As Barack Obama prepares to leave the White House, it’s worth noting that the soon-to-be-former president parted company with Governor Andrew Cuomo on a crucial aspect of energy policy.
Obama promoted what he called “an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy,” promoting domestically produced, cleaner-burning natural gas as well as renewable energy sources such as hydropower, solar panels and wind turbines.
As the president put it in his 2013 State of the Union address: “The natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that.” A year later, Obama touted natural gas as “the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”
But even as Obama was extolling the economic and strategic benefits of shale gas production, Cuomo was moving in the opposite direction. At the end of 2014, after a three-year delay, the governor announced that his administration would ban hydraulic fracturing of the rich Marcellus Shale deposits in upstate New York. Last year, he went a step further, blocking water quality permits for the proposed Constitution Pipeline, which would carry fracked shale gas from Pennsylvania wells to the gas-starved customers in the struggling Southern Tier—and points eastward.
Next came Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard—effectively a one-of-the-above strategy—which sets the goal of relying on renewable sources to produce 50 percent of New York’s power by 2030, even though this will add (unacknowledged) billions to already high electricity rates.
The governor’s 2017 State of the State continues to tout the costly renewable reliance plan, including this little-noticed passage:
Now that New York has built a foundation for the renewable energy system of the future, the State must double down by investing in the fight against dirty fossil fuels and fracked gas from neighboring states to achieve the goals outlined in the Governor’s Clean Energy Standard. [emphasis added] (pp.57-58)
That “fight against” catchphrase typically is used to describe the eradication of a scourge, as in “the fight against hatred,” “the fight against terrorism,” or “the fight against cancer.” Promising to “double down on the fight against dirty fossil fuels and fracked gas from neighboring states” basically puts industry and residential energy customers on notice: New York State, under Cuomo’s leadership, will oppose any expanded production, transmission, transportation or use of oil or natural gas (i.e., “dirty” or clean).
This certainly doesn’t bode well for two proposed natural gas-fired plants (CPV and Cricket Valley) in the Hudson Valley, which would generate up to 1,650 MW of electricity to help make up for the loss of 2,000 MW of capacity when Indian Point nuclear plant closes.
Nor will it be encouraging to the many manufacturers dependent on natural gas as an inexpensive energy source—and, as in the case of western New York’s still vital chemical industry, a feed-stock to boot.
Speaking of manufacturers, Vice President Joseph Biden cited the importance of fracked gas in remarks at a 2014 skills training conference in Pennsylvania.
“You all know about the Marcellus Shale — I think you heard of that, right? There’s an energy boom that’s changed the paradigm of manufacturing. It’s cheaper to manufacture in the United States than it is in Europe and/or in Asia.”
Cuomo’s policy will ensure that the new manufacturing paradigm, powered by inexpensive fracked gas, is never fully replicated in New York.