Editor's note: This editorial is based on a report by Jonathan Lesser, New York's Clean Energy Programs: The High Cost of Symbolic Environmentalism
Gov. Cuomo expects to score lots of points with 2020 Democratic primary voters for his “80 by 50” plan to make New York a clean-energy leader, cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. That’s a win for him — at a huge expense to everyone who lives here.
Jonathan Lesser, president of Continental Economics, lays out the grim facts in a new Manhattan Institute study, “The High Cost of Symbolic Environmentalism.”
Actually meeting the 2050 goals would cost New York consumers more than $1 trillion, he finds. Just meeting the 2030 interim goals would push up electric bills by $18 billion over the next dozen years.
Cuomo’s goals require far more than just replacing oil-, gas- and coal-based power plants with solar, wind, hydro or nuclear ones, because those plants account for just a small share of the state’s fossil-fuel consumption. Furnaces and vehicles, for example, would have to go electric, too.
That all requires vast new upstate wind and solar farms, plus huge new transmission lines to get the power here. And massive investment in battery facilities: Solar generation drops at night, and in the winter — when home-heating needs peak. Wind-power generation varies with, well, the wind.
To meet the 2050 goals, New York would need “to build at least 100,000 megawatts of offshore wind generation covering 6,000 square miles, an area larger than Connecticut.”
The only operating US offshore wind facility is in Rhode Island; the first facility proposed for New York isn’t scheduled to be in service until 2022, at the earliest.
If the state went solar instead, it’d need 300,000 MW of capacity, when the whole country added just 11,300 MW in 2015.
Team Cuomo made it all look reasonable with cost-benefit analyses that pretend to show the transformation as a net plus. But, Lessing points out, these are utter bull — not accounting for, e.g., the environmental costs of industrial solar and wind farms.
Worse, they claim vast economic benefits from the shift, ignoring the fact that taking New York carbon-free wouldn’t even dent global carbon emissions — which means the changes wouldn’t deliver any real gain.
It’s all one vast white elephant, wasting billions to serve Cuomo’s political ambitions.
This editorial originally appeared in the New York Post