By Seth Barron      March 13, 2018 | 10:09pm
Joseph Percoco (left) and Andrew Cuomo
The conviction of Joseph Percoco on bribery and corruption charges should seriously impede — if not spike entirely — Gov. Cuomo’s further political ambitions, statewide and nationally. Percoco has been Cuomo’s closest aide, friend, and political cat’s paw for decades, and was described at Mario Cuomo’s funeral as a member of the family.
The jury’s guilty verdict on multiple counts of personal enrichment for Percoco — whonotoriously called bribes “ziti” in conversations with bagman Todd Howe — belies Cuomo’s claims to running an ethical administration. In his 2014 State of the State address, the governor made inspiring promises about getting corruption out of state government, saying “we understand your concern that there seems to be a pattern of these repeated instances of bad acts. That’s what ethics reform is. That’s why I was arguing for ethics reform last year, and that’s why I’m arguing for ethics reform this year. I propose new anti-bribery and corruption laws . . .”
Three months after uttering these lofty words, Cuomo shut down his own Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption. The commission was set up to wade deep into the Albany swamp and expose it to the disinfectant of public scrutiny. “The people of this state should sleep better tonight knowing that there is a mechanism in place to make sure their government is not only competent, but is also meeting the highest ethical and legal standards,” the governor told the people of New York when he announced the formation of his blue-ribbon anti-corruption panel.
But that was before the Moreland Commission subpoenaed a shady vendor who also worked for Cuomo’s campaign. Once word reached the governor’s office that he might fall under its spotlight, the commission’s work was suspended and its members dismissed. The governor explained his actions in absolutist rhetoric that would have made Louis XIV blush: “It’s my commission. My subpoena power, my Moreland Commission. I can appoint it, I can disband it. I appoint you, I can un-appoint you tomorrow. . . . It’s my commission. I can’t ‘interfere’ with it, because it is mine. It is controlled by me.”
The Percoco verdicts have confirmed what everybody paying attention has known for years. “Economic development” under Andrew Cuomo is just code for “slush.” Billions of dollars have been funneled into programs and projects that have created no jobs and developed no new industries. Even on the face of them, these initiatives sounded ridiculous: what better place to start a solar power company than Buffalo, and why hadn’t anyone tried to bring “Hollywood to Onondaga” before Andrew Cuomo invested millions in a Syracuse film hub?
Percoco will go to jail for years, but he is just a symptom of the problem. New York state government rests on a frame of rotting timbers. And like with any great mess, the first thing we have to do is admit that we can’t stand living in it anymore.
Seth Barron is associate editor at City Journal.
Climate scientists, politicians and activists dedicated to fighting climate change have a range of opinions about the best way to stem global warming. The oil and gas industry has settled on one that happens to help their bottom line.
Oil and gas executives gathered in Houston for CERAWeek — a leading international energy conference hosted by IHS Markit — say capturing carbon dioxide created by burning fossil fuels and keeping it from entering the atmosphere is the key to stopping climate change. The process, known as carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS, would allow the oil and gas industry to thrive while keeping greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere — at least in theory.
“Everybody agrees that we need CCS, at a large scale and affordable, CCS, if we’re going to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Terje Søviknes, Norwegian petroleum and energy minister, at CERAWeek. A wide group including everyone from Amin Nasser, the CEO of Saudi Aramco, to Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, echoed that sentiment.
The CCS process requires fossil fuel burners to capture carbon dioxide that would normally enter the atmosphere and then transport it to a place where it can either be used or stored. Many uses for carbon dioxide, including as a feedstock for construction and manufacturing materials, are already well established. Storing the pollutant is also technically feasible, but the process remains costly without a reliable financial incentive to do so like a carbon tax.
But despite the technology being scientifically sound high-profile failures, including an attempt at carbon capture in Mississippi that was halted when the project exceeded its budget by $4 billion, have also led to skepticism. And successes like a plant in Texas that uses carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery have faced the ire of some environmental groups opposed to more fossil-fuel extraction. Carbon capture and storage would not stop environmentally damaging practices like coal mining and fracking, some environmental groups argue.
Still, scientists studying the science of climate change say the process could play a critical role in keeping temperatures from rising more than 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100, the goal laid out in the Paris Agreement. That scientific knowledge could then be applied to industry more broadly, helping stem emissions in high polluting sectors that cannot be easily electrified like cement, iron and steel production.
Patricia Espinosa, the head of the United Nations charged with addressing climate change, told TIME that UN scientific group that studies climate change sees CCS as “a component that is absolutely necessary” to stem climate change. “We need to have much more open and well-informed conversations,” says Espinosa. “What are the risks? How far has this technology come? Is it possible to take this technology to a more commercial stage?”
In the U.S., carbon capture and storage remains widely popular on both sides of the aisle and an area of collaboration while Washington D.C. remains bitterly divided. It is a rare climate change solution to enjoy support from environmental groups, trade unions and fossil fuel companies.
The breadth of that coalition helped secure a place for the technology in the budget deal President Donald Trump signed into law last month. The law, pushed by Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, among others, includes a significant tax credit for carbon capture. That measure will provide a tax credit to businesses for storing carbon dioxide underground to the tune of $35 per metric ton.
Energy policy experts say tax credits could be an essential step in promoting innovation that makes carbon capture a reality in more than a few niche cases. And it could not come soon enough to meet global greenhouse gas reduction targets, which the world has struggled to meet.
“The oil projections that we have, they are definitely not in line with the Paris climate goals,” Birol told journalists at CERAWeek, “unless we make use of one technology which is critical for the use of fossil fuels, which is carbon capture utilization and storage.”

