FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

What’s Wrong With Cuomo’s Energy Plan?

New York State faces a fateful choice over its energy, environmental, and economic future.

It can chose a 21st century upgrade to clean energy and create a sustainable prosperity that protects our climate, cleans our air, and revives our economy. Or it can continue to rely on a 19th and 20th century fossil fueled energy system that will leave it battered by climate change, poisoned by pollution, and economically stagnant while other states and nations pass it by as they adopt the new sustainable technologies of the 21st century.

Unfortunately, New York’s draft Energy Plan points backward to the fossil fueled past that leads to economic and environmental decline.  The carbon emission reductions goal of the draft Energy Plan is far too little and too late.

The draft Energy Plan affirms Governor Paterson’s 2009 Executive Order 24 committing New York to the consensus goal of the International Panel on Climate Change at that time of an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 below 1990 levels. Even at that time, and reaffirmed by more recent scientific studies, this goal was insufficient to stay below the 2 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures that is seen as a tipping point where an irreversible acceleration of global warming would be triggered by the release of carbon and methane now sequestered under the frozen polar zones of the planet.

Climate scientists now say the industrially developed areas of the world like New York must cut emissions by between 6 percent per year (James Hansen et al) and 10 percent per year (Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows). If New York State is to do its part in averting climate calamity, it must commit to a goal of achieving a zero-carbon energy system, or better a negative carbon energy system (by sequestering in soils the carbon residues of biofuels), in between 10 years (at 10 percent reduction per year) and 17 years (at 6 percent reduction per year).

Fortunately, there’s the recent peer-reviewed study by a team of Stanford and Cornell scientists, engineers, and economists that demonstrates the technological and economic feasibility of converting to New York State’s all-purpose energy system to 100% carbon-free energy in 17 years (Mark Jacobson et al). This goal and this plan should be the starting point for a state Energy Plan.

This clean energy future would put New York on the cutting edge of the Third Industrial Revolution that is already unfolding. Using technologies that are commercially available today, we can move quickly from the coal, oil, and gas fired technologies of the First and Second Industrial revolutions – and the pollution, sprawl, and centralized corporate and governmental power of those eras – into the sustainable clean energy system of the future.

The clean energy future features electric power and heat from the solar- and gravity-derived sources (active solar, wind, ground-source heat, small hydro, wave, tidal). Every home, office, and factory will be a power plant (solar panels) with energy storage capacity (hydrogen fuel cells). All road and rail transportation will be powered by clean electricity. The whole system will be tied together by an interactive smart grid—an energy Internet. Producers and users will sell electricity when in surplus and buy when in need.

This distributed harvesting of solar energy and its derivatives will decentralize economic and political power away from the giant energy corporations and centralized governments of the fossil fuel era and back toward local homes, businesses, and governments. Our choice is between the concentrated, hierarchical power of the old hydrocarbon society and the decentralized, democratic power of the new solar society.

The economic impact of building this carbon-free energy system in New York State would be enormous. It would create millions of good paying jobs. The Jacobson study projects $600 billion in investments over 17 years, yielding 4.5 million construction jobs and 58,000 permanent jobs with payrolls of $314 billion ($18.5 billion per year) in wages and salaries during 17-year building phase and $5 billion per year for ongoing operations and maintenance. The savings in health care costs alone from the elimination of fossil fuel air pollution would cover the costs of building the energy system before accounting for electricity sales.

Unfortunately, the Energy Planning Board, mostly appointed by Governor Cuomo, has produced a draft plan that puts forward outdated recommendations that continue to rely on dirty coal, oil, and gas and unsafe nuclear. In fact, it projects burning more methane-leaking and carbon-spewing natural gas than current levels. It envisions new natural gas pipelines and other gas infrastructure that encourages fracking in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and, sooner or later, fracking in New York.

The Governor’s plan would replace oil with natural gas for heating, a sideways move indicative of its lack of ambition. The clean energy alternative is ground-source heat, passive solar, and efficient electric heating.

Cuomo’s plan locks New Yorkers into additional decades of expensive, unsafe nuclear electricity. Even though two of the state’s nuclear plant’s licenses expire in 2029, the draft Plan foresees higher levels of nuclear generation in 2030. If the Governor wants more nukes, he should say so. There’s nary a word about transition assistance for workers and communities currently dependent on nuclear power stations.

