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US Halts Applications For Solar Energy Projects 481

Dekortage writes "The US Bureau of Land Management, overwhelmed by applications for large-scale solar energy plants, has declared a two-year freeze on applications for new projects until it completes an extensive environmental impact study. The study will produce 'a single set of environmental criteria to weigh future solar proposals, which will ultimately speed the application process.' The freeze means that current applications will continue to be processed — plants producing enough electricity for 20 million average American homes — but no new applications will be accepted until the study is complete. Solar power companies are worried that this will harm the industry just as it is poised for explosive growth. Some note that gas and oil projects are booming in the southwestern states most favorable to solar development. Another threat looming over the solar industry is that federal tax credits must be renewed in Congress, else they will expire this year."
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US Halts Applications For Solar Energy Projects

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  • by jonnythan ( 79727 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:32AM (#23968077)

    They probably should have done this sooner, but it's better to do the EIS before the explosive growth of solar plants.

    This way, they have a much better idea what the effects will be, and have more clear, consistent, comprehensive information and data on which to judge applications.

    I think the companies are just upset because it might prevent them from securing investors during the time they can't even submit an application. But for the people, and the industry, it's probably not that big of a deal.

  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:34AM (#23968097)

    People need the electricity. The BLM should only need to answer one question: Will the proposed solar energy plant harm the environment more than a natural gas/coal/oil plant would to produce the same amount of power? If not, let it be built.

    As a resident of Texas, I hate that we're building more and more coal-fired power plants when we have such abundant sun and wind out here that we could be using instead. Hell, I have to suffer through 2 months (and counting) of 100+ degree days, I'd like to at least be getting something out of all that sun other than dehydration and sunburn.

  • by Fastfwd ( 44389 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:34AM (#23968103)

    Ideally yes but is'nt stopping everything a too radical solution to the problem of poor planning?

  • goverment tit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:34AM (#23968105)
    If solar (or ethanol or wind or ... anything) is as good as people like to believe, it can survive without tax credits.
  • "overwhelmed by applications for large-scale solar energy plants".., that's good news. At least people are trying!

  • by Spazntwich ( 208070 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:35AM (#23968131)

    The government that governs least governs best, goddammit. Of course this will harm the industry; It's an artificially imposed market restriction!

    God forbid somebody do something without those geniuses at the government making sure it's ok first. Them being the kings of noticing unintended consequences in others' ideas. Oh wait...

  • by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:43AM (#23968247)

    You could build a giant array of solar panels over area covered by grass. With no sunlight, the grass dies, the rains wash away the soil, havoc commences, etc.

  • by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:44AM (#23968255) Journal

    Personally I think it's probably better to distribute the power-generation facility onto the roofs of all the residents in these 'southwestern states'... Use the wasted space productively...

    • There's virtually no environmental impact, in fact you're helping the environment by reducing the load on the power stations
    • It actually reduces the need for air-conditioning - because a fair amount of the solar energy your roof would soak up is converted to electricity
    • The generation is local, so there's less loss as electricity is transported across the country
    • There are the mentioned rebates and tax credits to reduce the initial cost.

    I'm in the process of installing an 11.9 kW system on the roof of my home in CA. It's costing about $80k (of which I expect to get $12-16k back in rebates) , and it'll take my electricity bill down from $800/month to ~$100/month. Saving ~$700/month makes payback in ~8 years, and the panels have a 25-year lifespan (at which point they're at ~80% efficiency of day-1).

    Why cover the land ? Cover the roofs instead!


  • by jonnythan ( 79727 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:45AM (#23968259)

    Well, the government tends to frown on corporations building power plants on public land without, you know, checking with them first.

    I think you don't understand what's going on here. The Bureau of Land Management is in charge of those vast stretches of deserted desert in the southwest. This isn't private land - indeed, the alternative to dealing with the BLM is to build on private land instead.

    These companies are submitting applications to get the BLM to let them build on public land. The BLM has to decide whether to let the applicant build power generation facilities on the particular piece of public land they're looking at. Oftentimes, many different applications will be submitted for the same patch of land, and BLM has to decide whether to let one build the proposed plant, or to hold out for something else.

    If you want to build some solar plant on your own private land, that's another matter, and you don't have to send an application to the BLM. There will be regulations and approvals and so forth, but you can still do it.

    There is no freeze on the building of all solar power generation stations - this is a freeze on applications for using public land managed by the BLM only.

  • by lazyDog86 ( 1191443 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:45AM (#23968273)
    They're not stopping everything, they are not letting anything new start while they do better planning. Sounds like a good solution for poor planning to me.
  • Freeze? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DeadPanDan ( 1165901 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:50AM (#23968333)
    Is there any way that it could be worse than coal? Do you need two years to answer this question?
  • Re:aaahh, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:53AM (#23968369) Journal

    Stupid people have existed in every group, every movement, every race and nation, for all time. For instance, a lot of stupid people like Ron Paul. A lot of stupid people like Obama, and McCain. There are just a lot of stupid people. It isn't smart to judge a group by the stupid people that support it, but by the smart people who do.

    As for laughing at activists, the only people I've met who consider that worthwhile are people who haven't done anything good and decent with their lives, and resent people who have. But whatever, go denigrate people who've dedicated their lives to making the world a better place if that helps you sleep at night.

  • by emagery ( 914122 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:57AM (#23968437)
    I agree that it isn't a BAD thing... what bothers me, though, is how many in our government are pushing oil and coal as being uber critical to american energy needs... so much so that environment corners cut are worth the price... but when an alternative to their bias comes up, it's time to throw up the red flags... this isn't to say that oil/coal don't get enviro'd up the yin-yang, but the one sided bias is upsetting for a pro-solar guy like myself.
  • by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:57AM (#23968445) Journal

    Why cover the land ? Cover the roofs instead!

    I was once told this is because it devalues the property. It's a shame that other people don't think solar panels on a roof are attractive.

    On a side note, I would like to see solar panels installed over the vast stretches of parking lot we have in shopping malls, and amusement parks. It would produce electricity, and keep my car cooler in the summer.

  • Re:Public Land (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:59AM (#23968465)

    You obviously don't own any land. You have confused this with a free country.

    NO ONE owns any land. If you owned "your" land, why do you have to make quarterly rent payments?

  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:59AM (#23968477) Homepage Journal

    The simple answer is that Coal is cheaper than wind and solar.
    Also solar takes up a HUGE amount of land. Not the small scale solar systems that people put on their roofs but the large ones that can replace power plants. BTW small home solar in not effected.
    Deserts look empty but they are actually one of the more fragile ecosystems.

    So you want solar and think it is a good idea put some panels up on your roof.

  • by indifferent children ( 842621 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:02PM (#23968525)
    I'd like to at least be getting something out of all that sun other than dehydration and sunburn.

    Well, if you can find some way to grant a monopoly to the oil companies on the harnessing of solar power, I'm sure we can clear-up these bureaucratic hurdles PDQ.

  • by mikael ( 484 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:04PM (#23968543)

    What they mean is: We fear that if solar and wind power are allowed to grow, it may create unemployment in the coal-mining and gas extraction industries.

    A large solar and wind farm had the capability to replace the energy generated from a small coal mine. , which of course affects the voting pattern.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:05PM (#23968563) Homepage Journal

    Deserts look empty but they are actually one of the more fragile ecosystems.

    Deserts are not desirable ecosystems. They are what happens when you push a healthy ecosystem to the point of collapse. Over time and without human interference all deserts should shrink (this may require one or more ice age/warm period cycles, however.)

    I agree that the answer is to put solar etc. on rooftops. Unfortunately, most rooftops are pointed the wrong direction. Also it's not yet cost-effective for most people, who can't afford to spend 20 years' energy bills in one go (for solar) or who can't feasibly put up wind power on their house for whatever reason.