When Congress passed a budget bill in February, you may have missed something significant: It includes new incentives to support carbon capture and storage, or CCS.

If you’ve heard of CCS before, you’ve probably heard that it’s expensive, risky, and unnecessary in light of the recent progress of wind and solar energy. Compared with renewable energy, CCS—a technology that captures carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel sources and injects them deep into the earth for permanent storage—has always been the ugly duckling of climate change mitigation. Even though the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that we are unlikely to meet our climate targets without it, CCS has received little policy support and, consequently, seen minimal deployment. But between the legislative breakthrough and some exciting technological developments, it seems that people are finally beginning to take CCS seriously. It’s about time.

For all the progress that renewables have made in recent years, wind and solar still supply less than 5 percent of the world’s energy, according to the International Energy Agency. Fossil fuels supply more than 80 percent—a share that has barely fallen in decades—and global carbon dioxide emissions are still increasing. This is a problem, since the 2 degrees Celsius target of the Paris climate accord requires steep cuts in emissions starting right now. CCS is the only option that lets us use fossil fuels without emitting carbon dioxide as we transition to a renewables-dominated future. Emissions can be captured from coal and gas power plants as well as steel, cement, plastics, and fertilizer production—major industries for which there are few other options to reduce emissions.

Technologies already exist that can capture carbon emissions from all of these processes, and ongoing projects have shown carbon dioxide can be safely and securely stored in geological formations deep underground. The issue has not been capability—it has been cost and a lack of financial incentives.

The fact that CCS allows for fossil fuel use while reducing carbon dioxide emissions enabled the practically unthinkable event of a Republican-controlled Congress passing strong climate legislation. A broad coalition, including Democratic climate hawks and Republicans from oil and gas-producing states, backed the legislation that significantly increases the “Section 45Q” tax credits for geologic storage of carbon dioxide. In the near future, this will trigger new projects that capture carbon dioxide and supply it for use in enhanced oil recovery. That’s a process in which carbon dioxide is injected into depleted oil fields to increase oil production while trapping the carbon dioxide deep underground. This is a win-win: increased American oil production, decreased dependence on oil imports, and more American jobs, all while reducing emissions.

