The Climate Act and Gas Stove Bans

Mention of a ban on gas stoves recently caused a national uproar.   Closer to home the New York State Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act (CLCPA) implementation plan calls for zero-emission equipment, including stoves, in new and existing buildings.  When pressed about New York’s plans Governor Hochul said “”I know it’s a concern because a lot of people are misrepresenting what this is all about”.  I think the misrepresentation is on the part of the Hochul Administration,

I submitted comments on the Climate Act implementation plan and have written over 275 articles about 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 the net-zero transition will do more harm than good.  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.


The Climate Act established a “Net Zero” target (85% reduction and 15% offset of emissions) by 2050. The Climate Action Council is responsible for the Scoping Plan that outlines how to “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda.”  In brief, that plan is to electrify everything possible and power the electric gride with zero-emissions generating resources by 2040.  The Integration Analysis prepared by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and its consultants quantifies the impact of the electrification strategies.  That material was used to write a Draft Scoping Plan that was revised in 2022 and the Final Scoping Plan  was approved on  December 19, 2022. 

There are multiple aspects of a ban on gas stoves that I have wanted to address.  Fortunately, most of the points I wanted to make have already been made so this post is more of an overview of other work than original effort on my part.

Childhood Asthma and Gas Stoves

The initial reason for the recent uproar about gas stoves was a study published in an open-source journal called Population Attributable Fraction of Gas Stoves and Childhood Asthma in the United States (Gruenwald et al., 2022).  The sound bite takeaway from the study was that gas stoves are responsible for 12.7% of childhood asthma in the US.  I don’t have a lot of faith in any study that claims an air pollution association with asthma rates but was not relishing trying to develop an analysis.

Blair King writing on his blog did a masterful job eviscerating the claims in the paper.  In brief, the study was based upon a 2013 paper that used old data from the 1980’s and 1990’s.  The analysis was done using a 70-year-old statistical tool called PAF which is widely used in epidemiological studies.  However, the tool breaks down when multiple risk factors (confounding variables) are present.  For asthma, there are no fewer than seven risk factors so the analytical tool becomes useless.  I recommend reading his article but the conclusion nails the issue:

To conclude, I can only restate that the Gruenwald et al paper seems to have some clear challenges that would typically preclude it from consideration in a policy-making process.

  • Its underlying data is of low statistical power.
  • Its conclusion is directly contradicted by more recent studies with significantly greater statistical power. and
  • It relies on a statistical tool that is considered invalid in situations with confounding variables yet it is being used to analyze an association that is absolutely rife with confounding variables.

Put simply, this is not the study I would rely on to make a major policy change that will affect millions of people and will cost billions to implement. As to its conclusion: are 12.7% of childhood asthma cases in the US attributable to cooking with natural gas? Based on the points above, that conclusion is almost certainly not the case.

This isn’t the first time that a study that is weak science is used as an argument for sweeping policy changes.  What did surprise me is how quickly the story raced through the media.  Robert Bryce explained how that happened in his post The billionaires behind the gas bans.  I highly recommend that you read the whole thing but I present some highlights below.

He explained that he started looking into a new organization called the Climate Imperative Foundation in late 2021 when he read a story that the new group has a planned budget of $180 million annually over five years for a total of $900 million.  When he investigated the source of the money, he discovered that two of the  most recognizable names on the six-person board are Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Forbes magazine estimates that Doerr has a net worth of $12.7 billion. Forbes puts Jobs’ net worth at $17.7 billion. Unsurprisingly Bryce found that most of the money is coming from Doerr and Jobs.

His article explains why the emergence of the Climate Imperative Foundation is important:

First, it shows that the effort to “electrify everything” and ban the use of natural gas in homes and businesses – and that includes gas stoves — is part of a years-long, lavishly funded campaign that is being bankrolled by some of the world’s richest people.

Second, despite numerous claims about how nefarious actors are blocking the much-hyped “energy transition,” the size of Climate Imperative’s budget provides more evidence that the NGO-corporate-industrial-climate complex has far more money than the pro-hydrocarbon and pro-nuclear groups. Indeed, the anti-hydrocarbon NGOs (most of which are also stridently anti-nuclear) have loads of money, media backing, and momentum. As can be seen in the graphic below, the five biggest anti-hydrocarbon NGOs are now collecting about $1.5 billion per year from their donors. (All data is from Guidestar.) That sum is roughly three times more than the amount being collected by the top five non-profit associations that are either pro-hydrocarbon or pro-nuclear.

Third, banning the direct use of natural gas in homes and businesses may be worse for the climate. You read that right. Burning gas directly allows consumers to use about 90% of the energy contained in the fuel. Using gas indirectly — by converting it into electricity and then using that juice to power a heat pump, stove, or water heater — wastes more than half of the energy in the fuel. That point was made by Glenn Ducat, in his excellent new book, Blue Oasis No More: Why We’re Not Going to “Beat” Global Warming and What We Need To Do About It. Ducat is a Ph.D. nuclear engineer who worked at Argonne National Lab, as well as at two electric utilities. He explains “Burning natural gas by residential commercial and industrial customers is at least twice as efficient and emits about half as much CO2 as processes that use electricity produced from fossil fuels. Converting process-heat applications to electricity before the electricity grid is completely carbon-free will increase CO2 emissions.” (Emphasis in the original.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I note that the New York plan is to eventually use electricity from zero-emissions sources.  However, there are life-cycle energy use issues with wind, solar and energy storage that mean the Climate Act transition does not reduces CO2 as much as it claims because of the efficiency of burning  natural gas directly for heating, cooking and hot water.

Bryce documents how the efforts to demonize gas stoves has rolled out since 2020.  One of the authors of the 12.7% asthma paper is employed by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) which has published other articles that make the same claims.  He provides other evidence that this paper doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. 

He went on to investigate where RMI gets their funding. 

Some of it is coming from Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos. In 2020, the Bezos Earth Fund gave RMI $10 million, which the group said will be used to “reduce GHG emissions from homes, commercial structures, and other buildings, enabling RMI to increase its current work with a coalition of partners in key states. The project will focus on making all U.S. buildings carbon-free by 2040 by advocating for all-electric new construction…”

Bezos also has provided $100 million grant to the National Resources Defense Council.  The Sierra Club is getting funds from Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies, including $500 million to the Beyond Carbon project.  His article clearly shows that the narrative that the fossil and nuclear industries are providing massive money to funding disinformation while the noble NGOs struggle to find enough money to counter their claims is false. 

