Laird Lucas looks at the wind farms and solar farms popping up across the West the same way my son looks at my old personal digital assistant.
Lucas is the lead attorney of Advocates for the West, a group of attorneys that has successfully driven much of the environmental changes forced upon Idaho over the last decade and a half. His court victories have caused Idaho lawmakers to spend millions of dollars to clean up rivers, caused ranchers to stop their cows from trampling stream banks and halted the building of a nuclear waste incinerator. The federal government is reconsidering whether to list sage grouse as an endangered species because of his efforts.
“Real lawyers care about what they do and are devoted to the cause of justice,” legendary defense attorney Gerry Spence of Jackson, Wyo., told me in 2001. “Laird Lucas fits that definition.”
Now Lucas is gearing up to fight the development of wind and solar alternative energy plants in the middle of the remaining sagebrush desert habitat that is the home of species ranging from sage grouse to antelope. He’s not against the technology. And he is as concerned about reducing greenhouse gases that cause climate change as the next environmentalist.
Lucas thinks spreading alternative energy projects out across the West and the other relatively open spaces left on Earth is a policy box canyon. The technology he believes will save the world won’t be burdened with tens of thousands of miles of transmission lines.
Environmentalists won’t have to choose between saving civilization and wildlife habitat. They will be able to do both.
“I think there’s a chance that these big solar farms and wind farms will be obsolete almost as soon as we develop them,” Lucas said. “We need to somehow get people engaged directly in producing our own energy.”
The PDA was an amazing step up for its time but it was replaced by the Blackberry and new cell phones. Lucas expects energy development to go the same way.
His vision and the vision of many environmentalists is distributed generation of electricity. Instead of buying power from Idaho Power Co., which generates it in a big giant coal plant, each one of us would produce our own power. This could be done, Lucas said, with solar panels on our roofs.
So-called smart grid technology will redistribute electricity with efficiency and intelligence we can only begin to imagine. The battery in your car plugged into the grid could help power your washer.