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Sasha Doss

These scientists make quite the statement. New York State, not just New York City, could be run by all renewable resources. I’m sure I won’t be the only one to say this, but it kind of seems too good to be true. This article and the link in the article (which leads to yet another article as this paper has not yet been published) cite a lot of numbers. As a scientist, you learn to scrutinize numbers and their sources very carefully. It is encouraging that this group of scientists did not accept funding from any companies, interest groups, or government agencies, but I still feel like the wool is being pulled over my eyes. Did they incorporate the emissions from construction in their calculations? How can they predict energy demand in 2030? How did they fund this research if they didn’t take money from anyone?

Despite my skepticism, this article does provide promise. Switching to renewable energy is doable, although drastic, and if it’s doable for New York boasting the seventh largest population density in the U.S, it should be doable just about anywhere. It is also promising that the scientists involved in this research are conducting similar studies for the states of Washington and California. I know it would take a long shot to put this into legislation or planning, but I would hope that policy makers at least consider portions of this proposal when creating future policies on state management of climate change and CO2 emissions.

Cort Hammond

This is not the first of such calculations. Dr. Jacobson published an estimate of the global renewable energy installations needed back in March 2011 to meet the global energy demand by 2050(http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/JDEnPolicyPt1.pdf). As Sasha said, it would be interesting to know how these numbers were calculated. Perhaps the methods used in the 2011 paper are similar to those in the upcoming one. Appropriately, one of the first papers cited is the Stabilization Wedges paper.
In the 2011 paper they list the following criteria: "WWS (Wind, Water, Sunlight) energy system characteristics, current and future energy demand, availability of WWS resources, numbers of WWS devices, and area and material requirements."
If the claims for New York seem bold consider that in his global report, Dr. Jacobson claims that converting the energy supply to WWS energy flows would save 30% of the world's energy consumption and only a ~0.59% increase in land use. These numbers look very promising. Even if the numbers for this global study and the New York study are estimates they are likely quite good ones. After all, energy consumption
Of course the economic benefits are harder to calculate. However, since scientists tend to favor safe estimates, it may be that reductions in health costs and other externalities from non-renewable energy are actually much greater.
I think that the most important statement that Dr. Jacobson reiterates is that the barriers to successful implementation are social and political, not so much technological. The question to ask is whether a complete conversion to renewable energy by 2030 is optimal. To reach this goal with economic incentives a tax on emissions would have to mount rapidly to push firms to abate emissions to the degree that only full conversion to zero-carbon energies would liberate them from the tax. Conceivably some of the upper limit optimal tax calculations ($200 or more per ton of Carbon), if accurate would provide such strong price signals.
As awesome as this clean economy sounds, I doubt the resolve of policymakers and citizens in making it happen.

Matthew Thomas Howell

This article proves that the technology exists, even at the large scale level, to switch to completely renewable energy sources. I think that if a state such as New York implemented these programs, then many other states would follow suit considering they wouldn't require near as much energy as New York does. The long term benefits the article cites are encouraging to get these policies into place, but I wonder at what costs. The article does not mention the cost of the 16,700 wind turbines, million solar systems, and 2,600 one-megawatt tidal turbines that are needed to fuel New York. Also I wonder if the article takes into account the growing demand for energy in NY or rather if they base their estimates off of current energy consumption. Either way, steps toward the large scale utilization of non-coal energy sources is needed, and New York could feasibly lead the way.

Holley Beasley

I agree with Matt that if a state like New York implemented the programs to switch to completely renewable energy sources then many other states would follow. I also agree with Cort when he says as awesome as this policy sounds, he doubts the resolve of policymakers in making it happen. I like the idea that these Stanford researchers are proposing but it is not realistic at all. It is almost a waste of time proposing such abrupt and large-scale changes such as these, even though they are what is best for the U.S. and for the world. People can say or think what they want of the political holdup in promoting energy independence and curbing global warming, but nobody can make it go away. So instead of fighting it with plans like these, environmentalists need to try to work with the political sphere. Maybe, instead of proposing a plan to convert all of New York's infrastructure to one powered by wind, water, and sunlight, start with proposing a plan that introduces the implementation of just rooftop photovoltaic systems, or just offshore wind turbines. It's no secret that, in general, people don't like change, regarless of how necessary it is. By moving towards our ultimate goal one step at a time, rather than all at once, success is much more feasable. It is by no means the most efficient or effective way to curb global warming, but, given the political obstacles we are facing, it is probably our best bet.

