NYC’s Grid Might Actually Make Bill DeBlasio’s Big Open-Door AC Crusade Totally Pointless

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new air conditioning law may set at ease his (and, incidentally, most American mothers’) “pet peeve” about open doors and AC, but the infrastructure of the city may in fact stymie his effort.

A new law requires all shops and restaurants in New York City to keep their front doors and windows closed while running the air conditioner. Shops and restaurants which violate the rule would pay $250 for a first offense, up to $1,000 for some violations.

Unfortunately the electrical grid cannot function unless the demand for energy exactly matches the supply of energy. The fact that the grid is unable to account for the sort of very small changes in demand — like closing the door while the AC is running — renders the potential environmental benefits of the de Blasio rule virtually nonexistent.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said during the law’s signing ceremony that this has “always been a pet peeve of mine” and, referring to the new law, “That’s wasting a lot of energy. That’s having its own impact on global warming.”

While it sounds great in theory, in practice, the effect is less tangible.

Air conditioning use in the U.S. does cause an average of 100 million tons of CO2 equivalent every year, but that accounts for a mere 1.4% of the 6,673 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emitted by the US in 2013, and the US only emitted 15% of the world’s CO2 equivalent in the same year.  As shown by the Cato Institute, using the EPA’s own climate models, CO2 emissions reductions far larger than eliminating 100% of US air conditioning still fail to effect global warming.

Well, for de Blasio and politics in general, perhaps it’s more the thought that counts.

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