George and Hetch Hetchy
Do politicians always have ulterior motives, or does it just seem that way? Or, as Phoebe once put it to Joey in an episode of Friends, are there no selfless good deeds?
I ask because the San Francisco Bay Guardian believes it knows why the president's FY08 budget proposal for the National Park Service contains $7 million for studies into restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite. In a nutshell, the newspaper contends that George is trying to line the pockets of Pacific Gas and Electric.
How? Well, the Hetch Hetchy reservoir not only provides water to the city of San Francisco, but also hydropower. Remove the dam and not only does the water go away, but so does the hydropower....and in steps PG&E.
Plausible? Perhaps, though it'll take more than $7 million to tear down the O'Shaughnessy Dam and create millions of new PG&E customers.
And then, of course, there are those who believe the removal of the dam does not equate with the loss of hydropower. According to Environmental Defense, the dam's removal would not stop the flow of the Tuolumne River through downstream generating stations.
Under a restoration scenario, flows from the Tuolumne River and releases from other system reservoirs could still generate 60-80% of the hydropower currently produced by San Francisco’s three generating facilities, the group claims. The amount of hydropower currently generated in the system accounts on average for only 0.6% of California’s total generation. Environmental Defense proposes that replacement energy supplies could be largely made up through renewable resources, such as wind and solar, or by investments in energy efficiency, which could reduce dependence upon polluting fossil fuels.