The legislative development coincides with a potential technological breakthrough in carbon capture. Existing carbon capture approaches for power plants have a critical, and costly, challenge: separating low-concentration carbon dioxide from the mixture of exhaust gases. Enter Net Power, a startup with a new carbon-capturing natural gas-fired electricity generation technology. Net Power’s novel “Allam cycle” technology fundamentally redesigns how fossil-fuel electricity generators have traditionally worked in order to avoid the separation challenge and produce an easily separable exhaust of pure carbon dioxide and water. The result should be a power plant that can generate electricity as efficiently as the leading existing gas-fired electricity generators, all while capturing 100 percent of its emissions at zero additional cost. Net Power is currently commissioning its pilot plant near Houston. If it performs as advertised, this technology could smash the idea we need to pay more for clean energy.

Net Power, like all large-scale and complex technologies, will have additional costs for initial projects, but they will go down as the developers learn from each successive project. The tax credits will provide the extra support needed to enable the first full-scale commercial plant to be built and to accelerate subsequent deployment.

Future projects could also target emissions from industrial sources—like ethanol, petrochemicals, and fertilizer production. Potential new capture technologies that may be deployed include membrane separation systems, which are essentially carbon dioxide filters and use less energy than traditional solvent methods, and fuel cells that generate additional electricity while capturing carbon dioxide. Much like the incentives that have been successful in promoting renewable energy, the 45Q credits will spur deployment of new technologies and lead to innovation that will further decrease CCS costs.

This is poised to be a pivotal year for the development of CCS in the United States. But we will have to scale up CCS much more to reach our daunting emissions-reductions goals, and there will be challenges. For instance, pipelines to transport carbon dioxide from sources to storage sites will have to be built. However, there is often local opposition to similar infrastructure, such as new highways and long-distance electricity lines. Governments and industry will need to work with local communities to educate them about the low risks of carbon dioxide pipeline and storage projects and how these essential developments will help accelerate the clean energy transition. The White House and Congress can also help maximize the impact of the 45Q credits by supporting carbon dioxide pipeline infrastructure and enacting complementary measures to enable cheaper finance for carbon-capture projects.

Carbon capture by itself is not a silver bullet. However, if we hope to meet our climate goals, it’s an essential weapon we need in our arsenal—and it seems that it may finally be becoming a reality.

Gov. Cuomo keeps blocking natural-gas pipelines in New York, supposedly because they might taint rivers and streams. But a new report flags the real reason: The mere use of natural gas is too much for enviro-radicals.
The study, by Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy for the group Earthworks, argues that OK’ing new or upgraded pipelines and other infrastructure will let gas consumption increase — and thereby boost emissions of CO2 and methane, making it impossible to meet Cuomo’s goal to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
The study looks at new gas projects, which it figures would add up to 31 million tons a year in emissions. That would put “the state’s 2030 goal . . . virtually out of reach,” says co-author Elena Krieger.
Cuomo’s goal for 2030 is to trim NY emissions to 40 percent below their 1990 level. To do that, he’s pushed renewable energy, like solar and wind — but also says switching from oil and coal to (cleaner) natural gas is critical. “I think in all probability you need natural gas,” he said last year.
He’s right: New York has already cut emissions to 13 percent below 1990 levels, mainly by substituting gas for oil and coal. Gas supplies from Pennsylvania alone jumped sevenfold from 2007 to 2016. (New York can’t tap its own vast stores of natural gas, thanks to Cuomo’s fracking ban.)
Yet the green extremists want more: “Cuomo can either work to achieve his climate commitments or support new natural-gas infrastructure, not both,” insists Earthworks’ Nadia Steinzor.
And never mind that several pipelines merely cross the state to supply New England and Canada.
To date, the governor’s Department of Environmental Conservation has been doing just what the extremists want, nixing pipelines large and small — and even going to court when overruled by the feds. Industry insiders call it the “Wall of Cuomo.”
Mind you, the DEC lacks the legal power to block pipelines over climate-change issues, so it instead invents spurious fears of “water-quality impacts.”
It has even blocked pipelines to feed the power plants that Cuomo says will replace the capacity that New York’s losing after he forced the early shutdown of the Indian Point nuke plant.
Already, New York and New England import more-expensive foreign gas to cover nearly a fifth of their heating and electric needs, even though the United States is now a net exporter of gas.
All this drives up consumers’ costs, making New York even less competitive with other states.
Cuomo plainly figures he can get away with it. In a pinch, he’ll just blame Con Ed.

