New York State Energy Foolishness and the Remedy in a Nutshell

natural gas now - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


There’s no foolishness like New York State energy foolishness. The state has a governor obtuse as a cow but as ambitious as a piranha. The result is chaos.

New York State energy foolishness is succinctly captured in a well-reasoned op-ed that recently appeared in the Albany Times-Union. Authored by State Senator Thomas F. O’Mara  of Elmira, `who happens to be chair of the Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation, it captures the situation beautifully and makes the case for a radical change in direction for the once Empire State.

New York State Energy Foolishness

Here are some key excerpts from the Op-Ed:

Since 1990, U.S. natural gas production is up 37 percent and greenhouse gas emissions are down 17 percent. From 2005-2015, natural gas consumption increased 24 percent — contributing to dramatic drops in a number of air pollutants, including sulfur dioxide (down 66 percent), fine particulate matter (down 34 percent), and nitrogen oxide (down 20 percent). One of the important benefits of natural gas is the way it works in concert with renewable forms of energy. The main challenge with relying on renewable sources of energy, such as wind or solar, is their inherent unreliability. Storage capacity simply is not ready for prime time yet and cannot meet our energy demands. Continued innovation and investment in this area is critical to the future viability of renewables.

Electric power needs to be used when it’s generated, so if the sun’s not out or the wind isn’t blowing, a wind turbine or solar panel isn’t much use to the electric grid. Natural gas is a strong compliment to renewables because it can be brought online quickly, ensuring reliability in systems when renewables aren’t producing. A recent report released by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy highlights this important link between domestic natural gas and renewables. According to the report, natural gas and renewables together generated 50 percent of U.S. electricity in 2017, up from 31 percent in 2008. At the same time, greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. power sector fell to their lowest levels since 1990. Furthermore, while we have made some gains in renewable electricity supply, our heating fuel remains at about 95 percent fossil fuel-based and natural gas is by far the cleanest of that heat source.

Unfortunately, a group of vocal activists refuses to accept the very real limits to renewable energy and are actively working to put a stranglehold on the development of much-needed energy infrastructure. Policymakers in New York State are blocking critical projects that are needed to supply energy to the entire New York and New England region — with very real world consequences for consumers who are cut off from access to affordable energy. The zealots may be successful in assuring that we don’t freeze to death in the dark, but ignoring natural gas may mean that we freeze to death with the lights on.

This past winter…New England was faced with constraints to its energy supply caused in part by the blockade of domestic pipeline construction, which Governor Cuomo has singlehandedly blocked. Faced with harsh winter weather and limited access to domestic natural gas, New England imported liquefied natural gas from Russia just to meet basic heating and electricity needs. So rather than tapping plentiful gas supplies in nearby Pennsylvania, New England consumers were forced to depend on Vladimir Putin and a bunch of Russian oligarchs to heat their homes.

Notice that Senator O’Hara is not opposed to renewables development. He sees them growing as part of our energy mix but he also sees what the shale revolution he sees across the state border from his district has wrought. He’s also a realist who sees what Andrew Cuomo’s New York State energy foolishness has wrought. If the Governor was serious about making progress on the goals he himself has set forth, he’d be embracing natural gas, allowing Upstate New York to benefit from it, letting it complement the development of renewables as supplemental energy.

If Cuomo was serious (and he most definitely is not serious) he would also embrace pipeline projects such as the Constitution Pipeline and the Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) project, rather than doing stupid fractivist tricks over them. The latter involves an expansion and upgrade of the Williams’ Transco pipeline that currently delivers about half of the natural gas consumed in New York City. The expansion would “increase natural gas deliveries to New York by 400 million cubic feet per day (enough natural gas to serve the daily needs of about 2.3 million homes) for the 2019/2020 winter heating season.” Moreover, this added capacity could displace the equivalent of 3,005,797 gallons of heating oil, reducing CO2 emissions by up to 2.4 million tons per year.

What’s not to like about a project like this? Nothing, of course. Likewise for the Constitution Pipeline. These are essential projects designed to keep New York and New England off the Russian energy dole, while ensuring a reliable energy system that can actually accommodate more renewables and dramatically lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Thank you, Senator O’Hara for speaking out!


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