New York Green New Deal Announcement

On January 15, 2019 New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo did his State of the State Address. His 2019 Justice Agenda included 12 proposals under part 4 “Launching the Green New Deal”:

  • Mandate 100 Percent Clean Power by 2040 – This will mandate that all electricity will be “carbon free by 2040.
  • New York’s Path to Carbon Neutrality – The heads of relevant state agencies and other workforce, environmental justice, and clean energy experts will develop a plan to make New York carbon neutral.
  • A Multibillion Dollar Investment in the Clean Tech Economy that will Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions – There will be $1.5 billion in competitive awards to support 20 large-scale solar, wind, and energy storage projects across upstate New York.
  • Expand NY Green Bank and Catalyze at Least $1 Billion in Private Capital – The NY Green Bank is a $1 billion investment fund designed to accelerate clean energy deployment and they will expand its charter.
  • Chart a Path to Making New York’s Statewide Building Stock Carbon Neutral – There are plans for more energy efficiency investments.
  • Direct State Agencies and Authorities to Pursue Strategies to Decarbonize their Investment Funds and Ramp Up Investment in Clean Energy – Commence a process to review and evaluate the feasibility and appropriateness of divesting from fossil fuels for agencies and authorities.
  • Increase Carbon Sequestration and Meet the U.S. Climate Alliance Natural and Working Lands Challenge – This will establish a carbon sequestration goal for our natural and working lands.
  • Create a Carbon-to-Value Innovation Agenda and Establish the CarbonWorks Foundry – This will create a Carbon-to-Value Innovation Agenda as a blueprint for the future of carbon-to-value technology as well as carbon capture, utilization and storage in New York.
  • Deliver Climate Justice for Underserved Communities – The Green New Deal will help historically underserved communities prepare for a clean energy future and adapt to climate change by codifying the Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group into law and incorporating it into the planning process for the Green New Deal’s transition.
  • Create a Fund to Help Communities Impacted by the Transition Dirty Power – This will provide funding to help communities that are directly affected by the transition away from conventional energy industries and toward the new clean energy economy
  • Develop Clean Tech Workforce and Protect Labor Rights – The Green New Deal will continue to require prevailing wage, and the State’s offshore wind projects will be supported by a requirement for a Project Labor Agreement.
  • Make New York the National Hub for Offshore Wind and Deploy 9,000 Megawatts by 2035 -The Green New Deal will accelerate offshore wind progress in three specific areas: port infrastructure, workforce development, and transmission infrastructure.

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. I will develop posts on specific components of the announcement in the future. In the meantime, the following is the Green New Deal section.

Part 4. Launching the Green New Deal

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.

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.

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.

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.

 Proposal. Mandate 100 Percent Clean Power by 2040

As part of the Green New Deal, Governor Cuomo is proposing a mandate of 100 percent clean, carbon-free electricity in New York State by 2040, the most aggressive goal in the United States and five years sooner than the target recently adopted by California. The cornerstone of this new goal is an increase of New York’s successful Clean Energy Standard mandate from 50 percent to 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030. This globally unprecedented ramp-up of renewable energy will include:

  • Quadrupling New York’s offshore wind target to 9,000 megawatts by 2035, up from 2,400 megawatts by 2030
  • Doubling distributed solar deployment to 6,000 megawatts by 2025, up from 3,000 megawatts by 2023
  • More than doubling new large-scale land-based wind and solar resources through the Clean Energy Standard
  • Maximizing the contributions and potential of New York’s existing renewable resources
  • Deploying 3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030

Achieving 100 percent carbon-free electricity will require investments in resources capable of meeting diverse demands throughout the state, as well as a substantial increase in cost-effective energy efficiency. Harnessing a complementary set of carbon-free energy resources will assure reliability and affordability for all New Yorkers as the electricity system is both modernized and optimized. To ensure that clean energy opportunities are available for those that need it most, as part of this nation-leading commitment, Governor Cuomo is directing the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), in concert with the Department of Public Service (DPS), to expand and enhance their Solar For All program and couple it with energy savings opportunities, increasing access to affordable and clean energy for low-income, environmental justice and other underserved communities.

 Proposal. New York’s Path to Carbon Neutrality

The Green New Deal will create the State’s first statutory Climate Action Council, comprised of the heads of relevant state agencies and other workforce, environmental justice, and clean energy experts to develop a plan to make New York carbon neutral. The Climate Action Council will consider a range of possible options, including the feasibility of working with the U.S. Climate Alliance to create a new multistate emissions reduction program that covers all sectors of the economy including transportation and industry and exploring ways to leverage the successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to drive transformational investment in the clean energy economy and support a just transition.

The Climate Action Council will also identify and make recommendations on regulatory measures, clean energy programs, and other State actions and policies that will ensure the attainment of statewide emission reduction and carbon neutrality goals. The Council will consider programs and measures that can significantly and cost-effectively reduce emissions from all major sources, including electricity, transportation, buildings, industry, commercial activity, and agriculture. The Council will also explore opportunities for the beneficial electrification of transportation and heating of buildings as a means to drive substantial and deep emissions reductions. Finally, the Council will make recommendations to ensure a just transition to the clean energy economy for New York’s world-class workforce and most vulnerable citizens.

The Climate Action Council will commence its work immediately in order to support the development of the next State Energy Plan over the next two years and will provide meaningful opportunities for public comment as it develops New York’s first carbon neutrality roadmap.

 Proposal. A Multibillion Dollar Investment in the Clean Tech Economy that will Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Demonstrating New York’s real-time commitment to implementing the most ambitious clean energy agenda in the United States, Governor Cuomo is also announcing $1.5 billion in competitive awards to support 20 large-scale solar, wind, and energy storage projects across upstate New York. These projects will drive a total of $4 billion in direct investment in New York’s growing clean energy economy, as well as add over 1,650 megawatts of capacity and generate over 3,800,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy annually – enough to power nearly 550,000 homes and create over 2,600 short-term and long-term jobs. Once all permitting and local requirements are met, several projects are expected to break ground as early as August 2019 and all projects are expected to be operational by 2022. The projects will reduce carbon emissions by more than 2 million metric tons, equivalent to taking nearly 437,000 cars off the road. Combined with the renewable energy projects previously announced under the Clean Energy Standard, New York has now awarded more than $2.9 billion to 46 projects, accelerating New York’s progress and commitment to Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal.

