In another amazing move by the government the Bureau of Land Management has decided to place a two-year moratorium on new solar projects on public land in order to study the environmental impact of these projects. A New York Times article reports that the BLM “says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.”

It’s interesting that the BLM came out with this decision late last month — when oil prices were rising dramatically, gas was hitting $3.50 to $3.75 a gallon and the future looked better and better for alternative energy technologies and companies. Now with President Bush and Senator McCain calling for a lifting of the moratorium on off-shore oil drilling and the opening up of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) it seems like the status-quo is pushing back on Solar energy generation technology.

I agree that environmental studies should be conducted to determine the environmental impact of any large scale solar project — the laying of transmission lines, the reclamation of water used in solar thermal power generation, and other issues are important. But to put a complete freeze on any new solar power generation project across the board for two years is downright short sighted. Especially at a time when the solar power generation industry is just now starting to come up to speed. This blow, along with the government’s failure to renew the Solar Energy tax credit by the end of this year could weaken the adoption of solar energy technology both on a large project scale as well as a residential project scale.

I’m not going to sit here and say that this is a conspiracy between the Bush administration, the oil industry and energy lobbies, and the BLM…but it sure couldn’t come at a more curious time. President Bush wants to renew offshore oil drilling, the oil companies are raking in massive profits and the energy companies are not doing so badly either. How better to stifle the development of the solar energy generation industry by applying a moratorium for a two-year study to determine the environmental impact of large scale solar power generation plants on public lands. This may all be coincidence — but then again, I don’t put anything beyond this administration in terms of back-dealing and slight of hand tricks with legislation and regulations.

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