MSC in RealClear Energy: Unrealistic Energy Policies Sting American Consumers

The United States is the global energy production leader, yet 23 million Americans across the Northeast face energy reliability and affordability challenges. These issues are not from a lack of natural gas production – instead, from the politically motivated, irrational decisions of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to prevent energy infrastructure from being built.   

More closely aligned with radical environmental activists than the needs of hard-working families and energy consumers across the region, Gov. Cuomo has effectively cut off the Northeast from accessing clean, abundant and affordable natural gas. And with the signing of the radical New York Green New Deal, the Northeast is in for further electricity reliability and affordability challenges. 

This energy blockade prevents families, small businesses, and manufacturers in seven states from enjoying the economic and clean air benefits of the American shale revolution. 

Make no mistake, energy pipelines – overwhelmingly built by the region’s skilled and highly trained building trades union members – are the safest method of transporting energy that’s closely regulated and monitored by a host of federal and state agencies. “Americans are more likely to get struck by lightning than to be killed in a pipeline accident,” the Manhattan Institute concluded in a recent study. 

Consumers across the northeast are already feeling the sting of Gov. Cuomo’s disastrous policies. Natural gas supply constraints are one of the primary drivers of the New England region having the highest average electricity costs in the continental United States, according to federal data.  

Families living in public housing in New York City, said Danny Barber, head of the Citywide Council of Presidents of New York City Housing Authority tenants’ association, struggle with access to heat and hot water, especially during winter months. That’s why Barber backs projects like the Williams Northeast Supply Enhancement that “will broaden NYCHA’s access to cleaner, more efficient and reliable fuel sources…and increase access for low income communities to a cleaner fuel source.” 

In nearby Pennsylvania, consumers are realizing average energy savings upwards of $1,100 – $2,200 annually per household as clean, abundant natural gas is used to heat homes, cook food and generate a growing share of the region’s electricity. 

As consumers enjoy the energy savings, Pennsylvania’s environment is improving too, with the Commonwealth’s top environmental regulator, Patrick McDonnell, recently telling lawmakers that “we were already well on our way” to achieving the Obama-era Clean Power Plan targets “and have actually since met those proposed goals primarily because of the shift toward cleaner natural gas.”

Blocking pipelines and enacting unrealistic policies that cannot be achieved does not reduce the fundamental need for affordable access to energy. Earlier this year, for example, Westchester County was “in a panic,” multiple news outlets reported, as natural gas supply constraints threatened to grind development in the affluent New York City suburb of Westchester to a halt, as consumers, small businesses, hospitals and schools couldn’t access the energy they demanded. 

Rather than leverage abundant natural gas from Pennsylvania to meet consumer demand and help achieve climate goals, limited pipeline capacity has caused the northeast to import Russian natural gas during recent brutal winters to meet the spike in demand. 

Importantly – and a point often missing from the debate about unrealistic Green New Deal-style policies – all energy forms have attributes and costs. Wind and solar energy still require power lines to be developed, significant land footprints for generation, and battery storage that’s not technologically feasible. Wind turbines, according to federal government data, cause upwards of 500,000 bird deaths annually, with eagles, falcons, and hawks having some of the highest annual death rates. As wind energy capacity increases, bird deaths could top 1.4 million per year. Those same wind turbines are efficient at killing bats as well, which are some of the most environmentally friendly creatures that we have. 

Of course, we all need around-the-clock electricity access, even when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Modern, efficient combined cycle natural gas power plants provide that clean, reliable power that can be ramped up in a matter of minutes to support highly intermittent renewable sources. It is a fact, there is no better partner for renewables than natural gas.

Pennsylvania’s abundant natural gas resources can be a solution to achieving climate goals while providing a boost to New York and New England families and small businesses, many who are struggling to make ends meet. It’s up to Governor Cuomo and leaders in Albany to decide if they want to put people, or politics, first.

David Spigelmyer is president of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Marcellus Shale Coalition. Learn more at MarcellusCoalition.org

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