Some of them may be quite unaware of how they're perceived by the rest of us, but the majority must be quietly whispering in shocked tones about the way the public now perceives them as the enemy. In its defense, the environmental community continues to deny there's an issue, and make excuses for its hypocritical choice of which energy projects to support or oppose.
For example, a recent piece in political rag Triple Pundit attempts to compare and contrast the Keystone XL pipeline with the Plains & Eastern Clean Line. This piece fails at the starting gate:
After all, both involve transporting energy from one place to another; both require the taking of right-of-way from property owners; and both will create relatively few direct and permanent jobs once completed.
The author is a public relations wonk and "author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes." Well, recycling... that certainly qualifies her to expound on the need for electric transmission and the condemnation of private property for energy projects. Not.
The author claims that Clean Line will provide more jobs than Keystone, and she bases that on information from... Clean Line. Just because Clean Line says it will "source" its components from US companies doesn't mean they will be produced in the US. The author points out that Keystone components will be produced in foreign countries and simply "sourced" in the US. In fact, Clean Line would be fiscally imprudent to sign contracts for components with US companies now, long before any shovel hits the ground. It's common practice to issue an RFP for project components and then evaluate the bids for price, quality and deliverability. If she'd looked underneath the "clean" veneer, she'd realize that Clean Line's promises of US manufacturing jobs are just that... promises. There are no signed procurement contracts for certain components at fixed prices. And there are no guarantees of new jobs.
There's no logic in pretending a transmission project provides more "operations" jobs than Keystone. Maybe if the author knew anything about how transmission lines are operated she'd realize that the "operators" are already employed at regional transmission authorities. One more line in the stable isn't going to create any new jobs. Jobs at wind farms? Sure, the same as jobs that would fill the Keystone pipeline with its liquid gold. No difference.
The Energy Department has not given Clean Line its "Seal of Approval," no matter what Clean Line wants to spout in the media. A decision still has not been made.
Mention of TVA? Why? The TVA has not included Clean Line in its Integrated Resource Plan and has remarked that any possible use of the project is at least a decade away. It isn't about where Clean Line connects, it's about finding buyers for the energy Clean Line transports at the connection points. There are none. Moreover, there are no generators to sign contracts with end users. Who builds a road without any cars to drive on it? We don't build public infrastructure unless there's a need for it, and only public utilities with a need to transmit power have a right to eminent domain authority. Sure, any investor can build a shopping mall and hope shoppers show up, but we don't use eminent domain for that kind of speculative, for-profit enterprise. And that's exactly what Clean Line is -- a "build it and they will come" idea. Block GBE-MO said it best, "No need, no gain, no eminent domain!"
And let's talk about those mid-point converter stations. Without buyers, they're just useless monstrosities. And there are no buyers. Just because Clean Line builds a converter station does not mean power flows to that location. The converter station is a tollbooth -- if there are no buyers to pay for the juice, it doesn't pass the tollgate. Arkansas doesn't magically "get" 500 MW of electricity unless someone pays for it. And if there are no buyers, why invest $100M in a converter station that sits idle? There's no guarantee that a converter station will be built in Arkansas if it's not profitable.
Perhaps the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce (a traditional utility ally that the environmental groups have disregarded as biased in the past) is looking forward to "new supplies of clean energy," but again, without buyers, they get nothing.
And then the author trots out a 5-year old "report" Clean Line presented to the TVA (who elected NOT to purchase any of its electricity). This has about as much validity as any other lobbyist promise, I suppose, and is not worth reading. But, this point is so off the mark it deserves mention:
Greater transmission reliability: The project increases transmission capacity and grid reliability. This is especially important in light of potential for coal power plant retirements and the lack of inter-regional transmission projects.
The article then goes down a political rathole to make partisan attacks on elected officials. Nobody in the real world cares!
And finally, the author gets on her soapbox to tell the world why and how Keystone will affect the landowners and what makes it "bad."
...property owners and communities throughout the length of the pipeline would be saddled with the risk of a pipeline leak, break or other mishap.
I've spoken to plenty of landowners affected by Clean Line's proposal, as well as regular folks concerned about energy issues. Here's the common thread: They're not going to put up with eminent domain for energy projects any more. Whether its Keystone or Clean Line, the project must be built without the heavy hand of government land theft. While use of eminent domain for energy projects was used repeatedly to build the infrastructure we have today, it's no longer acceptable. It's a new generation, with a new way to organize and fight. Nobody's lights are going to go off if we don't build new energy projects. Instead, what these environmentalists propose is to build an entirely new infrastructure to replace our current system, but basing it on yesterday's unpopular ideas. The American people don't want "clean" energy that costs them more or that usurps their right to own and enjoy property.
We're at an energy crossroads. We can embrace new ideas and create a new, democratic and reliable energy future -- or we can simply replace our corporate masters with new "clean" corporations and continue with the status quo. The people are rising up -- no more corporate energy control!
Only when the environmental groups come to terms with their new unpopularity will they become an impetus toward a new energy future and stop dragging the future down into the corporate past.