May 21, 2018

Cassidy: Andrew Cuomo’s Natural Gas Ban is Anti-Science

SOx and the City

Andrew Cuomo’s Natural Gas Ban is Anti-Science

By U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy

May 21, 2018

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has lost the plot. Professing to care about climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions such as sulfur oxides (SOx), Cuomo announced at a Manhattan campaign event that he will ban all new natural gas power plants. He also said he plans to close down existing ones.

This is crazy. Not only will this mean higher electricity rates for New York families, but it’s a decision that flies in the face of scientific data. Facing a strong political opponent—former Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon—Cuomo has become the man whose fear ate his sanity. His capitulation to the far left is like Botox—as some might say, painful and unnecessary.

From 1980 to 2015 in New York, carbon emissions from electric power decreased 45 percent. Since 1999 in New York, SOx emissions decreased 98 percent. It is indisputable that these reductions are due to the state’s investments in natural gas power plants. Since 1990, New York doubled its use of natural gas for electricity production, and now more than 35 percent of the state’s electricity comes from natural gas. This makes it New York’s primary source of power.

In contrast, wind and solar generate about 6 percent of New York’s electricity. Of course, you probably couldn’t help but wonder: why not replace all natural gas with renewables? It’s a good idea in theory, but in reality it doesn’t quite work. Here’s why: limitations in battery technology and problems with intermittence prevent renewables such as wind and solar from reliably powering a modern, industrial economy.

We’ve seen this play out around the world, including in Germany. Even though it increased renewables to roughly 30 percent of its electric production, Germany’s emissions have increased. Without nuclear power, German energy utilities have been forced to ramp up their use of coal to keep the lights on. Cuomo’s made-for-TV pledge will lead New York down a similar path.

The good news is that renewables become practical when you have fast-acting natural gas to back them up. The National Bureau of Economic Research states that for every one percent increase in fast reacting fossil technologies like natural gas, there is an associated .88 percent increase in renewable generation capacity in the long-term. If you want to increase the ability to more widely deploy renewables, you should support natural gas.

Science also tells us that if your goal is to reduce emissions, you should support natural gas. Advancements in technology have reduced emissions produced by the capture and transportation of natural gas. The International Energy Agency has stated that in all circumstances, natural gas produces significantly less emissions than coal and oil. A natural gas combined-cycle power plant emits 60 percent less carbon dioxide than a coal-fired unit producing the same amount of electricity. By transitioning from more carbon-intense fossil fuels to natural gas, the United States eliminated 2,007 million metric tons of carbon dioxide since 2005.

True environmentalists who accept science, then, should love the fact that the U.S. has tons of natural gas—enough to last at least 90 years at current consumption rates. By relying on natural gas and exporting it to other countries, we can strengthen our economy and create American jobs, all while decreasing global emissions.

Just like an old TV show rerun, we’ve already seen what happens under policies that increase energy costs. We saw our manufacturing and our jobs shipped overseas to places like China, where there are terrible environmental standards. In 2004, China was home to eight percent of global manufacturing. In 2013, it had 24 percent, and was creating 4.3 billion tons more in emissions every single year as a result.

Shutting down American natural gas and sending greenhouse emissions overseas may feel like progress to New York City liberals, but they shouldn’t deny the science. Cuomo’s plan won’t reduce emissions; it will actually make the problem worse.