Bryce makes two final points:

The first is the hypocrisy of billionaires funding efforts to slash hydrocarbon use while they are consuming staggering amounts of hydrocarbons. According to a 2020 article in Vanity Fair, Michael Bloomberg owns eight houses in New York state alone, and “he also reportedly owns several properties in London, Florida, Colorado, and Bermuda.” Thus, Bloomberg may own a dozen houses. How many of those houses have gas stoves? I’ll make a wild guess and bet that it’s more than one. Oh, and according to Vanity Fair, while he was mayor of New York, Bloomberg “was known to spend weekends” at his house in Bermuda, “traveling back and forth on private jets.” And what is fueling those private jets? I’m guessing here, but it’s probably not organic quinoa.

The final bit of hypocrisy at work here is the regressive nature of the gas bans. Indeed, it’s clear that banning natural gas will mean higher costs for consumers. Last March, in the Federal Register, the Department of Energy published its annual estimate for residential energy costs. It found that on a per-BTU basis, electricity costs about 3.5 times more than natural gas. It also found that gas was, by far, the cheapest form of in-home energy, costing less than half as much as fuels like kerosene, propane, and heating oil.

That means that efforts to ban natural gas are, in practice, an energy tax on the poor and the middle class. During a recent interview, Jennifer Hernandez, a California-based lawyer who represents The 200, a coalition of Latino groups that has sued the state over its climate policies, told me that “Natural gas is the last source of in-home affordable energy. And these climate extremists can’t stand it.”

The Scoping Plan and All-Electric Homes

Governor Hochul has been pushing back on the notion that her Administration is coming after residential gas stoves.  The final thing I wanted to address was the Scoping Plan strategies for buildings particularly as they relate to electric appliances.  Table 11 (page 183) from the Scoping Plan Chapter on Buildings explicitly says adopt standards for zero-emission equipment.  Clearly that precludes gas stoves at some point.

James Hanley from the Empire Center wrote a great explanation of the truths of the Scoping Plan and the gas stove ban.  I reproduce his post in its entirety below:

Governor Hochul is pushing back against the fear that she’s coming after homeowners’ gas stoves. She insists that she’s not, and that she’d “like to deal in the truth here because a lot of that isn’t getting out.”  

Fair enough, so let’s deal with that truth. 

First, it’s true that Hochul didn’t recommend a gas stove ban in her 2023 State of the State address. While she did say she wants to “prohibit the sale of any new fossil fuel heating equipment by no later than 2030 for smaller buildings, and no later than 2035 for larger buildings,” she made no mention of prohibiting the sale of other fossil fuel appliances – stoves, hot water heaters, and clothes dryers. 

But the Governor’s silence on those appliances doesn’t settle the issue, and any suggestion that it does violates her urging that we “deal in the truth.” 

The truth is that the Climate Action Council’s Scoping Plan explicitly recommends banning sales of fossil-fuel fired hot water heaters in 2030 and fossil-fuel fired clothes dryers and stoves in 2035.  

The truth is that this Scoping Plan is the roadmap that the state legislature and all state agencies are supposed to follow to implement the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). 

The truth is that the Governor or her successor(s) could follow up this year’s recommendations for action in future years, or the legislature could on its own. 

The truth is that the Department of Environmental Conservation is supposed to make rules implementing the CLCPA and could begin the regulatory rule-making process to ban these appliances without the Governor’s direct prompting. 

And the truth is that advocates of eliminating all fossil-fuel equipment from New York’s economy are not going to give up in despair just because the Governor didn’t – at least not yet – advocate every recommendation from the Scoping Plan. 

There’s another, less visible truth, as well. The goal of anti-fossil fuel activists is to continually reduce the use of natural gas until the pipeline distribution system becomes economically unsustainable. The Scoping Plan has a whole chapter discussing the “strategic downsizing” of the gas system. And while the goal of making it economically unsustainable is not made explicit, it is the foreseeable result of this downsizing strategy.  

The more homes that are forced or incentivized to switch to all-electric, the fewer gas customers there are left to cover the cost of maintaining this large distribution system. That will put cost pressure on those remaining gas customers, forcing more of them to switch to electricity. That puts further cost pressure on the remaining customers, and so on, until maintaining the system is no longer financially sustainable. 

With this long-range strategy, no explicit ban is even necessary.  

This will not affect propane stoves and appliances, of course, because they are not fed by a pipeline system. So they may get at least a temporary reprieve. But they are clearly targeted by the Scoping Plan and anti-fossil fuel activists as well.  

In brief, while it’s true that Hochul did not propose a ban on replacement fossil fuel-powered appliances in this year’s State of the State address, there is plenty of time between now and 2035 for her, a successor, or the DEC to act in conformity to the recommendations set out in the state’s CLCPA Scoping Plan. Even if they don’t act to enact an explicit ban, the Scoping Plan lays out of goal of diminishing the infrastructure for gas delivery.  

So don’t believe those who are now naysaying the idea of a gas appliance ban. Gas and propane users will need to organize effectively to make their voices heard if they are to prevent a forced transition to electric appliances. 

For the record the Scoping Plan Chapter on Buildings on page 190 states the following for residential applications:

These zero-emission standards across a range of equipment types should apply starting in the years noted below.

2030: Adopt zero-emission standards that prohibit replacements (at end of useful life) of residential-sized equipment used for the combustion of fossil fuels for heating and cooling and hot water. The standards beginning in 2030 should regulate equipment sized to typically serve single-family homes and low-rise residential buildings with up to 49 housing units.

2035: Adopt zero-emission standards that prohibit replacements (at end of useful life) of fossil fuel appliances for cooking and clothes drying.


It has been said of the Scoping Plan that “The plan is a true masterpiece in how to hide what is important under an avalanche of words designed to make people never want to read it”.   I have spent most of last year trying to interpret what is important and can confirm that statement.  It is a political document intended to push the agenda of the Hochul Administration which is apparently to pander to the emotional needs of the constituency that believes that there is a climate crisis and an easy and painless solution.  There are enormous ignored tradeoffs associated with the complete transformation of the energy system that has been built up over one hundred years to one with zero-emissions in the 27 years to 2050.  Nothing is as simple as portrayed in the Plan or the politician’s descriptions of what is going to happen. 

The biggest problem with the Scoping Plan is that it does not address any of the many “what if?” questions.  Consider the electrification of home cooking appliances in this regard.  I believe that the overarching what if question related to all-electric homes is what if there is an ice storm.  During an extended wintertime blackout, a gas or propane stove can be used for cooking and for limited heating.  An all-electric home without electricity has nothing. Those differences could mean a life or death situation.