The ultra liberal enclaves of New York City and San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Marin, and Imperial Beach, California all claim to be deeply worried about manmade climate cataclysms. They detest petroleum, oppose pipelines, fracking and onshore and offshore drilling, and strongly support renewable energy and expensive electricity: already 17-18¢ a kilowatt-hour for families, rich and poor.

They also have huge government pension fund shortfalls (NYC alone has a pension debt of some $65 billion), and are suing BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhilips and Royal Dutch Shell. They’re gunning for a collective litigation windfall of several hundred billion dollars, to help bail them out. (They’d probably sue coal companies, too, but the Obama era war on coal drove many into bankruptcy.)

Their fundamental cause of action claims greenhouse gases (primarily carbon dioxide) from burning oil and natural gas are disrupting Earth’s climate and weather, causing heat waves and frigid winters, floods and droughts, more frequent and intense hurricanes, melting ice packs and rising seas – costing the cities billions of dollars for repairs and adaptation. The calamities pose an “existential threat” to the cities, humanity and our planet. If they’re not happening already, they will within decades, the litigants assert.

The oil companies have known about these risks for decades, the cities and counties continue, but hid the information from the public and failed to disclose it in annual reports, stock offerings and other documents. They are thus guilty of fraud, negligent and deliberate failure to warn, product design defects, trespass with dangerous pollutants, and being a public and private nuisance.

The litigants seek compensatory damages, abatement of the alleged nuisance, attorneys’ fees, punitive damages and disgorgement of corporate profits. NY Mayor Bill de Blasio also wants his city to divest from fossil fuels (which generate revenues for pension funds, and invest more in wind and solar, which require subsidies) and “bring the death knell” to the entire oil industry. It’s a classic shakedown.

Nice companies ya got there. Sure’d be a shame if something was to happen to ‘em.

The ironies are delicious – ripe for being exploited in courtrooms, Congress and courts of public opinion.

Start with the fraud allegations. Much to the chagrin of scientists who say humans are not causing climate cataclysms, these oil companies’ reports and press releases have frequently said fossil fuel emissions are a real concern, and the companies haven’t funded climate chaos skeptics for years. Where’s the fraud?

Compare that to Marin County, whose court pleadings assert a 99% risk of catastrophic storm surges and flooding, because of oil and gas combustion. San Mateo County cites a 93% likelihood of climate-related surges, floods and sewer overflows. San Francisco claims an “imminent risk of catastrophic storm surges.”

But SF’s 2017 municipal bond offering downplayed the risks, saying it is “unable to predict whether sea-level rise or other impacts of climate change or flooding will occur.” Marin and San Mateo made similar statements to current and prospective bond investors. Ditto for other litigants and climate chaos claims.

Courts don’t like forked tongues, prior inconsistent statements, duplicity or fraud. Neither do investors or SEC commissioners. Watching this lawsuit vs. bond offerings tar baby play out in court will be entertaining, and perhaps even one more reason to dismiss the frivolous lawsuit with prejudice.

It’s also ironic that the litigants claim the oil companies are causing local, state, national, international and planetary havoc – but wanted to sue in state courts, where they hoped to get friendlier judges and juries than they might in a federal venue. Boulder, Colorado’s city attorney also promoted that approach, in suggesting that this equally liberal town join the litigation, to “propel change” and “put a price on carbon.”

