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New York's Fracking Ban and Its Discontents

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New York is the only U.S. state with significant methane gas resources to ban High Volume Hydraulic Fracture stimulation (fracking) for petroleum extraction. Though NY gas production has plummeted, the state's consumption has been growing robustly. NY gas consumption has grown at a compound annual rate of 1.2%, 1.4%, and 1.4% for the 5, 10, and 15 years leading up to 2018.

Figure 1 shows how NY 's gas production is merely 0.9% of consumption in 2018, down from 5.2% peak in 2005-2006.

Figure 1: Methane gas consumption and production

The fracking ban protecting NY water resources from potential harm from shale development (NYSDEC, 2015; NYDOH, 2014). However, until NY cuts gas consumption, curbing production will not help to mitigate global warming. Though the motives of supply restriction by cartel and a 'just say no' strategy to fossil extraction are different, the outcome is the same: higher profit for producers outside the curbed jurisdiction (Table 1).

Table 1: Strategy, motive, and effect of approaches to limit emissions (Boyce, 2019)

NY's decision starkly contrasts with neighboring Pennsylvania (Figure 2), which has become the second largest methane gas producer in the U.S. During the decade 2008-2017 PA methane gas production multiplied 27-fold, with production growing 14% year-over-year in 2018. Most NY demand is met with production from PA.​​​​​​​

Figure 2: Methane gas production in NY vs. PA 

Local pollution-based research, methodical grassroots civic activism, and a receptive governor played a key role in guiding the state away from shale development (Hang, 2016). New Yorkers’ relative financial prosperity may have allowed the state to consume methane gas at a higher-than-average rate for heating and electricity production while externalizing the pollution of production to their neighbors (Table 2). Availability of alternative employment opportunities in NY may have prevented the “jobs and royalties” argument to prevail during the last decade of Marcellus acceleration in PA. ​​​​​​​

Table 2: Energy production, consumption, and the affordability to deny extraction by state. All numbers are for 2018, except noted otherwise (*7 = 2017). Sources: Bureau of Economic Analysis, Energy Information Administration, Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

New York has madated the closure of Indian Point nuclear power plant, responsible for a quarter of downstate generation (16.3 TWh/a).  Even if all the downstate projects in the NYISO interconnection queue slated to come only until December 2021 do materialize on time, and there is sufficient grid-scale storage/transmission to deliver variable renewable resources to when and where needed, 80-90% of incremental generation will be fossil-fired. New York's gas use in the electricity sector is about to increase 27%, elevating the state's methane consumption by 9.1% (Figure 3). The temporary respite from COVID-19 demand destruction should not hide the decades of fossil dependency "carbon lock-in" engineered by NY policies and economics.​​​​​​​

Figure 3: New York methane gas consumption by end-use

Cheap gas prices had been shifting New York electric grid to be gas-centric for over a decade (Figure 4). 

Figure 4: Methane gas price and fossil share of electricity 

New York's electric grid will become more fossil-fuel dependent at any time since 2001 (Figure 5).

 

Figure 5: NY fossil-fired electricity share

Isuru Seneviratne's picture

Thank Isuru for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 15, 2020 12:46 pm GMT

However, until NY cuts gas consumption, curbing production will not help to mitigate global warming. Though the motives of supply restriction by cartel and a 'just say no' strategy to fossil extraction are different, the outcome is the same: higher profit for producers outside the curbed jurisdiction (Table 1).

This is a compelling way to frame the issue-- often it's easy to try to say let's take an 'all of the above' approach of pushing to reduce consumption while also pushing to 'keep it in the ground,' but with limited time, resources, and political capital, it really is critical to pick the most likely to succeed option. 

Isuru Seneviratne's picture
Isuru Seneviratne on May 22, 2020 2:35 am GMT

For anyone interested in truly effective climate action, I highly recommend James Boyce's brilliant book from where I excerpted Table 1.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 22, 2020 1:00 pm GMT

Thanks for the resource, Isuru

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