In the search for renewable energy, environmentalists are sometimes the bad guys. And no, I’m not talking about nuclear energy (although I’m in favor of building new nuclear plants). I’m talking about the new attempt to squeeze electricity from the perpetual swells of the ocean. In a rational world, environmentalists would champion such an energy source, since no greenhouse gases are produced and the earth provides it for free. Alas, that hasn’t been the case:
While such generators do not emit smoky pollutants or leave behind radioactive waste, the [wave] machines are not small or delicate, and can be an eyesore. To draw energy from the ocean, they often need to be rooted on sea floors relatively close to shore, or mounted on rocks on the shore — places that have not traditionally been used for energy generation.
And despite their green-friendly intentions, inventors [of wave energy machines] are finding some of the stiffest resistance is coming from environmental groups.
Take the case of Verdant Power, Mr. Corren’s company, which has been trying for years to erect a small field of tidal turbines in the East River — a project that may finally get started this fall. Verdant embarked on a new East River turbine project in 2003, but it has taken two and a half years to get regulatory approval for the project from environmental agencies and the United States Army Corp of Engineers. The issue was not blocking the river to boat traffic, or how it would hook up to the electrical grid or even how it might mar the view, because it is mostly underwater. It was the fish population of the East River.
“We had eight fish biologists against it, and no one on the other side advocating for clean air” or other environmental issues, said Ronald F. Smith, the chief executive of Verdant Power. “You can see that the regulatory process is extremely biased towards doing nothing,” Mr. Smith said, adding that regulators were worried about complaints that could arise from any new projects.
The brute fact is that economies need electricity. It’s time environmentalists discover their inner pragmatist, and realize that while no energy source is perfect, some are much better than others. We have to pick our battles, and I don’t think wave energy is a battle we ought to fight.