Richard Ellenbogen mentioned some transition issues in a letter:

Additionally, if you ban the sale of gas ranges, what happens if your existing gas range breaks.  Do you have to rewire your home to install a new stove and then buy all new pots to work with an inductive cook top?  What are you supposed to do for cooking while you wait a month for an electrician to install a service that can cost thousands of dollars depending on the existing service?  I have a breaker panel within thirty feet of the stove in my house and my house has an existing 400 amp service which is far larger than most will.  Even if I had to switch ranges, it would cost at least $2000 for the electrical work, excluding patching and painting of the holes needed to run the cable, just to run the service.  That is beyond the cost of the range.  Inductive cook tops, which are safer and use less energy, are three times the cost of a gas range, independent of the $400 set of pots and pans that will work with it.   If the existing service and breaker panels were inadequate, you can add $6000 to that figure, at least.  What if you live in a high-rise apartment and the board or building management doesn’t have the funds to rewire the entire building when your stove breaks?  The gas range in my daughter’s apartment needed replacing.  We had a new one installed for $750, delivered.  Not that we could have installed an electric range anyway because the electrical service wasn’t there, but an equivalent inductive range started at $2000 and went up from there.  $2400 with pots and pans.  That was two years ago.

Finally, the effect of the billionaire funding sources should not be ignored.  Anyone associated in any way with the fossil fuel industry is portrayed as a shill such that their work should be disregarded as propaganda.  Because funding sources are a legitimate concern, I maintain that it is important to understand the source of anyone’s funding.  To say that an organization that gets its funding from a donor with a specific agenda is not exactly the same situation as a fossil fuel shill is naïve.  In both cases it does not mean that the results are wrong but that they must stand up on their merits.  (By the way that is the reason that my posts typically include references.)  In this instance the claims of significant health impacts of gas stoves do not withstand scrutiny so the publicized studies do not warrant banning their future use.


The Hochul Administration’s war on natural gas and propane is irrational.  While methane does have a more potent impact on the greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide in a molecular comparison, in the atmosphere methane does not have anywhere near the effect of carbon dioxide.  The atmospheric residence time is on the order of 12 years so methane does not build up in the atmosphere.  Furthermore, there is a large body of evidence showing that the claimed health impacts of methane combustion are weak.  Those fundamental flaws destroy the rationale to eliminate the use of natural gas and propane as planned in the Scoping Plan. 

On the other hand, there are significant benefits for the use of natural gas and propane. It is cheaper.  It is energy dense and can be transported easily so when it is combusted in a modern high efficiency appliance you get a lot of bang for the buck with relatively small impacts.  I suspect that many New Yorkers appreciate its dependability relative to electricity.  It allowed my family to survive two extended blackouts and I am not sure what we would have done without it.

I have found that New York’s emissions are less than one half of one percent of global emissions and that the average increase in global emissions is greater than one half of one percent.  In other words, even if we eliminate our emissions, the increase in global emissions will replace our reductions in less than a year.  That does not mean we should not do something but it does mean that we can and should take the time to be sure that the things we mandate do not do more harm than good.  Until such time that the Hochul Administration is held accountable to answer the what if questions not addressed in the Scoping Plan it is likely that the transition to net-zero will do more harm than good.

The politicians who are downplaying the idea of a gas appliance ban are just kicking the can down the road to be somebody else’s problem.  Someway or somehow every building in New York State is going to be electrified to the maximum extent possible according to the Scoping Plan.  Gas and propane users must make their voices heard if they are to prevent a forced transition to electric appliances. Please contact your elected officials and tell them we must have full accountability before a mandated transition.

New York’s Irrational and Unsupportable Methane Obsession


One “baked-in” aspect of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) is its obsession that using natural gas, aka methane, is such a danger to climate change that its use must be curtailed now and eliminated as soon as possible. I say “baked-in” because the language of the Climate Act was written to deliberately and uniquely emphasize its alleged impacts on global warming.  A paper by van Wijngaarden & Happer makes a persuasive case that New York’s obsession to reduce methane is wrong.  Unfortunately, the paper is very technical and my attempt to describe it for a wider audience has resulted in a dense post that probably won’t be much help to many. 

Here are the key points to keep in mind as you read this post.  The van Wijngaarden & Happer paper describes an analysis that used many observations of the greenhouse effect to develop a general relationship that can be used to predict the effect of increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases.  New York Climate Act guidance is based on claims that methane has a more potent impact on the greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide but the van Wijngaarden & Happer derived relationship shows that methane cannot cause significant changes to the greenhouse effect itself.  The analysis shows this is because of the saturation effect, the amount and type of radiation emitted from the surface, the numerical realities of infrared absorption, and the physical properties of the real atmosphere related to the greenhouse effect.

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.  Although the implementation process claims to adhere to the “science” I have found many examples where the claims are not supportable.  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.


The goal of the Climate Act is to reduce emissions from 1990 levels to net-zero by 2050.  Previously  I explained that the language of the law mandates a unique accounting system for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  The result is that New York’s GHG baseline inventory for 1990 is nearly double previous inventories that were consistent with GHG emission accounting methodologies used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  There are three primary reasons for the near doubling of the emissions inventory. The Climate Act inventory adds a requirement to include not only direct emissions but also emissions associated with upstream emissions.  The second change modified the potential effect of methane on global warming by changing the time horizons and, finally, the emission factors used are inconsistent with other jurisdictions.

I believe that the primary source of this methane obsession in the Climate Act  is Dr. Robert Howarth.  As one of the authors of the Climate Act, he was in a position to incorporate the anti-natural gas language.  He is also a member of the Climate Action Council that is responsible for developing an implementation outline for the transition to net-zero.  In that role he disparages the continued use of natural gas at every opportunity. Howarth is the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology at Cornell University.  His training was in oceanography, much of his research still focuses on coastal marine ecosystems, and he also works on freshwater systems (both rivers and lakes).  Despite his lack of meteorological and air quality background and education he has followed the money to become a shill for the special interest foundations opposed to natural gas use and has conned the state into obsessing about the global warming impact of methane in the Climate Act. 