The draft Plan pays lip service to the importance of energy affordability, but does not mandate that low-income ratepayers be protected against unaffordable gas and power bills.

Even the good recommendations in the draft Plan—utility reform, improved building codes, electric vehicle adoption—lack sufficient detail and measurable goals. The draft Plan acknowledges the need for electric calls, better public transit, and community planning that discourages sprawl, but does not supply the policies necessary to move beyond rhetoric.

Our choice is clear. We can surrender to the energy giants that want to drill, frack, and burn every last hydrocarbon until our planet and economy are ruined. Or we ban fracking and shift away from all fossil fuels as we build sustainable prosperity based on harvesting the plentiful, clean, and renewable energy that bathes our state as sunshine and wind, and laps at our shores as waves and tides.

Howie Hawkins is the Green Party candidate for governor.

Steve Breyman teaches “Energy Politics” at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Reach him at breyms@rpi.edu

 

 

More articles by:

Steve Breyman was a William C. Foster Visiting Scholar Fellow in the Clinton State Department, and serves as an advisor to Jill Stein, candidate for the Green Party presidential nomination. Reach him at breyms@rpi.edu

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
January 17, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: No Woman, No Cry
Kathleen Wallace
Hijacking the Struggles of Others, Elizabeth Warren Style
Robert Hunziker
The Rumbling Methane Enigma
Frank Joyce
Will the Constitution Fail Again?
Pete Dolack
Claims that the ‘NAFTA 2’ Agreement is Better are a Macabre Joke
Andrew Levine
Biden Daze
Vijay Prashad
Not an Inch: Indian Students Stand Against the Far Right
Ramzy Baroud
Sealed Off and Forgotten: What You Should Know about Israel’s ‘Firing Zones’ in the West Bank
Norman Solomon
Not Bernie, Us. Not Warren, Us. Their Clash Underscores the Need for Grassroots Wisdom
Ted Rall
America’s Long History of Meddling in Russia
David Rosen
The Irregulators vs. FCC: the Trial Begins
Jennifer Matsui
The Krown
Joseph Natoli
Resolutions and Obstacles/2020
Sarah Anderson
War Profiteering is Real
James McFadden
The Business Party Syndicate
Ajamu Baraka
Trump Prosecutors Make Move to Ensure that Embassy Protectors are Convicted
David Swanson
CNN is Trash
Rev. William Alberts
Finally a Christian Call for Trump’s Removal
Dave Lindorff
The ERA Just Got Ratified by Virginia, the Needed 38th State!
W. T. Whitney
Mexico Takes Action on Coup in Bolivia and on CELAC
Steve Early
How General Strike Rhetoric Became a Reality in Seattle 
Jessicah Pierre
Learning From King’s Last Campaign
Mark Dickman
Saint Greta and the Dragon
Jared Bernstein - Dean Baker
Reducing the Health Care Tax
Clark T. Scott
Uniting “Progressives” Instead of Democrats
Nilofar Suhrawardy
Trump & Johnson: What a Contrast, Image-wise!
Ron Jacobs
Abusing America’s Children—Free Market Policy
George Wuerthner
Mills Are Being Closed by National Economic Trends, Not Environmental Regulations
Basav Sen
Nearly All Americans Want Off of Fossil Fuels
Mark Ashwill
Playing Geopolitical Whack-a-Mole: The Viet Nam Flag Issue Revisited
Jesse Jackson
New Hope for One of America’s Poorest Communities
Binoy Kampmark
Harry and Meghan Exit: The Royal Family Propaganda Machine
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again!
Rob Okun
A Call to Men to join Women’s March
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
We All Need to Be Tree Huggers Now
Tom Stephens
The New York Times’ Delusions of Empire
Julian Rose
Fake-Green Zero Carbon Fraud
Louis Proyect
The Best Films of 2019
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: Into Kosovo
Colin Todhunter
Gone Fishing? No Fish but Plenty of Pesticides and a Public Health Crisis
Julian Vigo
Can New Tech Replace In-Class Learning?
Gaither Stewart
The Bench: the Life of Things
Nicky Reid
Trannies with Guns: Because Enough is Enough!
James Haught
Baby Dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark
David Yearsley
Brecht in Berlin
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail