Climate change skeptics are often urged by climate change believers to “follow the science” when it comes to whether our climate is changing. That’s a fair proposition, but it means following all the science, wherever it leads. Convenient untruths should be avoided, too.
Yet in New York state, political considerations have led to contorting energy and environmental policy to fit preordained extreme Green positions. In the process, the state government has metaphorically backed us up to the sea. And since many Long Islanders live along our seashore, how this dilemma is handled is of more than passing importance.
New York has historically benefited from a wide range of energy-production options. We get a about a quarter of our electricity from hydropower, about a third from nuclear power, about 10 percent from renewables like wind and solar, and the remaining more than 30 percent from natural gas. That means that New York is already getting more than 60 percent of its power from carbon-free sources. And natural gas burned here to make electricity has replaced older, less environmentally friendly coal- and oil-fired plants. Added to this is the fact that New Yorkers are among the most efficient power consumers in the U.S.
Nationwide, the shift from coal and oil to cleaner natural gas has led the U.S. to make some of the biggest reductions in carbon emissions. In fact, America has made more progress in complying with international climate agreements than other large industrial nations. And New York has been a leader in this cleaner-energy progress.
So we should be pleased with the achievements we’re making on the energy front, right? Not according to the enviro-extremists. To them, only renewables like wind and solar are acceptable. Nuclear power, which also generates zero carbon emissions, is anathema. That’s the essence of their fixation on a Green New Deal, which would wrench the U.S. from rational, achievable improvements in our energy and environment policies to a radical, untenable energy future.
How to break this impasse? Here’s what a reasonable compromise would look like:
• Close Indian Point and quickly replace it with natural gas plants, but also open gas exploration and production in New York to help meet demand. And rapidly expand and build pipelines to carry the gas.
• Maintain and expand the remaining upstate nuclear power-generating capacity to continue production of its clean electric power.
• Build critically needed transmissions lines to move the upstate power downstate.
• Only after carefully considering relevant environmental issues — especially the effects on fishing grounds — proceed, if necessary, with the offshore wind project.
Our leaders can do these things if their heads aren’t buried in the sand.
Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.