Infrared Forcing by Greenhouse Gases

In order to explain why New York’s methane obsession is misplaced it is unfortunately necessary to go into the technical details of the paper by van Wijngaarden & Happer “Infrared Forcing by Greenhouse Gases”. Fortunately, there are several descriptions of the paper that are more understandable.  Dr. C. A. Lange prepared a summary of the paper that he thought a lay person could understand.  In my opinion, it is still a challenge primarily because there are few illustrations in his summary.  Dr Thomas P Sheahen prepared a  video presentation on the paper and I will incorporate his illustrations into my simplified description why methane is irrelevant.  I followed his explanation approach and recommend the video itself.  Finally, an amicus curiae brief from a just convened court case provides another description of the aspects covered in the paper.  Hopefully this article will distill the information from those references to provide an explanation that more people can understand.

At its core, the global warming concern is that changes in the earth’s radiation budget will increase the energy in the atmosphere that will lead to warming at the earth’s surface.  Sheahen included the following figure that shows the earth’s energy budget as percentages of the solar energy coming to earth.  Incoming solar energy or sunlight is in the form of shortwave radiation.  A total of 30% of the radiation is reflected back out to space from the atmosphere, clouds and the earth’s surface as shown in the yellow arrows pointing up.  The atmosphere absorbs 16% of the solar energy and clouds absorb another 3%.  The remaining 51% is absorbed by land and oceans.  The absorbed energy at the earth’s surface is radiated back into the atmosphere as longwave radiation.

As an aside: One problem deciphering these technical reports is that the same phenomenon can have different names.  In this case longwave radiation is also called infrared radiation per the title of the paper in question. 

Gases in the atmosphere have different capabilities for absorbing this longwave radiation.  Greenhouse gases absorb that energy and can radiate it back to the earth’s surface, to other greenhouse gases or out into space.  Increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increases the amount radiated back to the earth’s surface and increases atmospheric temperatures.  Eventually, as shown by the red upward facing arrows, 70% of the energy is radiated back into space mostly from the clouds and atmosphere (64%) and 6% is radiated directly from the earth’s surface.

Saturation Effect

The Climate Act regulates the following greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and carbon tetrafluoride, and sulfur hexafluoride.  The fact that their effect on longwave radiation decreases as their concentrations increase is an aspect of these gases that has been ignored by the Climate Act and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  This is called the saturation effect.

On October 14, 2022 an opening brief was filed at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council (CHECC) v. EPA, that challenges EPA’s 2009 Finding that CO2 and other greenhouse gases constitute a “danger” to human health and welfare. A week later an amicus curiae brief was filed in support of CHECC by the CO2 Coalition together with Professors William Happer of Princeton and Richard Lindzen of MIT.  On page 29 of the brief the saturation effect is described:

Drs. Happer and Lindzen have special expertise in radiation transfer, the prime mover of the greenhouse effect in Earth’s atmosphere. It is important to understand the radiation physics of what the effect is of adding CO2 at current atmospheric concentrations.  CO2 becomes a less effective greenhouse gas at higher concentrations because of what in physics is called “saturation,” shown in the chart below.

This version of the saturation curve projects that the carbon dioxide CO2 warming effect is increased between 0.6o C and 0.8o C when the atmospheric concentration is increased from 100 ppm to 150 ppm.  The total expected effect of CO2 is the sum of all the bars.  It does not mean that there will be no effect of added greenhouse gases but that the effect is reduced.  The takeaway message from this graph is that if today’s CO2 concentration of around 400 ppm were doubled to 800 ppm the expected increase is the sum of all the bars to the right of the red arrow that I estimate to be about 1 o C of additional warming. That is on the order of one third of what the IPCC claims.  The brief sums it up: “This means that, from now on, our emissions from burning fossil fuels will have a modest and a declining impact on greenhouse-induced warming”.

In order to make projections of future GHG impacts the IPCC uses global climate models (GCM) that simulate all the physical processes in the atmosphere that affect climate.  The radiative processes described here are only one, and frankly a small one at that, of the processes that affect the climate.  Individually we have a good understanding of the laws of physics but solving them as necessary to make climate projections is extremely difficult if not impossible.  Although the IPCC Third Assessment Report admitted this “The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future exact climate states is not possible”, this point has been largely ignored since.  In order to get any kind of an answer requires the modeling analysis to make many simplifying assumptions.  Our concern here is just one component: atmospheric radiative physics, that is to say the interaction of all the components of the atmosphere with the shortwave and longwave radiation that ultimately drives the greenhouse effect. It turns out that the IPCC GCMs have “not been able to replicate the increasing number of very diverse observations that are gradually becoming available” for this component.  The comparison of results from this component of the GCMs relative to observations shows poor correspondence and indicates their treatment of the saturation effect is likely incorrect. 

Amount and Type of Radiation Affecting the Greenhouse Effect

Observations of the amount and type of radiation emitted from the surface were the primary driver of the analysis by van Wijngaarden & Happer.  Their focus on the radiation emissions combined state-of-the-art physics with the best observations available of the radiative processes in the atmosphere to determine just how much of the longwave radiation will be reduced and how much the greenhouse effect will be increased.  In particular they used the HITRAN database which is a compilation of measurements used to predict and simulate the transmission and emission of energy in the atmosphere.  This is a database that includes thousands of observations of the shortwave and longwave radiation processes that affect the intensity of the greenhouse effect. 

Recall that white sunlight (the shortwave radiation described before) is made up of a spectrum or bands of different wavelengths seen as different colors.  This is the physics behind rainbows.   Rainbows are formed as a result of the dispersion of white light split into seven colors after passing through a raindrop.  Each color represents a different band of wavelengths.

The following diagram from the Amicus Brief shows the longwave spectrum of energy coming from the earth’s surface. The smooth blue curve represents the expected radiation from a black body aka Plank’s Law.  The brief explains that “The area under the blue curve is “the heat the Earth would radiate to space if our atmosphere had no greenhouse gases or clouds, and if the surface temperature were 60° F”.  The black curve represents measurements of the actual radiation coming from the earth so the area under the jagged black curve is the heat radiation that is actually observed. The area between the blue and black curves represents the greenhouse effect.  Note that the greenhouse gases, water vapor (H2O), nitrous oxide (N2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), ozone (O3), and methane (CH4), affect different areas of the curve. 

The black curve represents today’s conditions at 60° F and the figure shows the effect of zero and doubled CO2.  The green curve shows radiation to space if there was no CO2.  Clearly CO2 has the largest effect on today’s greenhouse effect.  The red curve is the radiation to space if CO2 concentrations were to be doubled from 400 ppm to 800 ppm, with no changes in other greenhouse gases. One can barely make out the difference, about 1.1% of the radiation before doubling. For this change in the greenhouse effect, we expect that the surface temperature would increase by a trivial amount, about 1° C (1.8° F) or less.

