New York’s Democratic-run state Legislature might enact one of the most radical energy mandates on the planet. The Climate and Community Protection Act would require that greenhouse-gas emissions from all sources be halved by 2030 and reach zero by 2050.
Nada. Zero. Zilch.
That would mean retooling the entire state economy, which will be accomplished central-planning-style, with lots of committees and working groups. The climate-justice working group, for example, will be tasked with identifying which New Yorkers receive 40 percent of a carbon-tax bounty that will be hoovered up from residents and businesses.
Other unelected bureaucrats will impose a combination of performance standards — emissions limits that will effectively ban fossil-fuel use — and set those carbon taxes.
The state’s existing Clean Energy Standard calls for reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2050. But the CCPA will require the entire economy to be run solely on electricity generated with renewable energy resources, primarily wind and solar power. Transportation, which today accounts for 40 percent of the state’s energy consumption, will have to be powered solely by electricity — even the Staten Island Ferry.
Manufacturing — or what’s left of it — will have to be all-electric. Farmers won’t be able to use chemical fertilizers on their lands. The state’s dairy industry will be shuttered, because cows belch tons of methane. How the CCPA envisions those emissions being captured is anyone’s guess. The same holds for methane emitted by landfills.
The few energy-intensive manufacturing industries that remain in the state will have to go. Cement, for example, is manufactured from limestone using a chemical process that releases carbon dioxide. Even the greenest electricity won’t change that basic chemistry.
To justify the accompanying mandates and taxes, the CCPA requires comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. But even if New York’s reductions fell to zero tomorrow, the impact on the world’s climate would be too small to measure. Hence, the CCPA won’t provide New Yorkers any measurable benefits. Yet rest assured that Albany data-torturers will dutifully claim billions in benefits, and New Yorkers will bear billions in new costs.
The numbers provide a reality check. In 2015, the last year for which the state has published data, total emissions were about 217 million metric tons. According to the 2018 BP Statistical Review, between 2007 and 2017, the US steadily reduced its annual carbon emissions, cutting them by 800 million metric tons, around 14 percent.
But over that same period, annual emissions from the rest of the world increased by more than four billion metric tons. In other words, while the US has been reducing its carbon emissions, the rest of the world’s emissions have been increasing five times as fast, at an average rate of about 400 million tons each year.
Thus, even if New York somehow zeroed out, the net impact would offset only about six month’s worth of the annual increase in global emissions.
The zero goal will require the state to obtain massive quantities of renewable electricity. In 2016, total state energy consumption was about 2,800 trillion BTUs. Of that, less than one-fifth was consumed in the form of electricity. And only about 15 percent of that electricity was generated from wind, solar and biomass facilities.
Meeting the state’s needs using wind alone would require 140,000 turbines — nearly double the total amount of wind capacity in the entire US.
Meeting the state’s electricity needs solely with solar, meanwhile, would call for more than 15 times the total amount of solar energy in the entire US. It would also necessitate covering 10 percent of the entire state’s land with solar panels and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
And because wind and solar power work only when the wind blows or the sun shines, the state will need backup storage. Lots of it. Meeting just one day’s average daily electricity consumption for an emissions-free New York would require installing 1.5 million megawatts of battery storage, equivalent to installing around 160 million Tesla Powerwalls, or about 20 in every single home and apartment in the state.
Even if current battery storage costs fall by 80 percent, that would still require an investment of $750 billion, equivalent to $37,500 for every New Yorker.
If they cared to look, the politicians in Albany could easily see that achieving the CCPA’s impossible goal will cost trillions of dollars, crater the state’s economy and have no effect on climate. Of course, when has reality ever stood in the way of green virtue-signaling and spending taxpayer money?
This piece originally appeared at the New York Post
Jonathan A. Lesser, PhD, is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the president of Continental Economics, an economic litigation and consulting firm.