Tortoises Trounce Solar Thermal!

You Looking At Me? Source: Photo by Beth Jackson: from National Park Service Image Library via Making Tracks

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.

Me and my tank, Caligula - a name that quaintly reconciled my love for antiquity and my soldiers' love for porn

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).

The National Training Center, Source: Journal of Arid Environments 67 (2006) 165–191

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! 

About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Finance executive, engineer, former military officer, and science fiction and horror writer. Editor of the Weird World War III anthology.
This entry was posted in Business, Clean Energy, Climate Change, Defense, Energy Security, Humor, Politics, Solar and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Tortoises Trounce Solar Thermal!

  1. Vern R. Kaine says:

    Great post – I had no idea! From a layperson’s standpoint, I’ve engaged many on the left in debate over the humanity of our armed forces (especially vs. other countries’ forces). Knowing that there’s an “eco-freakout squad” in our only proves my case more, I think! But hey, someone’s got to look out for these little guys, right?!

    • Well, unfortunately the “eco-freak-out squad” is composed exclusively of government-employed civilians (I guess I wasn’t super clear). However, the military did allow them nearly free rein on post to do all their environmental studies, so I guess you can still make the argument that the armed forces are humane. 😉

  2. pino says:

    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 love the irony of watching Leftists battle Leftists!

    Reminds me of the story of the bird activists going after the wind farmers. Turns out that windmills kill migratory birds!


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