Hawkins Says NY Must Create a Carbon Free Economy Within a Decade, Cuomo's Energy Plan Is Weak and Misguided

Howie Hawkins for Governor - Green Party
Media Release
www.howiehawkins.org - www.gpny.org

For Immediate Release: October 26, 2010

For More Information:
Howie Hawkins, 315 425-1019. 315 317-5084 (c)
Cecile Lawrence, 607 625-5844
Mark Dunlea, 518 860-3725


Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, said today that his Green New Deal program would move New York to a carbon-free economy within ten years. He said Andrew Cuomo's NY Power policy book is "weak when it's right but mostly misguided." Hawkins also faulted Cuomo for failing to oppose hydrofracking for natural gas.


A copy of Hawkins Climate Action Plan is at http://howiehawkins.com/2010/media-releases/289-hawkins-on-jobs.html. Cuomo's energy plan is at http://www.andrewcuomo.com/powerNY


"Cuomo just doesn't get it when it comes to grasping the magnitude of the problems facing New York. For instance, when it comes to jobs and the economy, Cuomo acts like Herbert Hoover rather than FDR. We are in the greatest recession since the Great Depression and Cuomo refuses to create public jobs. Instead he attacks unions and calls for property tax caps and a freeze on public spending," noted Hawkins.


Hawkins added that "Cuomo also fails to grasp the seriousness of the climate change crisis. Some of his energy policy statements are vaguely in the right direction, but they just too weak to prevent the catastrophic impact of global warming. What is missing from his energy plan are concrete goals and. timetables and a commitment to make the needed financial investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy for carbon reduction," said Hawkins.


Cecile Lawrence, Green Party NY candidate for U.S. Senate, special term, referred to the report issued recently by the Renewable Energy Network for the 21st Century. According to this report, as announced by the Institute of Science in Society, "at the end of 2009, fully one quarter of global power capacity (1230 GW)" was renewable, delivering 18 percent of global electricity supply... This is more than three times the global nuclear generating capacity and about 38 percent the capacity of fossil fuel-burning power plants worldwide." http://www.i-sis.org.uk/worldRenewableEnergyCapacity.php. Lawrence noted that the demand and technical ability for renewable sources of energy are in place now, making it entirely possible for the U.S., including New York State, to be at 100% renewable energy well before 2050.


Hawkins, who started running campaign commercials statewide this week, also said that the Inspector General's (IG) shockingreport on the rigged bidding process for choosing a video lottery terminal operator at the Aqueduct race courseshows the rampant corruption in the state government in general and in the Democratic Party in particular.


"It's time to throw da bums out and get some new parties in there. The Democrats and Republicans compete to sell themselves to the highest bidder,mainly with campaigncontributions butsometimes with outright kickbacks. They treat the state treasury as their personal piggybank.They refuse to pass any meaningful campaign finance reform or ethics legislation. They always promise to clean it up once elected but they never do. Both parties are rotten to the core," stated Hawkins.


A copy of Hawkins statement is at http://howiehawkins.com/2010/media-releases/373-hawkins-aqueduct-deal-was-horse-st-clean-the-stables.html


Climate scientists now say the world must stabilize atmospheric carbon levels below 350 parts per million (ppm) in order to have a 2 in 3 chance of averting runaway climate change. To reach that level (we are now at 390 ppm), the world must limit carbon emissions to 750 gigatons (billion tons) between now and 2050. If that carbon budget is allocated per capita, the United States will use up its carbon budget in 6 years at current rates of emissions.


Hawkins had many criticisms of the energy policy book released by Cuomo:


Weak and Bad Policies - Some of the general policies advocated in Cuomo's NY Power paper are in the right direction. But even when he's right, he's very weak on goals, timetables, deadlines, and the commitment of necessary resources. Not much will change with his plan and much that is bad -- hydrofracking, dependence on nukes, coal, and gas for baseload, no goals for carbon reductions, uncritical support for RGGI - will go forward.


No Climate Action Plan - Cuomo's plan makes no reference to the state's Climate Action Plan, or Executive Order 24 which authorized it, or any carbon or greenhouse gas reduction goal. The plan has only general statements about efficiency reducing emissions. Executive Order 24 and the Climate Action Plan apparently will just expire in a Cuomo administration. Hawkins will strengthen these policies by raising the goal to a carbon-free energy system by 2020 and passing legislation to make these policies law, not just an Executive Order that expires when its issuer leaves office.


