New York’s road to a cleaner energy future could get off to a bumpy start if massive economic growth, energy gains and health benefits from natural gas development are left at the curb.
While state leadership has a commendable goal to begin implementing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan – which requires a 10 percent reduction in New York’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 – that will include shuttering many of high-carbon energy production plants and dramatically reducing generation capacity.
Though those actions will make progress when it comes to curbing carbon emissions, they create a zero sum game that literally hits home. How? Simple cause and effect: it means taking energy offline during a time frame when America’s energy consumption is expected to increase 14 percent. When you remove that power and compound that with the energy being lost through closure of the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant next year, it adds up to a dark outcome. Without any new power coming online, New York is looking at “lights out” for the equivalent of 2.9 million homes by 2030 — a 20 percent power deficit.
How then do New Yorkers realistically get greener but still meet energy needs – from the smart phone in your pocket to the factory down the road? Natural gas, the most abundant and affordable source of cleaner energy. New York already benefits from natural gas availability to keep energy costs down and than air cleaner than other states, generating 43 percent of our energy through it, but the potential is far greater on an environmental and economic level. For example, the Constitution Pipeline and several other shovel-ready natural gas projects in the planning phase would more than compensate for the power shortfall by delivering energy equivalent to powering 3 million homes.
That’s why the administration’s opposition to this pragmatic solution is disappointing. To respond to some extreme elements who don’t understand the tight energy situation New York is in, it is rejecting the power source available to us today in favor of renewables – whose affordability and reliability remain unproven or unready to shoulder power needs.
Renewables are laudable and worth our support where they make sense, but they cannot handle our energy demand at the current time. For instance, solar energy – which, parenthetically, needs natural gas for baseload power when the sun is not out – is not the answer by itself. Solar panels would need to cover half of New York City to overcome that 20 percent energy shortfall, at a cost of $51 billion. But New York can realize two-thirds of its clean energy requirements now by expanding natural gas deployment, simultaneously infusing thousands of good benefits-carrying jobs and nearly $38 million in potential economic investment into the state.
New York needs expanded natural gas infrastructure to cover its looming energy deficit and create cleaner skies for our children. Rejecting natural gas infrastructure build out such as the Constitution pipeline don’t solve a problem, they creates new ones. New Yorkers should urge the administration to reconsider its position and encourage Assembly members to support the development of natural gas infrastructure in the state.