Insights On Progressive Thinking From The Climate Action Council Public Hearing
My previous post on Tuesday contained some highlights from the May 3 public hearing of New York’s Climate Action Council. The CAC is the body that is charged with devising a “Scoping Plan” to inform all us New Yorkers how we will achieve “zero carbon” electricity by 2030 and a “zero carbon” economy by 2050. I attended the hearing for about two and a half hours, during which about 60 people spoke.
Reflecting on the hearing a few days later, I think there are a few more highlights that would interest the readers, and will give some more insights into the nature of progressive thinking.
As stated in my prior post, of the 60 or so speakers, all but myself and four others were vigorous supporters of the critical necessity of achieving the stated zero carbon goals by the given dates as an urgent matter of saving our planet and our children. This was so despite what appeared to me to be manifestly huge issues of physical feasibility and cost that are almost certain to cause these grand “net zero” energy schemes to fail. The CAC’s draft “Scoping Plan,” as it currently exists for public comment, does not consider these feasibility or cost issues in any remotely adequate fashion, if at all. That fact did not appear to bother the overwhelming majority of the speakers.
So what are the things that do drive the thinking of these other 55 or so speakers, who apparently represent the large majority of New York City’s citizenry? The previous post mentioned fear as a common theme — fear that use of fossil fuels by us New Yorkers will bring on storms, floods and other disasters to threaten our lives and livelihoods. But what I failed to mention was another emotion that was even more prevalent in the comments — anger.
Anger at what, you might ask? Good question. I admit that this doesn’t make any sense, but here it is. The anger is directed at the fossil fuel producers and distributors who the commenters, with near unanimity, seemed to believe were hell-bent on destroying the planet. A substantial majority of the 60 or so comments that I listened to expressed this anger in one form or another, and it was an implicit undercurrent in most of the rest.
But, you might say, all of these people are in fact the users of the fossil fuels. Essentially all of them use electricity, which in New York currently comes about 60% from fossil fuels. The large majority of them drive cars, of which some 99% in New York use gasoline. Most of them heat their homes with natural gas, and cook with natural gas. Aren’t they themselves the ones who are responsible for the problem, if there is a problem? They use fossil-fuel-burning cars and furnaces and stoves because those vehicles and appliances are cheaper and/or work better than the alternatives. And yet, somehow these people have convinced themselves that they have no responsibility at all, and the use of gasoline and natural gas by them and others is a fault of evil producers and utilities.
On this theme, two commenters in particular stand out in my mind. First was a youngish (probably in her 30s) woman from Brooklyn who described herself as having a toddler in the apartment. After relating her fears for the toddler’s future in a world of changing climate, she got to the crux of her personal testimony, which was much more about anger than fear. The gas company was putting a dangerous substance into her stove, which when burned to cook gave off toxic substances and fumes that were putting the toddler’s health at risk. Her intense rage was palpable. She urged the CAC in the strongest terms to impose legal prohibitions that would prevent this kind of conduct going forward.
Put aside for the moment that this woman apparently had no idea that there is nothing toxic about the combustion products of natural gas, which are CO2 and water. But even more bizarre was that she apparently hadn’t figured out that if she is concerned about this subject, however irrationally, she can just go out and buy an electric stove tomorrow. And why hadn’t she done that? She didn’t say. The only reasons I can think of are that natural gas stoves work better than electric ones and are cheaper. Those are perfectly good reasons. But I wouldn’t recommend that you try to argue with this woman about why she has a gas stove. She is completely convinced that it has been foisted upon her by the evil gas companies who are intent on destroying the health of her toddler, let alone the planet. I doubt that any amount of logic or reason could talk her out of that belief.
And then there was the case of an equally irrational 60-something man, who said he was from Cedarhurst, Long Island. For those unfamiliar, Cedarhurst is a very wealthy suburb of large homes just outside the New York City limits. You may have seen Cedarhurst out the window of an airplane approaching JFK airport on a flight back from Europe. The guy in question styled his testimony as a confessional. He candidly admitted to his extreme climate guilt. But he claimed that he was unable to do anything about his large carbon footprint right now because the state had failed to compel the suppliers to provide him with zero emissions alternatives. He didn’t give us any details of what fuel he currently uses to heat his home, or to cook, but chose to focus on his driving. He stated that he wanted to buy an electric car, and was ready to do it, but was prevented from doing it. How was he prevented? Because there were no electric vehicle charging stations in his town! Needless to say, he was angry about that, and demanded that the state step up to order somebody to provide the charging stations, and provide funding to be sure that the charging stations got built.
Huh? Why didn’t this guy just get his own charging station at his own house? He didn’t mention that, so we are left to speculate. Again, the only thing I can think of is that he doesn’t want to spend his own money on this. Better to gin up some anger and demand that somebody else pay for it.
The thinking is that not only perfect fairness and justice, but also perfect climate, are easily within our reach if only our leaders summon the political will to order the evil people and companies to do the right thing, and perhaps provide some funding from the infinite free pile of government money. I guess, if you believe that, you are right to be angry that the leaders haven’t yet issued the necessary orders to get the job done. What’s wrong with them?
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