Conflicting Energy Goals

For years, advocates who self-define as environmentalist have argued that New Yorkers must lessen their reliance on fossil fuels. Their first targets were any facilities that generated electricity by burning coal—and, now, as a result of their advocacy, New York has either closed or converted its coal plants to natural gas. Next on their target list was banning horizontal hydro-fracking. Horizontal hydro-fracking is a drilling technology that allows access to massive natural gas reserves that would otherwise be inaccessible by more traditional drilling means. Although similar technics have been employed relatively safely for over 60 years, the Cuomo administration, caving to the demands of these so-called environmentalists, banned the horizontal hydro-fracking in 2015. Not satisfied that simply banning hydro-fracking was sufficient enough to lower New York’s use of fossil fuels, advocacy groups recently have been active in opposing any upgrades to New York’s natural gas infrastructure which would permit the importation of natural gas into the state.

This spring, the advocacy groups won a major victory when the state denied a required permit for building a natural gas pipeline that would have connected natural gas fields in Pennsylvania to New York. The nearly $1 billion pipeline was being proposed in effort to satisfy the growing need for natural gas service to the New York City and Long Island customers. Part of the growth in demand for natural gas is the state encouraged replacement of oil heating systems to natural gas systems. The state and, ironically, many of the same environmental activist that are opposed to hydro-fracking and the development of new natural gas pipelines have been advocating for the conversion from heating oil to natural gas because natural gas burns cleaner than fuel oil and therefore is better for the environment. Not surprisingly, due to the activists’ “war on fossil fuels” there is a shortage of natural gas in the downstate area that has led to utilities having to institute moratoriums on new natural gas hook-ups for both residential and commercial customers.

Interestingly, some downstate politicians claim the moratoriums are purely self-generated by the utilities in effort to force the state to allow additional pipelines. Of course, these politicians are the same ones who claim we shouldn’t be using natural gas. If that’s the case, shouldn’t they be supportive of the moratoriums? I guess they are only supportive of banning fossil fuels when it doesn’t economically impact their constituents. So much for being an environmentalist!

Another irony of this war on fossil fuels and specifically natural gas is the actual effect that the growing use of natural gas has had on our environment. According to the June 2018 BP Statistical Review of Global Energy, the United State’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy use are the lowest since 1992. Indeed, since 2005, the US annual CO2 emissions have had the largest decline compared to any other country during that same time period. Granted, the United State’s CO2 emission are high compared to the rest of the world save China, but the point is—our CO2 emissions unlike China and other parts of the world are declining and at a rate much higher than elsewhere. This decline—and this is the irony—is attributed to our growing use of natural gas—the very fossil fuel that some advocates are trying to ban the use of.

The challenge of all policy makers is differentiating fact from fiction (which often comes in the form of political rhetoric). Today, nowhere is the political rhetoric louder than that coming from those who call themselves environmentalist. If one accepts the fact that we need electricity to maintain our standard of living, one must also accept the fact that natural gas needs to be a part of the energy picture. Without it, we risk increasing CO2 emissions and eliminating a reliable energy source all to favor more costly and less efficient alternatives all in the name of the environment.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at or by calling (315) 598-5185. You can also find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.