The van Wijngaarden & Happer paper analyzed thousands of radiation measurements of the black curve and developed a theoretical relationship to predict how changes in ambient conditions, including concentrations, would affect the spectrum of wavelengthsTheir derived relationship represents conditions in the actual atmosphere not the theoretical and simplified atmosphere used by the IPCC and EPA.  Importantly, all five GHGs were considered at the same time using their observed concentrations. When the derived relationship is compared to observations for different locations on the earth the results are remarkably similar.

Sheahen argues that this represents the correct use of the Scientific Method and the fundamental truth that observations always trump model output. Because there is good agreement between projections estimated from their derived relationship and actual measurements, we have a “computational method that is trustworthy”.  As a result, “we can now conduct numerical experiments with CO2 doubled, halved, etc”.  The IPCC theoretical results do not meet this fundamental test and should not be trusted.

For example, we can use the derived relationship to consider the effect of adding different increments of CO2 as shown in the following diagram that focuses on one portion of the curve.  Remember that the greenhouse effect is represented by the difference between black smooth curve and the jagged curves below it.  The diagram shows that there is a very small greenhouse effect due to increased CO2.  This is primarily because of the saturation effect discussed previously.

Numerical Realities

The biggest reason that methane is irrelevant is because of the numerical realities of infrared absorption.  The following diagram varies methane (CH4) instead of CO2.  The wavelengths affected by methane are to the right of the peak of the curve.  Remember that the greenhouse effect is represented by the area between the blue curve and the other curves.  Because the section of the curve where methane affects longwave radiation is smaller than the section at the peak of the curve where CO2 has its primary effect, methane simply cannot ever cause as much of a change in the greenhouse effect. Also note the methane greenhouse effect at current concentration levels is only the small difference between the green line and the black line because of the saturation effect.  If methane is doubled (the red curve) there is no visible change in the greenhouse effect at this resolution.

The next diagram expands the resolution enough to see the doubled concentration effect (the red line) but it is clear that there is no significant effect for methane and that current levels of methane are not a significant factor in the overall greenhouse effect.

Nitrous oxide (N2O) has also been vilified because of its high global warming potential so I have included the analogous diagrams.  In this case there is potential for more of a significant impact because the longwave frequencies where N2O reduces transmission include an area near the peak of the curve.  The results due to the saturation effect are the same and there is there is no visible effect for a doubling of current concentrations.  There is another reason N2O is inconsequential that will be discussed in the next section.

At an increased resolution level, the greenhouse effect is visible but appears to be even less significant than methane.

Physical Properties of the Real Atmosphere

The observed greenhouse effect impacts of methane and nitrous oxides relative to carbon dioxide should be considered when they are compared.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Environmental Protection Agency, and New York State Value of Carbon guidance all use the global warming potential (GWP) to enable intercomparison of greenhouse gases.  Happer & van Wijngaarden explained that this parameter is calculated based on per-molecule forcings in a hypothetical, optically thin atmosphere, where there is negligible saturation of the absorption bands, or interference of one type of greenhouse gas with others.   In other words, global warming potential values are based on molecular theory with multiple technical simplifications and are not based on observations of the physical properties of the atmosphere.

Table 2 in the New York State Value of Carbon guidance document specifies the Global Warming Potential (GWP) values used in New York.  The IPCC 100-year GWP values for methane indicate that using this methodology that methane exacerbates the greenhouse effect 28 times more than carbon dioxide and nitrous oxides are 265 times worse.  New York’s vilification of methane is even worse because the law specifically mandates that the 20-year GWP values be used.  The 20-year GWP methane value claims that methane is 84 times worse than carbon dioxide.  The van Wijngaarden & Happer paper proves that those estimates are incorrect. 

Table 2: Physical Properties of Example Greenhouse Gases (IPCC Fifth Assessment Report)
Greenhouse gasLifespan (years)100-YEAR GWP20-YEAR GWP
Carbon dioxide (CO2)~1004511
Methane (CH4)12.42884
Nitrous oxide (N2O)121265264
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) 
Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) 
Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)3,2002350017500

There are other physical properties of the real atmosphere ignored in the global warming potential approach to methane.  GWP does not consider actual concentrations in the atmosphereCarbon dioxide concentrations were 415 ppm in 2021 while methane concentrations are less than 2 ppm and nitrous oxides concentrations are even less. .  Molecules in tiny concentrations have less effect and that is not considered.  Finally, there is no recognition that the methane atmospheric residence time is only 12 years so it does not accumulate like carbon dioxide. 


In summary, the van Wijngaarden & Happer analysis used many measurements of the observed greenhouse effect to develop a general relationship that can be used to predict the effect of increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases.  The paper shows that show that increased CO2 will have a modest and decreasing effect on the greenhouse effect if concentrations are doubled.  The primary driver of this observation is the saturation effect.  New York Climate Act guidance for methane is based on claims that methane has a more potent impact on the greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide.  However. that guidance is based on a molecule-by-molecule relationship that does not account for the situation in the atmosphere.  van Wijngaarden & Happer’s relationship proves that increased atmospheric concentrations of methane and nitrous oxides will have an imperceptible effect on the overall greenhouse effect.  For methane the reality of the infrared absorption curve is that the wavelengths where it enhances the greenhouse effect are much smaller than the peak of the curve where CO2 affects it. Finally, there are some physical properties of the real atmosphere related to the greenhouse effect that mean that the potential impact of methane and nitrous oxides are much less than CO2 so the global warming potential approach is invalid. Also note that methane and nitrous oxide emissions are far lower than CO2 emissions so the likelihood that their atmospheric concentrations could substantially increase in the atmosphere is nil.

Sheahen points out there are also scientific implications.  He argues out that agreement between theory and experiment is the hallmark of good science and states that the method of van Wijngaarden & Happer meets that criterion.  The IPCC approach in their Global Climate Models consistently over-estimates the greenhouse effect so the model predicts too high temperatures as compared to observations.  Thus, their approach does not meet the good science criterion.


I hope my attempt to explain this important paper is understandable.  I have two conclusions based on the analysis.  On one hand the theory that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary driver of climate change because of the greenhouse effect is causing an existential threat is widely accepted.  However, I agree with Richard P. Feynman’s quote: “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”  The experimental evidence compiled by Wijngaarden & Happer does not agree with the theory that human emissions of greenhouse gases substantially affect atmospheric warming.  The existential threat theory is unsupportable.

