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Long Island could lead the nation, world in offshore wind power

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Off Long Island's south shore is the Saudi Arabia of wind power, which could be harnessed in as little as five years time, and become the basis for a new clean-energy industry centered on Long Island. It would mean liberation from the yoke of Big Oil & Gas Industry that seems determined to destroy communities and lives even as it asserts power and control over the economy and even the government. It would bring down the cost to live and establish businesses here, and be the basis for an economic resurgence and a renaissance of America's oldest suburbia.

Natural gas is being touted as the cleaner "transition" fuel from oil and goal but because of all the toxic chemicals that are used and the methane that is unleashed, it turns out to be even more damaging for pollution and climate change.

Left out of the focus on natural gas and what a boon it has been to the US economy, turning the US from a net importer to a net exporter of energy (which actually will backfire on Americans), is that the vast array of sources of renewable energy can more than meet our needs, and be the basis of new industries and job creators.

What is more, it would diversify our dependency and even unyoke regions and communities. We can already see the impact of energy independence in the diplomatic initiative with Iran, which goes against Saudi Arabia's "desires." That would be unthinkable before, when there were constant fears of OPEC boycotts and price hikes. Now, we only have to worry about what machinations the oil futures speculators and the Koch Brothers might unleash.

But think about an alternative scenario: Long Island generating its own electricity from wind power; North Hempstead generating much of its electricity through combinations of solar panels on government, commercial, and residential buildings, and small underwater turbines in Long Island Sound to generate hydroelectric.

Homes and businesses could become their own electrical factories - generating electricity for their own use and sending the excess to a smart grid, which could draw power from multiple sources as needed - solar, wind, geothermal, wave and tidal flows. Can you imagine the Nassau County sewage treatment plants being powered not by oil but by the biodiesel generated from the waste cooking oil from the county's hundreds and hundreds of restaurants? Now that waste oil has to be treated and disposed of. It should be tapped as fuel, just as the Great Neck Water Pollution Control district is using biodiesel to power trucks.

"There is no reason we shouldn’t have offshore wind up and connected by 2018." said Jackson Morris, Director of Strategic engagement, Pace University Energy and Climate Center, at the Third Annual Offshore Wind Power for New York Conference: Reaching America’s Next Clean Energy Frontier, held at SUNY Stony Brook.

Instead, in happy-face commercials and other propaganda campaigns, we are being sold a bill of goods that natural gas is a panacea that will inject cash into the hands of hard-pressed rural farmers. Lo and behold, they find their property unlivable (no water, toxic chemicals killing their children) and worthless, the landscape blighted.

Off Long Island, there is a proposal to build an Liquid Natural Gas terminal, ostensibly to import natural gas from other countries - which is unnecessary - but more likely, to facilitate the export of natural gas which the companies are hoping and expecting will be extracted from upstate New York and exported to Europe and Asia where the prices are four and five times higher than in the US. It is a lie that the massive expansion of fracking is "American gas for American consumers" - these multinational corporations, the biggest and most powerful ever known to mankind - have no allegiance to the US and will chase the biggest profit, which is not in the US.

And by putting natural gas on the world market, where the prices are higher, will raise the price for Americans, as well.

But the cost of the natural gas is only a fraction of what communities and families will ultimately pay in terms of pollution and public health (see the documentary, "Gasland II").

There is too little attention being paid to the progress that renewables are making on every front, leading to the impression that we need natural gas as a "transition" energy source from oil and coal.

Indeed, the cost of solar energy has come down dramatically - and if the federal subsidies to Big Oil would be removed (subsidies which are paid for by taxpayers and are unconscionable considering the profits pocketed by the industry and the costs placed on communities), then solar and renewables would actually be competitive.

In fact, in Australia, wind power is already generating electricity cheaper than from coal or natural gas, and solar and other renewables are not far behind, Jeff Spross reported at Nation of Change.

More significantly is the cost curve - renewables will fall or at least remain stable over time since the biggest cost is upfront. But the cost of fossil fuels is volatile but likely headed up.

Natural gas is often termed a "transition" fuel - from oil and coal. But there is perhaps 50 years of natural gas supply. That's not a very long time to re-make your economy and infrastructure based on this source of power. And then the cost of making yet another "transition" would be that much more.