    We need more point-of-use generation, not to save money on transmission losses, but to reduce the amount of transmission equipment which is necessary. Reducing the dependence on centralized infrastructure can only be a good thing.

  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:12PM (#23968675) Homepage Journal
    You're saying that without humans there would be no deserts? I find this assertion to be difficult to believe. There is an argument that global warming has caused deserts to grow, but one also has to consider the effect of desert reclamation (the Soviets were big on this) through irrigation and careful land management.

    It's also blatantly wrong to say that deserts are collapsed ecosystems. Another ecosystem that dies off can turn into a desert, but within the desert is an ecosystem all to itself. They may not be desirable to humans, but there is no shortage of species that call a desert home.
  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:22PM (#23968879)

    You are wrong about the local heating being a problem. Many cities are tens of square miles, and while they experience a heating effect, it is several degrees, not several tens of degrees.

    A light breeze has the effect of spreading the heat from a 1 mile zone across several cubic miles of air in an hour. Significant local heating would *generate* a breeze.

  • by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:24PM (#23968927) Journal
    I heard that about ten years ago. Back then solar panels were uglier, more expensive and not as efficient. Things have changed, being green is trendy at the moment. Back then, being green and saving money didn't offset the fact they were unsightly.
  • Interesting Timing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sherriw ( 794536 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:27PM (#23969007)

    I find it interesting that this 'necessary delay' is happening right at the same time that Bush is pushing for oil development in more ecologically sensitive areas like Alaska. Is he hoping the delay will make oil exploration more necessary, or that the public will get the impression that there are big enviro concerns regarding solar power? When people read that the gov has halted something to 'investigate environmental concerns', they assume that there must be some concerns in the first place.

    I'm not saying there aren't enviro considerations with solar- but why wasn't this done years ago? And why not study solar projects already up and running? The timing is interesting is all I'm saying. And two years!? Give me a break.

  • by Gerald ( 9696 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:28PM (#23969021) Homepage

    The only reason the BLM is calling for this freeze is because they are incompetent government nabobs. They cannot deal with the paperwork, so they are panicking and forcing a freeze in the market

    The USPTO coped with a large amount of applications by approving a bunch of crappy applications. This was bad. The BLM is coping with a large amount of applications with a freeze on applications. This is ... bad?

  • by Don853 ( 978535 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:30PM (#23969053)
    That's not what they mean at all. What they mean is:

    We have a giant paperwork backlog and we're totally swamped. We're going to streamline the process. Don't give us anything new until we're done with that. In the meantime, we wouldn't have gotten to your new applications anyway.
  • by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:40PM (#23969207) Homepage

    Reality however has 2 "little" problems with your "bother"
    -> oil IS "uber critical to american energy needs"
    -> so is coal

    Unless you're willing to cut your energy usage by 80% (meaning that you're asking alaskans to DIE or basically demanding america abandons alaska altogether)

    -> solar isn't critical, and won't be for (at least) 10 years, probably more, current technology is not good enough. It does NOT work.

    per contrast

    -> nuclear isn't critical, but it CAN be. It can, for at least 20 or 30 years, and given only current technological levels, constructed within 1-2-3 years, supply the needed energy (to keep alaska populated, to keep the economy running, whatever argument tickles your fancy). The side comment with this argument is that however much nuclear can heat homes and run factories, it cannot run cars (yet). That, too will take another 10 years or so.

    So to be completely honest, except for the odd experiment, the best amount of solar power in your grid feed (right now) is ... 0%, all the rest are "coolness" or pr-projects. They look good, but they're wastes of money.

    They serve no practical purpose (beyond potentially building confidence in engineering of this type of power systems, but since the supply of energy feeding into them currently sucks ...)

    Sorry to say it so bluntly but ... wake up. We cannot fix it now. In 5 years we need to take another good luck, in the meantime only research projects are worth it, we cannot, for at least 5 years, expect any reasonable quantity of energy to come from solar power.

  • Re:aaahh, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WhiplashII ( 542766 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:48PM (#23969357) Homepage Journal

    go denigrate people who've dedicated their lives to making the world a better place

    Yah right - activists do not want to make the world better, They want to prevent me from being happy, because my happy is different from their happy - and they think that makes me wrong.

    Why do you think they never want a compromise? For them, a compromise is a loss - they need to stop others, not move themselves forward.

    My 2 cent political descriptions: Republicans want to build new stuff, Democrats want to redistribute existing stuff. These are not irreconcilable, unless it is really about power.

  • by emagery ( 914122 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:57PM (#23969523)

    And as long as you think so, it never will get fixed... you are confusing what is with what could be if someone just plain did it. It was through fossil fuel industry pressure that the last great push made by the carter administration (that would have had 20% of today's grid on solar by 2000) was eviscerated just after Reagan took office... my whole point is... this is very much in the same vein of inappropriate pressures against viable alternatives.

    The problem with your argument is that NEW power sources (of any sort) are needed right now... and you have more options than coal and oil for each new plant you build... but they are getting get-out-of-jail-free cards while solar and wind are swimming in a sea that consists of nothing BUT red tape, despite practically miraculous improvement in both industries.

    And there are quite a few countries around the world that are poking some holes in your argument that solar and wind are not currently competitive.

  • So,,, Capacitors (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Noted Futurist ( 653413 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:59PM (#23969573)
    The coming giant capacitor facilities will hold the power made during the day for use at night.
    Of course, clouds are still a problem.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:03PM (#23969619)

    In my case, the King (or just as often,
    Queen) of England was very fond of killing
    my forebears, so the political climate
    was the climate that mattered to them.

  • Re:aaahh, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:04PM (#23969635) Journal

    Right, because it is so nonsensical not only to want clean energy. Let's laugh at people because making clean energy is sometimes harder and more complicated than it looks. Yes, that makes all the sense in the world, as does lumping all activists together and tarring them all with the same brush.

  • Re:aaahh, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:06PM (#23969665) Homepage

    But whatever, go denigrate people who've dedicated their lives to making the world a better place if that helps you sleep at night.

    I agree that ridiculing activists is a waste of time that could be dedicated to something more useful. But, from my experience, most of the most energetic activists I see haven't dedicated their lives to making the world a better place. They've dedicated their lives to pouring huge amounts of time and effort making themselves feel like they're making the world a better place - Big difference. Writing letters and submitting petitions is typically a lot more effective than marching with signs, but not nearly as much fun nor as good a social experience. There are a lot of excellent exceptions of course, but the trend seems to be to latch on to a cause you like, find some statistics/publications that support it, ignore all contrary evidence, then make some signs and go harass anyone with an opposing opinion.

    Sorry for the slightly off-topic rant - I'm hopped up on chocolate-covered espresso beans. =)

  • by fbjon ( 692006 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:29PM (#23970147) Homepage Journal
    Covering the area of the US with 8% efficient solar panels will give about 3,9 * 10^14 W during the day, assuming a fairly average 500 W / m^2. The (total!) energy comsumption of the entire world was only about 1,5 * 10^13 in 2005, according to Wikipedia. Covering just 5% of the US area would match the world energy consupmtion during the day.

    Now, use better panels with closer to 20% efficiency, and spread them around in more efficient locations, such as in the world's deserts, and you have yourself abundant energy using nothing but solar panels.

  • by raddan ( 519638 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:33PM (#23970221)
    I've read a few of your comments, and I can't tell if you're just trolling or if you actually believe the nonsense you're spewing here. Solar power looking good but being a waste of money? I think that the deluge of money being put into solar power right now argues against you, because generally speaking, if people invest in something, they expect a return. Now, obviously, solar plants aren't as sophisticated or efficient as current coal plant technology, but they do produce power, and the are becoming competitive price-per-watt. It's already cheaper than conventional power sources for hard-to-reach applications, like remote telecommunications, etc. But more importantly, it has been for nearly 30 years.

    Besides, "waste of money" is a very subjective thing here. I personally don't consider something to be a waste if it is the responsible thing to do.

