New York should join the shale revolution

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s natural gas policies make no sense and are self-defeating. New York has banned drilling for in-state natural gas resources while at the same time the state has increased its reliance on natural gas to replace coal, clean up air emissions, and fight climate change.

Natural gas has been critical in helping New York reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, which have been dropping steadily for the last decade, and the U.S. Department of Energy just reported that energy-related CO2 emissions nationally have fallen to their lowest level since 1991.

This beneficial drop in emissions is mostly due to the increased use of natural gas, with some renewables, and reduction in the use of coal.

Natural gas enables renewable energy by providing efficient and flexible power when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. Without natural gas available, it is hard to see how the electric grid could even absorb large amounts of intermittent wind and solar power.

Natural gas is also valuable for industrial heating and heavy transportation, sectors that wind and solar don’t compete in, and natural gas heats nearly half of all American homes.

New York’s official energy plan forecasts that natural gas will be the No. 1 energy source in 2030 across all uses, yet Albany halts pipeline developments that will deliver natural gas where it is needed.

The Cuomo administration claims to want clean energy jobs in New York. Cuomo was eager to offer up hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in a dubious deal for the Solar City photovoltaic manufacturing plant in Buffalo that is now part of a corruption investigation led by the U.S. Attorney. At the same time, Cuomo is busy interfering with gas pipeline projects that offer obvious benefits to the state in the form of tax revenues, construction jobs, and useful infrastructure.

Natural gas is a fossil fuel, but it should be distinguished from coal and petroleum because it burns clean with minimal pollution. Replacing coal and oil burners with natural gas is a proven method to improve air quality and save lives and should be embraced by environmentalists, not protested.

A former director of Greenpeace U.K., Stephen Tindale, wrote a recent editorial endorsing natural gas as a solution in the fight against climate change. “As a lifelong champion of the Green cause, I’m convinced that fracking is not the problem but a central part of the answer,” he wrote.

Thanks to the shale revolution, we have an abundant supply of natural gas that can help us reduce emissions while actually lowering energy costs. We have broad capabilities to expand our use of natural gas to replace more carbon-intensive fuels and tackle climate change.

We also know from watching shale development in Pennsylvania and Ohio that gas production can be done safely. New York is in an advantageous position to learn from the best regulatory approaches used across the country to ensure drilling will be done safely and responsibly, and allowing communities in the Southern Tier of New York to benefit from desperately needed investment.

Natural gas produced in New York could be completely consumed within New York and replace gas imported from out of state.

Yet the Cuomo administration — which is pushing greater use of natural gas — won’t allow New York landowners to tap the resources on their property. Instead, these folks must continue to stand by and watch their neighbors across the state line drill gusher wells and earn large royalties.

The environmental community and the Cuomo administration need to be honest. Natural gas is the key energy source helping New York and the nation reduce carbon emissions and integrate renewable energy onto the grid. It’s past time we join the shale revolution and stop watching it unfold from the sideline.

Albany Times-Union Op-Ed, Nov. 21, 2016