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If you can wreck it here

03 Jul 2024 | OP ED Watch

One telling case study in how to wreck your economy and feel smug is the state of New York. For much of the modern period it could be argued that New York City was the capital of the Western World, the glittering metropolis at the heart of a wealthy, stable, free polity and the emblem of all that was best. And now the government of the Empire State is putting on a demonstration project on how botched energy policy driven by hysterical climate-change fears can destroy an economy and a political system. The Manhattan Contrarian is on it. Including that “Con Ed” or Consolidated Edison, which delivers power to most of New York City, knows a crash is coming and instead of leveling with people is mouthing orthodox alarmist pieties while preparing to line its own nest at public expense.

As the Contrarian explains, “Clearly, they [Con Ed] are very well informed about the looming energy disaster in this state.” They went out of the power generation business during the deregulation of the late 1990s but still deliver most of the power and know what’s going on. So, he says:

“If you found yourself in their position, there would be only one honest and righteous thing to do. You would sound the alarm, as loud as possible. You would shout from the rooftops that this can’t work. You would warn of the danger to human life of a predominantly wind/solar generation system that could fail completely for weeks in the dead of winter. Instead, sad to say, Con Ed’s strategy is just as you would expect from people of no backbone and no principles.”

He takes particular aim at an Op Ed in the New York Daily News, whose circulation collapsed from over two million in the post-World War II period to under 200,000 today, in which Con Ed president Matthew Ketschke burbles that:

“New York’s energy system is at an inflection point. Energy use is rising – but due to climate change so are temperatures and the frequency of storms. Unfortunately, generators have been slow to meet that increasing demand with the clean energy we need to combat climate change, and now some are questioning the reliability of the power system. But I am here to tell you that New York City doesn’t need to sacrifice reliability to address climate change. We can have both.”

What if people believe his assurances? And why wouldn’t they, since after all it’s Con Ed and its president is paid an annual salary plus benefits worth over $3 million?

He’s certainly part of a clique that think very highly of themselves and share a world-view the rest of us aren’t privileged to possess. Thus Canary Media insists blithely that:

“Buildings everywhere need to get off fossil fuels in order to help the world avoid climate catastrophe. Yet owners of large commercial buildings in New York City are especially feeling the pressure: The groundbreaking Local Law 97 takes effect this year, requiring buildings of more than 25,000 square feet to meet specific emissions limits, which become more stringent in 2030, or face hefty fines.”

New York City is already in trouble, including a financial hangover from pandemic lockdowns. But also from decades of progressive government that squanders money on exotic priorities while neglecting the basics, from infrastructure to public safety. So the last thing landlords need is a choice between unaffordable heating systems and unaffordable fines.

Ah but nay, says Canary Media. The law will merely force them to do things they were too dumb to think of themselves, being mere entrepreneurs, but politicians and activists appreciate:

“One cutting-edge retrofit project is underway at the corner of Hudson and Charlton streets in lower Manhattan. The 17-story Art Deco office building, built in 1931, is ditching its fossil-gas boiler for uber-efficient electric heat pumps that are both heaters and air conditioners. They’re key components of a system that aims to heat and cool the building more efficiently by capturing thermal energy that would otherwise be wasted.”

And the state is chucking in a loose $5 million to help. And everybody wins… at least the ones who get a subsidy, or avoid new taxes:

“Project leader Benjamin Rodney estimates that once the project is complete in 2030, the building will use 25 percent less energy than a conventional design and reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 70 percent relative to 2019 levels. …The deep emissions cuts will allow the building owner, Hudson Square Properties — a joint venture of Hines, Trinity Church Wall Street, and Norges Bank Investment Management — to avoid more than $200,000 in fines annually starting in 2030.”

Assuming, of course, that somebody generates all this “clean” power and gets it to them. Oh, and that these projections work out better than most alarmist hype.

Will it? As the Contrarian adds, the New York Independent System Operator has warned of power shortages by 2030, no longer some distant mythical era of shiny clean green power but a bare half-decade distant. And Ketschke acknowledges this projection before brushing it aside by declaring that:

“Con Edison is currently investing more than $2 billion on infrastructure projects to ensure the grid can meet the increased demand for power as buildings and vehicles move away from fossil fuels and become electrified.”

