Giving NYC Greens What They Want
Recently, NYC witnessed the “march to end fossil fuels.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was there. Among the things she said to inspire the crowd:
We must be too big and too radical to ignore…We are all here for one reason: to end fossil fuels around the planet.
Jean Su of the Center for Biological Diversity, who helped organize the mobilization, said:
This is an incredible moment… Tens of thousands of people are marching in the streets of New York because they want climate action, and they understand Biden’s expansion of fossil fuels is squandering our last chance to avoid climate catastrophe.
For a female-appearing politician, AOC is easy on the eyes to some observers. This not only helps her Twitter account, it also is proof that Brains x Beauty = K.
Further, I am absolutely clear that anthropogenic global warming cum climate change is BS.
That said, I want to give her the benefit of the doubt and go with the climate change flow.
I am going to propose a way to test the “grit” of the protestors by giving them what they want, on a limited scale, i.e., ending fossil fuels locally before going global. This way, if they are proven right, they can convert the rest of us to their position without gluing themselves in public spaces.
Electricity for the electric grid is generated from a variety of energy sources: fossil-fuel power plants, nuclear power plants, hydropower plants, wind turbines, solar power, qeothermal power, and biomass power.
The percentage contribution of different sources to electricity generation for the electric grid varies significantly by country and region. In the United States (2020), electricity generation sources were:
- Natural gas: 40%
- Coal: 20%
- Nuclear: 20%
- Renewables (hydro, wind, solar, biomass): 20%
Current values are unlikely to be substantially different.
The main sources that provide electricity to New York City, including AOC’s district, are:
- Natural Gas - The largest share, around 43%, of New York City's electricity is generated by natural gas power plants.
- Nuclear - Around 27% comes from New York's nuclear power plants like Indian Point Energy Center located north of the city on the Hudson River.
- Hydropower - Around 18% is imported from hydroelectric dams located far north in Quebec via transmission lines passing through the state.
- Renewables - A smaller but growing share, around 7%, comes from new wind and solar facilities in upstate New York and surrounding states.
- Oil - A very small fraction, around 2%, is generated from stored oil/petroleum when needed to meet peak demand.
- Coal - Only around 1% comes from coal-fired generation as New York moves away from coal use.
The vast transmission network serving New York City allows it to draw power from generators throughout the region via high voltage lines. But natural gas makes up the largest portion of generation, with nuclear and hydropower also being key sources.
Wouldn’t you know it, “environmental” groups have issues with electricity generated from nuclear or hydropower.
As to nuclear power, there is opposition because of: safety risks, high costs, excessive water usage , unsustainability, proliferation risks )as in weapons), and centralized vs. distributed energy sources.
Hydropower is subject to the following objections or restrictions:
Support for small-scale hydropower projects, especially "run-of-river" projects that have minimal dams and reservoirs. Seen as less environmentally disruptive.
Opposition to large hydroelectric dams due to flooding of landscapes and disruption of river ecosystems and fish migration patterns.
Concerns about methane emissions from organic matter decomposing in reservoirs behind dams. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas.
Dams restricting water flow can negatively impact downstream water supply and wildlife.
Some opposition to damming free-flowing rivers on principle, preferring rivers run wild.
Support for retrofitting existing dams with turbines or updating old hydropower facilities for efficiency over building massive new projects.
Preference for new dams only when needed for water supply/flood control, then add turbines to serve multiple purposes.
Belief better siting practices and regulation could mitigate some impacts, but mega-dams likely always detrimental.
There is a saying, "States are the laboratories of democracy."
This phrase refers to the concept that the state governments in the United States can act as policy "laboratories", testing out new laws and programs that can be examples for other states and even the federal government.
The phrase is attributed to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who wrote in a 1932 dissenting opinion:
It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.
This concept views state autonomy and authority as an asset that enables experimentation, creativity, and responsiveness compared to one centralized federal government. When states try new approaches, they can act as "laboratories of democracy" catalyzing change that might not otherwise occur.
If a state can be a laboratory, then why not a county? City? District? How about AOC’s district? After all, they voted her into office?
It is possible to turn off or disconnect portions of the electric grid selectively. This is done routinely for maintenance, to respond to outages, and in some cases to implement rolling blackouts. Some methods of selectively turning off parts of the grid include:
Transmission substations and distribution substations can be manually disconnected by utility workers to isolate certain areas. Breakers and switches allow substations to be selectively connected or disconnected.
Relays and automated switches can detect faults or overloads and isolate problematic sections, preventing wider outage.
Rolling blackouts are controlled power outages that utilities cycle through different neighborhoods/regions to relieve stress on the larger grid during high demand. These are selective shutoffs.
For maintenance work, utilities can reconfigure transmission networks to reroute power and cut supply to a specific area that needs servicing while keeping other areas energized.
Smart grids with advanced metering infrastructure and distributed control systems allow more surgical disconnection and reconfiguration of micro-sections of the grid compared to manual operations.
Islanding techniques allow "islands" of microgrids with local generation to disconnect from the main utility grid but sustain power for themselves.
Thus, modern electrical grids have various mechanisms for controlled, selective disconnection of certain areas while maintaining supply elsewhere. This kind of flexibility helps utilities manage reliable delivery.
And it can help AOC and zir ilk demonstrate the wonders of a renewable energy future.
All that needs to be done is for the supply of electricity to AOC’s district from offensive sources (comprising about 93%) to either be shut down or reduced to ~7% and…
Let’s see how well and for how long these gritty protestors with fight make do. Nothing would be more convincing of their stance than their success in this demonstration of getting what they want -- for the rest of us.
Image: Lucas S