Hydrofracking - The plan is silent on hydrofracking for natural gas. Cuomo has said that he wants a moratorium until the DEC study is completed, with the implication that then we will know how to hydrofrack safely under DEC regulation. Hawkins supports an immediate ban. In addition to the threat to clean water and public health created by the hydrofracking process, Hawkins points out that natural gas is a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases and contribute to global warming. Hawkins believes that instead of investing in natural gas, the country needs to redirect funds to renewables and energy efficiency.


Coal - Cuomo says nothing about phasing out coal generators, except by implication when he says "Repowering older power plants with modern plants to increase capacity and reduce emissions to increase generation capacity and reduce harmful emissions," and mentions combined-cycle natural gas plants. Hawkins says that means natural gas generators - and hydrofracking - will replace coal generators as they wear out and need to be replaced. That will be a disastrous policy for the water and upstate landscape and will divert resources and precious time from a rapid conversion to carbon-free renewables.


Carbon Pricing - On pricing carbon there is only a brief laudatory reference to RGGI as it is now structured in Cuomo's plan. There is no discussion of RGGI vs. a carbon tax. Hawkins advocates a carbon tax as a more stable, predictable price signal that will better encourage investments in efficiency and renewables. RGGI goal of 10% carbon reduction by 2018 is far too little, too late. Cuomo also makes no objection to recent raids of RGGI revenues for the general fund.


Nuclear Power - Cuomo does call for the closing Indian Point, but says nothing about New York's four other nuclear power plants on Lake Ontario, or the 20 new nuclear power plants proposed in the draft Climate Action Plan. Hawkins says that the price tag of $250 to $300 billion or more for 20 nukes, with federal subsidies in the form of limited accident insurance and full gurantees for financing would be a terrible waste of capital. He notes that there is no safe storage for the nuclear waste, the plants chronically leak radioactivity, and a meltdown accident would destroy a huge swath of land. Hawkins calls for the shut down of all of New York's nuclear plants as fast as clean, renewable replacement power can be built.


Transportation and Land Use - Cuomo's energy plan ignores critical issues such as mass transit, congestion pricing, land use planning, complete streets, and other transportation and anti-sprawl policies that will encourage more energy efficient modes of transportation and patterns of settlement. Globally and domestically, emissions from transport are growing faster than in any other sector. The main culprit is road transportation - there are too many cars and trucks on the road and the vehicles we drive are built for speed and power and not to maximize miles-per-gallon. Reducing emissions and pollution from motor vehicles will require reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMTs). Hawkins calls for big public investments in mass transit, interurban rails, and freight rails to make these efficient modes of transportation more economical and convenient than cars and trucks and supportive of walkable communities.


Corporate Welfare vs. Public Investment - Cuomo's plan relies on limited tax credits and subsidies at a time at the same time calling for an emergency fiscal austerity program for New York State. Cumo wants to make Jobs for Power permanent. Hawkins sees that program as corporate welfare for the politically powerful and connected, and adds that it serves as a disincentive for energy efficiency. That money would be better spent as NYSERDA grants for efficiency and renewables. Cuomo's plan lacks the force and scale of the public investment necessary to move rapidly to a carbon-free energy system based on the efficient use of renewables.


"Europe's experience with cap and trade has shown it to be more successful as yet another corporate welfare giveaway rather than having a significant impact on reducing carbon emission. Only a carbon tax can drive the across-the-board transition from fossil fuels to renewable and efficient energy quickly," said Hawkins.


Hawkins outlined several ways that a carbon tax is preferable to the state's present cap and trade program:
  • Carbon taxes will lend predictability to energy prices, whereas cap-and-trade systems will aggravate the price volatility that historically has discouraged investments in less carbon-intensive electricity generation, carbon-reducing energy efficiency and carbon-replacing renewable energy.
  • Carbon taxes can be implemented much sooner than complex cap-and-trade systems.
  • Carbon taxes are transparent and easily understandable, making them more likely to elicit the necessary public support than an opaque and difficult to understand cap-and-trade system.
  • Carbon taxes can be implemented with far less opportunity for manipulation by special interests, while a cap-and-trade system's complexity opens it to exploitation by special interests and perverse incentives that can undermine public confidence and undercut its effectiveness.
  • Carbon taxes address emissions of carbon from every sector, whereas some cap-and-trade systems discussed to date have only targeted the electricity industry, which accounts for less than 40% of emissions.

For more information on the carbon tax, see http://www.carbontax.org/.


Hawkins said that New York should also provide more leadership in examining agriculture and climate change. The Greens support phasing out the use of fossil fuels in agriculture as fuel for machinerty and feedstocks for pesticides and fertilizers. They support a transition to a sustainable, organic, and more locally-based food system. New York will also have to help assist farmers in how to respond to climate change, as changes in temperature, precipitation cycles, and severe weather will have many environmental effects upon farming


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