Unatego Area Landowners Association
Richard Downey rebuts the idea renewables are on the “right side” when it comes to our energy future. Natural gas is on the right side if emissions matter.
A proposed gas decompressor station in Oneonta, in my home county of Otsego, New York, has generated some controversy. Dan Buttermann recently wrote a letter to the editor titled “On Energy Future, State Must Pick Right Side” addressing it and some of my own comments. He chose the right title, but the wrong side — renewables only, no new gas. Unfortunately, the State (Cuomo) shares Mr. Butterman’s view.
Now, the consequences are beginning to show. Con Ed announced no new gas hook-ups in Westchester County. A six acre urban renewal project in Yonkers – kaput. All new commercial/ residential development in Westchester — on hold. Incidentally, Westchester utility rates are going up; gas 11% and electricity 6%.
Let’s not pick the wrong side. Our energy future needs all forms of energy, including affordable, abundant, reliable natural gas. Gas cuts overhead, creates jobs. It counterbalances New York’s high taxes and restrictive business climate. If permitted, pipelines could be here in about a year.
In his letter, Mr. Buttermann objects to my agnosticism on manmade global warming. In his mind the “acres of data” on CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere makes this “settled science.”
For starters. “settled science” is a contradiction in terms. History is littered with the debris of “settled science,” from the heliocentric concept of the universe to Paul Erhlich’s “Population Bomb.” I have no problem with the data; there are indications the world is warming. However, another science caveat; correlation is not necessarily causation. Many warming and cooling cycles have been identified over time; the Medieval and Roman Warming Periods, the one ten thousand years ago when the ice retreated from the valleys of Otsego County. What factor(s) warmed the earth then? It wasn’t manmade industrialization. Are those factors active today? In what combinations, what proportions?
Before we spend tens (hundreds?) of trillions of dollars on Green New Deals, we need answers to these questions. Furthermore, what are the consequences of that spending? What is the best way to pass a legacy of sustainability and prosperity to our children? These questions need answers before we bow to the “OMG!!! We have only twelve years to live!” Tweet storms.
However, for arguments sake, let’s assume Mr. Buttermann’s “settled science” is correct. Doom is imminent. Shouldn’t we look for the most expedient way to lower CO2 emissions? A build-out of renewables in proportions needed to “save the planet” would take time Mr. Buttermann says we don’t have. What’s the solution?
Well, how about this?
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) October 29, 2018 Today In Energy post notes carbon dioxide emissions from the US power sector have declined 28% since 2005. Emissions are now at 1987 levels.
The EIA credits the reduction primarily to market priced natural gas replacing coal in power generation. This reduction in emissions to 30 year lows was done in spite of a 85 million gain in population since 1987, an expanding economy, and expanding energy output.
Amazing! Show me another means of energy production that gets the same results in the same time at the same cost. If Mr. Buttermann is truly serious about averting his global catastrophe, the data is staring him in the face.
Finally, Mr. Buttermann notes my objection to subsidies for renewables but I’m OK with state money for a gas-decompressor station in Oneonta. He implies inconsistency on my part.
Not really. Subsidies have been around for as long as there’s been governments. My objection is to the State’s pernicious favoring of one industry over another through direct subsidies, tax abatements, mandates, prioritization, government regulatory and executive actions. This raises costs in one industry to the disadvantage of the other. Subverting the market price reeks of favoritism and corruption. As a consequence the customer (taxpayer/ratepayer) pays more money.
This brings us back to Buttermann’s letter where he offers the following:
The very thing that brought about this wave of discussion of energy policy was Otsego Now’s application for a grant to support the construction of a gas-decompressor station in Oneonta. That grant is state money, or taxpayer money, going to support gas infrastructure. Therefore, it is proper for us to debate whether or not our state is investing in the right infrastructure for the future.
As we heard at the Jan. 31 Energy Summit, there is an exciting debate about how we can construct energy policy and initiatives that will support economic growth and sustainability. The state routinely plays a role in economic development by tipping the scale. The question is whether or not the state is picking the right side of the scale.
What Buttermann misses is that Oneonta’s gas-decompressor is a one-time investment that will support the operation and expansion of existing businesses and attract new ones. It answers an expressed need. It doesn’t impede another form of energy. No problem for me if the State provides a subsidy to promote the general welfare by retaining and creating jobs. And, this one, in contrast to solar and wind projects is not a continuing one, which makes all the difference.
Richard Downey is a retired New York City schoolteacher and a member of the Unatego Board of Education and the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York.
This post appeared first on Natural Gas Now.