Governor Cuomo’s Anti-Offshore Energy Crusade Is Pure Lunacy

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Jeff Dunetz Publisher, Lid's Vids and The Lid
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In March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D–NY) announced what could be the worst decision of his seven-year tenure. He declared New York will not participate in a new federal program that greatly expands offshore oil and gas drilling.

That’s a colossal mistake that will cost New York thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic growth.

Earlier this year, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced he would reverse an Obama-era program that banned drilling in most federal offshore territories. This offshore area, known as the National Outer Continental Shelf, could hold as much as 86 billion barrels of crude oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That’s enough oil to fuel the United States for 12 years at current consumption rates. And it’s enough natural gas to heat our homes and generate electricity for 15 years.

Secretary Zinke plans to open up about 90 percent of the NOCS, including territories off the New York coastline, by 2024.

This should be a boon for New York. Fully developing New York’s offshore energy resources would add billions of dollars to the state economy and generate about 12,000 new jobs.

New Yorkers need those jobs. Our state unemployment rate is still stuck above the national average. Since 2010, we’ve lost over a million residents, as people pack up and move to states with better economic opportunities.

Drilling off New York’s coast would give current residents a reason to stay and encourage more Americans to move to the Empire State. Jobs related to energy production are stable, high-paying positions that can support local families and keep people anchored in our state.

Energy development would also help balance the state budget. Royalties, taxes, and rental fees related to offshore activities would add some $874 million to the state treasury over the next two decades.

Albany needs the money. New York has the highest per-capita public debt in the country, at over $17,000 per state resident — nearly $4,000 more than the next-highest state. New offshore operations would fill state coffers and ease budget pressures.

Governor Cuomo claims to oppose drilling on environmental grounds. His announcement trotted out the well-worn lines about offshore drilling doing enormous environmental damage and disrupting sea-based industries, such as commercial fishing. As Cuomo put it, drilling “poses an unacceptable threat to New York’s ocean resources, to our economy and to the future of our children.”

This is fact-free hysteria. The environmental risks posed by offshore operations are minimal. Steady technological innovation has rendered underwater drilling exceptionally safe. Today’s rigs use sophisticated electromagnetic and ultrasonic sensors to detect structural weaknesses and instantly call in engineers to fix any problems. Tankers incorporate double hulls, anti-corrosion material, and other technologies to prevent leaks.

That’s why more than 99.99 percent of all offshore oil drilled since 1980 was extracted safely and without incident.

Instead of embracing this huge economic opportunity, Governor Cuomo is doubling down on green technologies, announcing $1.4 billion in new public grants for about two dozen renewable energy projects, including solar, wind, and hydroelectric. “New York is going to lead a counter-movement to what this administration is doing,” he explained.

What he failed to mention is that the economic benefits of renewables pale in comparison to those of offshore drilling. By the Governor’s own optimistic prediction, his new renewable investments will yield 3,000 new jobs, just a fraction of the total for offshore development.

Governor Cuomo’s partisan showmanship comes with a gigantic price tag. Secretary Zinke has offered our state a once-in-a-generation opportunity: to responsibly tap our offshore energy resources and stoke a flood of new jobs, investment, growth, and tax revenues. New York can’t afford to turn down this deal.

Jeff Dunetz is the publisher of Lid’s Vids (LidsVids.com) and The Lid (LidBlog.com) and a political columnist at The Jewish Star.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.