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03/13/2013

Comments

Charles Busch

The article addresses the issue of weaning New York (the third most populous state in the U.S.) off of fossil fuels by replacing them with clean energy sources. It is encouraging to hear that we already have the technology necessary to produce enough energy with renewable sources to eliminate the use of fossil fuels on a large scale. However, we are obviously a long way off from actually implementing these changes. Just as we have discussed before, the process of discounting future costs back to present value makes externalities associated with climate change seem less significant. By the same discounting process, future benefits associated with installing new renewable energy infrastructure in order to replace fossil fuel sources also seem smaller. Considering the massive amounts of capital expenditure that would be required to build wind turbines, PV plants, etc. I think that this movement from fossil fuels to renewable sources will unfortunately not happen on a massive scale for a while. It seems as though a lot of people are turned off by the longer time horizons of seeing their investments pay off, although the social benefits from switching to renewable sources would be immediate. This is a good example of a market failure in which MSB > MPB, so in the absence of intervention a socially optimal amount of renewable energy sources may not be produced.

Eric Notari

The first thing that caught me eye with this article was the number of things that needed to be implemented to achieve the energy change and how much it would cost. After looking more into the cost of each factor based on the cost/watt or cost/megawatt that each seems to be costing recently, building all the energy plants will cost the state of New York anywhere from $400 billion to $500 billion. Unless my math is way off, which it could be, this is approximately the total NY state budget for a year. So while yes, it is nice to consider the possibility of achieving clean energy for a state, it just does not seem very plausible. Yes, there are estimated 4,000 lives saved a year along with $33 billion in health care saved, which when a life is valued at $7.5 million, results in $63 billion a year saved, it is still a very long time before the cost is made up. That is also if the infrastructure was created instantly. But to create what is needed is going to take an incredibly long time, so the benefits will not really start to be seen until many years after initial construction. Based on needing such a long run view on the benefits, while the costs are immediate, I just do not see how something like this will be successful. Also, who is going to pay for everything, not only the initial building, but the yearly upkeep? One thing New Yorkers will not stand for is higher taxes.

Maggie Antonsen

The benefits suggested by this article seem well worth the cost. However, just because this would be economically feasible does not mean that the state will want to spend such a large amount of money on this transition to cleaner energy. In addition to this promising data, what motivation will people need to agree to implement the “4,000 onshore wind turbines, 12,700 offshore turbines, 828 photovoltaic plants, 5 million rooftop solar systems, and 2,600 one-megawatt tidal turbines.”
Furthermore while the many long-term benefits said to “reduce end-use power demand by 37 percent, prevent 4,000 premature deaths annually, and save $33 billion in health costs each year,” we must ask how long-term? Simple economic and accounting models that compare the value of a dollar today with the value of a dollar in the future can be used here. If these benefits will not be experienced until a couple years from now, perhaps not even in our lifetime, then what is the value of these benefits to us now? What will motivate this implementation when we must experience the large initial costs now and do not reap the benefits until well into the future? This plays into the education aspect of renewable and clean energy. Perhaps if people were more educated on this topic, they would be more motivated to implement this plan. However, I believe right now it would be very unlikely for New York to spend the capital investment this plan calls for.

Jennifer  Friberg

Although this article brings a hopeful message to readers that there exists the technology to use all renewable resources to power the state of New York, what is necessary and altogether missing is the plan of how to implement this. If it is just a grand idea that is apparently feasible, it still ultimately is doing nothing for the environment until it is put into effect. It is the job of the environmental economists to create economic incentives to achieve this goal the article claims feasible. Yes, initial costs may be high but that is when taking into purely monetary costs. When considering health costs, environmental costs, and the billions of dollars in negative externalities that the use of nonrenewable resources is costing society now, I would undoubtedly agree that initial costs of creating the infrastructure necessary to power New York with only renewable resources is no greater than the costs we are bearing now.

Julia Murray

As others have mentioned, this article reflects the conclusion of the Stabilization Wedges paper,which demonstrates that we can stabilize CO2 concentration at 500 ppm using technology that we currently possess. As the paper points out, multiple solutions will be needed to stabilize emissions, and these solutions must come from efficiency, land use and fuel shift categories. This article specifically discusses alternative energy, which is obviously a large part of solution, but it would also be interesting to hear about plans that would incorporate improvements in land use. As Professor Casey mentioned in class, many solutions in this category, such as those relating to agriculture and deforestation, would be cheaper to implement and would probably be more widely accepted in the political arena. Since the massive overhaul of energy sources suggested in this article for New York State seems very severe and unlikely to move forward, it may be practical to suggest a more moderate plan to switch to alternative energy accompanied by changes in land use.

