Atlas unplugged

Never let it be said that we here at the SN&R won’t turn over each and every stone in the search for answers to the energy crisis. We accidentally nudged one rock last week and out crawled Ayn Rand. Well, not Rand exactly, but a swarm of the late author’s disciples.

Never mind the allegations of price fixing by big utilities, or market manipulation by the power producers, or the fact that demand for electricity can’t drop much even when the price skyrockets.

No, the real reason for our energy crisis is the sinister influence of environmentalism and its handmaiden, government regulation, according to the folks at the Ayn Rand Institute in Marina Del Ray, Calif.

The Institute last week issued a polemical titled “Why Greens Are to Blame for Blackout,” which details how radical environmentalists have used the government to block construction of new power plants, especially safe, clean nuclear power.

“The blackouts are an early warning sign of the dangers to human life coming from environmental activism,” it reads.

The letter breathlessly goes on to accuse greens of preventing coal and oil power plants from being built by “lobbying legislators to enact such draconian regulations and unreasonable air quality standards.”

Their solution? Start by getting rid of the alphabet soup of government agencies, like the EPA and California Energy Commission (CEC), and let the entrepreneurs get on with the business of building plants and selling power free of costly and time-consuming red tape (or green tape in this case).

“Man comes first,” says Institute spokesman Scott McConnell. “Not some snail-darter or other bird that might get polluted.”

Some might be tempted to dismiss the Randies as a fringe group of radical free-marketeers.

But plenty of lawmakers in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., as well as President George W. Bush, have been calling for “relaxed” environmental regulations to get more power on line.

More important, Rand likely has some friends in high places.

“Actually [Interior Secretary nominee] Gail Norton is a very big fan of Ayn Rand,” said McConnell.