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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

NIMBYs vs. Renewables

Author: Guest Writer/Friday, December 21, 2012/Categories: Uncategorized

Perhaps it’s the drought, or the persistent warm temperatures. Or maybe history will remember Superstorm Sandy as the turning point in U.S. public opinion about the risks of climate change.

But the results are in: surveys confirm that roughly two thirds of Americans believe global warming is a threat that merits meaningful action by elected officials.

Accordingly, there is growing support for renewable energy sources that reduce the country’s reliance on greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels. Solar energy is growing by leaps and bounds, and the American Southwest is uniquely blessed with vast tracts of sunny land that could produce huge amounts of solar energy. Giant windmills, too, are becoming a more common fixture in America’s wide-open spaces. 

Credit:National Renewable Energy Laboratory

But if Americans love renewable energy in concept, they’re often opposed to it in practice. One major stumbling block, which has reared its head from coast to coast, is NIMBYism. Not-in-my-back-yard syndrome, it turns out, is as applicable to green power as it has been to landfills, hog farms and other undesirable operations.

The Cape Wind project off the New England coastline, for example, has been held up for more than a decade, in part because of opposition from wealthy homeowners, including the renewable-loving Kennedys. Out west, environmentalists and residents of California’s Mojave Desert have risen up against large solar farms, citing everything from the endangered desert tortoise to their postcard views.

These socio-political balancing acts are never easy. But if the world’s biggest economy wants to graduate from the fossil-fuel era, then compromises are in order.

– Bob Ward


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