As. Not if. Once again assuming this fabled green transition promised for the future is literally happening before our eyes or at least theirs. And to be sure, Con Ed will be well paid to build those lines whether or not they lead anywhere or carry anything. So he says complacently:

“Opponents of New York’s clean energy plans would argue that we need to go back and embrace burning fossil fuels to ensure reliability. It’s a head scratching conclusion.”

No. What’s head-scratching is that the people in charge of power distribution make promises they cannot keep.

As the Contrarian wrote in another piece in his series on this slow-mo disaster movie, New York’s electric grid system operator (NYISO) has recently issued some clear, if muted, warnings of the impossibility of the energy transition mandated by the state because they do not have enough “DEFR’s” or dispatchable emission-free resources to meet projected demand. Another head-scratcher.

As Kipling said, giving something a long name doesn’t make it better. Giving it a cool insider acronym like DEFR so they can talk past people or sound like they’re dealing in real, important, highly technical concepts rather than unicorns is even worse. Including the activists he quotes who say it’s silly to think this mythical new generating capacity is important because (a) the models might be wrong (say it ain’t so) and (b) you can just turn off the power if it runs short. Which they call “mandatory demand response” in the apparent hope that people won’t figure out what it means until it’s too late.

Now we don’t want to be rude here to, say, Burkina Fasso or Bangladesh. But if you heard that their electricity system was floundering you might think it unsurprising. However we’re talking New York. And they did it on purpose. Smugly. Indeed in yet another piece in this thread the Contrarian quotes an exchange between “the most important academic guru behind the Climate Act” passed by the New York legislature in 2019, Robert Howarth, a professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology at Cornell, and a New York manufacturer named Richard Ellenbogen with a degree in electrical engineering (of all irrelevancies) from Cornell.

Ellenbogen warned Howarth that:

“[T]he facts on the ground are saying that there is a major problem with this process and it is only going to get worse as the utility rates rise and NY residents rebel as the residents of Ontario Canada did, as the residents of the EU are currently doing, and as the downstate NY residents are starting to do.... In a college science project where supply chains, funding, labor, land, the state of technology, and public opinion are not issues that have to be considered, the CLCPA will work. However, in the real world those are issues and they are going to sink the CLCPA.”

If true it’s quite important and ought to be appreciated. But rather predictably he got back instead a snarly response that open-minded people like Howarth have better things to do than engage with narrow-minded cretins like Ellenbogen:

“I am always very happy to engage with anyone who comes to a discussion with an open mind, and who is truly interested in objective information. Your insulting insinuations, though, hardly invite further discussion. I am not likely to write to you again or further respond. But if you truly are interested in the topic, I suggest you read Mark Jacobson’s excellent books, the 2020 ‘100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything’ and the 2023 ‘No Miracles Needed.’”

The Contrarian dismisses Jacobson’s work as “discredited”. And indeed his proposal to cover 1% of the Earth’s surface with wind and solar facilities and his dismissal of the nuclear option do seem a bit fantastical, while his suing critics and losing isn’t in the finest scientific tradition. But by all means read it for yourself and experience the satisfying, self-esteem-boosting glow of contemplating the free lunch government is about to deliver in the energy field as it has in so many others.

Mind you, the Contrarian adds that another activist wrote back to Elllenbogen more constructively, in a sense, to say that of course preventing climate breakdown required drastic changes to our lifestyle including that the state “dramatically curb the use of personal vehicles” and “convert existing housing to multi-family housing that makes much better use of existing resources and doesn’t waste energy heating/cooling thousands of square feet per (rich) person”. She agreed with Ellenbogen that:

“delivering existing demand would entail formidable technical challenges, like ‘a solar [array] that would have to be at least 20 times the size of our roof.’ To us, this suggests that current demand is unsustainable. Why aren’t we asking the more fundamental question: how can our society radically simplify and reduce energy demand, in order to have a hope of transitioning to renewables in time?”

Then, she hit him with the predictable “Ithaca and Cornell lie on the traditional and contemporary homelands of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ’ People (the Cayuga Nation). Land acknowledgements are only the first step toward reparations, restorative justice, and recognition.” So presumably it will only be the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ’ who suffer blackouts as everyone else has been turfed from the region.

Just in case they’re not, it is worth noting that the people in charge, and their cliques and claques, know perfectly well that the state and the city are heading for crippling energy shortages. And when it happens, they’ll say yah well your stolen lifestyle stank anyway.

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