Viewed through a pragmatic lens, the New York obsession with eliminating natural gas is irrational. Increased use of natural gas has been responsible for the majority of electric generation emission reductions observed in the state.  Natural gas provides efficient, resilient, and safe energy to homes and businesses.  Not so long ago the idea that natural gas could also be used a bridge fuel until the aspirational “green” generating resources and energy storage technologies could be tested at the scale needed, perform like a natural gas fired generating unit, and provide power at a similar cost, was generally accepted as a rational approach. Unfortunately, the Climate Act does not allow this approach.  The analogy for skipping the need for a bridge fuel is that proponents want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane without a parachute because they assume that the concept of a parachute will be developed, proven technically and economically feasible, and then delivered in time to provide a soft landing.  This paper shows that there isn’t even a valid reason to jump out of the airplane.

Climate Act Avoided Cost of Gas Working Group

There is an immense amount of work that needs to be done to implement New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) “Net Zero” target (85% reduction and 15% offset of emissions) by 2050.  It is very difficult to grasp all the different ways that this transition is going to affect all New Yorkers.  Despite the lack of a reliability and affordability feasibility analysis an army of government bureaucrats are developing transition plans to change our energy choices assuming that everything will work out.  This article talks about just one of those efforts.

I have written extensively on implementation of the Climate Act.  Everyone wants to do right by the environment to the extent that efforts will make a positive impact at an affordable dollar cost.  Based on my analysis of the Climate Act I don’t think that will be the case.  I believe that the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy outstrip available renewable technology such that the transition to an electric system relying on wind and solar will do more harm than good.  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 established the Climate Action Council who 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 meet the goals.  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 quantified the impact of the strategies.  That analysis was used to develop the Draft Scoping Plan that was released for public comment on December 30, 2021 and will be finalized in 2022.  At the same time this process is underway various state agencies are already implementing regulations for the transition.  The problem is that the Scoping Plan is just a guide and does not include a reliability feasibility analysis or any affordability specifics about the costs for the transition.  Couple that with the fact that many New Yorkers are unaware of the Climate Act much less its implications suggest to me that this that public blowback will be immense when the realization of what is required becomes obvious.

Gas Planning Procedures

In order to explain what is going on I will provide background information for this example.  The New York State Department of Public Service (DPS) Case 20-G-0131 – Proceeding on Motion of the Commission in Regard to Gas Planning Procedures “seeks to establish planning and operational practices that best support customer needs and emissions objectives while minimizing infrastructure investments and ensuring the continuation of reliable, safe, and adequate service to existing customers.”  The Background for the order instituting the proceeding follows with my explanations:

Gas utilities in several regions of New York State have recently claimed supply constraints that may prevent them from accepting applications for new firm service. LDCs have invoked moratoria on new service connections in some locations, leading in some cases to customer hardships. In resolving the moratorium invoked by KEDNY and KEDLI, the Commission-adopted settlement requires those LDCs to develop a “Long-Term Capacity Report” to address the long-term capacity constraints affecting their operations.

This refers to gas utility load distribution company (LDC) issues.  A footnote to this section explains that:

On January 17, 2019, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. (Con Edison) notified the Commission of a moratorium on new firm gas service in most of Westchester county, commencing March 15, 2019. Beginning November 2018, The Brooklyn Union Gas Company d/b/a National Grid NY (KEDNY), serving Brooklyn and parts of Queens, and KeySpan Gas East Corporation d/b/a National Grid (KEDLI) (collectively, National Grid) began informing large applicants for new service that National Grid would be unable to provide firm service unless a pending supply project was approved. As of May 15, 2019, National Grid stated that it would not fulfill applications for new firm service connections, or requests for additional firm load from existing customers on Long Island, including Queens and Brooklyn. Based on a settlement adopted and approved by the Commission, National Grid ended its moratorium as of November 26, 2019. Case 19-G-0678, Proceeding on Motion of the Commission to investigate Denials of Service by National Grid, Order Adopting and Approving Settlement (issued November 26, 2019); Case 19-G-0678, supra, Confirming Order (issued December 12, 2019). Additionally, New York State Electric and Gas Corporation (NYSEG) has declared a moratorium on new gas customer attachments in the Town of Lansing, in Tompkins County in February 2015.

In other words, there have been examples where people who want to hook up to natural gas have not been allowed to get service.  This is the crux of the gas transition problem.  The net-zero transition to natural gas alternatives means that at some point the choice to use natural gas will no longer be an option.  The Background goes on:

These circumstances demonstrate that conventional gas planning and operational practices adopted by natural gas utilities have not kept pace with recent developments and demands on energy systems.  Gas utilities need to learn from recent experience and adopt improved planning and operational practices that enable them to meet current customer needs and expectations in a transparent and equitable way while minimizing infrastructure investments and maintaining safe and reliable service. Additionally, planning must be conducted in a manner consistent with the recently enacted Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).

Implicit in this is that customer choice will have to be limited.  I do not believe that many New Yorkers understand that this transition is coming at them.  The Background notes:

Moratoria can create adverse customer impacts, as they prevent at least some applicants from receiving firm gas service. Some types of development projects can utilize viable alternatives to firm gas service, if they are practically available. Others, however, may have more difficulty without firm gas service. Additionally, reliance on alternatives can have emission impacts. Reduced emissions impacts may result where the alternative to gas is efficient use of clean electricity, while increased emission impacts may result where the alternative to gas is oil or propane.

If viable alternatives were available, and by that, I mean affordable above all, then applicants would be choosing them willingly.  I published a post describing the comments on the Draft Scoping Plan submitted by a small manufacturer in Rochester who replacing equipment that is powered by natural gas now would cost over a million dollars and said that his company could not afford that conversion.  I will quote one last paragraph from the Background:

Given these potential impacts, the public interest demands that gas utilities provide information to and communicate with customers in a way that promotes effective customer planning, reduces confusion, and avoids inequities or the appearance of inequities. Similarly, the public interest demands that gas utilities provide information to and communicate with the Department, with other government entities and agencies, and with stakeholders, so as to promote effective planning and best consideration of alternatives, thus benefiting costs, emissions, and economic development.

What this means is that the DPS and gas utilities in the state are grappling with a tradeoff between providing safe and reliable natural gas to existing and new customers at the same time the Climate Act net-zero transition calls for the natural gas system to be shut down or transitioned to use something other than natural gas.  A presentation at a recent meeting of the Avoided Cost of Gas Working Group offers some insight into the practical considerations that Albany bureaucrats are starting to deal with and are completely unknown to most natural gas consumers despite the public interest in this topic.

