Monday, October 12, 2009

Alternative energy demands leading to Western water wars?

The nice thing about holidays these days, is they offer a chance to catch up on the 500+ emails waiting in my in-box. One of those I just found was an article in the New York Times from a couple weeks back forwarded by Barb Murphy at Clear Creek Associates, about the growing realization that "Many of the proposed solutions to the nation’s energy problems, from certain types of solar farms to biofuel refineries to cleaner coal plants, could consume billions of gallons of water every year." The article likens some of the debates to a new Western water war.

That concern has not been lost on federal land management agencies, like BLM, which slowed down the land rush earlier this year, after applications for solar energy projects had been filed on millions of acres across the West.

As the battles heat up over competing interests for water rights, I wonder if we are going to hear criticisms of projects proposed by foreign energy companies. Some of the larger and more active players in solar energy projects across the region are from Spain and Germany, where the solar industry is booming.

Are we going to hear arguments against them like we do against foreign mining companies trying to develop mines in the region? For example, one of the biggest complaints about the proposed Rosemont copper mine south of Tucson is that it is owned by a Canadian company, Augusta Resources. Critics argue the profits will go out of Arizona and out of the US. Won't foreign-owned alternative energy companies be in the same boat as the debates get more heated?

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