Emily Foggo

This article reminds me that drastic times call for drastic measures. In a world where we pay dearly for the negative externalities of our energy sources, it is encouraging to hear that New York State thinks they could convert their energy infrastructure into one that is powered by wind, water and solar power in the near future. While I agree with the above-mentioned skepticism regarding the statistics, and do not doubt that the up-front capital required to fund these projects would be immense, I think this is a cost we, as a society, should be willing to accept.

As our speaker mentioned last night, and as Professor Casey has talked about all semester, the possible consequences of some forms of energy extraction are horrifying. For one, to think that bromide leaked from shale gas drilling sites has reached the water supply in Pennsylvania, only to react with chlorine in the water to create deadly carcinogens, is terrifying. I do not feel that it is a fair trade off to subject future generations of society to such terrible conditions, merely to pay pennies less per gallon for gasoline or pennies less per kilowatt-hour for home heating. Obviously, there are bound to be economic and environmental consequences from converting to a completely green infrastructure as well, but I feel the literature suggests these consequences are no where near comparable to the negative effects of mining for coal or fracking for natural gas. If we want to curb the drastic and damaging effects of global climate change, we must create drastic measures. If that means possibly converting one of the country’s most energy consuming economies to one with sustainable infrastructure, then I believe we must do so.

Shawn Swaney

The benefits proposed by changing New York's power source in the article above seems feasible and incredibly beneficial. The presence of a statistic on premature deaths avoided (however this statistic was produced) makes the ideas seemingly enticing to the public eye.

While I think the ideas proposed are incredibly beneficial and the direction that NY should be working towards, but putting those ideas into practice presents a whole different set of difficulties. I think back to another class that I was in where we talked about the Cape Wind Project. Designed to put wind turbines on Cape Cod, the Cape Wind project would provide large amounts of sustainable energy on Cape Cod. While good in theory, many residents of Cape Cod are against the project as the turbines would be deemed as eyesores, among other various reasons.

I bring this up in order to bring light to the fact that while NY's proposed plan looks great and would be incredibly positive, moving the plan from proposal to action is going to face a lot more work.

Emily Zankman

Given the impact that global climate change is having on New York through both rising sea levels and extreme weather events (e.g. Hurricane Sandy), I think it is the perfect political atmosphere to introduce an ambitious project such as this. As Robert Hayworth states, “We must be ambitious if we want to promote energy independence and curb global warming”.

However, even if these changes are implemented, it is important to note that small scale drastic measures will not have a large effect on global warming mitigation. As we emphasized in class, combating global warming must be a global effort. Hopefully, New York can serve as the model for other states and countries.

In the meantime, New York must not lose sight of the need to spend money on adaptations. Even if global warming is slowed, sea levels around New York will continue to rise (although at perhaps a lower rate). New York must be careful not to spend all their money on this energy transition in order to leave enough money for hard and soft infrastructure, pump systems, and other adaptation measures.

Katherine Rush

Shawn's point about the Cape Cod wind farm really hit home with me, since my extended family has lived there for many generations and falls into the category of people strongly against the wind farm. If you asked Cape Cod residents if they thought the plan for New York state to switch entirely to renewable sources of energy was a good idea, I don't doubt that most would say yes. But as soon as you say that they will have to pay some of the cost by having the wind turbines in their backyards, on their favorite beaches, etc. they will change their answer. We all want what we think is best for our society as a whole, but we are constantly incentivized to free-ride. The benefits mentioned in this article sound wonderful, but the cost has to be paid by someone in order to make those benefits happen.

Katja Kleine

In response to Shawn and Katherine, I had a much different experience while I was in Denmark this past semester. There, the wind turbines are seen are a very aesthetically pleasing and the Danes are very proud of their wind turbines. In fact, they are featured in much of their artwork. When I first arrived in Denmark, the first thing my host parents pointed out to me was their "beautiful windmills" and bragged about how sustainable their energy sources were and how advance they were compared to the rest of the world. I think this shows the one of the main cultural obstacles that we have to overcome in order to move towards a society that COULD be more wind based. Maybe we need more of a shift in the way we literally view clean energy. Because if we think of wind turbines as beautiful, that would actually keep our beaches and the places we love around a lot longer than if we don't make that sacrifice. Secondly, I liked this articles to the jobs that this would create. It reminded me of the talk we went to on Wednesday night. Clean energy would require a huge overhaul and would yield many many more jobs than the ones that we currently have in the energy industry. So, this could be a really great investment for a recovering economy.

