The Climate Capitalist is disturbed that the environmental groups it has strongly supported are trying to stop an essential project to bring 1.2 gigawatts of renewable power to the New York State electrical grid. Called the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE), it will consist of two six-inch-diameter high voltage cables bringing renewable hydropower from Canada down the Lake Champlain and Hudson River bottoms to New York City. Financed by The Blackstone Group, it produces power 24/7. This non-intermittent power (compared to solar and wind) is key to New York’s goal of a zero-emission grid by 2035. The State uses about 20 gigawatts of power on a normal day.
In their zeal to protect their specific interests, the Adirondack Park and Hudson River environmental groups don’t understand the bigger picture: NYS and the rest of the nation need to furiously build NEW massive clean energy infrastructure to replace OLD dirty energy infrastructure. That means building huge solar and onshore/offshore wind farms and installing high voltage power cables to bring clean power to where it’s needed. We’re also going to need projects to make green hydrogen, do carbon capture and rebuild industries now running on fossil fuels. This new infrastructure will require trade-offs and will damage other environmental interests, but that’s the price we’re going to have to pay to radically cut emissions.
The problem is that federal and state environmental/land use laws are being used by NIMBYs and do-good activists to stop and slow clean energy projects. Proposed projects usually require clean air and water act permits and an Environmental Impact Statement under the National Environmental Protection Act. States and local communities usually have to give their approvals. There are 3300 individual utility companies in the US that play a key role. Most of these sign offs are subject to litigation that can go on for years. Instead of opposing, the time has come for the activists to start advocating FOR clean energy projects even when they harm interests they’ve historically sought to protect.
That’s just a start. We need to put authority in federal hands to override state and local opposition to rapidly push through thousands of clean energy projects. It would have been preferrable to go slowly but we have plumb run out of time. As an example, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was given broad powers to force through millions of miles of fossil fuel pipelines across the country. The national highway system we have today wouldn’t exist absent strong federal power.
Environmentalists must also realize that this infrastructure will need capitalists to annually invest trillions of dollars even though enviros don’t like or trust capitalists. The famous NASA scientist James Hansen told us that our name, “The Climate Capitalist,” is ridiculous because capitalism is what’s killing the planet. Indeed, Exxon and the other big oil companies knew 40 years ago that fossil fuel burning was going to wreak havoc on the planet, and yet they put out propaganda to the contrary. Check out recent documentaries from Frontline and “Black Gold’ on Paramount+ if you have any doubt. Fast forward to today and the oil and gas folks are positioning themselves as leaders in the clean energy future. Even with the oil and gas shortages caused by the Ukraine War, they are backing away from new long-term fossil fuel projects.
Our future depends on capitalists investing trillions of dollars per year on clean energy for thirty years. The Clean Energy Transition (CET) happens through capitalism, or it doesn’t happen at all.