 Proposal. Expand NY Green Bank and Catalyze at Least $1 Billion in Private Capital

In 2013, Governor Cuomo announced NY Green Bank, a $1 billion investment fund designed to accelerate clean energy deployment. Since then, NY Green Bank has become globally recognized as a leading sustainable infrastructure investor, committing nearly $640 million and mobilizing nearly $1.75 billion in private capital for clean energy projects across the state.

Building on NY Green Bank’s successful and self-sustaining track record, Governor Cuomo announced in the fall of 2017 that NY Green Bank would raise at least $1 billion of private capital and expand its clean energy investing activities nationally. To deliver on that commitment and further support the Green New Deal, Governor Cuomo is now calling for the development of terms for a public-private partnership to effectuate NY Green Bank’s third-party capital raise and national expansion.

 Proposal. Chart a Path to Making New York’s Statewide Building Stock Carbon Neutral

Buildings – and the fossil fuels traditionally used to heat and cool them – are a significant source of energy-related carbon pollution. As such, Governor Cuomo has made the improvement of energy efficiency in buildings a major priority. The Governor’s New Efficiency: New York agenda, released on Earth Day 2018, contains a comprehensive portfolio of proposals and strategies to meet an ambitious new target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs by 2025. In addition, Governor Cuomo launched RetrofitNY in 2016 to stimulate the development of an energy efficiency industry that can tackle the challenge of deep building retrofits that will enhance building performance, reduce energy usage, and

Because buildings are one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, Governor Cuomo is announcing a comprehensive strategy as part of the Green New Deal to move New York’s building stock to carbon neutrality. The agenda includes:

  • Advancing legislative changes to support energy efficiency including establishing appliance efficiency standards, strengthening building energy codes, requiring annual building energy benchmarking, disclosing energy efficiency in home sales, and expanding the ability of state facilities to utilize performance contracting.
  • Directing the Public Service Commission to ensure that New York’s electric and gas utilities achieve more in scale, innovation, and cost effectiveness to achieve the state’s 2025 energy efficiency target, especially through their energy efficiency activities and clean heating and cooling programs, and that a substantial portion of new energy efficiency activity benefits low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.
  • Directing State agencies to ensure that their facilities lead by example through energy master planning, net zero carbon construction, LED retrofits, annual benchmarking, and by meeting their electricity needs through clean and renewable sources of energy, specifically including the exploration of clean energy solutions at State Parks and at State facilities within the Adirondack Park to dramatically reduce emissions, create jobs, and increase resiliency.
  • Developing a Net Zero Roadmap to articulate policies and programs that will enable longer-term market transformation to a statewide carbon neutral building stock.
  • Together, these bold actions will establish New York as a global leader on environmentally sustainable buildings while catalyzing major economic development opportunities and helping to create good jobs.

Proposal. Direct State Agencies and Authorities to Pursue Strategies to Decarbonize their Investment Funds and Ramp Up Investment in Clean Energy

In 2018, Governor Cuomo called on the New York Common Fund, which manages over $200 billion in retirement assets for more than one million New Yorkers, to adopt a serious and responsible plan for decarbonizing its portfolio. Over the past year, the Governor has worked with the Office of the Comptroller to establish an advisory panel of experts to develop a decarbonization roadmap and guide the Common Fund toward investment opportunities that combat climate change.

As part of the Green New Deal, Governor Cuomo is taking the next step, by directing State authorities, public benefit corporations, and the State Insurance Fund, which collectively hold approximately $40 billion in investments, to commence a process to review and evaluate the feasibility and appropriateness of divesting from fossil fuels. To scale up investment in renewable energy, green infrastructure, and climate solutions, agencies and authorities will also work to educate plan administrators and investment consultants regarding investment opportunities in the clean energy sector.

 Proposal. Increase Carbon Sequestration and Meet the U.S. Climate Alliance Natural and Working Lands Challenge

In 2015, Governor Cuomo launched the Climate Resilient Farming Program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and to increase resiliency of New York State farms impacted by climate change. Just last year, New York accepted the U.S. Climate Alliance’s Natural and Working Lands challenge, ensuring that land stewardship and land sequestration efforts join energy reduction and adaptation activities as part of our collective climate solutions.

To meet our Natural and Working Lands commitment, Governor Cuomo will establish new research partnerships to incorporate forest and agricultural carbon into New York’s greenhouse gas inventory and climate strategy and to establish a carbon sequestration goal for our natural and working lands. To help achieve this goal, Governor Cuomo proposes doubling the State’s investment in the Climate Resilient Farming program and creating new forestry grant programs—enhancing the Healthy Soils NY program and enabling farmers, forest owners, and communities to achieve the economic and environmental co-benefits of sound management practices.

Proposal. Create a Carbon-to-Value Innovation Agenda and Establish the CarbonWorks Foundry

Avoiding the worst consequences of climate change will require not only reductions in emissions using existing technologies, but also innovation, particularly with respect to withdrawing CO2 from the Earth’s atmosphere. Innovative new technologies are emerging in response to this challenge that can capture CO2 from the atmosphere and either permanently sequester the carbon underground or transform it into valuable fuel or products, known as carbon-to-value. While many of these technologies are still in their infancy, they show promise in the collective fight to address climate change.

Accordingly, Governor Cuomo is announcing that in 2019, New York State, with the help of experts, environmental groups, academic institutions, and other stakeholders will create a Carbon-to-Value Innovation Agenda as a blueprint for the future of carbon-to-value technology as well as carbon capture, utilization and storage in New York. NYSERDA will provide $15 million to support multiple efforts to further New York’s Carbon-to-Value Innovation Agenda. This will include NYSERDA and SUNY working with academic institutions, experts, and philanthropic partners to establish the CarbonWorks Foundry, a new incubator and accelerator devoted to carbon-to-value technology development with a focus on carbon harvesting. Finally, NYSERDA will engage other State agencies to create a framework for a low-carbon procurement standard, which can create a market for low-carbon cement and concrete, building materials, and other valuable low-emissions products.

