KIITG Takes Another Bite Out of the Big Apple

Following the denial of yet another pipeline permit in New York state, National Grid—the nation’s second largest utility—has stopped processing requests for new natural gas hookups in New York City.

This is the second utility to put a hold on natural gas permits in the greater New York City area in two months. Last March, Con Edison imposed a moratorium on new natural gas hookups in Westchester County, just north of New York City, because it would soon face more demand for gas “than the existing interstate system can bring into our area.”

The latest victim of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “de facto ban on natural gas pipelines” is the $1 billion Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) pipeline project, which was halted after the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied the water quality certification needed for the project.

As with the Con Ed moratorium—which “set off anger and panic among developers and elected leaders”—business leaders warned that the decision to halt the pipeline project “could devastate the state’s economy.”

The Northeast project “was our solution for additional load growth for the region,” said National Grid New York President John Bruckner. “If the project isn’t approved, there is no plan B.”

As the NY Post recently editorialized, the governor and anti-pipeline activists “pretend that power from renewables—like solar, wind and geothermal sources—can replace natural gas … Maybe one day that’ll be true, but not anytime soon.”

Even the New York State Public Service Commission acknowledged that there currently is no viable alternative to the clean, abundant, affordable energy that would have come via the NESE pipeline.

In a news release announcing that they had approved Con Eds $223 million initiative “aimed at reducing demand for natural gas in the utility’s supply-constrained areas of its gas distribution system,” the Commission admitted that those measures “do not represent a complete solution.” But they did promise that they “will be laser focused on finding holistic and long-lasting solutions that will support clean energy strategies and economic growth.”

In the meantime, New York City must wrestle with the consequences of economic stagnation caused by the pipeline ban.

“Cities either grow or die, and we are always concerned about anything that would discourage continued growth,” New York City Partnership President Kathryn Wylde told Politico. “Clearly the threat that the supply of natural gas will be inadequate to support new business and development is a big concern.”

Unfortunately, discouraging economic growth is exactly what the “Keep It in the Ground” (KIITG) activists want.

The “degrowth” movement blames economic development—and all of the advantages of modern life—for climate change and they seek to eliminate it.

“Degrowth does not call for doing less of the same,” explains Inequality.org, a proponent of the movement. “The objective is not to make an elephant leaner, but to turn an elephant into a snail.”

But as with much of most of the magical thinking of the KIITG movement, their “logic” is fatally flawed. As Oxford economist Paul Collier famously said, economic “growth is not a cure-all, but lack of growth is a kill-all.”

Let’s hope that New York and New Jersey (which is due to decide on the NESE pipeline in early June) take a realistic look at the needs of consumers and allow the NESE pipeline to move forward.