But when you think about it, our economy now is powered by electricity. Our communications and financial networks all depend on electricity. The biggest national security threat we face is an attack on cyberspace.

Even our transportation systems can be shifted to operate on electricity, as Tesla and Volt have proved -and now Governor Cuomo is investing in a network of electric charging stations along the highways.

And while natural gas is pitched as a "cleaner" alternative with fewer greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming and climate change, that is only if you do not consider the byproducts of producing it - for example, the methane that is released. Methane is significantly more toxic to the environment, and generates more greenhouse gases than oil. Moreover, the hydraulic fracturing method that is being touted as the panacea to unleashing natural gas results in millions of gallons of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals being flushed into the ground, not to mention the waste of millions and millions of gallons of water.

Which is more critical to life - gas or water?

It is not clear to me why natural gas is considered economically superior. It costs $5 million per well to drill not to mention the construction of pipelines and transportation costs - comparable to what it would cost to install a wind turbine, and the costs are coming down as the technology is improving. And Oil and Gas are still the recipient of generous tax subsidies despite being the most profitable industry in the history of mankind. LIPA spends $1.5 billion a year on fossil fuels to power the generators that make electricity, something like 40% of its budget.

Long Islanders presently pay the highest utility rates in the country, and the high cost is considered a major inhibitor of to attracting new businesses and jobs.

So why would this country shift its economic foundation to natural gas as its primary energy source? If we are in a transition period akin to when oil was first introduced (displacing whale oil after whales were hunted to near-extinction), and then when electricity replaced gas for lighting, why would we go to another "transitionary" fuel instead of going right for an "all of the above" strategy of clean renewable sources: that is, solar, wind, geothermal, biodiesel, biomass, hydro, and on and on and on.

And why wouldn't we take heed of the vulnerabilities we have suffered because of centralized energy structure and reliance on imports from countries that despise us, to devise a new energy system that was decentralized and locally controlled?

Why shouldn't every house, every office and government building, and every shopping mall garage not be a small electricity-generating factory?

And why shouldn't we adopt a comprehensive energy policy that incorporated conservation.

The reason that there hasn't been the push to renewables is because the resource is essentially free - sun, wind, water - what powered enterprises before oil and coal (think about the Saddle Rock grist mill). There is less opportunity for Moguls to control supply - think of how Enron traders actually crashed California's economy, generated the recall of the Governor, in order to drive up the price for futures.

Think of how much money our households hand over to oil and gas companies.

Indeed, the Koch Brothers - currently worth $68 billion - are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get the Keystone XL Pipeline approved. Environmentalist Bill McKibben says that the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring tar sands from Canada down to the Gulf where it would be processed for export, would be "game over" for the earth, which has already topped the 350 threshold for carbon, headed to 400 parts when the planet becomes unlivable for existing lifeforms, as well as leaks (which have already occurred). Why are the Koch Brothers spending $68 million on climate deniers (a small fraction of their wealth)? Because they stand to make $100 billion in profit from the Keystone pipeline - more than doubling their vast wealth.

This is the critical juncture when we choose a path toward renewable energy or fossil fuels. Governor Cuomo is making key decisions on fracking; President Obama on the Keystone XL pipeline and trade agreements (The Transpacific Partnership) that promote America's fossil fuel production and export (the United States has just become the largest producer of oil and gas in the world, surpassing Saudi Arabia).

But advocates of clean renewable energy are hoping for a grassroots up-swell to pressure Governor Cuomo, state representatives and federal regulators to move more swiftly on granting the permits and leases - and to need to block a competitive application for the construction of a Liquid Natural Gas terminal in that area.

The renewables advocates are stepping up their campaign, concerned because Governor Cuomo, while making gestures, seems to be backing hydraulic fracturing upstate.

To be transported by truck, rail or ship, natural gas is super-cooled until it condenses into a liquid. Governor Cuomo's proposal would make it vastly easier to transport fracked gas into and around New York by legalizing the construction of facilities for liquefying fracked gas, fueling heavy trucks with fracked gas and even exporting fracked gas overseas.

"If we don't stop Governor Cuomo, he will usher in a major buildout of new fracked gas infrastructure, encouraging expanded fracking in nearby states and increasing industry pressure to lift New York's moratorium on fracking," Zack Malitz, Campaign Manager for CREDO Action from Working Assets wrote in an email.