Proposal. Deliver Climate Justice for Underserved Communities

In 2016, the Governor introduced an ambitious environmental justice framework, establishing a statewide commitment to addressing the historic disparate environmental burdens suffered by communities of color and low-income communities. In 2017, he introduced an Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group to ensure that environmental justice and a just transition of New York’s workforce are an integral part of New York’s clean energy and climate agenda. In the past 3 years, New York State has invested more than $16 million through the Environmental Protection Fund in environmental justice initiatives. New York also currently has over 151,000 individuals employed by clean energy industries throughout the state and has committed $70 million in workforce training in the clean energy economy. As part of the Green New Deal, Governor Cuomo will build upon these important foundations for making environmental justice and just transition central to moving to a carbon neutral economy.

The Green New Deal will help historically underserved communities prepare for a clean energy future and adapt to climate change by codifying the Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group into law and incorporating it into the planning process for the Green New Deal’s transition. To increase the effect of funds and initiatives that target energy affordability, the Governor is directing the State’s low-income energy task force to identify reforms to achieve greater impact of the public energy funds expended each year. The Governor is also directing each of the State’s ten Regional Economic Development Councils to develop an environmental justice strategy for their region.

New York State currently directs more than $700 million in ratepayer and federal funds each year to combat energy poverty and increase access to clean energy solutions for the 2.3 million low-income households in the state. However, current programs only reach 1.4 million households each year with bill assistance programs, and less than 20,000 households each year with clean energy measures.

As part of the Green New Deal, Governor Cuomo will address energy poverty in New York State by directing the low-income energy task force, comprised of NYSERDA, DPS, OTDA, and HCR, to develop a roadmap and unified strategy to increase the impact of funds and initiatives that target energy affordability. Specifically, the Governor is directing the task force to assess policy, programmatic, and administrative reforms necessary to achieve greater impact of public funds expended each year.

 Proposal. Create a Fund to Help Communities Impacted by the Transition Dirty Power

Governor Cuomo is introducing legislation to provide funding to help communities that are directly affected by the transition away from conventional energy industries and toward the new clean energy economy. Specifically, this funding will protect communities impacted by the retirement of conventional power generation facilities. The Governor is also calling upon the Environmental and Just Transition Working Group to contribute to and advise on the development of a Just Transition Roadmap for the Green New Deal.

Proposal. Develop Clean Tech Workforce and Protect Labor Rights

To ensure creation of high-quality clean energy jobs, large-scale renewable energy projects supported by the Green New Deal will continue to require prevailing wage, and the State’s offshore wind projects will be supported by a requirement for a Project Labor Agreement. To prepare New York’s workforce for the transition, New York State will take new steps to support workforce development, including establishing a New York State Advisory Council on Offshore Wind Economic and Workforce Development, as well as investing in an offshore wind training center that will provide New Yorkers with the skills and safety training required to construct this clean energy technology in New York.

 Proposal. Make New York the National Hub for Offshore Wind and Deploy 9,000 Megawatts by 2035

New York is leading the nation on offshore wind, which, as an emerging clean energy industry in the U.S., has tremendous potential for both the energy sector and economic development in the state. Called for by Governor Cuomo and released in 2018, New York’s Offshore Wind Master Plan is the most comprehensive offshore wind strategy in the country and has charted the course for this energy resource to play a significant role in achieving a carbon-free electricity grid. In November 2018, New York issued its first major offshore wind solicitation for at least 800 megawatts, which will set the stage for large-scale development of this important resource and the economic advantages that come with it.

To ensure New York State is the focal point for offshore wind development and this growing industry, Governor Cuomo is proposing nearly quadrupling the State’s target for offshore wind deployment from 2,400 megawatts by 2030 to 9,000 megawatts by 2035, the most aggressive offshore wind goal in U.S. history. To complement this bold statement of national and global leadership, Governor Cuomo is directing new actions, as part of the Green New Deal, to accelerate offshore wind progress in three specific areas: port infrastructure, workforce development, and transmission infrastructure.

  • Ports: Invest $200 million in New York port infrastructure to unlock private supply chain capital and maximize the long-term economic benefits to the state from the regional development of offshore wind. This multi-location investment would represent the nation’s largest infrastructure commitment to offshore wind and would solidify New York’s position as the hub of the burgeoning U.S. offshore wind industry.
  • Workforce Development: Establish a New York State Advisory Council on Offshore Wind Economic and Workforce Development and invest in an offshore wind training center that will provide New Yorkers with the skills and safety training required to construct this clean energy technology right here in New York.
  • Transmission: Initiate a first of its kind effort to evaluate and facilitate the development of an offshore transmission grid that can benefit New York ratepayers by driving down offshore wind generation and integration costs.

The development and adoption of offshore wind is a critical component of the transition to a clean energy economy and presents a major economic opportunity for New Yorkers, including the creation of thousands of high-quality jobs. With these new commitments, the New York will continue to lead in this exciting and developing field.

NYS Energy Czar on the “Carbon Bubble”

Update: After I posted this today I found a relevant post: Does the IPCC say we have until 2030 to avoid catastrophic global warming? I encourage readers to check it out because provides extensive documentation that Kaufmann’s rationale for a carbon bubble is at best weak.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s energy czar Richard Kauffman wrote a recent column for The Hill (https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/424784-will-a-market-crash-get-the-action-we-need-on-climate-change) about a “carbon bubble”. He claims that the imminent and inevitable climate catastrophe could force markets to acknowledge it and force society to act: “The end of denial by financial markets and government leaders is nearly at hand. For most investors, the risks of climate change loom beyond their investment horizon. It’s been easy for investors to operate in a speculative carbon bubble, acting as though there are no impending costs to earnings-per-share or to liabilities in their portfolios from the buildup of carbon in the atmosphere. But these costs may increasingly look real, and when investors start taking these costs into account, markets will revalue: not just oil and gas stock, but all stocks.”

I find it frightening that a New York State official like Kauffman warns that government intervention will be necessary if the market response is delayed too long. He states “If the bubble bursts late, governments will need to take on war and national emergency footing. This could mean government control over industry, restrictions of individual consumption, even military mobilization to protect and seize resources. Economic inefficiency. Less freedom. Lost asset value.”

