Nothing left to lose


Renewable energy sources may not belch carbon dioxide or other nasty gasses into the atmosphere, but that doesn't mean they're impact-free. Solar power, if done on the scale necessary to replace coal, would take up huge swaths of desert land. Wind turbines kill birds and bats and, to some people's eyes, just aren't very pretty. Geothermal development carries with it the risk of drilling into hell. All will require the construction of a lot of new transmission lines, some of which may have to go through some sensitive -- and scenic -- places.

That's what makes this map of EPA-listed contaminated sites with high wind-energy potential so interesting. The places on the map are pretty messed up already, so it's hard to imagine that anyone would have a problem with re-developing them as wind farms. And many of the places, as industrial sites, already have transmission lines going to them.

If you go to the EPA website, you'll find data that you can plug into Google Earth to make maps of contaminated sites with potential for other types of renewable energy-development. These contaminated sites won't provide all the energy we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. But developing them for renewable energy could be an uncontroversial -- and redemptive -- way to start.