This is Jon’s last column for the week; he’s on vacation till next Monday.

In doing some research for an environmental article recently, I noticed that virtually every one of the leftist environmental groups is opposed to coal-fired power plants.

Actually, it’s understandable. Most plants, these groups say (and I agree), are old and not up to current air quality standards – standards which are mandated by the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency.

These plants emit far too many contaminants and pollutants into the air, and though air quality is improving generally, without these kinds of power plants, our air quality nationally would improve much faster.

When ecological groups present their arguments as calm, well-reasoned factual reports, they do a good job of making their cases to the American people and our leaders. When such groups, however, base their arguments on few facts but lots of emotionalism, that’s when they cease to be good public health advocates and instead start to sound like envirowacko loonies – unreasonable ones, at that.

Nowhere is this more demonstrable than in California right now.

Granted, a Republican governor made a bad decision to sign a bad energy deregulation law in 1996, but liberal lawmakers – influenced by these leftist eco-nuts – have done far worse since then by doing nothing to ease the state’s problems they saw coming.

California leaders, for instance – by caving to eco-interests – have not permitted a single new power plant to be built in more than 10 years.

Yet these same influential eco-groups hate coal plants, hate hydro plants and really hate nuclear-powered plants (though the latter is the most technically proficient and produces no pollution at all). To listen to them, you’d think their solution was to have everyone switch off and, for an hour a day, ride a bicycle-powered generator to fix the state’s worsening energy crisis.

Worse, at the same time, these loons are demanding cleaner air and cleaner water and are complaining to any lawmaker or advocate who doesn’t move fast enough to “clean up our environment.”

This is unreasonable envirowackoism at its level best.

In essence, state and federal officials are being backed into a corner by non-thinking Fantasy Island types who aren’t providing any answers or solutions, aren’t leaving officials any wiggle room and will complain no matter what is decided.

It is a fact, for instance, that Californians cannot sustain their own power needs as things are now. They have to build more plants.

What is equally true is that many of the state’s air and water pollution problems won’t be reduced until new, non-fossil fuel plants replace old coal-burners and hydroelectric plants that are – anybody? – adding so much pollution to the state’s major urban centers.

Finally, such plants probably won’t ever get built because the only type of plant that currently produces no pollution is a nuclear plant. Forget the windmills and batteries for now ’cause the technology just isn’t here yet.

The thing envirowackos don’t realize is that people don’t have to be envirowackos to want clean air, clean water and clean soil. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t want these things.

But you do have to be willing to compromise on some issues in order to fulfill needs for the greater good. That’s when thinking rather than reacting emotionally is most important.

Thinking people know, for instance, that U.S. nuclear technology is first-rate; the best in the world. I live within eyeshot of a nuclear power plant (it’s many miles away, mind you, but I can see the cooling tower from my city). Such plants are heavily regulated by state and federal agencies and must follow the strictest operational guidelines in the world.

These plants don’t pollute, per se, but they do produce spent nuclear fuel rods. We have the technology to reuse them (you know, as in, recycle – another alleged enviro quest), but we can’t and don’t because of ridiculous rules and cost-prohibitive mandates which forbid it.

So what are we stuck with? What are Californians stuck with?

Coal-fired plants that pollute because they’re not up to code.

Hydro-electric plants that pollute.

Other plants that operate on fossil fuels and, hence, pollute.

And a rising energy need in the state and nationally.

This is the crux of wacko environmentalism. No compromise, no thinking and no solutions to the problems – just chronic whining and surreal expectations.

That’s why if we’re going to solve our energy problems in this country, our leaders – from both parties – should forget about trying to please eco-nuts who cannot be placated, satisfied or dealt with, no matter what sane, rational approaches are attempted.

The energy-related progress of our great nation demands well-rounded, well-reasoned sanity, not more hot air from the lunatic fringe.

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