Juan Manuel Polanco

It is good to finally see that it is not impossible for us to change. I would like to know how much money would be needed to for the to happen. I am sure that the amount needed is less than the costs that will be prevented in the future but seeing such a big number can throw some people back. I would like to believe that if we hadn't suffered the economic crisis and the world economy had remained growing and developing; we would have started investing in renewable energy a long time ago. I have no idea how large the US government´s debt is or how much money they have available for an investment like this but I'm pretty sure that economically speaking, this is not the best time for such spending. I guess another way of making this happen without large amounts of public spending would be for the government to extensively subsidize the fabrication of wind turbines and solar panels as well as give free land in order to attract private companies and have them take care of it.

Ellison Johnstone

This article provides some very hopeful statistics for the future of energy use in the U.S. Obviously, as important a state as New York is, it would make an enormous statement if it really converted to all the renewable sources mentioned by 2030. Other states would surely follow New York's lead. However, I cannot help but think that this goal is rather unfeasible in consideration of where public opinion and is at today. Although public awareness of climate change and the options available to combat it are growing, there is still much room for improvement in increasing public knowledge. As we have seen in previous articles read for class, much of the public is not even sure that the planet is warming or that human activity is causing climate change. I also think that the general conception among normal citizens is taking such drastic actions as this article suggests would be extremely costly. In light of the recession that we are still trying to climb out of, this argument would be magnified. In my experience and research, it seems that the the public just does not listen when they are told that expenses will be made up for down the road. People tend to only focus on the costs at hand, and those costs would be very large for New York. As much as we have looked at climate change in class, it seems very obvious that these costs would be worth it. It is incredible that they could occur with a potential economic benefit in the long term. It seems obvious that New York taking these drastic actions to convert to all renewable energy is something that should occur immediately. However, I just have serious doubts about the public's willingness to support such a switch. The ultimate success or failure of such a plan may just depend on politicians and how they handle the situation.

Tim Werner

I agree with Sommer's comments for the most part. It seems like this article is very optimistic about this plan to switch New York to renewable energy within 20 years. I am curious about the specifics as to how New York State would implement such a plan. Some questions that I immediately thought of are: would all these wind turbines be on state owned land like the Adirondack Park or the Catskills? Will they harm the ecosystem in addition to taking away the aesthetic beauty of the state parks? What tax will they use to raise funds for such a project?

In addition, the long term cost is worth it given the information of today; preventing 4000 premature deaths each year, reducing power demand, and reducing health care costs. However, the cost of the capital alone seems overwhelming. Nevertheless, given today's information the idea is worth it.

I may seem more optimistic than this article since I think that within that 20 year timeline to switch New York to renewable energy, a more cost effective alternative will arise whether it be a new source of energy or major improvements to the capital and storage of energy involved in such a project.

Tim Werner

Sorry, I didn't see the second page of comments and it looks like many of my points have already been mentioned in the previous posts

Matt Rutley

The notion that it could economically feasible for New York to meet all of its energy needs through strictly renewable energy sources is quite surprising. The transition to wind, solar, and other energy sources would become quite expensive, and would require a lot of investment in order to make these renewable energy sources both technologically and economically efficient. The idea of building over 4,000 wind turbines, 12,700 offshore turbines, 5 million rooftop solar systems, etc., seems a little farfetched, however, if long-term health benefits and the creation of new jobs could make up for the large amount of initial capital that will need to be invested in this project, this project could then very possibly improve the economy on a macro-scale. It will be interesting to see how this works out in New York, and how other states will attempt to follow suit if the project turns out to be successful. However, if we want true energy independence, and an independence which will be universal and effective enough to truly put a dent in curbing global warming, this initiative needs to be implemented on a national , and eventually global, level.

Haley Miller

I agree with Emily's comment that in light of recent extreme weather events in New York, the political climate is likely more open to mitigation efforts. While the effects of CO2 emissions will last long past adaptation efforts, it will improve future outlooks for New York and the world as a whole. It seems incredible that the savings in health related cost is so high: $33 billion per year. Although I question the feasibility of a full conversion, especially transportation, it is interesting that it is a possibility.

Gyung Jeong

The trade-off between economic growth and clean energy has always been a problem. I am glad to hear that it is possible for New York, which is the third largest populous state, to cover all of its energy by 2030 by renewable resources. Although in the beginning, it may seem extremely costly, we have to think about the future value. As we briefly talked about, it is the debate between whether getting the benefits right now with no cost is beneficial or bearing costs first for the future benefits is more beneficial. However, as the research shows, 78% of energy will be covered by solar and wind, and it’s long-term benefits and new jobs will outweigh the costs and the sacrifices made by the conversion. New York will begin soon. However, we should not just stop here. Other states have to join too, which will eventually lead to a global conversion.