However, a Federal District judge has ruled that the case must be tried in federal courts, since the claims “depend on a global complex of geophysical cause and effect involving all nations of the planet.”

Add to that the unrelenting efforts by these cities, counties and states, climate activists and modelers, and various politicians to stifle debate, assert that 97% of scientists agree that climate change is manmade and dangerous, and even use racketeering laws and Spanish Inquisition tactics against climate chaos skeptics – while profiting handsomely from government grants. But now they want to haul oil companies into court, where they must present real-world evidence, prove their case against fossil fuels, reply to weighty evidence that contradicts their assertions, and endure brutal cross-examination by defense attorneys.

It will be interesting to watch them try to silence defense witnesses and keep inconvenient evidence out.

Two new books, by Marc Morano and Gregory Wrightstone, offer superb laymen’s guides to the real science of climate change today and throughout Earth’s long history – and how difficult (nigh impossible) it will be for the litigants to prove their allegations: That today’s climate fluctuations are unprecedented. That they pose an imminent threat to people and planet. That humans and (plant-fertilizing) carbon dioxide now control climate and weather processes, replacing the sun and other powerful natural forces that did so previously. That they can somehow separate and quantify human versus natural influences and impacts.

The cities and counties are also trying to focus the court’s attention on only the alleged social, economic and environmental costs of carbon-based fuels and carbon dioxide emissions – while ignoring any mention of their enormous benefits – to the cities, counties and their citizenry: lights, heat, clothing, transportation, communication, healthcare, employment, crops, parks, forests and much more. Indeed, a comprehensive, honest analysis shows the benefits of carbon exceed their costs by at least 50:1, to as much as 500:1.

The litigants demand that the targeted companies “disgorge” their profits. Perhaps the cities should first disgorge the trillions in benefits they received from using the companies’ products for the past century.

In the end, the case against the oil companies rests on bald assertions, selective evidence, revised and “homogenized” data, an assumption that industrialization caused modern global warming – and above all, computerized climate models that have been wrong about every temperature and other prediction. This may work in the “mainstream” media, universities and liberal circles. It shouldn’t work in a court of law.

As “logic of science” expert David Wojick observes, climate models are basically garbage in-garbage out, or GIGO: Input the assumption that rising CO2 levels cause climate change; output increasingly disastrous climate disruption scenarios. The process also involves constant circular reasoning: If all the drivers of climate change are human-caused, then all the observed changes must also be caused by humans.

That is how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change operates – and why we have so many disaster scenarios and demands for an immediate transition to renewable energy. It helps explain why these litigants oppose drilling, fracking and pipelines within their borders – but voice few concerns about the impacts of wind and solar installations on wildlife, habitats, and metals mining and processing in distant lands … or about the land, fertilizer and water demands, and CO2 emissions, associated with biofuels.

Two principles seem to guide the litigants: Whatever happens today or in the future – even if it happened many times in the past – is the oil companies’ fault, and it’s going to be catastrophic. Misrepresenting facts or failing to disclose relevant evidence violates anti-fraud laws – unless the cities and counties do it.

That is ridiculous. A lot is riding on these baseless climate lawsuits – and not just for the oil companies.

Every city, county, state, farm, manufacturer, hospital, business, worker and family whose operations, technologies, living standards, investments, pensions and hope for the future depend on the energy and petrochemicals that oil companies provide will be harmed by a court finding in favor of these litigants.

Every one of them should follow this case closely – and get involved deeply and personally in this absurd lawsuit, by intervening, providing evidence and expert witnesses, submitting amicus curiae briefs, and helping citizens, journalists and elected officials understand what is really at stake here. (Hint: It’s not Earth’s climate, which has changed often throughout history – beneficially, benignly or detrimentally.)

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of articles and books on natural resource issues. He has degrees in geology, ecology and environmental law.

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