From The MANHATTAN CONTRARIAN

Francis Menton

In the competition among the states to establish progressive and “woke” bona fides, California and New York run neck and neck for the lead positions. In no field is this more true than in the area of “climate change,” which as progressive public policy turns into a program to drive up the cost of energy, suppress fossil fuels and anything else that works (nuclear), and demand creation of a new fantasy energy system based on the wind and the sun.

In recent years, California has seemed to pull well ahead of New York in the accumulation of climate virtue. California has had a so-called “renewable portfolio standard” for its generation of electricity since way back in 2002, and has been aggressively building wind and solar generation facilities ever since. In 2018, thinking that the way to achieving lower carbon emissions is to cover the countryside with wind turbines and solar panels, California upped its game with a bill known as SB 100, having the official title “The 100 Percent Clean Energy Act of 2018.” Among other things, SB 100 called for a 100% carbon-emissions-free electricity sector by 2045. As reported here a few weeks ago, in March the California energy regulatory agencies jointly came out with plans to reach the 100% by 2045 goal. Meanwhile, the California Energy Commission reports that in 2020 California achieved a level of 36% of its electricity generation from renewables.

So are we here in New York just going to stand around and let our butts get kicked by these upstarts? No! But we have some serious catching up to do. New York wasn’t nearly so ambitious as California in building wind and solar facilities in the first two decades of the 21st century. By 2019 New York got some 29% of its electricity from “renewable” sources. But the large majority of that came from the gigantic hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls, which somehow is seen by environmental moralists as lacking in climate virtue; and in any event there isn’t another Niagara Falls waiting to have a big hydro plant attached. Time to get serious! So in July 2019 New York enacted something called the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), our own version of California’s SB 100.

But in fact the CLCPA is much more draconian than SB 100. While SB 100 covers the electricity sector of California’s economy with its 100% zero emissions goal, the CLCPA mandates that New York achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors of the economy. Specific targets are set for 40% reductions (from 1990 levels) by 2030 and 85% reductions by 2050, again, not just in the electricity sector, but in all sectors of the economy. The distinction is not trivial. Here is a chart from the federal EPA giving an approximate breakdown of emissions by economic sector for the entire country:

As you can see, the electricity sector generates only about 25% of emissions nationwide. The transportation sector is even bigger, at 29%. That covers not just personal automobiles, but also air travel, plus trucks and trains for moving freight. Has anybody even thought yet about how to start “decarbonizing” air travel, let alone making substantial reductions by 2030? Agriculture and industry together account for 33%, and again nobody has much if any idea where to begin to “decarbonize.” And so forth.

So how are we going to do this? The CLCPA created a series of seven Advisory Panels for the different sectors of the economy, each of them charged with submitting recommendations as to how to accomplish the goals for the sector in question within the stated time frame. According to a bulletin issued by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, all of the Advisory Panels had submitted their recommendations by May 10, 2021.

This whole bureaucratic extravaganza is receiving next to no attention in our press as far as I can tell. However, a guy named Roger Caiazza, who runs a website called Practical Environmentalist of New York, has been putting out a post every few days where he goes through one or another of the presentations made by these Advisory Panels and offers some comments. At this point he has covered the reports of most of the Advisory Panels, although I have not found his comments on the Power Generation panel, which may be the most important of the bunch.

My overall comment about Mr. Caiazza’s work is that he is much nicer and more understated in his comments than I would be. Start reading these Advisory Panel presentations, and you cannot help immediately realizing that the whole exercise reads like a parody. It’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, where everyone involved in the exercise knows that it is absurd, but no one is allowed to say so, and everyone is required to take the whole thing with the utmost seriousness and never, ever crack a smile. After all, we are on a moral crusade to save the planet.

For today, I’ll just consider a couple of Mr. Caiazza’s posts. His May 24 post covers the recommendations of the Transportation Advisory Panel. The underlying presentation, some 56 pages long, can be found via link in Caiazza’s post. Although it’s 56 pages, the basic strategy is not difficult to state: simply declare any vehicle running on electricity or battery to be a “zero emissions vehicle,” and then issue a regulation mandating that all vehicles of each certain type be “zero emissions vehicles” by a date selected by the regulators. Nothing to it.

Thus the first type of vehicle discussed is “passenger vehicles,” and the strategy is encapsulated in this pithy one-liner: “Adopt zero emissions vehicle sales regulations.” See how easy that is? The time frame for implementation is given as “1-2 years.” (Do the people have any idea that this is coming? I don’t think so.). But anyway, we quickly move on to “trucks, buses and heavy equipment.” And the strategy? “Adopt zero emissions vehicle sales regulations.” It’s the same! And so is the time frame: “1-2 years.” Might it be a problem that electric semi trucks and buses and heavy equipment don’t even exist, let alone batteries and charging stations for them? That is not discussed here.

And by the way, I can’t find anything about airplanes in this document. Too bad — that would have been fun.

Caiazza comments: “The Transition to 100% zero-emission light duty vehicle sales enabling strategy exemplifies what I think is a major disconnect between the transportation planners and the public. I have attended stakeholder meetings for the Transportation Climate Initiative and listened to the true believers explain that there are so many advantages to electric vehicles that if only the public understood everyone would buy into the technology. However, even this strategy recognizes that “Lack of consumer awareness/interest and consumer concerns about technology & charging/fueling” are barriers to success. The ultimate problem with all of the clean energy technologies is that they all only work most of the time. Most of the time a light-duty electric vehicle might work well for me but several times a year I want to haul a big load in my mini-van several hundred miles and range anxiety is a very real concern.”

Talk about understatement!

Caiazza’s most recent post on May 31 comments on the submission of the Advisory Panel on Energy Efficiency and Housing. Buildings account for about 13% of emissions in the EPA chart, and apparently even more in New York, so this is a significant sector. Again, the presentation of the Advisory Panel can be found via link at Caiazza’s post.

The basic strategy of the panel recommendations is essentially the same: simply mandate that all buildings be “zero emissions” buy a date arbitrarily selected by regulators. “Zero emissions” means all-electric, and just assumes that all of this electricity can be generated by constructing more and yet more wind turbines and solar panels. So we are to mandate, via building codes that all new homes, and all renovations of existing homes, eliminate all use of fossil fuels. All oil and natural gas heating and cooking and clothes drying are to be verboten. Do the people know that this is coming? I don’t think so.

Caiazza: The plan is to amend the state codes for new construction, including additions and alterations, to require solar PV on “feasible” areas, grid-interactive electrical appliances, energy storage readiness, electric readiness for all appliance and electric vehicle readiness. They propose to adopt these all-electric state codes for single family residences by 2025 and for multifamily and commercial buildings by 2030. The presentation notes that by 2030, more than 200,000 homes per year will be upgraded to all-electric and energy efficient standards.

Some comments from Caiazza:

These are all aspirational gambits that . . . are [by] no means assured. The comment stating resilience is of critical importance is a hollow gesture. Fossil fuels provide more resilience in general and in the event of extreme weather such as an ice storm reliance on electric heat and renewable energy will have fatal consequences. Importantly, the public gets that and I doubt will not willingly give up the capabilities of natural gas and fuel oil for heating. . . . When I describe the limits on personal choices for energy use and added costs most people don’t accept that this could be possible. I believe that public backlash will be similar to what has been observed in Great Britain when the implications and costs become readily known.

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June 4, 2021