, which tell them they look less extreme when they call themselves that, they never will be. As Teddy Roosevelt knew well, conservationists believe in the wise multiple use of natural resources. The environment is, after all, too important to leave to the environmentalists.

The California energy crisis will go away when there is more power supply than there is power demand. It's time for the adults to thank the environmentalists for their opinion, and get to work generating that power. If Californians don't want to accept those adult responsibilities, they can always keep paying the piper.

Jeff Goodson is president of JW Goodson Associates Inc., a Texas property consulting company.

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