Press & Sun Bulletin: Favoring wind and solar doesn’t make sense

This editorial first appeared in the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin on November 16th.

Politicians are led by polls, and this is the case with energy reform in New York state.

In a poll conducted by Clarity Campaign Labs, 77 percent of New York voters think the government should do more to support renewable energy, and 10 percent are already using renewable energy in their private lives, with 60 percent wanting to in the future. Basically, two out of three of us believe that being 100 percent reliant on renewable energy is possible.

This is going to sound crazy, but two out of three of us have no idea what we are talking about. Our desire to do is good is great, but our knowledge on how energy is created, stored and delivered lacks basic understanding.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) public hearings have good intentions, but sadly have been sideshows designed to portray the state as a carbon emissions reduction leader that grants credit to anyone installing solar panels on anything. This is happening while the FitzPatrick nuclear power plant, which emits no carbon, recently announced it will be closing its doors, eliminating 600 jobs. The closure will also eliminate $17 million in local property taxes annually.

Recently at a REV public hearing at New York University, the environmentalist community mobilized to call for closing off all power plants and to push for full reliance on alternative methods. It’s unreasonable, dangerous and lacks basic economic understanding of how energy is generated, stored and distributed.

To prematurely close coal, hydro and nuclear is pandering, and it places our energy reliance intelligence in the hands of political appointees and affluent environmental activists while ignoring educated practitioners. New York’s REV grants credit to non-carbon-emitting sources like solar and wind, but discriminates against non-carbon-emitting sources like nuclear.

New York’s coal plants are some of the cleanest in the country. If Cuomo’s REV plan is put into motion, coal plants will close, more good jobs will be lost, schools will be defunded and pollution will float in the air over into our borders.

Granting credit to just wind and solar doesn’t make sense. Look at the reliability of the issue; wind dies and the sun sets. It is important to note that most of the jobs surrounding these industries are low-wage and unskilled, with facilities generating very little tax revenue.

The New York State Electrical Workers Association, a coalition of power professionals in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, are coming together with the construction trades that install solar technologies. Their intent is to join the conversation at REV public hearings to offer their expertise on how to approach the issue by maintaining good jobs, creating emission-free energy and finding real methods of reducing carbon emissions in existing power generating stations.

Good jobs can be created and communities can be saved, but only if the pandering stops and the listening begins, because rising above all the political noise, our public and economic health depend on us, now and for all future generations.

Gary Bonker, of Johnson City, is the business manager of IBEW Local 10 and a board member of the New York State Utility Labor Council.

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