What’s With the Hydroelectric Power Phobia?

         After our recent (November 16, 2008) blog on how the TVA made a killing on its hydroelectric dams while the Supreme Court worried about a nonexistent “conflict” between the cost of idemnifying condemnees and the people’s right in public projects, we added the following update:

“While perusing the November 30, 2008, issue of New York Times Magazine, we came across a slick, full-page ad by Shell (inside the back cover), bragging about “tackling climate change and providing fuel for growing population.” It specifically mentions coal gassification, gas liquefaction, wind power, hydrogen fuels, fuel from algae, fuel from straw, and fuel from wood chips. But no mention of hydroelectric power. Odd, don’t you think? Why wind power, but not hydroelectric power?”

       Please be assured, dear readers, that we are not into conspiracy theories, but this omission of clean sustainable hydroelectric power as an energy source is getting positively weird. Today’s New York Times editorial (Hawaii’s Moon Shot, Dec. 2, 1008, at p. A28) sings the praises of an outfit called the Blue Planet Foundation, and its plans to transform Hawaii’s total dependence on imported oil, into a “green,” sustainable power regime. Says the Times: “. . . [Hawaii] has an abundance of clean-energy sources: sunshine, wind, powerful tides and waves and cold water depths.” So far, so good. These are the usual suspects, but something is missing: hydroelectric power. Hawaii also has lots of steep mountains, and abundant rainfall, so it shouldn’t be too much of an engineerung feat to build some hydroelectric dams to harness the energy of all that water that now flows down those mountains and into the sea. Moreover, as far as we know — and do feel free to correct us if we’re wrong — there are no salmon swimming up Hawaiian streams up those steep mountains, that might be inconvenienced by dams. So why exclude hydroelectric power from the Times’ shopping list for the greening of Hawaii’s energy supplies and  decreasing its dependence on shipped-in foreign oil?

        It’s, like, weird, man. Positively weird. Anybody have any ideas as to what is going one here?

UPDATE: OK, so maybe we’re wrong. Maybe it’s time to reconsider our rejection of conspiracy theories. Dwight Merriam is a distinguished Connecticut land use lawyer, and he runs a blog called International Municipal Lawyers Association – Local Government blog. And in his post of Noveember 14, 2008, with the catchy title of Wind Power Whack-a-Mole™ Wrangling, Merriam says:

“With wind power capable of producing electricity at rates quite comparable with fossil fuel and nuclear, but maybe not hydro, and federal and state economic incentives, the growth has been substantial.  Last year, production grew 45% and over 1% of our power now comes from the wind.  By way of comparison, nuclear provides 20%.” (emphasis added).       

         So why not hydro, Dwight? And here we thought that hydroelectric power is clean, cheap and inexhaustible, which is to say sustainable, to use the correct enviro-talk phrasing. Or, perhaps Merriam meant to say that hydro is cheaper than wind etc. But that only fortifies our point. Why not use it if it’s clean, green and cheap?