It is astounding that there is such a disconnect between the science and a policy maker’s vision. Kaufmann repeats the mantra “Climate change is more severe and happening sooner than scientists had originally predicted. Droughts. Sea level rise. Floods. Fires.” All those impacts have happened before and will happen whether or not government takes control over industry, restricts individual consumption, and protects and seizes resources. Intuitively the majority of the public gets that and suspects that human impacts on the weather will more likely be a tweak than the control knob. The science says that we expect a range of possible impacts and outside of the media circus, politicians catering to their base, crony capitalists eying the trough and environmental activists crying “Wolf” everyone else gets that their vision of climate catastrophe is very unlikely.

Even if Kaufmann’s Administration goes ahead with their Reforming the Energy Vision plan to combat climate change it will fail simply because of the Iron Law of Climate. Roger Pielke’s law states that “While people are often willing to pay some price for achieving climate objectives, that willingness has its limits.” One has to look no farther than the “yellow vest” protests against French President Macron’s fuel tax to see the likely result of just increased prices much less government control over industry, restrictions of individual consumption, or military mobilization to protect and seize resources

Warning Signs from Germany for New York Reforming the Energy Vision

Germany’s Federal Audit Office has released a report that accuses the federal government of having largely failed to manage the German equivalent of New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV). There are warning signs in the report because some of the issues raised are already prominent in the New York energy vision.

Germany’s program, Energiewende or energy transition, is the change from nuclear and fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. Legislation for the Energiewende passed in 2010 and includes a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction target of 80% by 2050 the similar to REV. The Federal Audit Office review of the program found that costs are high and the targets will likely be missed. “Over the past five years alone, at least 160 billion euros have been spent on the transformation of the energy system,” the report states: “If the costs of energy system transformation continue to rise and its targets continue to be missed, there is a risk of a loss of confidence in the ability of government action.”

In order to implement the transition Germany has had to develop a large bureaucracy to manage the programs and enact 26 laws and 33 regulations. The audit notes that there is “no place where everything comes together, no place that assumes overall responsibility”. This is what is happening in New York. There are over 40 REV initiatives but no single summary.

The audit states:

In short: “A lot of effort does not necessarily mean a lot”. For despite a great frenzy of data collection there is no overall view. “The Federal Ministry of Economics uses 48 different data sources to check the status of the Energiewende on the basis of 72 indicators, and yet “there is a lack of meaningful data that could be relevant for assessment and control”. Many data would have little control value or would be available too late, but often they would “simply draw the wrong conclusions”.

New York’s REV has no status indicators available.

My biggest concern with REV is cost. The German Federal Audit Office report notes: “there are no quantified targets, no measurable indicators” for the energy policy goals of affordability and security of supply. REV also fails to provide that critical evaluation information.

I believe that someday there will be a similar cost-benefit analysis audit of REV with the same results of extraordinary costs and failures to meet the ambitious targets. I predict that the response from New York State will be the same as from the German federal government:

The Federal Government explained its refusal to conduct a transparent cost-benefit analysis of the Energiewende by saying that these costs could only be compared with a “counterfactual scenario”. Because electricity grids and power plants would have had to be renewed even without the Energiewende, only a comparison of a world with and a world without the Energiewende would be meaningful. However, such a comparison could not be made because of the large number of uncertain basic assumptions.

Oneonta New York Decompressor Station and New York Energy Policy

Last month I stumbled upon references to a decompressor station in Oneonta, New York. Firstly, I had no clue what a decompressor station and secondly I was born and raised in Oneonta, New York so I followed up on the story. It is a perfect example of New York State’s emotional rather than rational energy policy.

I was astonished to learn that there is a natural gas load pocket in Oneonta. This small city is located in the western Catskills in Otsego County SW of Albany New York. The natural gas pipeline installed when I was living there in the 1950’s is no longer adequate for all users on the coldest days of the year. As a result the local utility has to curtail natural gas to larger users so that the residential users have adequate supplies to heat their homes. The solution is to compress natural gas elsewhere, truck it to the curtailed facilities, and then decompress it for use.

Mr. Zakrevsky described the decompressor station proposal at the Oneonta Town Board meeting on August 8. He explained that there isn’t enough natural gas for heating on the 30-odd coldest days of the year from the existing pipeline to Otsego County so bigger users have to curtail their use so that homeowners do not have to maintain a backup heating system. Two hospitals, several manufacturers, and a college in Oneonta need energy-dense, constantly available fuel to supplement their natural gas use when that fuel is curtailed. They have considered setting up their own decompressors to replace higher-polluting, less-efficient fuel oil so the Otsego Development Authority submitted a proposal for a grant to explore the possibility of a single centralized decompressor station to provide the necessary natural gas.

The link listed above documents a hearing at the Oneonta Town Board meeting including comments from a crowd of folks who do not want new fossil fuel infrastructure. I did not listen to all the speakers who attended the Town Board meeting to protest the decompressor station because the arguments I did hear all seemed confined to emotional pleas for “cleaner, greener” alternatives. My problem is that I do not believe numbers or history support such alternatives. There were opponents to this project that proudly claimed victory for the permit denial of the Constitution natural gas transmission project nearby that would have provided all the natural gas necessary for everyone in Oneonta. Apparently that natural gas was from Pennsylvania and is fracked so it is evil and must be stopped. I think that all those who opposed the decompressor proposal and opposed the Constitution pipeline should explain how they propose to solve the specific problem of heating the city’s hospital on the coldest days of the year.

I do not think that the decompressor station and compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks is a particularly “good” solution.   From a pollution standpoint using natural gas is better than fuel oil so I agree that using natural gas is preferable and my experience with fuel switching is that process also has implementation risks which could cause heating problems so sticking with natural gas rather than switching to fuel oil is better. Clearly moving CNG by truck during the winter is risky and I understand why speakers at the meeting described them as “bomb trucks”. However, the safer solution is to have enough natural gas pipeline infrastructure in place to prevent curtailments. Because that is not available, the proposal to have a central station just off the interstate rather than decompressor stations at each location that faces curtailment requirements reduces transport risk and makes sense. I must point out that the Constitution pipeline would have solved this problem so the folks that claim that preventing that as a “victory” have to accept culpability for what I believe is a worse alternative.