Callie Deddens

To me, the most important takeaway from this article is that it is possible for New York State to meet its energy demands using only renewable resources. Obviously significant costs would be involved in reaching this goal and there will be many in opposition but it is significant to note that such a remarkable change is possible and in an ideal world could be achieved in just over 15 years. While at first that seemed to me to be a long way off, I realized that in terms of climate change it is practically the blink of an eye. I find the results of the study encouraging although that is not to say that I don’t realize the huge obstacles pointed out by others. Other students have commented on the drastic nature of this change. To convert the entirety of the energy usage in New York State to renewable sources is a staggering task. However, it reminded me of Nicholas Stern and his call for quick aggressive action in regard to carbon emission reduction. Paul Krugman dubs this the “climate-policy big bang”. So to those that argue that this is too dramatic a step too quickly, there are others who would say it is precisely the change that needs to happen.

Jonathan Stutts

The biggest challenge here is convincing New Yorkers of the WWS program benefits. Not that the benefits the article lists aren't stellar, it's just one thing to list them on paper and quite another to convince people that this will save 4,000 air pollution-related deaths. Running with this example, dying from air pollution is a very slow, gradual process - one that most people don't see as an imminent threat. It may be an easier pitch to people living in New York City over the summer, but the WWS program requires getting an entire state on board.
Even if the net effect on jobs is positive, and the state will save as money as suggested, implementing this shift in energy policy is ambitious. It will require state politicians who are adamant about investing now for something that their constituents may not thank them for until long after they have left office.
The article/study is certainly encouraging, though. It is illustrative of our progress towards significant energy policy shifts

Daniel Molon

This article proposes a mass transformation from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources in New York by 2030. The proposition would lead to 40 percent of New York’s energy needs being accounted for by wind power and 38 percent by solar power. While this plan would be a major step towards weaning our country off of its dependence on fossil fuels, it would require a large amount of initial capital investment. Even though, the article states that it would pay for itself over time, the amount of start-up money needed will likely repel many potential investors who are more focused on short term profitability. Hopefully, as seen in a previous article, American Electric Power will prove the economic and environmental benefits of switching over to renewable energy sources, which will be a good example for other energy companies to utilize renewable energy sources more so as well. Maybe after the success of American Electric Power, then investors may become more interested in supporting a plan, like the one proposed in this article.

Account Deleted

Yeah, I want to see more data on this before I get too excited. I question whether wind will be able to handle 40% of energy needs. Putting aside arguments that the amount of land that would be required to generate that much wind energy might be very unsightly, I've read a fair number of articles arguing that wind power can never take on more than 20% or so of an energy grid's base needs. This basically arises from the fact that wind energy is highly variable, spiking up and plummeting down based on how much wind is blowing. Conventional and backup systems must constantly be prepared to step in when wind fails in order to prevent brownouts. These emergency standby systems are even more inefficient (read: more carbon emitted) than current conventional power plants.

Also, the rest of the press release glosses over a lot of really great sounding things such as health benefits, etc. that will make the significantly higher infrastructure costs justifiable. Honestly it just sounds way to good to be true given the lack of data accompanying the press release

Courtney Ridenhour

Between the ambitious timeline and the promise of near-zero carbon emissions, the study by scientists at Cornell University and the University of California-Davis seems to be a perfect solution. Except both the press release and post on e360 forget one important detail – how much would this cost? In order to determine if this is a viable and rational option for New York State, policymakers need that side of the equation. Realistically speaking, Schrag’s suggestion of a diversified energy portfolio that includes coal and natural gas along with renewables seems to be the best solution in the near future.

David Fishman

Shawn makes a good point in highlighting the issue that a high volume of wind turbines usually is considered an eye sore by most people. Evidently, as many have already mentioned, it would be interesting to read, in more depth, how the study measures all of the marginal damages and costs. Undoubtedly, it is hard to quantify the reduction in utility directly caused by both the noise and sight of the wind turbines, but revealed preference models that incorporate hedonic pricing (in similar areas that have implemented wind farms) may do a reasonably accurate job in quantifying the loss in utility from the wind farms. Still, as I am sure the study incorporates, by transitioning New York into an economy that generates 78 percent of its energy needs from a combination of wind and solar power, by 2030, the state will prevent around 4,000 premature deaths annually and save $33 billion in health care costs each year. The statistical value of a human’s life, as accepted by policy makers, is approximately $7.5 million. Thus, preventing 4,000 lives per year is an extraordinary saving, and, depending on the magnitude of the discount rate, over time the societal benefit of the savings is phenomenal.

