In 2003, at a Capitol Hill briefing, the Cato Institute’s Jerry Taylor warned that the NIMBY fights so common over oil-and-gas drilling are “there, waiting to happen, in the renewable-energy sector.”
The scholar’s prediction was borne out, most famously, with the Robert Kennedy, Jr.-led opposition to the Cape Wind Project, to be sited in Nantucket Sound. (Can’t mar that fantastic view from Hyannis Port.) But plenty of less-high-profile attempts to build the infrastructure of a “green” future have been torpedoed by eco-agitators. One could be taking place right here in the Land of Enchantment.
In 2005, Congress established “the development of environmentally responsible renewable energy as a United States Department of the Interior priority,” and obligated the U.S. Forest Service to “facilitate the development and production of geothermal energy.” In response, federal land-management bureaucrats identified the Santa Fe National Forest — specifically, the Coyote, Cuba, Espanola, and Jemez Ranger Districts — as having significant potential for geothermal leasing. Earlier this year, several public meetings were held to “provide a brief overview of the draft environmental impact statement on the potential effects of geothermal energy development on land within forest boundaries.”
Unsurprisingly, New Mexico’s environmental left is squealing. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance warns of geothermal’s effect on water, endangered species, and seismic activity. In addition, the organization claims that the “levels of management which would be required” to protect the forest’s resources “are unreasonable, and not practical even for the industry.”
For good measure, the All Pueblo Council passed a resolution asserting that leasing would “exasperate impacts to the Pueblo Nations,” since the “land known as the Santa Fe National Forest has been occupied and used by the Pueblos from time immemorial and continues to be of profound spiritual and religious importance because of the sacred areas within, and the necessary uses of the forest, including the subsurface use of aquifers and natural springs, to maintain Pueblo culture and tradition.”
The Geothermal Energy Association thinks New Mexico has the potential to create 1,840 full-time jobs in the industry. But the state’s not likely to see such an employment boost, so long as the bait-and-switch over renewable energy — i.e., claim it’s preferable to “fossil fuels,” then oppose the siting of wind, solar, and geothermal projects — continues.