I expect that the opponents will claim renewables can provide the answer to providing heat for the hospital. I would love to see quantitative support for a solution to the need for constant, dense energy for heating the hospital on the days when not having heat would surely exacerbate illness and maybe even cause deaths. Renewables are intermittent and diffuse. What kind of storage solution do they propose for this winter problem when the available solar energy is low and, on the really cold days, when winds are light? Heating the hospital without the need for outside electricity is necessary in case of a power outage – think ice storm. The hospital uses a heating plant with a boiler that provides hot water for heating and hospital use. The problem with renewable electrical energy is that there is no way to provide in-kind replacement for the boiler fuel. In order to provide heat with renewables the whole heating system would have to be replaced, probably with heat pumps. Those systems have their own problems on these cold days. Proponents of renewable energy have to provide a solution and costs to make their case that there is a viable and affordable alternative to the proposal.

When I was growing up in Oneonta during the 1950’s I missed the Delaware & Hudson Railroad steam engine era when there were over a hundred coal-fired locomotives operating out of the city. However, I do remember the excitement when natural gas came to town so that my family no longer had to deal with maintaining our coal-fired furnace fire, dealing with the ashes and having a coal bin in the basement. I am not aware of any records of the air quality in Oneonta when coal was the preferred heating source and the roundhouse had coal-burning locomotives but I am sure that it was poor. Since 1980 statewide average SO2 levels have decreased by 95%. When homes and the railroad were burning coal in the “City of the Hills” the SO2 concentrations must have been a couple of orders of magnitude greater than today’s levels. That improvement was thanks to oil and natural gas replacement of coal.

I think this is a good example of New York’s dysfunctional energy policy. Ultimately the opponents of the decompressor station must rely on emotional arguments because a rational analysis supports the proposal as a reasonable, albeit not “good”, solution to a problem caused by the lack of sufficient pipeline infrastructure. The better solution would be new pipelines to provide the necessary natural gas. The irrational fear of fossil fuel infrastructure in New York is causing poor decisions.

Cuomo Pledges No New Natural-Gas Fired Power Plants

On May 10, 2018, a Food and Water Watch organizer cornered Governor Andrew Cuomo on the topic of natural-gas fired power plants. According to their press release, “Tonight in New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo committed on camera that he would reject any new natural-gas fired power plants”.   It is not often that I have any sympathy for the Governor but in this case I do.

The press release headline is that Governor Cuomo pledged to not permit any new gas power plants. I leave it to the reader to review the video “proof” and decide if this was a substantive pledge.   My transcription of the conversation between Laura Shindell, the organizer with Food & Water Watch and Andrew Cuomo:

Shindell: “Will you protect our climate and communities by rejecting all fracking infrastructure?”

Cuomo: “I have.”

Shindell: “The Sheridan Hollow power plant in Albany and CPV power plants…”

Cuomo: “That is not fracked.”

Shindell: “The fracking infrastructure pipelines and power plants that transport …”

Cuomo: “Pipelines we have. “

Shindell: “Yes”

Cuomo: “Power plants that burn gas we have all over the state. We would have to close them and that is the long term plan.”

Shindell: “And will that conflict with your climate goals”

Cuomo: “Yes, they do”

Shindell: “to remove all fossil fuels? So building Cricket Valley and CPV make it harder for us to make your own climate goals”

Cuomo: “We are not building any new ones. But we have to find a replacement for the old ones.”

Shindell: “Cricket Valley is getting built now”

Cuomo: “It was approved like eight years ago. I have not approved any new ones and I won’t. Thank you”

According to the Food and Water Watch press release:

Asked about new natural-gas fired power plants, Cuomo said, “I have not approved any new ones, and I won’t.” The press release notes correctly that several power plants, including the CPV plant in Orange County and the Cricket Valley power plant in Dover, NY have in fact been approved on Cuomo’s watch. The governor was clear in saying that these plants conflict with the state’s climate goals, adding: “We’re not building any new ones.”

Unfortunately neither Cuomo nor Shindell are energy literate. Shindell does not want the proposed combined heat and power plant in the Sheridan Hollow neighborhood of Albany. On my companion blog I posted an analysis that showed there is no viable alternative to replace the existing system. The existing system needs steam and there is no renewable energy technology that provides steam.  Either you replace with a much cleaner natural gas system or use the existing old dirtier power plant.

Cuomo was correct to say that we have to find a replacement for old natural gas fired power plants when he said that he won’t approve any new natural gas-fired power plants. I hope that he knows, but did not want to extend the conversation to explain, that if we have to replace old natural gas-fired power plants some, if not all, will have to be with natural gas fired power plants.

For example, there are around 70 old, small (~15 to 25 MW), peaking combustion turbines in New York City that are inefficient and have high NOx emission rates. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has been threatening to promulgate new pollution limits that will either require new pollution control equipment or shutdown. Because they are so old it does not make much sense to invest in expensive control equipment so the more likely option is to shut them down and replace them with a new modern, efficient and very low emitting facility.

The fact of the matter is that there is no viable alternative for completely replacing 1000 MW of peaking turbines that need to be replaced. Some of the peak can be shaved and there are other options to make the system more efficient so you might not need all 1000 MW. Turbines can run for hours so even if you cut the peak hour load by half they can still provide 3000 MWh of generation if they run six hours. Because renewable energy is diffuse and intermittent New York City has to rely on transmission to get enough renewable power to cover normal load much less peak load. Importantly, there is a requirement to rely on in-city generation when storms threaten to sever transmission lines into the city based on lessons learned from the July 1977 New York City blackout. Absent any consideration of economics or tradeoffs the only solution is natural gas fired power plants or run the risk of another blackout.

According to the Food and Water Watch press release:

After the exchange, Food and Water Watch activists pledged to hold Governor Cuomo accountable to his new commitment to reject new fracked gas power plants. “The age of fossil fuels is over, and it’s exciting to hear Governor Cuomo commit to reject new fracked gas power plants. Since he acknowledged that fracked gas plants conflict with New York’s climate goals, Governor Cuomo should rescind existing permits for power plants like CPV and Cricket Valley as well.  The governor can rest assured the climate movement will hold him to his words,” said Laura Shindell.

I can only hope that at some point energy facts and tradeoffs between alternate sources of energy will be considered so that natural gas power plants can be developed where they are appropriate and necessary. Alas it is an election year and the energy illiterate climate movement appears to be calling the shots.