Avoided Cost Working Group First Meeting

On July 6, 2022 the Avoided Cost Working Group (ACWG) met for the first time.  The presentation described the purpose of the group in the following slide.  The Benefit Cost Analysis Framework Order required Department of Public Service staff to develop a white paper on benefit cost analysis.  That process did not address gas industry issues.  This workgroup is supposed to provide the Commission with a report describing recommended calculations and specific elements for each LDC, which will then be issued for comment from stakeholders.

The BCA white paper included the following list of benefit and costs components to be included in the framework.  The workgroup will be adjusting the calculations for the gas industry but there are no plans for changes to the list.

The first meeting discussed the plan to address four main topics.  They want to determine the avoided bulk system costs for the gas commodity, the costs necessary to meet peak loads and pipeline capacity costs.  Another topic is avoided distribution costs for the high, medium, and low-pressure components of the pipeline system.  There has been much discussion about the use of renewable natural gas and they want to determine what qualifies for that label.  The final topic is the subject of leaks in the system.  As monitoring technology has improved more leaks have been found and this has been a point of contention on the Climate Action Council.

Avoided Cost Working Group Second Meeting

The second meeting of the ACWG on August 4 included two presentations.  The first presentation from the DPS staff discussed the typical non-pipelines alternatives process.  This is another of the Climate Act magical solutions where an existing fossil-fuel service can supposedly be replaced by an alternative that will not affect reliability or affordability.  National Grid provides a summary of the approach:

Non-Pipeline Alternatives (NPA) is the inclusive term for any targeted investment or activity that is intended to defer, reduce, or remove the need to construct or upgrade components of a natural gas system, or “pipeline investment.”

These NPA investments are required to be cost-effective compared to the infrastructure investment and are required to meet the specified gas system need.  An NPA can include any action, strategy, program, or technology that meets this definition and these requirements.

Some technologies and methodologies that can be applicable as an NPA investment include demand-side measures, such as demand response, sewer heat recovery, advanced controls strategies, new business models, energy efficiency or electrification. Additional technologies may be feasible as a demand-side NPA. NPA projects can include these and other investments individually or in combination that meets the specified need. A benefit-cost analysis (BCA) will be used to determine the cost-effectiveness of the NPA project.

In my opinion there are a lot of assumptions and biases that can skew the NPA study to prove whatever the utility wants and, in order to survive and make their earnings targets, that will be what the PSC wants.  The Administration’s response to public input leans to whatever constituency the Administration wants to please rather than what is best for the majority or the strength of adverse comments.

The DPS presentation outlined the process for a NPA study, reviewed the list of benefit and costs components and presented a list applicable to the natural gas system.  I don’t think there is anything particularly controversial or, frankly, of interest to the general public.

The second presentation by staff from New York State Energy Research & Development (NYSERDA) and their consultant Energy + Environmental Economics (E3)  described the work done to date in the Integration Analysis and Draft Scoping Plan.  They gave an overview of the Avoided Cost of Gas (ACG) framework developed by E3 for NYSERDA and DPS in 2020,  provided insights into other “Future of Gas” projects E3 has contributed to since 2020 , and presented key similarities and differences with the ACG framework.

The following slide is an overview of the approach.  E3 has set up a model that quantifies avoided costs that will be used to eventually justify the transition of New York’s natural gas system to net-zero consistent with the Climate Act.  At this time the framework has only focused on business-as-usual and has not been used to examine the impacts of the Climate Act.  It quantifies the following avoided costs:

  • Upstream supply costs
  • Leakage rates and other losses
  • “Peak gas” value
  • Local avoided infrastructure costs
  • Avoided GHGs (methane and CO2)

The presentation describes the ACG framework approach.  The following slide explains what the avoided costs results tell us.  The costs include installation, program and fuel costs.  The benefits include avoided utility costs and the alleged benefits of avoided greenhouse gas emissions.  Noticeably absent, in my opinion, is consideration of added costs to customers.  For example, the aforementioned small manufacturer in Rochester uses natural gas because it is the best alternative for his processes.  Any alternative is going to add costs not included.  In my case, I value natural gas because it is extremely reliable.  In the 41 years I have lived in my home there never has been a natural gas outage.  There were two long duration electric blackouts including one due to an ice storm that we survived because I can provide electricity to my furnace and keep the house warm.  This approach ignores these impacts and benefits.

The presentation goes on to discuss cost shift analyses in the next slide that will “help understand longer term ratepayer impacts”.  At this point transition complications start to become evident.  If the utility avoided costs lead to bill savings, then no cost shift occurs.  The slide explains that if customer bill savings are higher than avoided utility costs, a cost shift is likely to occur.  In that case the first adopters make out by saving money but the ‘remaining’ ratepayers have to cover more system costs and will see their costs rise.  It may be that avoided utility costs could be higher than customer bill savings so an “inverse cost shift” is likely to occur where ‘remaining’ ratepayers see bill decreases.  However, the slide concludes that “With more customers switching to electrification, there is risk of significant cost shift” because “embedded costs will need to be collected from a smaller customer base”.

The next slide explains what the consultants want you to know about the avoided cost results.  The avoided costs outputs show the monetized utility costs plus the carbon costs.  They claim that significant non-monetized utility value may result from NPA projects but the examples shown are pretty weak in my opinion.   They also claim that additional environmental value may also result, beyond what is captured by the social cost of carbon metric all the while ignoring that those costs are buried in the New York version of the social cost of carbon metric.  Finally, they note that the avoided cost framework does not consider potential cost avoidance related to embedded system costs of existing infrastructure.

Of particular interest is the example given.  After a long description of the values of the BCA approach for non-pipeline alternatives the thumb on the scale is evident.  Even though the example NPA found a negative benefit cost ratio the utility went ahead and did it anyway!  The BCA approach includes many value judgements despite its quantitative output.  At the end of the day the State and the utility made more value judgements to justify going ahead to implement an alternative to adding natural gas infrastructure.  The cited the following reasons.  They claim that it will increase local reliability but that does not consider the fact that the natural gas system is much more reliable than the electric system.  Going ahead may be consistent with Climate Act goals but that criterion suggests that all this is window dressing.  The third rationale is that it “Supports Joint Proposal goal of no net increase in gas utilization”.  I believe this is a specific component in the utility’s rate case settlement.  If true it is incontrovertible proof that New York utilities are forced to meet specific Administration goals to get rate case approval.  The final rationale is that it “supports local environmental advocacy”.  This is blatant acknowledgement that political appeasement of a preferred political constituency is a consideration in development considerations and that any pretense that the methodology that is supposed to be used is just a sham.

