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Stephen Mushegan's picture
Manager, Building Electrifcation Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)

Stephen Mushegan is a Manager at RMI (formerly Rocky Mountain Institute) on the Building Electrification program. In this role, he oversees the Northeast regional team, which engages with states...

  • Member since 2020
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  • Feb 10, 2021

My op-ed on the New York Daily News responding to Mayor Bill de Blasio's announcement of phasing out fossil fuel hookups in new buildings by 2030. Let me know what you think. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 10, 2021

Thanks for sharing, Stephen-- I think one of the big challenges is balancing the best, most effective move with the political will to get it down. WIth that in mind, do you think now is the right moment to capitalize? I always worry that a failed attempt would expend political capital that can't be gained later-- similar to the setback from failed carbon pricing votes in WA state, for example. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 10, 2021

"New York State emits more greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels in buildings than any other state, and New York City accounts for the largest proportion of those emissions."

Stephen, the implication seems to be that burning fossil fuels at a power plant in another borough to create electricity, transmitting it to Manhattan, then converting it back to heat using resistive heating elements, is somehow more energy-efficient than burning gas in furnaces on-site. It isn't - it creates more CO2 emissions, not fewer.

In some cases, a lot more. Ravenswood Generating Station, for example, is a dual-use fossil fuel plant in Queens - it burns both natural gas and fuel oil. Heating buildings in Manhattan, using electricity generated by burning fuel oil in Queens, makes no environmental sense at all.

"The solutions we need already exist today: heat pumps, heat pump water heaters and induction stoves can replace the use of gas and fuel oil in our buildings...."

Heat pumps only work where there's a source of heat. Show me where there's a nearby source of enough heat to warm Rockefeller Center, for example, on an ice-cold wintry day, and I'll show you a proposal that isn't a scam to promote sales of natural gas and fuel oil.

Years ago, RMI Director Amory Lovins was being paid hundreds of $thousands by oil companies each year for "consulting" work - ostensibly, to help them sell more fossil fuel. Lately, however, he's refused to divulge whether he is, or isn't. Is Lovins still on the take from Big Oil? I can't think of another reason RMI would argue for policy that's so obviously detrimental to the environment.

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Feb 12, 2021

Stephen, You are 100% correct. Ignore Bob and other short sighted critics. There is lots of Geo thermal heat in NYC and many other places. LED lights , Heat pumps and induction cooking is the best short and long term way to go. Once people start looking there are many ways to reach those goals. 

   An interesting FACT is that in NYC people use less energy because large apartment buildings share power and walls and energy. That is a great starting point. RMI  has reworked the state tower building to use much less energy. RMI  can do it for all the new buildings even better. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 12, 2021

"Ignore Bob and other short sighted critics..."

I'm flattered to be singled out as as target of ad hominem attacks, it means a critic has no logical argument to present. But let's get real:

"There is lots of Geo thermal heat in NYC and many other places."

How much is "lots", Jim? Can you give us even a rough estimate of how many MWh of geothermal heat is practically available in the vicinity of Rockefeller Center, for example? Didn't think so - only holistic visions of rainbows and unicorns. Z-z.

Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Feb 16, 2021

Good article.  I think the overall issue is that no matter what appliance you put in, it still requires some form of electricity and the question will be -  can renewables (wind and solar which is what we seem to be focusing on) support the demand? Or will we be burning more coal to support?  It is a balancing act.  I agree that the best place to start is with the new construction at the very least. 

Stephen Mushegan's picture
Thank Stephen for the Post!
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