The study demonstrates the clear possibility of NY making a mass transition into a renewable based economy. The issue does not reside in the technology or the economics of the situation, rather this will only move forward if policy makers implement the necessary legislation. We know the savings to society, and we know the costs. This article references another article that opens with “Governor Andrew Cuomo will soon decide whether to approve hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the state.” Although natural gas based energy does significantly reduce emissions relative to coal, policy makers are not yet even considering any proposals based in renewable energy.

Paul R

In reading the article, I think this is an interesting problem for New York. Who could/should raise the start up cash for such an endeavor? Should the state of New York use taxpayer money to fund a project some residents might not be for? During a recession when unemployment is still relatively high one way this large scale project could help is with jobs. One questions is does the state of New York even have enough money for the project alone? It would in my opinion need investors and probably have to raise taxes. Is it possible that it could drill for natural gas and sell both the gas an plastics in order to help pay for such a project?

The article talks about health improvement associated with this plan. However, pollution is not always local and winds carrying polluted air from Midwestern states like Ohio who burn coal and other fossil fuels could have negative impacts on human quality of life. If every city in the world did this there wouldn't be an environment problem. We would still be at 350 ppms of carbon dioxide and wouldn't see icecaps melting and tides rising. One questions is if New York builds these coastal wind turbines how would they effect the current environment and what if another hurricane like the one that just ravaged the state and New Jersey hits again in the middle of production or even after the project is finished? In a closed system New York would be find but New York is only one of many current polluters in an ever changing and interconnected world.
_Paul Reilly

Rachel Samuels

As has been evident in many of the articles we have read, such as the Stability Wedges article in particular, there seems to be a modicum of consensus that we already have the technology necessary to significantly curtail our reliance on fossil fuels. As such, the idea that New York might be able to sustain itself on Hydro, Wind, and Solar doesn't seem to be quite as out of the ball park as others are doubting. I am actually underwhelmed by what the article is suggesting, because that's all it is doing: suggesting. The problem with sustainable development is always initial capital, and our politicians are relatively well known for being unwilling to spend a lot of money on a benefit that will come after the next election. Also, there is no magic wand for "4,000 onshore wind turbines, 12,700 offshore turbines, 828 photovoltaic plants, 5 million rooftop solar systems, and 2,600 one-megawatt tidal turbines". Seventeen years to build all of that does not seem enough. Again, it hinges on people thinking long term, which is not a pivot I would put my belief on.

I am glad the social benefit is still being analyzed, and it seems that more policy makers are putting more weight on the human health aspect, particularly its market value. I do not wish to seem callous, but analyzing things in terms of monetary gain seems to be the way to get attention, particularly because its source and cause is quantifiable. On a lighter note, if we did have one state to lead the way in terms of making an investment in renewable resources, it would pave the way for others. It used to be that the United States would take that first step, but we seem to have fallen to social loafing and therefore stagnation. Hopefully, in terms of clean energy production, we can renew our motivation, our principles, and our role as a global leader.

Dylan Florig

As we've seen in class and in many of these blog articles, the long-term benefits of cleaner energy are undeniable. However, pieces throughout the term have also proven that the initial costs of all this new infrastructure are undeniably high. Like others said, it will be difficult to convince New Yorkers or any other Americans that it is worth spending their tax dollars for something that won't have tangible benefits for many years.

As I've noted in previous posts, now may be a good time to try to implement these energy infrastructure changes. With interest rates still historically low, the high costs of this potential policy would likely be lower now than they'd be in the coming years. This also reminds me of something we talked about in Professor Goldsmith's Macro Theory class: the difference between government investment and consumption spending. An increase in government investment spending, like this kind of spending, would likely have expansionary effects down the road. If we keep this type of spending up while lowering consumption spending, we could end up with positive effects fiscally and in society as a whole. Again, it is just a matter of convincing millions of constituents that it is worth using their money for benefits they may never see in their lifetimes. That will certainly be a challenge. Then there would also have to be consideration as to how to implement the infrastructure changes, whether through command and control or through economic incentives.

Overall, I was impressed by these statistics, and it would be interesting to see if the results of the study are accurate and even remotely feasible.