    I don't understand all the hostility toward solar. There's no doubt-- it's pretty cool tech. We like cool tech here, right? You're like the people who kept saying "computers aren't for the masses" right up until they realized, Oh Shit!, the masses have computers now! Yeah, there are technical challenges to adding PV technology to our existing grid, but overcoming challenges is what humans excel at. We are being bombarded with solar energy! Wikipedia says that biomass alone absorbs 3 ZJ of energy per year. Solar power drives biological systems (our entire food chain!), atmospheric systems, oceanic systems, so-- are you kidding me? Why not try to capture that?!
  • by AxeTheMax ( 1163705 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:00PM (#23970707)

    For obvious reasons nothing will grow below a solar panel.

    Not correct. You probably mean that nothing that needs photosynthesis will grow in darkness. What you will have under a freestanding solar panel is shade from direct sunlight. This is a different matter; partial shade is good for numerous plants, including many crop plants. Think of the difference between umbra and penumbra, and between sunlight and skylight.

  • by Sleepy ( 4551 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:23PM (#23971055) Homepage

    Whatever, this is a good move. I may be wrong about the local heating, there may be other dangers, or none at all. I'd prefer the facts came from a properly conducted study then the mouth of a solar power evangelist with passion but no facts supported by evidence.

    How 'bad' would solar have to be to halt it? Would it need to be 50% as bad as fossil fuel? 75%? Twice as bad?

    I'd be more inclined to agree with your points - it's sound reasoning - except you are NOT applying it to ALL energy types, just the punk upstart. That's not sound.

    Given the huge expense of solar, we're not in danger of blanketing the SouthWest with solar panels anytime soon (although if we found more oil there, there's NO such hesitation in plastering it in oil wells).

    The science on solar right now is that it is among the safest and cleanest, period. It's NOT "new" by any stretch. If that's too good to be true, it can be studied while building new plants. There are plenty of economic brakes on solar right now to keep it from becoming a major portion of the grid.

    Like everything else the Bush administration does, this is designed to keep oil prices high. Right down to post 9-11 fights on better CAFE fuel standards, and fighting FOR tax credits on Hummers (which exceeded Prius tax credits by 40X!). I swear the only reason that devil hasn't threatened Dubai or Saudi Arabia with war is because he plans to RETIRE there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:31PM (#23971183)

    We also have these things called "batteries" and similar devices that we can use for "energy storage" so that we can power things when the sun doesn't shine. Feel free to stay in the dark though...

  • by sampson7 ( 536545 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:32PM (#23971221)
    I think what many of find frustrating is that whatever bad environmental affects caused by solar plants are strictly localized to the immediate vicinity of the plant. What's the worst that could happen? A small portion of the planet is fouled.

    Compare that to the potential harm resulting from other sources of electrical generation, where the affects are literally global in scale.

    Even compared to the amount of space required for hydroelectric projects, the potential environmental harm is extremely limited in scope.

    On the other hand, there are significant environmental affects related to the mining and production of the materials used in solar production -- so it's not like this is a perfect solution. However, those affects also have to be measured against the comparable affects of building other types of power plants.
  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:33PM (#23971233)

    for TWO YEARS? I'm sorry but stopping all new solar projects from getting investment funding for 2 years is not a good move.

    What they should be doing is temporarily changing anything in their procedures which would force them to accept or decline an application in a certain period. Then notify all new applicants that there will be a delay and new guidelines are being defined so their application might need to be updated once the guidelines have been determined. Those in the queue will be processed in the order received with any applicant post-action required drops that applicant onto the secondary queue.

    stopping the industry's growth is foolish and just what I would expect from a government based on oil industry people. They gutted the hybrid vehicle program as soon as they took office in 2000 so if that isn't a clue to their motives there are probably a dozen more.


  • by Frnknstn ( 663642 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:43PM (#23971385)

    environmental footprint of a large solar farm is worse than that of an oil-rig or gas mine

    The problem with both of those is they produce pollution both at the point of production and the point of consumption.

