Citizens Guide Implementation Strategy Risks and Effects

In order to meet the net-zero goal of the Climate Act, risky emission reduction strategies from all sectors will be required and personal choices limited. All residences will have to be completely electrified despite the difficulties heating with electricity in New York’s climate with the current housing stock.  In the transportation sector electric vehicles will be required and zoning changes to discourage the use of personal vehicles implemented. 

Implementation Strategies

The Climate Act mandates reductions of greenhouse gases from all sectors of the economy and the scoping plan describes strategies that are necessary to meet those targets.  This background page summarizes risky strategies and others that will affect personal choice.  The risky strategies could be a nuisance, dangerous, or lead to catastrophic problems when the system cannot adequately handle typical weather events.  In addition, there is the potential that a hurricane or ice storm could cripple renewable resources for an extended period which would lead to an even more catastrophic situation.  In order to reduce emissions from the transportation sector wholesale electrification of vehicles is necessary but there will also for the “enhancement and expansion” of public transit and mandates to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled.  In theory, offering better options for public transit could reduce personal vehicle emissions but in practice it reduces personal mobility options.  Any limits on vehicle miles traveled will penalize anyone in rural areas who has no other options.

Nuisance Strategy – Electric Vehicles

In order to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, the Climate Act proposes to electrify transportation.  New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation on September 8, 2021 that effectively bans the sale of new internal combustion engine cars, off-road vehicles, light-duty trucks and equipment by 2035.  In addition, the Governor directed the Department of Environmental Conservation to release a proposed regulation that would significantly reduce air pollution from trucks.  Despite all the support for electric vehicles, the obvious point is that they work well for limited applications but they have limitations relative to gas powered cars.  For example, the requirements for charging infrastructure are a real hurdle in New York City where most people do not have a garage or personal parking spot.

For example, in my personal situation an electric vehicle would work well most of the time but several times a year we use both of our cars for trips that are long enough that we would have to significantly increase our travel time for a stop to re-charge.  Furthermore, those trips include a visit to New York City to see family from our home in Syracuse.  That would require finding a place to charge on the street there which I see as problematic.   However, for my personal situation this is a nuisance strategy because there are options to driving a personal car to New York City that while inconvenient are at least feasible.  I conclude that as long as there are options available to the “solution” the strategy can be considered a nuisance.

Dangerous Strategy – Electric Heating

One of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions is from residential heating and the proposed strategy is to electrify using energy efficient heat pumps.  There are two types of heat pumps: air-source and ground-source.  Both work using the principle of a refrigerator.  Instead of creating heat the heat pumps transfer it.  A refrigerator extracts heat inside and transfers it outside.  Air source heat pumps extract heat from the air and move it inside and a ground source heat pump extracts heat from the ground. Because a ground source heat pump requires drilling in a suitable location to extract the heat, the more likely retrofit solution is air source heat pumps.

The descriptions of the heat pump programs from the  New York State Energy Research & Development Authority heat program are materials disseminated by the advocates of a doctrine or cause, also known as propaganda.  In many cases they do not acknowledge that backup heating systems are required in New York because there are periods in the winter when the temperatures are so low that there is insufficient energy to transfer to keep the house warm when using an air source heat pump unless the house is as well insulated and free from air infiltration as a refrigerator.  Because it is just not feasible to get an existing home to that level there are problems that must be resolved to protect residents on the coldest days of the year.

The electric back-up solution is a resistance heater but that creates a series of problems.  In the first place is the question of just how many and how large do they have to be to provide adequate backup heat to supplement the heat pump system on the coldest day of the year.  Those heaters are not energy efficient and will require markedly more energy so the house service may have to be upgraded.  When all the homes in neighborhood are all electric the distribution electric system may have to be upgraded.  Finally, as I will show in the following section, the electric generation system itself has to be designed to provide enough energy.  If any of these components of the electric system fail, then home heating on the days it is needed most will fail to provide sufficient heat and that could be dangerous.