My Comments on New York Carbon Pricing 3

New York’s energy planning process continues its efforts to meet the aggressive goals of a remodeled energy system that relies on renewable energy. The latest boondoggle in that effort is a plan to price carbon in the wholesale electric market. I have posted on previous submittals here and here.  The following is the comment that I submitted to the State on March 29 2018.

These comments are submitted as a private retired citizen. They 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. I am motivated to submit these comments so that there is at least one voice of the unaffiliated public whose primary interest is low rates and an understanding of the basis of the rationale for a carbon price. New York State energy planning based on the Reforming the Energy Vision goal to change the energy system of New York to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 is trying to choose between many expensive policy options like pricing carbon in the electric sector while at the same time attempting to understand which one (or what mix) will be the least expensive and have the fewest negative impacts on the existing system. If we make a good pick then we’ll spend the least amount of a lot of money, but if we get it wrong we will be left with lots of negative outcomes and even higher costs for a long time.

These comments are being submitted before the carbon charge setting and adjustment topic is discussed in April. The basic rationale of this policy to price carbon to offset the cost of its impacts hinges on the Social Cost of Carbon value used. I believe it is unfair and inappropriate to determine its viability based on the use of a single value so I recommend using a range and this comment provides further justification for alternative values.

I previously submitted two comments on this initiative. I have recommended that the carbon pricing initiative consider a range of SCC values including the proposed value and the values included in the Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Review of the Clean Power Plan: Proposal. In my other submitted comments I noted that there are serious issues with only including the electric sector. I noted that there are barely enough electric sector emissions available to meet the 2030 goal and nowhere near enough for the 2050 goal. Because the proposed carbon tax is on only one sector of the economy, the overall goal of carbon reductions could fail simply because driving up the price of electricity makes the conversion to electric based residential heating and transportation more difficult.

Because of the importance of the SCC on the very basis of this initiative, this comment provides another reference documenting the weaknesses of its use. I endorse the findings of Climate Change, Catastrophe, Regulation and the Social Cost of Carbon by Julian Morris as representing my views on the use of the SCC in this matter.

Julian Morris on the Social Cost Carbon

In the following section I only edit the summary of the analysis as published at the Reason Foundation for use in this comment. I refer the reader to the reference for the supporting graphs and figures and recommend reading the full document.

Federal agencies are required to calculate the costs and benefits of new regulations that have significant economic effects, but initially, different agencies applied different SCCs. To address this problem, the Office of Management and Budget and Council of Economic Advisors organized an Interagency Working Group (IWG) to develop a range of estimates of the SCC for use by all agencies. However, the IWG’s estimates were deeply flawed. In April 2017, President Trump issued an executive order rescinding the IWG’s estimates and disbanded the IWG. The question now is what value regulatory agencies should use for the SCC—if any—when evaluating rules that affect greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Morris writes that:

Most analyses of the social cost of carbon, including the IWG’s, have utilized “integrated assessment models” (IAMs), the basic methodology of which involves the following six steps:

  • Develop (or choose from existing) scenarios of future emissions of GHGs;
  • Use those scenarios to estimate future atmospheric concentrations of GHGs;
  • Project changes in average global temperature and/or climate resulting from these future atmospheric GHG concentrations;
  • Estimate the economic consequences of the resultant changes in temperature/climate;
  • Estimate the costs of abating specific amounts of GHG emissions;
  • Combine the estimates from steps 4 and 5 to produce an assessment of the net economic effect of different scenarios and thereby identify the optimum path of emissions.

Each step in this process is fraught with difficulty:

  1. Future emissions of GHGs are unknown—and unknowable—but likely lower than assumed in most IAMs.

Future human-related emissions of GHGs will depend on many factors, especially: the human population, the extent and use of technologies that result in energy consumption, the types of technology used to produce energy, and the efficiency with which technologies use energy.

None of these factors can be forecast with any precision. Predicting future technologies is particularly challenging. However, greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. sources have declined from their peak, mainly as a result of using more energy-dense, lower carbon fuels (and by using energy more efficiently. Global emissions are rising but at a declining rate, in spite of robust economic growth. If these trends continue, future concentrations of greenhouse gases are likely to be at the low end of estimates used by the IWG when calculating the SCC.

  1. The relationship between emissions and concentrations of greenhouse gases is complicated.

Calculating future atmospheric concentrations of GHGs, based on estimates of future human emissions, requires knowledge of the length of time that these GHGs will remain in the atmosphere. That, in turn, requires knowledge about the rate at which they will break down and/or be absorbed. This is no simple task. The rate at which GHGs such as methane and dinitrogen monoxide break down depends on such things as temperature and the amount of water vapor and other chemicals in the atmosphere with which they might react. The rate at which CO2 is taken up by plants, soil and oceans varies considerably depending on factors such as temperature and the availability of nutrients. The dynamic and interactive nature of these effects complicates the picture further.

  1. The climate is likely much less sensitive to increased emissions of GHGs than has been presumed in most IAMs, including those used by the IWG.

Early estimates of the sensitivity of the climate to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases found that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide would result in a warming of between 1.5°C and 4.5°C, with a “best guess” of 3°C. But those estimates were based on poorly specified models. Tests of models using those estimates of climate sensitivity predict about twice as much warming as actually occurred. Nonetheless, the IWG used those early, inaccurate estimates. More recent estimates of climate sensitivity suggest that future emissions are likely to result in much more modest warming of the atmosphere (with a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations resulting in a warming of 1.5°C or less).

  1. The effects of climate change are unknown—but the benefits may well be greater than the costs for the foreseeable future.

If the recent lower estimates of climate sensitivity are correct and emissions follow a relatively low path, warming will likely be modest and its effects mild. Likely effects include:

  • Warming will be greater in cold places (i.e. farther from the equator), seasons (winter), and times (night) than in warm places (equatorial regions), seasons (summer) and times (day).
  • At higher latitudes, winters will be less extreme.
  • Precipitation will increase, but not everywhere, and some places will become drier.
  • Sea levels will continue to rise slowly, as the oceans expand and land-based glaciers melt. (If current trends continue, sea level will rise by about 11 inches by 2100.)
  • The incidence of extreme weather events will not change dramatically.

