by Mark Dunlea and Steve Breyman
week the Cuomo administration finally said no to fracking for natural
gas in NYS.
Hopefully, Governor Cuomo will now embrace the goal of 100% clean renewable energy by 2030.
The fight over investing in fossil fuels is not over. There is a formal hearing on fracking that has to be conducted. There is still the struggle to stop expansion of the fossil fuels infrastructure, from the storage facilities at Seneca Lake and gas pipelines to liquified natural gas facilities off on Long Island and oil trains.
But if we are to halt runaway climate change, we must quickly transition to a carbon free economy.
The "Jacobson" study, conducted by Stanford and Cornell professors, showed that it is technologically feasible to create a 100% green energy system in New York based on renewable wind, water and solar combined with energy conservation and efficiency. This would include transportation. Some of the details need to be refined to reflect the political and physical realities on the ground in NY. But the biggest obstacle remains the political will.
This is where the Governor is critical.
#PeoplesClimate: Faith Contingent & Unitarian Universalists
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Unfortunately, on the same day the fracking decision was announced, the Governor-controlled Long Island Power Authority "voted to delay renewable energy projects it had promised and scuttled a $1 billion offshore wind farm."
The Governor has balked at admitting that climate change is driven by burning fossil fuels. The Governor wants New York to become more resilient in dealing with severe weather from climate change. More critical is the need to reduce climate change.
Cuomo did re-issue an existing Executive Order (EO) with a goal of 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. This goal was established by the international science community to keep the rise in temperatures to 2 degrees centigrade. But climate scientists are actually a conservative bunch in making conclusions and recommendations. Climate change is happening much more quickly than they predicted. A 80% reduction by 2050 is too little too late - the planet will burn and the human and financial impact will be devastating.
The EO needs to be amended to have a goal of 100% reduction by 2030. The Governor's State of the State address on January 7 would be a good time to announce the change.
Such a statement would need to be followed up with ongoing leadership by the Governor and other elected officials. Progress has too often languished following prior good statements by this and other Governors.
For instance, the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) a decade ago set a goal of having 30% of the state's electricity be renewables by 2015. Unfortunately, it has only increased a few percentage points to 22% (most of the prior 19% was from hydro). The state needs to mandate that the utilities purchase renewables. PACE Energy and Climate Center recently laid out additional steps the state should take. The administration must also better implement the Green Jobs Green Home program, which is falling far short of its goal to energy retrofit one million homes.
More attention needs to be paid to reducing the carbon footprint of the transportation and agriculture systems. Buildings must be required to become far more energy efficient.
The 100% clean green energy by 2030 for NYS it is not only feasible, it will also significantly improve our quality of life and economy. 4.5 million jobs would be created during the build out. Electric bills will be half of what they would be with fossil fuels. Health problems from bad air and high temperatures would be reduced. And we would create a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.
The price tag is significant - though less than the cost of inaction. The capital investement would be over $400 billion over several decades. Most of these funds would already be spent by the private sector on the energy system; they would be redirected from fossil fuels to renewables. The rest could be paid for with a state carbon tax or other mechanisms to hold carbon polluters financially responsible for the damages they cause. (Any carbon tax should include a rebate to low and middle income consumers to offset its regressive nature.)