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New York has been anti-fossil fuel for many years, and it is finally starting to catch up with them. The following article originally appeared in the New York Post.
New Yorkers experienced the headache caused by Gov. Cuomo’s crusade against natural gas last week, when a public hearing was held to discuss Con Edison’s January announcement that it would institute a moratorium on accepting new gas customers in Westchester County.
The Empire State has stymied the construction of the necessary transmission infrastructure, so Con Ed is unable to keep up with demand. In addition to his decision to ban hydraulic fracturing in 2014 — aborting any hope that New York could profit from some of its most valuable natural resources — Cuomo and his regulators have denied necessary permits for three separate natural-gas pipeline projects.
National Grid may soon follow Con Ed’s lead. Imagine: A major utility company is prepared to turn away potential customers, not because it wants to, but because Cuomo and his allies refuse to admit the need for energy supplied by natural gas. And because they’re equally in denial about natural gas’ environmental benefits.
You won’t hear much about it from environmentalists or the green-energy crowd, but the rise of American natural gas — a fossil fuel, no less — is one of the great ecological success stories of the last 30 years. Hydraulic fracturing has unleashed vast new supplies of natural gas, rendering it relatively cheap.
The cost savings largely explain why the nation’s electricity suppliers switched to natural gas, and because gas burns more cleanly than coal, its rise has been accompanied by a dramatic reduction in pollution and in America’s carbon footprint. US greenhouse-gas emissions have decreased 12 percent since 2005, and the switch to natural gas accounts for most of the improvement.
Of course, green activists have been pretending for years that solar and wind energy were the magic bullets that could de-carbonize America. But it turned out that the answer all along was clean-burning natural gas. In fact, data from the Energy Information Administration shows that, in 2016, New York relied more on natural gas for its energy needs than on coal, nuclear power and hydropower combined. Simply put, the Empire State runs on clean natural gas.
You would think that, under these circumstances, environmentally conscious politicians like Cuomo would embrace natural gas and happily cooperate with utilities like Con Edison, which depend on state approval for the construction of new gas pipelines and associated infrastructure projects.
Unfortunately, Cuomo and his regulators are more concerned about currying favor with extremist environmental groups than they are with fulfilling New York’s energy needs, even if doing so is compatible with lowering carbon emissions. Among the eco-radicals, fossil fuels are the new third rail, and every project involving oil or natural gas is inherently suspect.
The sad part is that Con Ed’s moratorium in Westchester County could be just the beginning of New York’s energy headaches. The state’s hostility to new natural-gas pipelines threatens to create energy shortages in the Big Apple, one of the largest energy markets in the country.
Will it take ordinary New Yorkers setting their thermostats to “lukewarm,” or the shuttering of offices and businesses because of a lack of power and heat, to convince Cuomo and other state leaders that action must finally be taken?
Already, Cuomo’s short-sightedness has cost New Yorkers dearly. New York’s Southern Tier sits above the Marcellus Shale, which is estimated to have the largest resource base of natural gas in the United States. But instead of capitalizing on this bounty, New York banned hydraulic fracturing.
Pennsylvania, which shares Marcellus with New York, shows New Yorkers what might have been: The Keystone State has become the second largest natural-gas-producing state in the Union. Meanwhile, since 2012, natural-gas impact fees have generated $1.5 billion in state revenue, including almost $500 million earmarked for environmental conservation. Energy development has also created 300,000 jobs.
Perhaps un-banning hydraulic fracturing is a bridge too far for Albany, but Cuomo should admit the obvious: New York needs natural gas, and so the infrastructure to deliver it to consumers should be allowed by the state. And if Cuomo won’t come to his senses, the federal government must reform the permitting process to stop New York and other states from frivolously blocking needed energy infrastructure.
Nicholas Waddy is an associate professor of history at Alfred State College, SUNY.