By Wayne Winegarden
New York has a proud tradition of environmental conservation.
From Frederick Law Olmsted creating Central Park in the 1870s to the national environmental movement inspired by trailblazing President Theodore Roosevelt to the lush nature preserves created in the Adirondack and Catskills mountains, wise environmental stewardship has always been a cornerstone of the Empire State.
In confronting today’s environmental policy challenges, New Yorkers want to conserve energy for the sustainability of future generations and ensure that there is always clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. To achieve these goals, New York’s state government has enacted several different government mandates, taxes, and subsidies.
But a new report from the Pacific Research Institute called “Legislating Energy Poverty” finds that New York’s approach to environmental and energy policies hurts working people and minority communities.
In recent years, state government bureaucrats have created expensive new programs and enacted burdensome policies that many New Yorkers simply cannot afford.
Politicians in Albany have pursued energy policies like a 50 percent renewable energy goal for the state and a regional “cap-and-trade” scheme for emissions. New York’s leaders are also taking a cue from California’s expensive energy mandates. They are adhering to a very strict vehicle emission standards, and tight restrictions on fuel production, among other policies.
Government policy has driven up New York’s average electricity prices to the sixth-highest in the continental United States. New York drivers now pay the fifth-highest gas tax rates in the United States and the 14th-highest gas prices.
As a result, too many New Yorkers are now living in energy poverty, spending more than 10 percent of their household incomes on energy costs.
Instead of providing relief for working-class New Yorkers, politicians at the State Capitol in Albany are doubling down on this costly agenda with expensive subsidies for things like installing solar panels on rooftops and buying higher-priced electric cars.
Other states have shown that you can reduce emissions without raising taxes or imposing costly, job-killing burdens. States like Ohio and West Virginia have embraced market-based energy policies.
Ironically, these two states have seen larger percentage emission declines than New York, without implementing big government energy policies that hurt the poor.
Wayne Winegarden is a senior fellow in business and economics at Pacific Research Institute, a free-market, conservative think tank in San Francisco.