An inconvenient truth about New York’s energy policy


We’ve all heard the saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” It’s basically a warning against banking everything on a single choice, rather than diversifying and leaving yourself options.

Unfortunately, the radical politicians controlling both chambers of the State Legislature are ignoring that lesson when it comes to energy policy. They’re putting us in peril by working to make electricity the only energy people can use to drive their cars, heat their homes and cook their food.

The Senate majority recently passed the New York Heat Act, a nice-sounding measure that in reality would make it impossible for Long Islanders to access safe, clean and affordable natural gas, propane and other fossil fuels. It would eliminate residential customers’ legal entitlement to gas service, and ban new expansions of gas infrastructure after Dec. 31. It would also eliminate the “100-foot rule,” which connects residential customers to gas mains free of charge, and create a 6 percent cap on income-based energy costs, forcing residents and businesses to submit proof of income to the bureaucrats at the Public Service Commission in order to qualify. The bill would turn over all public powers “material and necessary” to implement the state’s scoping plan under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which would force state residents and businesses to achieve net-zero carbon emissions.

To borrow a phrase from former Vice President Al Gore, the Senate’s plan ignores several inconvenient truths. Transitioning all residential and commercial buildings and vehicles solely to electricity would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Residents, businesses and all taxpayers would bear the brunt of the cost — the same people who are already fleeing the state due to high taxes, the high cost of living, more restrictions on our freedom and, according to Forbes, the second-worst business climate in the country.

On top of that, our existing electricity grid is already overstressed, and can barely handle high-load days without emergency measures. Imagine what would happen if we added this massive new demand. Power outages would be more than an inconvenience — they’d be public safety emergencies, because there would be no other way to heat your home in the winter, cool it in the summer, cook your dinner or charge your electric vehicle (which you will be forced to purchase).

And while New York state is cutting off supplies of natural gas, it is relying on dirty technology from other states, like Pennsylvania coal, to generate the “clean” electricity the Senate plan requires. All of this to eliminate New York’s carbon footprint, which is only 0.4 percent of the world’s output.

As if this isn’t enough, Albany’s leaders last year approved a new mandate requiring all new school buses sold in New York state to be zero-emission by 2027 — just three years away — and all buses on the road to be zero-emission by 2035. Electric school buses cost three times as much as regular buses. The cost of converting all 50,000 school buses in the state will exceed $20 billion, plus several billion more to build the infrastructure to charge and service them — a burden that will ultimately be borne by taxpayers.

And cost isn’t the only concern. The lithium-ion batteries that power electric buses are in the news regularly for causing fires, and data shows they lack the range necessary to operate in all weather conditions, because cold weather limits battery life. Barreling forward, full speed ahead, without addressing these very real concerns and taking appropriate time to plan is a recipe for disaster.

Addressing climate change and reducing emissions are laudable and important goals, and we need to take steps to make progress toward accomplishing them. The key to effective reform, however, should be to diversify our energy sources, not to eliminate all but one source. We should take the time to invest in clean and renewable energy technology to make it safer, more sustainable and more affordable for New Yorkers, and first build the infrastructure to handle it, rather than ramming unrealistic, costly and dangerous change down our throats by the force of government.

Safety, affordability and reliability — not politics — need to be the basis of New York’s energy policy. That’s the truth that Albany needs to listen to.

Steve Rhoads represents the 5th Senate District.