Ellen Gleason

As several people have stated, this article gave me hope about the potential for future gains in renewable energy. However, it seems highly unlikely that even a relatively progressive state like New York would decide to convert 100% of their energy production to renewable resources. Due to the high cost of implementation, and the passing off of costs to consumers who normally wouldn't have to pay (such as having to see large windmills, blocking views, etc). I think that the way to go would be suggesting investments in renewable energy capital in stages - not all at once. I think if the state government or other organizations attempt widespread environmental action on energy policy, there will be an overwhelmingly negative response.

Curtis Jay Correll

This certainly seems like a remarkable milestone. Being able to make a very large and power consumptive state completely independent from non-renewable resources is a huge step. Just because this is feasable though, does not necessarily mean it is practical. On the positive side, it could be a positive role model to other states, encouraging them to follow suit until the entire USA is reliant only on renewable. From there, hopefully that would spread to the rest of the world.
That being said, it is highly unlikely that this will be carried out anytime in the near future, and it would likely be more politically feasable and efficient to use these resources to make the whole country less dependent on non-renewable resources instead of just one region. It makes the most sense to push for whichever of these options seems more aggreeable to politicians and the general public, since immediate public appeal is the main thing stopping politicians from making significant progress towards environmentally responsible policies.

Nick Cianciolo

I agree with Sasha that this does seem almost too good to be true. However, I like that we are heading in the right direction with entire states even considering the necessary changes needed to combat climate change. I question how much this will cost the state of New York and how much in the way of Federal subsidies they will receive if they move on this plan. I would also like to see how the authors of the paper calculate that this would save New York money... I am not saying that it isnt possible, but am curious about the time horizon and how much valuation the authors put on correcting externalities. Is it just real costs they are accounting for, such as health care and long term energy cost reductions, or are they including correcting for negative externalities in their valuation? All of this is important to judge the viability of such a project. One issue I can see remaining is the mere prospect of convincing citizens across the state to accept large wind turbines near their property and out on the water. This can drastically hold up any forward progress. All in all, I am curious and glad to see that a state might take the pill and be a true guinea pig to test how this might work on a much larger scale. Someone has to do it first in order for us to truly see the current applicability of renewable energy. If it works we could see large scale support for combating climate change, not only across the country, but around the world.

Hampton Ike

This article seems to give hope for the future of energy production in New York possibly yielding a model to the nation and world. However, I am not at all surprised to learn that it is theoretically feasible to implement an entirely renewable energy source for the state of New York. The fact of the matter though is that this plan is neither politically nor socially possible given the current state of the Nation and New York in particular. The upfront costs alone if proposed by a politician would likely lead to a new candidate at the position, not to mention the still chosen ignorance regarding global climate change and its current and future impacts across the globe. The numbers are very enticing to state that NY will be renewable in the coming decades granted that solar and wind energy at the current technological levels could phase out carbon emitting energy sources, but the practicality of such a drastic shift in the lifestyles and mindsets of American citizens coupled with the economic changes is not very feasible.

Scott Diamond

This article suggests that the technology and resources currently exists to transition the entire state of New York to renewable sources. This ambitious plan would demand large scale production of wind turbines, offshore turbines, photovoltaic plants, rooftop solar systems, and tidal turbines. The initial capital investment required is not quantified in this article, but I can’t help to be extremely skeptical of the cost-benefit analysis performed here. They simply state that the long term benefits would be worth it, but without a stated time frame here it is difficult to determine the payback period or discount rate associated with such a project. Additionally, it may be true that society has the technology and resources exist for such an undertaking, but unless the marginal abatement costs and marginal damages are equated by this project it would be unreasonable to undertake such a project. Is it really economically efficient that New York receive all of its power from alternative energy sources or would doing this push us to an unreasonably high point on the marginal abatement cost curve? This article shows a lot of promise in the effort to wean our country off of fossil fuels, but at first glance it does not seem cost effective or politically feasible.

Julia Seelye

Like many other commenters have pointed out, this plan for alternative energy in New York seems unrealistic. The article makes ambitious claims, but theoretical calculations are often quite different than reality. Even so, alternatives to supplying New York with gas drilling are necessary, and those suggested by these scientists may be a solution for some of the state's energy and pollution problems. Unfortunately, state funding for these projects is unlikely. The political situation in New York combined with the current economic climate make it difficult to pass any initiatives that do not deal directly with the day-to-day problems of New Yorkers. Convincing constituents that the enormous future benefits and potential savings from this alternative energy proposal are possible is one thing, but persuading them to give precedence to funding these wind turbines, solar panels, and hydroelectric plants will be much more difficult -- if not impossible.

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