Accentuating the positive
"New York state has more wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric resources than is needed to supply the state's energy for all purpose in 2030." -- Jacobson/Howarth/Delucci/Ingraffea et al
"Examining the feasibility of converting New York state's all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water and sunlight." -- (Energy Policy 57, 18 February 2013)
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it!" -- Yogi Berra
For more than two years, Sharon Springs Against Hydrofracking has been handing out fliers, getting signatures on petitions, speaking at local events, political meetings and hearings, hosting booths at fairs and farmers markets, carrying signs and going to protests. This is a volunteer group, and any donations go to printing and signage, but the energy has come from the growing group of people involved.
Recent court decisions, town and village passages of moratoria and bans on hydrofracking and a general change in attitude toward fracking and pipelines have given heart to this group, and to all citizens who are not supportive of the industrialization of our farmlands in Schoharie County. Things are looking better, if only a little.
So, now what? What if Gov. Cuomo decides to allow hydrofacking, even in part of the state? What if he continues to allow the dumping of toxic waste from Pennsylvania in New York? What if the federal government permits pipelines to be built across our soil? Do we continue to protest, write letters and push against an industry that seems to have a bottomless money pit?
What is lacking is an idea that will take what we know to the next level. We know why pipelines and hydrofracking for gas and oil are not a good idea, but repeating that negative is not accomplishing changes. Going forward, being positive, getting active is what we need.
here's an idea
How does this sound -- New York state can become powered entirely by wind, water and sunlight by 2030. A plan to convert New York's already-existing energy infrastructure to one generating electricity and electrolytic hydrogen is all ready, and it describes in reasonable detail how this change will create permanent jobs, stabilize energy prices because fuel costs will be zero, keep the production in-state, and reduce air pollution mortality and illness and their related costs drastically, not to mention the effect the decrease in emissions will have on global climate change.
The authors even put numbers to these costs and savings, along with a list of supportive research in the substantial bibliography. This is not smoke and mirrors. This is science and economics.
This study, titled in the quote above, is a New York-localized microcosm of one developed for the world and United States by Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi in 2009 and 2011.
The highlights of this independent study, not funded by any business, institution or government agency, are these:
* New York state's all-purpose energy can be derived from wind, water and sunlight.
* The conversion reduces New York state's end-use power demand by as much as 27 percent.
* The plan creates more jobs than lost, since most energy will be from in-state sources.
* The plan creates long-term energy price stability, since fuel costs will be zero.
* The plan decreases air pollution deaths by 4,000 per year.
What is interesting about the study is the scientific evidence against the energy sources that will be replaced. As a peer-reviewed and rigorous plan, it moves from a baseline of scientific fact -- that fossil fuels are polluting, dangerous to health and the environment, limited in sustainability and politically protected from regulation and safety -- to a program that would be safe and sustainable, that will create real long-term jobs and industries, based on natural energy that will not run out or harm the planet. Who can argue with that?
It will be interesting to watch who begins the debunking of these ideas, who sponsors that debunking, and whether the arguments are truly science-based or simply the usual personal, ad hominem attacks. A good question to ask is always "Who benefits?" The WWS (wind/water/sunlight) Plan benefits New York state and its residents. Who benefits from fracking, pipelines and toxic waste disposal?
Sharon Springs Against Hydrofacking will be at the Sharon Springs Garden Party on June 1, going positive with new signs reading, "Renewable is Do-able," and offering different solutions to the economic and other difficulties that made fracking seem an answer just a short time ago.
The WWS Plan by Jackson/Delucchi/Howarth/Ingraffea (and others) starts with the assumption that what we are doing now is not sustainable and is in fact harmful, so we should be doing something else, and here are some road maps for that to happen. Soon.
How refreshing to read something so visionary but practical, so sensible and possible at the same time.
If you want to read the entire study, go to www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/NewYorkWWSEnPolicy.pdf.
Or do an Internet search for green energy New York.
We're all at a big fork in the road now, and Yogi was right. Let's take it.
Karen Cookson lives in Sharon Springs and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.