Climate Act Hubris

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) has a legal mandate for New York State greenhouse gas emissions to meet the ambitious net-zero goal by 2050.  The Hochul Administration subscribes to the belief that a collective crossing of fingers will ensure that the electric system that has taken decades to develop can transition to a system not using the fossil fuels, the foundational building block of progress and prosperity, by 2040.  This post highlights comments by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos that epitomize this position.

Everyone wants to do right by the environment to the extent that they can afford to and not be unduly burdened by the effects of environmental policies.  I submitted comments on the Climate Act implementation plan and have written extensively on New York’s net-zero transition because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy embodied in the Climate Act outstrip available renewable technology such that this supposed cure will be worse than the disease.  The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

Climate Act Background

The Climate Act establishes a “Net Zero” target (85% reduction and 15% offset of emissions) by 2050. The Climate Action Council is responsible for preparing the Scoping Plan that will “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda”.  They were assisted by Advisory Panels who developed and presented strategies to the meet the goals to the Council.  Those strategies were used to develop the integration analysis prepared by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and its consultants that tried to quantify the impact of the strategies.  That material was used to write a Draft Scoping Plan that was released for public comment at the end of 2021. The Climate Action Council states that it will revise the Draft Scoping Plan based on comments and other expert input in 2022 with the goal to finalize the Scoping Plan by the end of the year.

The Independent Power Producers of New York hosted a conference on September 14, 2022 that included a couple of relevant presentations.  Writing in the Albany Times Union, Rick Karlin described the presentation by Michael Mehling, deputy director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Mehling argued that given the affordability and reliability issues evident in Europe at this time, that a Plan B backup using existing technology and natural gas is an appropriate approach.

According to Karlin’s article, Commissioner Seggos disagreed:

“I don’t think there is a Plan B,” state Environmental Commission Basil Seggos told those at the gas conference.  Seggos echoed the thoughts of environmentalists who believe the need to reduce carbon emissions in order to fight global warming is so urgent that the shift to renewables needs to push ahead, even though there will be costs. “I think we are on the edge right now when it comes to global emissions,” Seggos added.

 I will address this supposition in this article.

Some Ohm Truths About the Great Green Fantasy

After I saw the Seggos quotes I was prompted to write this article when I read an article by Peter Smith in Quadrant outline that made points about similar efforts in Australia.  Smith introduces his concerns:

No sane person should be fooled. A climate-cult madness has infected governments and their activist agencies; exemplar, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). Delusions of grandeur is a common manifestation of madness. Climate cultists fit the profile. Clothing themselves in virtue, they strut about proclaiming that they can save the earth from a fiery end if only we would give away the foundational building block of progress and prosperity; namely, fossil fuels.

New York is different inasmuch as the New York market operator, New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), is not driving the Climate Act bus.  Instead, the state’s politicians passed legislation that gave the keys to the Climate Action Council’s politically-chosen ideologues.  Seggos is co-chair of the Climate Action Council and has gone to the COP26 Glasgow meeting and the signing ceremony for the Inflation Reduction Act to tout New York’s climate virtues. 

I maintain the biggest shortcoming of the Climate Act is the lack of a feasibility analysis.  Smith describes a similar situation in Australia:

As Stephen Kruiser puts it, they act “as if we can go from Point A to Point Z without hitting any of the 24 points between them. They truly believe that they can mandate the future.” As I said, delusions of grandeur; epitomised by AEMO and its “2022 Integrated System Plan.” A plan having the delusional and grandiose objective of engineering “a true transformation of the NEM [National Electricity Market, which excludes WA and NT] from fossil fuels to firmed renewables.”

New York just assumes that they too can get from the current electric system to a zero-emissions electric system by 2040. 

The recently released NYISO 2021-2040 System & Resource Outlook report notes that:

  • Significant new resource development will be required to achieve CLCPA energy targets.
  • To achieve an emission-free grid, dispatchable emission-free resources (DEFRs) must be developed and deployed throughout New York. It is important to note that the lead time necessary for commercialization, development, permitting, and construction of DEFR power plants will require action much sooner if this timeline is to be achieved.
  • As the energy policies in neighboring regions evolve, New York’s imports and exports of energy could vary significantly due to the resulting changes in neighboring grids.

In Australia “The plan calls for the supply of electricity to almost double by 2050; from just under 180 terawatt hours (TWh), to 320 TWh.”  New York load is projected to increase less by 2040, it increases slightly less from 146 TWh to at least 245 TWh.  Smith goes on to explain that the amount of electricity needed when transport, industry, offices and residences are electrified is extraordinary and claims that the official projections are underestimated.  To meet this demand Australia and New York both increase the amount of wind and solar in operation tremendously.  So much in fact that the presumption that the equipment can be permitted, fabricated, and constructed in the time frames required strains credulity.  Both Australia and New York need to build significant amounts of transmission with the same limitations and the same concerns apply to this build out too.  New York has studiously avoided any estimates of consumer costs but surely the build out of all this infrastructure will be enormous.  Smith also points out that the labor needed to install all this infrastructure will also be a constraint.  Smith concludes: “To wit, it’s a case of delusions being not delusional enough. Increased madness required.” 

Conclusion

Seggos believes that “the need to reduce carbon emissions in order to fight global warming is so urgent that the shift to renewables needs to push ahead, even though there will be costs”.  The entire intent of my blog is to discuss tradeoffs between environmental and energy policies.  The political agenda of the Hochul Administration precludes an honest discussion of any tradeoffs.  They just ignore anything inconsistent or inconvenient. 

Seggos claims we are on the edge with respect to global emissions.  If New York’s emission reductions could truly make a difference it would be one thing, but the State has never offered an estimate of the Climate Act effect on global emissions or global warming.  I have found that New York’s emissions are only 0.45% of global emissions.  The change to global warming from eliminating New York GHG emissions is only 0.01°C by the year 2100 which is too small to be measured much less have an effect on any of the purported damages of greenhouse gas emissions.  Furthermore, whatever New York does to reduce emissions will be supplanted by global emissions increases in less than a year.

The Draft Scoping Plan repeats the consensus story that imminent climate catastrophe is inevitable.  However, those claims are based on model assessments and not observations.  A recent paper concludes that “on the basis of observational date, the climate crisis that, according to many sources, we are experiencing today, is not evident yet”.

Pushing ahead with renewables no matter what risks the reliability and affordability of the system.  The comments by the NYISO and the New York State Reliability Council raise significant concerns that the Climate Action Council has to date ignored.  As noted, the State has so far refused to produce any estimate of consumer cost estimates but, surely, they will be significant.  I fear that the ideological agenda of the administration will prevent an open and transparent discussion of these issues before serious impacts occur.

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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