Earlier this week I attended City & State New York’s “On Energy” forum at Baruch College. A panel of energy experts and key political players discussed the politics and policy of energy in New York State. Panel members included U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko, New York State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, NYC Deputy Mayor of Operations Caswell Holloway, ConEdison Director of Government Relations Kevin Lanahan, and New York AREA chairman Arthur “Jerry” Kremer.
Moderator John Lentz started the discussion by asking the panel to identify New York’s most pressing energy issues. Panel members uniformly agreed that New York is at a cross roads in terms of planning its energy future and set an imperative for policy makers to address three key issues: a renewed consideration of natural gas exploration and the statewide ban on hydrofracking; the need for significant investments to upgrade and expand New York’s aging transmission infrastructure; and the development of a comprehensive national energy plan.
Natural Gas and Hydrofracking: The New York Times recently reported that Governor Cuomo appears to be back-pedaling on the issue and giving in to pressure from environmental groups and celebrities who oppose drilling for natural gas.
Transmission Infrastructure Investment: Transmission expansion is long overdue and much needed in New York. This would relieve electricity bottlenecks, create new jobs, and provide downstate ratepayers with cheap power generated from upstate and Western New York power generators.
New York State Energy Plan: The state’s energy plan was supposed to be released in early September 2012; however, it has been delayed pending the release of the “energy highway” report. This type of inaction prompted the panel to call for a national comprehensive energy plan to achieve energy independence from both politics and foreign powers.
The worst decision is indecision. Although energy is too important to ignore, policymakers continue to play “political hot potato” with this issue. Chairman Kremer said it best, “Right now, we are at an energy cliff and if we do nothing, we just may fall over.” It is obvious that much work remains to be done. Whatever the case, we should avoid one size fits all policies and focus on opportunities that create jobs, grow our economy and keep energy costs low.