    The idea of 'green' also hinges of 'renewable'. The supplies of coal, oil, gas and fissionable materials is severely limited, whereas the components needed for production of solar panels are significantly more plentiful.

  • I'll take a crack (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tacokill ( 531275 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:43PM (#23971393)
    I know you were joking but there is a serious answer to your question: Farming.

    If you have driven from NYC to California, you know what I mean. It is the richest farmland in the world. And we have entire states of it. 100's of thousands of square miles.

    Back in the "olden days", that probably looked like heaven compared to Ireland, Scotland, England, etc.

    "I'll take a sunburn and sweat if I can just keep my damn crops alive!!!!!"
  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) * on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:51PM (#23971549) Homepage
    Just a hint:

    If you think the weather and animals in the US are dangerous,
    Don't ever, ever visit Australia.

  • by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:54PM (#23971595) Homepage

    The supplies of coal, oil, gas and fissionable materials is severely limited...

    I'm with you on oil and gas but, if we re-process and use sensible nuclear plants, there's enough fissionable material to power the earth for a long, long time. Of course, those are two big ifs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:59PM (#23971677)

    There are LARGE Solar thermal has been around since the 70's. There are plenty of studies on this. My guess is that the next president will remove these obstructionist as soon as they get in and the new ppl will order that this continues. Had it been a 6 month reprive, then it would have made sense. But 2 years? Nope. Right now, this smacks of a hand out to oil and coal.

  • by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @03:42PM (#23972449) Homepage
    This is actually very convenient! How much baking/TV/laundry are you doing at 4AM? People are most active with their electricity during the day (peak is usually around 4-5PM) and so is the sun.
  • by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @03:45PM (#23972493)

    And when is electrical consumption the highest? In parts of the US, this is during the day (AC). In other parts, it is in the evening (lights).

    If the increased in demand caused by the former could be fulfilled by solar instead of gas/coal/oil, it would already be a major step.

  • by MikeV ( 7307 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @04:22PM (#23973199)

    A power grid with diverse sources of power IS that giant battery. And in the SW, there are precious few cloudy days and energy is still generated even thru the clouds. When 360 days are sunny, what's the problem exploiting that energy that's freely raining down on the Earth? It's not a huge drawback and won't replace coal - but will augment it and reduce dependence on it. The more diverse our energy collection is, the less we have to dig the coal. Solar and wind are two big opportunities because over a tri-state area, it's always sunny during the day (and with solar-thermal the heat generates electricity thru the night) and it's always windy somewhere. Spread the plants out and you won't have that problem. Combine that with hydro and other technologies and coal becomes a small part of the whole rather than the main component.

  • by Medievalist ( 16032 ) on Friday June 27, 2008 @04:23PM (#23973239)

    Loosely coupled systems are more survivable, though usually less efficient, than vertically integrated systems. A power plant that uses multi-fuel burners and switches between propane and methane based on market price and availability will make more profit than a single-fuel plant unless said plant is located directly on top of a natural gas well owned by the plant. If all the methane (or all the propane) gets consumed by something else (say, a nanomachine or an inflammable bacteria or a government war effort) the multi-fuel plant survives and the vertically integrated competition ceases to exist.

    Humans don't photosynthesize because they are too busy running around avoiding saber-tooths and other humans to stand around in the sun. Eating things that photosynthesize and crapping out their seeds in rich piles of fertilizer is a better deal for everyone involved (including the saber-tooth).

    A plant is sessile because that's been an optimally survivable form given the genetic patterns available to plants and their intersection with real-world conditions. By sitting still, they can harvest enough energy to indulge in titanic production of bulk and/or offspring. In shady swamps, of course, the venus fly-trap with its poor access to nutrients and sunlight evolves to snap up insects.

    Sorry about the lack of structure in this post, but the first sentence tells you what happened to the Ents. They were too slow to keep us from eating them, and too fast to photosynthesize enough energy for reproduction. Venus flytraps can only exist in special ecological niches... you will note they are an endangered species.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.