April 2019 Vol. 74 No. 4

Editor's Log

Give Them What They Ask For

When an energy source is extremely economical, much-more environmentally friendly and readily available, common sense would dictate that you encourage development of that source. But sometimes common sense and reality prove to be dramatically different things.

In January, New York energy company Consolidated Edison was forced to impose a moratorium on new natural gas service in parts of Westchester County (north of New York City). ConEd said that it must stop hooking up new customers immediately to avoid compromising the gas system’s reliability. ConEd took this unusual and dramatic step due to limited space on existing interstate pipelines into the region.

New York state, led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and environmental zealots, have tenaciously fought and blocked expansion and installation of gas pipelines anywhere in the state. Further, Cuomo’s blanket ban on fracking since 2014 means that although New York sits on a lucrative portion of the Marcellus shale field, there is no natural gas development. New York generates virtually no gas resources on a national scale, yet uses about 5 percent of the nation’s total production.

The hypocrisy of Cuomo’s ban is further exposed as a major, 680-megawatt power plant north of New York City is powered by fracked gas imported from Pennsylvania. The state reaps benefits, but Gov. Cuomo can still wave his environmental flag since the gas being used in the power plant involved no fracking in New York state. NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) reigns supreme in New York.

Cuomo wants utilities to focus more on renewable power sources and energy efficiency programs, instead of building more fossil-fuel-fired power plants and infrastructure, despite the efficiency of clean-burning natural gas. If this aggressive proposal achieves even partial success, it will still be at least 15 years, perhaps never, before substantial alternative energy relief can be realized.

In response to ConEd’s moratorium, New York announced in mid-March that it planned several steps amounting to $250 million to reduce energy consumption and fund alternative energy programs. Of course, no details were provided as to where the money would come from, despite a $4.5 billion current budget deficit.

Another state that practices NIMBY policies is California. Remember several years ago when California was having severe power shortages? The state found that pipelines and transmission lines had become inadequate to supply state needs during extreme peak periods. The state had the gall to sue the power companies for failing to supply energy even though California had blocked most of the attempts by power companies to expand service.

It’s time we quit coddling and playing ridiculous political games with these states and cities professing not to want any more carbon-based energy, yet readily using fossil fuels to meet the economic needs of their citizenry. Let’s give them what they want and cease any growth or additional supply to these locations.

When a pipeline needs repairs, replacement or upgrades, shut it down and take it out of service. When demand calls for expansion or installation of a new pipeline, don’t bother fighting the environmental zealots. Just invest the money elsewhere, thus avoiding costly legal battles, project delays, and battling complex and unnecessary state regulatory extortion.

My concept will probably not be well-received with those having a financial stake in energy or pipeline companies—at least in the short term. But as time wears on, it could become an unprecedented bonanza once reality sets in with these states. I’ve no doubt the locals will eventually instigate a revolt of Twitter feeds, Instagram and Facebook posts.

I’m sure there would be multiple lawsuits brought to force the resumption of service, but such action would necessitate even the most fervent of opponents to recognize that everyone still needs carbon-based fuels for the foreseeable future. With any luck, opposition and obstacles would cool somewhat after the “we don’t need no stinkin’ oil and gas” rants were proven irrelevant.

Could the current, much-ballyhooed alternative energy programs fill the void? Not likely, at least for several decades. Most studies predict it will be at 30–50 years before alternative energy technology can reach a tipping point to supply our country’s needs. Further, those studies, both government and private, anticipate that when we are able to deploy a viable, non-carbon-based energy source capable of replacing our energy needs, it most likely will be something substantially different than anything we currently are commercially pursuing.

In no way am I advocating abandoning alternative energy research and development. It absolutely needs to continue. But we’ve got to have a realistic, sound program in place. That will require an admission that natural gas is the bridge answer for both the environment and economics. And if the zealots can’t come to grips with that fact, our new rallying cry should simply be “cut ’em off.”


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