Making A Mess Of Energy Policy

It is interesting how two Democrats can directly contradict each other, isn’t it?

In June, President Barack Obama announced he will assume power traditionally reserved for Congress to battle global warming. The president wants to shut down conventional coal power plants for environmental reasons while pushing to build natural gas plants and saying, basically, that natural gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing, are safe environmentally.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, identifies the possible economic benefits of hydraulic fracturing but still isn’t convinced the process is safe enough environmentally to use in New York state. The issue is touchy enough that Cuomo wants no part of the debate today, announcing he will skip the president’s stops in the Syracuse and Binghamton areas. Those are areas that could, by the way, benefit the most from New York lifting its moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

In short, President Obama thinks hydraulic fracturing is perfectly safe while Gov. Cuomo has enough reservations that he’s not exactly pushing Dr. Nirav Shah, state health commissioner, to finish a study Cuomo swears is necessary for the state to make a decision.

New York’s dallying, of course, doesn’t take place in a vacuum.

The war on coal plants and the corresponding drop in natural gas prices has forced many coal-using plants to reevaluate their means of production. In Jamestown, that has meant the Board of Public Utilities using the gas turbine more often while it has meant NRG proposing a $500 million natural gas plant for Dunkirk. Coal has fallen by the wayside in those areas.

Coal, natural gas and other alternative energies all must have a place in a rational energy policy. Pushing natural gas makes no sense, for example, if the low prices of natural gas can’t be secured far into the future. It has been argued the vast increase in demand for natural gas – which will happen if the president’s plans come to fruition – will lead to skyrocketing electricity prices and, in cold-weather New York, a corresponding increase in the cost to heat our homes. It is a real concern for New Yorkers living on the margins of society.

The difference of opinion between Cuomo and Obama is just another example of the need for a sensible policy that includes all of our nation’s energy options. Having the federal and state governments on the same page would be nice, too, wouldn’t it?