The next slide describes the inter-relationships of cost shift impacts.  I want to emphasize the two final points on the slide.  There is a possibility that a “’feedback loop” may develop that could drive gas costs higher.  In my opinion that kind of feedback is to be expected.  It is telling that they admit that customer impacts may be inequitable without a transition strategy and that it will disproportionally affect those unable to switch away from gas (renters and low-income customers).  So much for the environmental justice advocacy component of the Climate Act.

The presentation goes on to argue that a structured transition could help to mitigate these impacts.  E3 presented results of an analysis for a similar transition program in Massachusetts.  I am not going to discuss these results in this post.  The bottom line is that they believe that the better approach going forward is to target customer transitions rather than just transitioning natural gas customer use as their appliances age out. 

The following slide discusses the factors that affect the feasibility of the transition conversion away from natural gas.  I think this is important particularly because this kind of discussion is not included in the Draft Scoping Plan.  First there is a concession that the transition to “targeted electrification or networked geothermal hinges on several factors”.  Because the natural gas system is inter-connected there are limitations on which segments that can be removed “without adversely affecting the safety, reliability or other operational parameters of the system”.  Not surprisingly the consultant analysis keeps the customer satisfied by claiming that cost savings are achievable.  However, the slide mentions two caveats relative to customer choice.  If voluntary conversions are proposed “all consumers served by part of the gas system would need to accede to losing gas service”. The caveat is that the scale of the project drives the likelihood that there will be holdouts: “It may be possible to find 5 customers who are all willing to switch, 500 is likely a different matter.” The other alternative is to force customers to switch.  In that case: “Barring widespread shifts in consumer preferences, the nature of LDCs’ obligation to serve existing customers may need to change, with implications for customer choice.”  The second main point is that this feasibility analysis notes that there will likely be additional costs of decommissioning not captured in the analysis.

The slide also includes a highlighted section that asks the question “What do you need to “believe” in order for gas system conversions or cost avoidance to be achieved?”  In order for this this to be feasible then the conditions described above have to be met.  The other aspect is that “High levels of upfront planning and high levels of constructability & workforce availability” are needed.  A study from Palo Alto Utilities also notes there will likely be workforce issues related to decommissioning work.  That is a career with a built-in end date so training people for a short career might be a problem.  Given that all of these conditions have to be met to achieve the goal I am skeptical that it will be successful.

Finally, the presentation described an alternative approach to the avoided cost framework.  The Climate Act transition is a mandated large-scale customer transition described in a “Future of Gas” framework.  The avoided cost of gas framework appears to me to be better suited for smaller scale transition components.  Like it or not New York is stuck with a larger scale transition.  The alternate framework evaluates long-term revenue requirement implications for such a transition, considers geographical constraints, considers long-term implications of large-scale customer transitions and can evaluate long-term cost shifts in the absence of regulatory measures.  The presentation concludes that ca ombination of these two approaches may be useful.


I have always maintained that a fundamental flaw in the Draft Scoping Plan is that it is just a guide and does not include a reliability feasibility analysis or any affordability estimate of the costs for the transition.  The point of this article is that the extraordinary effort necessary for New York State to transition to net-zero is underway without that information.  Despite the recognized need that providing public information is appropriate, there are many activities going on that are necessary for the transition but are proceeding without significant public oversight.  In the first place there are so many components to the transition that no individual or outside organization can follow them all.  Notice and documentation of the activities are buried in the DPS DMM: Matter Master that is not user-friendly even to professionals who follow these actions.  Even if someone manages to find out about an activity and tracks down the description of the activity, trying to decipher what is in the jargon-filled reports is a challenge.  They may be able to claim that there is publicly available information but reality is different.

This article described the transition activities of one aspect of the net-zero transition.  In order to meet the net-zero transition targets major changes to the natural gas distribution system are needed.  The Avoided Cost Working Group is trying to force fit the natural gas transition analysis into the same framework as was used for the electric system benefit cost analysis.  The NYSERDA consultants have suggested that it may be necessary to also include another approach and it remains to be seen whether that will be considered.  I get the impression the emphasis is on getting it done rather than taking the time to get it right.

Most importantly, it is clear that there are feasibility issues to the natural gas net-zero transition.  The Scoping Plan is only intended to provide a framework for the transition but what if that framework isn’t feasible?  With regards to the natural gas transition, the Draft Scoping Plan insinuated that the transition would occur as the appliances aged out.  In other words, at some date owners would not be able to replace their broken appliances with a natural gas-fired option.  However, it appears that the ACWG is considering options to transition certain segments of the network and is grappling with how to deal with the practical issues associated with that approach.  I doubt very much that this will be the only situation where the Scoping Plan implied implementation approach does not past muster as a viable methodology.

I am also troubled by the overt manipulation of the analytical techniques to make them consistent with the Climate Act narrative.  The framework analysis depends on a model that is large, includes many value judgements, and has so many variables that it can provide any answer that the Climate Action Council wants.  For example, I believe that the modeling approach ignores the benefits of natural gas options and does not include the costs to replace it with other less reliable and affordable options which makes the transition conversion more beneficial than it actually will be.  This bias is also evident in the application of the benefit cost analysis methodology.   An example is given where the NPA calculation did not project that the benefits would out-weigh the costs.  Nonetheless the utility went ahead and chose that option anyway.  At some point the public has to ask what is the point of all this if you modify the rules to get the answer you want anyway.


The background for the DPS order for this effort states that “public interest demands that gas utilities provide information to and communicate with customers in a way that promotes effective customer planning, reduces confusion, and avoids inequities or the appearance of inequities”.  There is no way that is happening at this time and all indications that it will not occur until it is too late for meaningful public input and the possibility of changing anything significant.

The Administration is controlling the implementation approach for the Climate Act’s net-zero transition.  A fundamental assumption in the Climate Act is that this transition is only a matter of political will and there are people involved in this process that actually believe that is the case.  This approach over-simplifies the problem and the solution.  The lack of a detailed reliability and affordability feasibility analysis kicks the problem down the road.  State agencies are rushing ahead to implement plans and regulations for the transition without taking into account this risk.  Moreover, the analyses and processes for the implementation are biased and even if the results suggest that implementation now is premature, decisions are being made consistent with the narrative and not reality.  I cannot believe that this won’t end badly.