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March 14, 2013

New York State Weighs Environmental Options



State legislators in New York have approved a ban on fracking for over two years – with the State Assembly already passing the move. If it gets approval from the State Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, no fracking for natural gas could take place in the state until 2015, news reports are revealing.

Also, a four-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas remains in place in New York State until an environmental review is finished, Bloomberg (News - Alert) Businessweek reported.

Given that Cuomo will soon decide on the issue, a Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment study claims it is “technically and economically feasible to convert New York's all-purpose energy infrastructure to one powered by wind, water and sunlight (WWS).”

The study further claims the option would lead to a “sustainable, inexpensive and reliable energy supply that creates local jobs and saves the state billions of dollars in pollution-related costs.”

"Converting to wind, water and sunlight is feasible, will stabilize costs of energy and will produce jobs while reducing health and climate damage," Mark Z. Jacobson, an institute senior fellow, said in a statement. He went on to comment that WWS conversion costs for building renewable energy power plants “would be more than made up for over time by the elimination of fuel costs. The overall switch would reduce New York's end-use power demand by about 37 percent and stabilize energy prices, since fuel costs would be zero, according to the study. It would also create a net gain in manufacturing, installation and technology jobs because nearly all the state's energy would be produced within the state.

New York's 2030 power demand could be met by: wind turbines, solar plants, photovoltaic power plants, residential rooftop photovoltaic systems, geothermal plants, wave devices, tidal turbines, and hydroelectric power plants. If the state switched to WWS, “air pollution–related deaths would decline by about 4,000 annually and the state would save about $33 billion – three percent of the state's gross domestic product – in related health costs every year. That savings alone would pay for the new power infrastructure needed within about 17 years, or about 10 years if annual electricity sales are accounted for. The study also estimates that resultant emissions decreases would reduce 2050 U.S. climate change costs – such as coastal erosion and extreme weather damage – by about $3.2 billion per year.

The institute wants 40 percent of the state's energy to come from local wind power, 38 percent from local solar and the remainder from a combination of hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal and wave energy.

"We must be ambitious if we want to promote energy independence and curb global warming," Robert Howarth, a Cornell University professor of ecology and environmental biology, added.

However, a new national study reports that 2012 “was not the best of years for renewable energy” research firm Clean Edge states.

Wind sector installations increased by $2.3 billion worldwide from the prior year to $73.8 billion in 2012. Photovoltaic installations dropped for the first time, from $91.6 billion in 2011 to $79.7 billion in 2012. Solar panel prices dropped with manufacturers in China complaining about “over capacity.” Solar revenues dropped the first time in some dozen years, as well.

Last year “proved to be an unsettling and difficult year for clean energy,” the report concluded. “High-profile bankruptcies and layoffs plagued many clean-tech companies, overall venture investments retreated in the face of increasingly elusive returns, and the industry was begrudgingly transformed into a partisan wedge issue during the highly contentious U.S. presidential campaign.”

On the bright side for the sector, Clean Edge predicts wind, solar and biofuels market will jump from $248.7 billion in 2012 to $426.1 billion in 2022 globally.




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