Doug Poetzsch

It is nice to know that it is technically and economically feasible to convert all of NY's energy generation into renewables. The problem that I have with this article is that they make no mention of what it might cost to do so over the years up until 2030. It does mention that the conversion would save $33 billion annually in healthcare costs. From the framework we have discussed in class, these would be an element of the marginal damage function. The question is what are the marginal abatement costs, or costs of switching entirely to renewables. The goal for society is to minimize social costs (MAC+MD). From what I have learned in class, I would guess that if NY did switch all of its energy generation to renewables, this would not be the optimal amount of renewable energy and it would not be the most efficient level. The reason is because the most efficient level is where MAC intersect MD. If NY only uses renewables the MD from fossil fuels would be 0, thus it cannot be the socially optimal level.

Austin Pierce

I feel like most of the arguments on this article have been addressed. The lack of a cost in the article worries me, as I expect the authors might have calculated it and found it unsightly. Furthermore, the amount of land required, the impact on trade and movement patterns, and the sheer scale of production make this not only a long-term goal but also one which should undergo significantly more inspection before any large-scale plan is implemented. I believe the best idea to start with is the roof-top solar panels, as that can be implemented on the individual level with the right incentives. I'm doubting the incentives are in place though as it could cut into energy company profits significantly.

Nick Bell

I think this article brings a lot of promise for the possibility of New York to meet all of their energy needs through renewable resources. Even though there is not much mention of the costs of doing so, the benefits alone are amazing. Saving 4000 lives is a huge deal regardless of the circumstances. If New York switched to renewable resources, this article says they can not only do that but also create thousands of new jobs. While I agree with my classmates that this is definitely a long term goal, it encourages me that researchers are actually working hard to see if switching to renewable resources is plausible instead of sitting by and not exploring our options. Studies like this will educate people and get them talking and if the benefits outweigh the costs, maybe states will start to make the transition to renewable resources.


Jacobson et al. have made quite a statement. While this brief article contains some figures, I am interested to read the paper would certainly help answer some questions. Specifically, how did the authors estimate the cost of implementing a system of only hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered vehicles? On top of that, did the study account for the pollution originating from non-New York vehicles? Even more importantly, what was the final estimated cost? What was the discounting factor? While it appears prudent and cost effective to invest now, the matter of affording the project is the ultimate question. I would assume the final figure is a conservative estimate of costs, although I feel that estimating projections for some of the generating sources, such as the five million residential photovoltaic installations, is nearly unrealistic. Ultimately though, as the article mentions, the matter is political. I am interested to learn of the results of similar studies for Washington, California, and other states, although I have a suspicion they will yield similar outcomes. Overall, until I am able to read the article itself (I could not find the journal Energy Policy on the W&L library website), I will remain skeptical of this paper and suspect armchair academia.

Nathan Plein

I agree with many of the comments above that address concerns over the costs of a mass scale shift to renewable energy. While many of the benefits listed in this article such as reduce end-use power demand by 37 percent, prevent 4,000 premature deaths annually, and save $33 billion in health costs each year sound great, I don't see this happening in the near future. In my view it comes down to the point that John made above, in that people are going to have to be willing to incur the costs for a project like this now even though they may not see the benefits in their lifetime. I also think that the costs of doing nothing have not hit close enough to home yet for most people to be willing to take action. I think that until people start seeing some of the negative effects of the current path first hand, we will not see any moves like the one talked about in this article.

Will Hatfield

This story immediately reminds me of Krugman's "Building a Green Economy". The key lesson in that paper was that "green" can be good for an economy. Jobs may be lost in the short term, but as our Aggregate Supply Aggregate Demand graph taught us, over time jobs and output could increase even more than before. Furthermore, the cost of doing nothing could be so great that it is worth adopting a new policy. Adaptation is becoming more and more unfeasible. Rising sea levels an growing externalities are something that we may not ever be able to fully adapt to. The technology and innovation is already in place, the only thing needed is the education and support of citizens and policy makers alike.

Sommer Ireland

The article is one of the few hopeful articles that we've read, but I do think that there is some false hope in it. It states that by 2030 the entire state of New York could run on renewable energy. However, there are high costs in implementing this plan, which would most likely result in an increase in taxes which would be opposed by constituents in New York. While the long term benefits clearly outweigh the costs, the immediate costs of implementing the changes would be a hard thing to swallow. However, since the technology is there, it is something that should be implemented. If New York could switch to all renewable energy sources, other states would follow. Saving $33 billion in health care costs, preventing 4000 premature deaths, and reducing end use power demand by 37% all seem to be benefits that I feel should outweigh the costs. I'm most curious as to whether this will actually be implemented. It also makes me wonder what other states have the capability to do the same as New York, and which ones would be willing to follow in New York's footsteps if it were to do the same.

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