While increased temperatures in warm places and seasons may result in higher mortality among those who are less able to cope with higher temperatures, warmer winters will reduce the number of people who die from cold. Since 20 times as many people currently die from cold as die from heat, modest warming will reduce temperature-related deaths. These effects will be tempered by the use of heating and cooling technologies, but the costs of additional cooling will be more than offset by reduced expenditure on heating.While rising temperatures have the potential to increase the incidence of some diseases, such as diarrhea, these effects are likely to be moderated by the adoption of better technologies, including piped clean water and sewerage.

Increased concentrations of carbon dioxide and higher temperatures are likely to increase agricultural output in many places. While agricultural output may fall in other places, this effect is likely to be moderated by the adoption of new crop varieties and other technologies. On net, crop production is likely to rise in the U.S. and globally.

Many economic models of climate change, including two of the three IAMs used by the IWG assume very limited adaptation. Yet the history of human civilization is one of adaptation. Food availability per capita and access to clean water have risen dramatically over the past half-century, reducing malnutrition and water-borne diseases and increasing life expectancy. Rising wealth and the adoption of new technologies have reduced mortality from extreme weather events by 98% in the past century. It seems highly likely that continued innovation and more widespread adoption of adaptive technologies will continue to reduce mortality, mitigating most—if not all—the adverse consequences of rising temperatures.

  1. The costs of reducing future emissions of GHGs are unknown—and will depend very much on the extent and timeframe of any reduction.

Proponents of taking action now argue that any delay would increase the total cost of emissions reductions—because baseline emissions (i.e. the emissions that would occur without any mandated reductions) would be higher and the size of any such future reduction would have to be greater. But such arguments presume both significant increases in baseline emissions and a need dramatically to reduce such emissions. If the trends in technology identified earlier do continue, growth in baseline GHG emissions will continue to slow and in the longer term may even fall without any government mandates. Indeed, it is possible that baseline emissions in the future (i.e. after 2050) will be consistent with a pathway of emissions that results in atmospheric GHG concentrations that generate net benefits.

Even if baseline emissions rise to a level that justifies intervention in the future, that does not necessarily justify reducing emissions now. Humanity currently relies predominantly on carbon-based fuels for energy generation, and the costs of alternative sources of energy are in most cases relatively high. (If alternative sources of energy were less expensive, then it would make economic sense to adopt them.) Continued innovation will almost certainly result in lower emissions per unit of output in the future, so the costs of reducing a unit of GHG emissions in the future will be lower than they are today.

  1. When combining benefits and costs, the IWG used inappropriately low discount rates, giving the false impression that the benefits of reducing emissions are greater than the costs. At discount rates that reflect the opportunity cost of capital, the current costs of taking action to reduce GHG emissions now and in the near future are almost certainly greater than the benefits.

OMB guidelines state that, for the base case, “Constant-dollar benefit-cost analyses of proposed investments and regulations should report net present value and other outcomes determined using a real discount rate of 7%. This rate approximates the marginal pretax rate of return on an average investment in the private sector in recent years.”

Unfortunately, when discounting the benefits and costs associated with global warming, many analysts have used discount rates that do not reflect the opportunity cost of capital. For example, the IWG provided an estimate of the SCC at a 5% discount rate, but it is the highest rate given. In its guidance, the IWG emphasized the SCC calculated at a 3% discount rate. Its rationale for using the lower rate is that future benefits from avoiding climate change costs relate to future consumption, rather than investment. Policies to address climate change would affect both consumption and investment, but for the purposes of evaluation what matters is the effect on investment, since it is the effect of policies on investment decisions that will determine rates of innovation and hence economic growth, the ability to adapt to climate change, and future consumption. In other words, while future consumption is of primary concern, due to its relationship to human welfare, return on investment is the key factor determining future consumption. Thus, the appropriate discount rate is the rate of return on capital.

Changing the Assumptions

Changing the assumptions made in the IWG’s models can have a dramatic effect on estimates of the SCC. Anne Smith and Paul Bernstein of National Economic Research Associates ran the IAMs used by the IWG making four changes:

  1. They changed the emissions scenario to reflect more realistic assumptions regarding the relationship between emissions and economic growth;
  2. They changed the time horizon from 2300 to 2100;
  3. They changed the discount rate from 3% to 5%;
  4. They changed the scope from global to U.S. only.

When all these changes were combined, the effect was to reduce the SCC by 97%, from $43 to about $1.30. Smith and Bernstein’s analysis did not change any assumptions regarding climate sensitivity or other relevant climate parameters that might have been misspecified in the IAMs used by the IWG. Kevin Dayaratna, Ross McKitrick and David Kreutzer assessed the effects of using more-recent empirical estimates of climate sensitivity to calculate updated SCC estimates using two of the IWG models. They found that, for one model, the average SCC fell by 30%–50% and for the other it fell by over 80%. Moreover, at a 7% discount rate, one of the models generated a negative SCC.

If all of the adjustments made by Smith and Bernstein were combined with those made by Dayaratna et al. it seems likely that the SCC would fall to well below $1. Indeed, given uncertainties in the various parameters used, it seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that for practical purposes the SCC is effectively $0.

What About Catastrophic Climate Change?

Some economists have objected that conventional measures of the SCC fail adequately to account for the possibility of catastrophic climate change. However, such criticisms are based on assumptions concerning the probability of catastrophe that have no empirical basis. A recent attempt to estimate the SCC by surveying experts to find out what they would be willing to pay to avert catastrophe is so riddled with defects as to be of no utility.

Caiazza Conclusions

As Mr. Morris notes “The question now is what value regulatory agencies should use for the SCC—if any—when evaluating rules that affect greenhouse gas emissions.” I do not believe that this proceeding is an appropriate place to determine the most appropriate single value of the SCC to use. However, it would be clearly appropriate to consider a SCC range not only because there are technically justifiable differences in the key input assumptions but also because the SCC value originally proposed for this program was based on the flawed Obama Administration IWG assumptions that did not follow OMB guidance on the use of discount rates.

The analysis by Mr. Morris concludes that “it seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that for practical purposes the SCC is effectively $0.” Therefore, I recommend that this initiative determine what SCC value represents a breakeven point for implementing this program. It is only possible for policy makers to appropriately implement this initiative if they understand there is a reasonable and justifiable range of potential costs of carbon on society. The basic rationale of this policy hinges on the SCC value used and it is unfair to determine its viability based on the use of a single value.

