Over the eight years I served as the Suffolk County executive on Long Island, I focused sharply on growing jobs to avoid a mass exodus of our residents to less regulated, lower taxed states.
It’s no coincidence that liberal spending New York is the nation’s highest taxed state and is number one as well in outward migration over the last ten years (an astounding 1.2 million). Despite this burden, Long Island’s highly educated workforce has produced a white-hot economy.
But Long Island’s economic vitality, like many others throughout the nation, may soon come to a screeching halt because of insane policies promulgated by liberal politicians who are blocking the laying of needed pipelines to deliver cheap, clean natural gas to our residents and businesses.
Within the past month, our regional gas provider, National Grid, announced that it will soon be notifying midsized companies that they won’t be able to supply them with the gas they need if New York State follows through with its intention to deny a new undersea pipeline.
Earlier this year, Con Edison, the utility serving New York City and suburbs to the north, informed businesses in Westchester County that they will be unable to tap natural gas because the state had blocked a needed pipeline there. This is sheer lunacy.
Progressive state officials pandering to the radical left have clamored to burnish their green bona fides by calling for a 50 percent reduction in fossil fuel emissions by 2030, but have not mentioned that these policies are causing our energy costs to soar. New York’s energy bills already exceed the national average by 39-56 percent.
There has been an irrational objection to natural gas, the expansion of which has been primarily responsible for the U.S. carbon footprint being reduced by 14 percent over the past 14 years, while global emissions increased 26 percent. It has allowed us to break free from the stranglehold that oil-rich Middle Eastern tyrants held over our country, and made us the world’s leading exporter of energy products.
According to the Manhattan Institute’s John Bryce, a 2016 study by IHS Economics found that lower natural-gas prices have created about 1.4 million jobs and increased disposable income by about $156 billion. Given that Americans pay the same price per gallon, regardless of their income, it is the working class that benefits most from these lower energy costs.
In the dream world of the Green New Deal, working class residents will prosper mightily from the jobs the transition from fossil fuels will produce. In the real world, however, the yellow jacketed workers in France have seen the energy taxes imposed by the Greens as a threat to their survival. That sentiment, according to Bjorn Lomborg of the Environmental Assessment Institute, is bolstered by a study from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, which concluded that while climate change could put an extra 24 million people at risk of hunger, a global carbon tax would increase food prices and push 78 million more people into risk of hunger.
Here in America, states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, which have embraced natural gas, are seeing economic booms. Earlier this year, columnist Rich Lowry noted that since 2012, natural-gas impact fees in Pennsylvania have generated $1.5 billion in state revenue, including almost $500 million designated for environmental conservation. Energy development has also created 300,000 jobs.
Meanwhile, western New York remains in a state of extreme economic distress due to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s opposition to allowing the harvesting of natural gas in our state. While it’s foolish to deny prosperity to upstate New York by opposing fracking, it is incomprehensible to block needed pipelines that can provide us with the fuel we need to survive. And most ironically, the blocking of the pipeline actually increases the state’s carbon footprint because the gas will now have to be transported by high polluting trucks, rather than zero emission pipes.
Our state leaders are trying to mirror the ridiculous policies implemented in California, which has caused their electric rates to rise to 60 percent above the national average. Mark Nelson and Michael Shellenberger of Environmental Progress reported California’s electricity rates rose at more than five times the rate of electricity prices in the rest of the U.S. between 2011 and 2017 due to their war on natural gas and other reliable sources.
They are also trying to emulate Germany, whose goal of becoming 80 percent dependent on alternative energies has elevated their energy rates to a sum three times that which we pay. According to a recent report by German think tank Agora Energiewende, between 2007 and 2018, residential electricity prices in Germany jumped by 50 percent.
I was so supportive of alternative energies in Suffolk that we labeled ourselves “Solar County.” But we also understood that transitioning to renewables was a long-term project that required clean, low-cost natural gas as a bridge to the day when solar (which the Heritage Foundation notes provides a mere 1.3 percent of our nation’s energy) and wind are more cost competitive and productive. The fools who preach for the immediate elimination of natural gas will shepherd us back to the bad old days of energy poverty, dependence on hostile foreign powers, and, ultimately, a dirtier planet.
Steve Levy, former New York state assemblyman, Suffolk County executive, and candidate for governor, is now a distinguished political pundit. Levy’s commentary has been published in such media outlets as Washington Times, Washington Examiner, New York Post, Albany Times, Long Island Business News, and City & State Magazine. He hosted “The Steve Levy Radio Show” on Long Island News Radio, and is a frequent guest on high profile television and radio outlets. Few on the political scene possess Levy’s diverse background. He’s been both a legislator and executive, and served on both the state and local levels — as both a Democrat and Republican. Levy published Bias in the Media, an analysis of his own experience, after switching parties, with the media’s leftward slant. Levy is currently Executive Director of the Center for Cost Effective Government, a fiscally conservative think tank. He is also President of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm.