Normally, I reserve this blog for more serious topics where there is an intersection among clean energy, national security, and politics.
Oh wait, this post covers all three! Only, it’s not so serious.
The New York Times published a story yesterday that made me chuckle and also brought back some old memories. Apparently, one species of desert tortoise is threatening to hold up five multibillion-dollar solar thermal plants in the Mojave desert that could power more than two million homes.
I’m with the utilities on this one. I support them because I favor green energy policies over the rights of the mighty desert tortoise.
I also support the utilities, because a little under a decade ago, the spry desert tortoise was my adversary.
When I was stationed at the Army’s National Training Center, I used to participate in massive monthly war games involving hundreds of armored vehicles and thousands of troops. Each monthly war game cost about $10 million a pop.
But heaven forbid, if the mighty desert tortoise crossed paths with your M1A1 Abrams.
Why didn’t you just pick up the hard-shelled critter and help him on his merry way, you say? Well, desert tortoises sometimes get scared and urinate on themselves. Since they live in the desert, this reaction dehydrates the little guys and can be fatal.
So we were told. I have no idea if it is true, but it only magnified the mighty tortoise legend.
And then there was the tortoise fence that covered the southern boundery of the National Training Center (see below for a map of the National Training Center that shows the boundary). It is important to note that the National Training Center is about the size of the state of Rhode Island. Therefore, the tortoise fence covers a lot of ground (and probably cost a lot of taxpayer money to build).
Once, a lieutenant accidently crushed one during gunnery with his tank. The way the installation reacted, you’d think he pulled the legs off a child, urinated in church, and robbed a blind man. All in one day.
Whenever these critters were killed in training, everything stopped. Everything.
And there was hell to pay.
The eco-freak-out squad would soon be on the case to determine if the tortoise died from foul play.
Killing a tortoise was serious business. Penalties included (and still include) up to one year in prision and a $50,000 fine.
To get a sense of desert tortoise hysteria, take a look at this priority one military airlift operation to rescue over seven hundred desert tortoises.
I am not joking. This really happened. And you, the tax payer, paid for it.
Build the solar towers, I say! And send the dastardly tortoise away!