"Lifting the ban on liquefied natural gas infrastructure may be a trial balloon to test the potential response to lifting New York's fracking moratorium.

"In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Governor Cuomo swore that New York would take the lead in confronting climate change. But lifting New York's ban on liquefied natural gas infrastructure isn't climate leadership.

"The science is clear: If we make a massive, expensive investment in fracked gas infrastructure, we will tank the climate. That's because investing in fracked gas infrastructure would incentivize the production of natural gas vehicles, power plants and export facilities, which would in turn encourage even more fracking.

"Extracting, transporting and burning fracked gas produces massive amounts of greenhouse gases. Liquefied natural gas is even worse for the climate because it has to go through an energy-intensive process of being cooled to about -260 degrees fahrenheit. Worse still, fracked gas displaces truly clean energy sources like wind and solar, delaying our transition to a sustainable economy," Malitz wrote.

On December 18, community leaders, elected officials, and activists gathered outside Governor Cuomo’s Long Island office to deliver nearly 13,000 petitions demanding bold action to make New York a national leader in wind power.

In just two months the Sierra Club and the New York Public Interest and Research Group (NYPIRG) gathered 12,944 petitions from across the state showing widespread support for administrative action to develop offshore wind and double the state’s current onshore wind capacity.

“This outpouring of public support for wind power demonstrates that New Yorkers are ready for Governor Cuomo to make our state a national wind power leader,” said Sierra Club Organizer David Alicea. “With the recent LIPA reforms started by Governor Cuomo, Long Island has an opportunity to chart a new energy path. Governor Cuomo can lead us into the 21st century by making a strong commitment on wind energy that will boost our economy, create jobs, and clean up our air.”

Speakers including Joe Stelling, NYPIRG Environmental Campaign Organizer , Roger Clayman, Executive Director of the Long Island Federation of Labor, Senator Phil Boyle, and Assemblyman Steve Englebright, expressed their support for wind power initiatives that would spur economic growth and create family-supporting jobs for New Yorkers.

“We support the efforts of many organizations which are working to establish an offshore wind industry in New York. By planning now for the transmission and generation of offshore wind energy, New York can be sure that this great resource will provide reliable clean energy to the public and substantial job opportunities to our skilled workforce for decades,” said Roger Clayman, Executive Director of the Long Island Federation of Labor.

"New Yorkers know that we can't frack our way to healthier communities and burning more fossil fuels to produce energy will not solve the climate crisis,” said Joe Stelling, Environmental Campaign Organizer for NYPIRG . “The state is failing to meet its clean energy goals, but a strong commitment to boosting wind energy production in New York can get us back on track while protecting public health and our environment."

“Wind power is a clean, effective and efficient source of energy,” said Senator Phil Boyle. “Bringing wind power to Long Island will create jobs, boost the local economy, preserve the environment, and we urge Governor Cuomo to promote this important source of power.”

“Clean and renewable solar and wind power are essential to our energy future and I encourage my colleagues and the Governor to make meaningful progress in the upcoming legislative session to expand the role of solar and wind in our renewables portfolio” stated Assemblyman Steve Englebright.

“Bringing more wind energy to New York would be a win-win for the environment and especially the local economy,” said New York League of Conservation Voters President Marcia Bystryn. “Energy demand is increasing – and rather than spend our dollars on out-of-state energy sources, New York has the opportunity to create jobs and ease grid congestion by generating clean power right on Long Island. We join our partners and New Yorkers from across the state in calling on Governor Cuomo to make a strong commitment to wind energy in 2014.”

This comes on the heels of recent letter from New York’s environmental community urging Governor Cuomo to make wind development a priority in 2014 and a new petition filed Monday with the Public Service Commission asking the state to get back on track to meet its renewable energy goals.

"Offshore wind will stabilize energy prices, diversify the energy portfolio, get New York back on track to [meeting its energy] needs, extend renewable energy goals, cut pollution, create jobs, create new manufacturing opportunities for New York," said Dix of the Sierra Club, Also, wind is a reliable source of power, the technology is no longer futuristic but is here and now."

Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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© 2013 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com or email krubin723@aol.com. 'Like' us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures.

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