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Sunrise Powerlink: Greenwashing anyone?

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
April 22, 2006


San Diego Gas and Electric wants you to think it cares about the environment. SDGE, speaking for Sempra, its corporate master, a multinational conglomerate, wants us to think it cares about bunnies, birds and whales. SDG&E wants you to think Sempra cares about us.

SDG&E also wants us to think 500-kilovolt wires, strung from metallic towers, 160 feet tall is environmentally friendly. Planned between Imperial Valley and Warner Springs, along with a connecting 230-kilovolt line between Warner Springs and Carmel Valley, the sunrise power link is a threat to rare and endangered habitats, and intrudes on public owned state parks. Power lines slung across the desert are not clean energy. SDG&E wants you to think it is.

Claiming to care about the "environment" while engaging in ecological destruction is known as greenwashing to industry outsiders. Claiming a 1.4 billion, electron superhighway to be anything other than the corporate boondoggle is corporate spin. Sunrise Powerlink is about one thing, and one thing only, profit.

SDG&E wants to provide more power to San Diego so SDG&E can sell consumers more power. SDG&E wants consumers to consume. As a privately held utility, SDG&E wants consumers to consume energy resources they control. Power is money, more power, more money. The Sunrise Powerlink is about Sempra profits, not a healthy environment.

Shills for SDG&E are make the rounds garnering sheepish support for their private grab of public space. Glossing things over with promises of renewable resources, reliable generation and transmission at an affordable price, does not negate the ecological damage done by SDG&E while monopolizing the energy market.

Ratepayers should be wary of anyone selling mass produced energy as an ecologically benign endeavor. Besides advocating 120 miles of visual blight through the backcountry ecosystems, inland communities and coastal canyons, the infrastructure SDG&E plans to install will require roads. Roads destroy habitat. Habitat destruction is not a label usually associated with environmental friendly behavior.

Promising to tap developing sources of geothermal and solar power near the Salton Sea, may sound environmental, as does talk of wind farms, they aren't. Solar and wind farms destroy habitat as well. Vehicle and roads will be needed to maintain these clean energy "farms." I wonder if these vehicles will run on solar and wind power?

The Sunrise Powerlink is not clean, nor is it environmental friendly. Those professing SDG&E to be wise environmental stewards are delusional, if not liars.

Environmentally friendly energy policy begins with conservation. Clean and green electricity is locally produced, and used sparingly. Instead of spending billions on antiquated transmission infrastructure, linking communities to energy farms in the desert. Sempra, via SDG&E, can reduce redundancy and thereby cost, by promoting residential solar generation on existing rooftops and all future development and redevelopment.

Environmentally friendly is reducing energy consumption, not increasing supply. How regions use energy is as important how that energy is produced and transmitted within the region. Currently there is a $3.2 billion state program promoting the construction of solar panels on rooftops throughout California. Is SDG&E promoting photovoltaics? Interstate transmission is so last century. Self-sufficiency is next wave.

Wind turbines on the roofs of suburban homes would negate the rational behind Sempra's new power line. Smaller homes using passive solar designs could negate the need for high-energy lines to be constructed across threatened habitats. There are thousands of energy saving actions that can help Californians reduce their ecological footprint, while saving billions in the process.

But then again Sempra is not in the energy business to save people money. Sempra is in the energy business to make money. Lots of money. SDG&E and Sempra are not in the business of preserving native species, although landscaping with indigenous trees helps cool homes in summer. Automatic irrigation systems require a constant flow of power. Lawns absorb a lot of energy, electric lawnmowers, hedgers, and other sundry garden gadgets and to the energy bill and the drain on natural resources.

More power equals more money. More power means more people. More people means more pollution. Allowing the Sunrise Powerlink to be built, residents of San Diego county will be enabling the continued over development of a region already struggling under the burden of overpopulation. By reducing usage, consumers could actually gain power over the power company.

Southern California residents must redefine quality of life in a way that favors ecology and biology over comfort convince and short economic gain. The choices that shaped our communities over the past century will destroy them over the next. Knowing what we know, and living how we do, corporate oriented utilitarianism is no longer sustainable.

The Sunrise Powerlink is another boondoggle aimed at the environment. The Sunrise Powerlink is a bad ideal, green washing and all.

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