Launching the New York Green New Deal

This is one of a series of posts on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York Green New Deal. As part of his 2019 Justice Agenda he included a nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy.

Not surprisingly there are no details other than the announcement, no mention of potential costs and no explanation how all this will affect any of the many impacts that he claims are caused by climate change. There is a proposal to provide the plan to make New York carbon neutral and I will blog on those plans as they become available. In the meantime this post discusses the language used to describe introductory rationale for the Green New Deal.

In the following sections I list the text from the announcement and my indented comments follow.

The Imperative

Recognizing the imperative to create healthy communities today while protecting the environment for generations to come, Governor Cuomo is consistently on the front lines of the battle against climate change. In addition to securing environmental protection and promoting sustainability, the Governor’s vision for a clean, resilient New York calls for the clean energy industry to be a significant engine of economic opportunity and growth.

Advocates for clean energy rarely consider history. The fact is that New York communities are as healthy today as they have ever been. In the last 50 years New York has made tremendous strides reducing air pollution emissions and the air quality has improved markedly. However, it is important to consider the fact that without fossil fuels our society would still be stuck in the mostly agrarian society of the early 1800s when lives were brutal and short. I encourage you to read The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels to understand why both the positive and negative impacts of fossil fuels should be considered in any state policy.

Cuomo calls for the clean energy industry to provide economic opportunity and growth. I personally question whether any industry that depends on subsidies will really provide growth. The Green New Deal is loaded with money for rent seeking opportunists but it is not clear if the model proposed will be sustainable.

The New Normal

The signs of a changing climate are indisputable. When Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in late 2017, Governor Cuomo and New Yorkers across the state leapt to action to deliver aid and support. In response to an official request from Governor Ricardo Rosselló, Governor Cuomo led a sweeping effort to provide emergency goods and services and deployed more than 1,000 personnel including hundreds of utility workers and power experts to help with electricity restoration. In stark contrast to the federal government, New York’s commitment to Puerto Rico remains unwavering, but without swift action to reduce the greenhouse gasses that drive climate change, devastating hurricanes like Maria—and Superstorm Sandy—will be the new normal.

As a meteorologist I must point out that no one and I mean no one has ever claimed that hurricanes will not happen in the future whatever we do to reduce greenhouse gasses. Even if you believe that whatever changed climate in the past is now overwhelmed by the greenhouse gas control knob on climate, the reality is that this means that there might be more a few more hurricanes and they might be stronger but hurricanes have always happened. Rather than investing in trying to mitigate climate change it is much more likely to be cost effective to adapt to existing climate and historical hurricanes first and make additional investments as necessary for any future changes. Finally I need to point out that the suggestion that hurricanes are getting worse is not true.

As a resident of New York I have the utmost sympathy for Puerto Rico but honestly we have more than enough problems in our state. As a result I have concerns that the Governor’s unwavering support to Puerto Rico is diverting resources that might be more appropriately used at home.

Cuomo’s Legacy

During Governor Cuomo’s first two terms, New York banned fracking of natural gas, committed to phasing out coal power by 2020, and was among the first states to mandate 50 percent renewable power by 2030. Under the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) agenda, renewable energy is growing rapidly across the state: solar has increased over 1,500 percent, New York has held the largest renewable energy procurements by a state in U.S. history, and offshore wind is poised to transform the state’s electricity supply to be cleaner and more sustainable. Governor Cuomo’s climate leadership is demonstrating that a transition to clean energy is more than technically feasible and cost-effective – it can be an engine of new economic opportunity.

Cuomo’s legacy is in the eye of beholder. New York’s emissions from coal power have dropped markedly in the past ten years because of fuel switching, mostly because of lower natural gas prices caused by fracking. New York has missed out on economic development due to fracking too. Importantly it is too early to claim that Cuomo has demonstrated that the transition to clean energy is technically feasible and cost-effective. Renewable energy is diffuse and intermittent and to this point those limitations have not been addressed in New York. However, there will come a point when they must be addressed and to this point New York does not even have a plan much less demonstrated success.

The Green New Deal

Amidst the Trump Administration’s assault on the environment and in order to continue New York’s progress in the fight against climate change, Governor Cuomo is announcing New York’s Green New Deal, a nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy. At the Governor’s direction, New York will move boldly to achieve this goal with specific near-term actions and long-term strategies to spur unparalleled innovation and transform the state’s electric, transportation, and building infrastructure while prioritizing the needs of low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. This landmark initiative will further drive the growth of New York’s clean energy economy, create tens of thousands of high-quality 21st century jobs, provide all New Yorkers with cleaner air and water by reducing harmful emissions, and set an example of climate leadership for the rest of the nation and world to follow.

I think this paragraph clearly shows the political motivations of the Governor’s climate agenda. Is it too much to expect that the Governor will provide the cost of his agenda and the effects on climate of his actions. It is all talk and nothing substantive to show why the plan will not suffer from the cost increases of the German “Energiewende”. In South Australia the clean energy transition increased the use of wind energy so much that the interconnection between a wind farm and the network caused disturbances that caused a blackout. The final report claimed that the intermittent nature of wind was not to blame but I say that misses the point. They say “Unexpected operation of the control settings resulted in the sudden loss of generation from the wind farms” and I say were not for the policies that induced those wind farms they never would have been a problem. I am convinced that implementing such a major change to the energy system is going to lead to teething problems and consequence that far outweigh the negligible benefits of carbon dioxide reductions in New York.

My Conclusion

Sadly it appears that New York State energy policy is driven by emotional arguments that ignore the benefits of fossil fuels and the tremendous improvements that the state has made to improve air quality. Despite the assurances of the Governor, a clean energy transition is not simple and experience to date is no guide to the future success of the ambitious plans outlined in the Green New Deal.

Author: rogercaiazza

I am a meteorologist (BS and MS degrees), was certified as a consulting meteorologist and have worked in the air quality industry for over 40 years. I author two blogs. Environmental staff in any industry have to be pragmatic balancing risks and benefits and (https://pragmaticenvironmentalistofnewyork.blog/) reflects that outlook. The second blog addresses the New York State Reforming the Energy Vision initiative (https://reformingtheenergyvisioninconvenienttruths.wordpress.com). Any of my comments on the web or posts on my blogs are my opinion only. In no way do they reflect the position of any of my past employers or any company I was associated with.

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