This week, I performed fatherly duty: taking my daughters to a Los Angeles television studio to witness a live broadcast of the hit television program ?American Idol.? The top-rated show on Rupert Murdoch?s Fox Network?with its orchestrated applause and exploitation of brutal competition among teenage singers hoping to land a recording contract?is emblematic of Southern California?s new entertainment economy. From the advertising brought by its hefty audience, money flows to ?American Idol? to support Bentleys for the on-air personalities, granite-floored home additions for the producers, big screens for technical crew, and college expenses for the army of young ushers who handle the screaming crowd. Taken for granted is the electricity that powers the pulsating lights, panning cameras, wildly pounding sound system, and satellite dishes needed to air the show across a nation of true believers. ?American Idol??and countless shows and movies produced by the image factories of what?s known here as ?the industry??have Southern California?s economy moving again and are helping to fuel a growing demand for electricity. Already in the first quarter of this year, demand for electricity has jumped more than 4 percent, according to a California Independent System Operator report published earlier this week. News of the growth follows closely a projection by the California Energy Commission late last month that 4,630 MW of aging generation capacity may be retired over the next several years. CAISO has estimated that as much as 7,232 MW of capacity may be shut down. As my mind wandered during a commercial break amid the mindless banter of the executive producer to the audience about a fan who recently kissed show host Ryan Seacrest, I briefly wondered where the American idols of the future would get their energy: coal, liquefied natural gas, aging nuclear plants, or conservation and renewable resources? California has vast potential to develop renewable energy resources?even baseload power?including some 3,600 MW of biomass, 2,700 MW of geothermal, and what some say is virtually unlimited solar thermal power, where concentrated sunlight heats water into steam to drive turbines. At a cost of around 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, biomass and geothermal technologies can compete with natural gas?fired plants. For example, SolarGenex Energy has provided solar thermal power at 8 cents\/kWh from its Kramer Junction plant since 1987. Sharp Solar is considering expanding its photovoltaic panel factory in Memphis to meet growing demand, particularly in California. At 6.5 cents or less per kilowatt-hour, wind is economical and offers the potential to make hydrogen, which could be used to supply nighttime power or automotive fuel. The small nation of Denmark creates 2,880 MW of wind power and Germany, 12,000 MW of wind. While California?s renewables portfolio standard, public-benefits incentives, and other measures are stimulating the renewable power industry, more will be needed if the state expects to head off highly polluting alternatives. Plans for billions of dollars of new coal power plants, liquefied natural gas terminals, and repowering aged nuclear power plants pour forth?overpowering, if not suffocating, renewables. A place to start is to compare these fossil and nuclear projects nose to nose with renewable power alternatives as they come before policy makers. But despite all the state?s promotional activities for renewables, the typical environmental analysis for new power plants compares only the environmental degradation and economic chaos of the ?no project? alternative and various options for where to put the new facilities and how to bend the gas pipelines that serve them. Typical are the alternatives the California Lands Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard plan to examine in the environmental impact study for BHP Billiton?s proposed LNG terminal off the coast of the Ventura and Los Angeles County line. The study will compare the ?no project? alternative with various offshore locations for the terminal. It also will consider building the terminal onshore and different pipeline routes. The only ?alternative technologies? considered will be competing designs for LNG vaporizers and various ?floating designs? for the LNG terminal itself. Authorities simply will not examine?even for informational purposes or posterity?s sake?geothermal, biomass, solar, wind, and other renewable energy technologies as alternatives to traditional power plants. Unfortunately, many environmentalists are not much better, preferring to just say no to proposed projects instead of seizing on the need for them as an opportunity to advance renewable power. As I watch the hopeful young faces of the competitors on the stage, I think about their future in a state and nation dependent upon oil, coal, and imported LNG. A growing part of every dollar we spend on energy to power the homes, cars, and culture that we have come to idolize will go to countries where people resent our wealth, power, and arrogance. But why spoil the moment with such thoughts during this live entertainment broadcast? Better to just politely applaud on cue and accept that there is no alternative in this land of traditional fossilized American idols.