Carbon Price SCC Value Recommendation

I recommend that the carbon pricing initiative consider a range of SCC values including the proposed value in the Brattle Report entitled Pricing Carbon into NYISO’s Wholesale Energy Market to Support New York’s Decarbonization Goals, the values included in the Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Review of the Clean Power Plan: Proposal, and because Climate Change, Catastrophe, Regulation and the Social Cost of Carbon concludes that “it seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that for practical purposes the SCC is effectively $0” that the breakeven point be calculated where the calculated value of the social cost of carbon benefit out-weighs the costs of a price on carbon.

Page 22 Pricing Carbon into NYISO’s Wholesale Energy Market to Support New York’s Decarbonization Goals Section V. Market Design Issues with a Carbon Charge, A. Establishing the Appropriate Carbon Price and Adjustments Over Time:

The first option is to set the carbon charge at the value New York ascribes to carbon abatement. The New York NYPSC has adopted using the SCC as estimated by the U.S. Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon. The SCC serves an estimate of the damages associated with an incremental increase in carbon emissions. Specifically, the NYPSC has tied ZEC payments to the SCC, starting at $43/ton CO2 today and rising to $65/ton by 2029.

Page 44 Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Review of the Clean Power Plan: Proposal in section 3.4.1. Estimating Forgone Domestic Climate Benefits

Table 3-7 presents the average domestic SC-CO2 estimate across all the model runs for each discount rate for the years 2015 to 2050. As with the global SC-CO2 estimates, the domestic SC-CO2 increases over time because future emissions are expected to produce larger incremental damages as physical and economic systems become more stressed in response to greater climatic change, and because GDP is growing over time and many damage categories are modeled as proportional to gross GDP. For emissions occurring in the year 2030, the two domestic SC-CO2 estimates are $1 and $7 per metric ton of CO2 emissions (2011$), using a 7 and 3 percent discount rate, respectively.

For emissions occurring in the year 2015, the two domestic SC-CO2 estimates are $1 and $5 per metric ton of CO2 emissions (2011$), using a 7 and 3 percent discount rate, respectively.

Climate Ambition Must Confront Energy Realities

Sean Sweeney recently authored an intriguing article entitled “A Bridge to Somewhere? Progressive Democrats’ “Climate Ambition” Must Confront Energy Realities”.   This post addresses an unexpected agreement on some aspects for two individuals from opposite ends of the climate change debate.

Sean Sweeney is director of the International Program for Labor, Climate and Environment at the Murphy Institute at City University of New York, and coordinator of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy. His article published in the New Labor Forum mentions deniers in the first paragraph and states that the 2017 hurricane season was severe enough to “warrant climate change to be declared a national emergency?” At the other end of the spectrum when I look at a papers based on actual data I find that “since 1900 neither observed continental United States landfalling hurricane frequency nor intensity show significant trends, including the devastating 2017 season.” As a result I do not believe that climate change is a national emergency.

Nonetheless we find common ground. I agree with Sweeney that “the more ambitious the targets, the harder it is to answer questions about how they will be reached.”

Sweeney describes two bills introduced in Congress in 2017 that represent progressive Democrats’ climate ambition. A Senate bill introduced in April 2017 by Senators Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders, and Ed Markey. It calls on the United States to transition 100 percent off of fossil fuels by 2050. The “100 × 50” Act would impose new federal mandates requiring “zero carbon” vehicles, while barring federal approval of oil and gas pipelines. The House bill, submitted by Tulsi Gabbard on September 7, 2017, along with six other representatives seeks to end fossil-fuel use in the United States as early as 2035—a full fifteen years earlier than the 2050 target date proposed by Sanders and Merkley. Titled “Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act” (OFF Act) would also mandate the United States to transition to 80 percent clean renewable energy by 2027 and 100 percent by 2035.

Both bills mandate moratoria on any new coal, oil, and gas projects (extraction and infrastructure, including power plants, pipelines, and export terminals). Sweeney and I agree that these are ambitious goals. I agree with him when he states “Ambition surely has its place, but committing to a crash diet on the morning of January 1 is one thing, being fifty pounds lighter in time for the July 4th weekend is something else altogether.” I also agree that with him when he notes that “the difference between aspirational targets and actual accomplishments is not always acknowledged by leading green nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).” I believe he is also correct when he notes that “Mandating electricity retailers to source 80 percent of their power from renewables does not answer the question how that power might be produced, integrated into the grid, or who will do the work.” As noted on my other blog, the aspirational plans to reduce New York State emissions certainly signal the virtue of the Governor of New York but it is not at all clear how those plans will be implemented, whether anyone is looking to see if there are unintended consequences between competing components of the plan, and, most importantly in my mind, how much will they cost.

Despite our agreement on this aspect I cannot overstate how much I disagree with his statement that those two climate bills are “informed by the core findings of the scientific community”. These targets are arbitrary, reflect a mis-reported 97% consensus and the idea that a portion of the scientific community funded to the tune of over $2.5 billion dollars in 2016 would come up with any conclusion other than “it is a problem and you need to fund us more” is naïve. I agree with Dr. Judith Curry “we do not know how much humans have contributed to the recent observed warming and there is disagreement among scientists as to whether human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases is the dominant cause of recent warming, relative to natural causes.” As a result I do not support mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

Finally, Sweeney states that “If either bill became law, it would amount to a declaration of war on fossil-fuel interests, because much of the present-day stock market value of coal, oil, and gas companies is based on their below-the-ground reserves.” While I agree that this would be a declaration of war on fossil-fuel companies, I think it represents a much bigger target. I believe that fossil fuels have been one of the greatest things to happen to mankind. Until there are in-kind, same price replacements for the ubiquitous use of fossil fuel in society this targets the way of life of everyone. There is a massive lack of understanding relative to what keeps the lights on and enables our affluent and mobile lifestyles. Once you understand that cutting CO2 to the levels proposed will be extraordinarily difficult it is clear that it will be expensive and it is going to affect our lifestyle. For example, electrification of the transportation and residential heating sectors will be required. Sponsors of these bills owe it to their constituents to explain just how expensive it will be and what will have to change in our lifestyle.