10 causes New York is greener than California

Phil Newell writes about the intersection of climate, science and clean energy for Nexus Media. Newell contributed this article to Live Science’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights, in response to “10 Reasons California Is Greener Than New York”.

Frank Sinatra, the epitome of cool, said if you can do it in New York City, you can do it anywhere. But what if you can’t make it there? Then you will likely flee to California like so many others before you.

With its sunshine and environmental reputation, California offers New York stiff competition when it comes to doing what’s right for the environment. But while Cali has a reputation for being entirely free-range, vegan, and gluten-free, New York has done more to lead the way to a cleaner future. With its no-nonsense attitude and work ethic, New York made the Golden State green (with envy) by getting serious greenbacks and doing a great job of going green.

Here are the top 10 reasons for those who <3 the earth <3 New York the most.

1) No fracking

Posted signs protest fracking. (Photo credit: Melanie Blanding)

In December 2014, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation published its report on fracking. It provided all of the reasons Governor Andrew Cuomo needed to outlaw fracking in New York state – something that California activists still hope Governor Jerry Brown will too. From air pollution, to pollution of our water, to warming of our climate and potential earthquakes, it was clear that fracking posed a significant threat to health and the environment. But maybe Cuomo was just worried about making the Hulk angry.

2) Public transportation outperforms electric vehicles

The 4 train in a New York subway station. (Photo credit: NYC subway image via Shutterstock)

To his credit, California is trying to accelerate the use of electric vehicles (EV) – which is great since the electricity that powers them in Cali is pretty clean. (Elsewhere where coal powers the grid, the problem is less clear-cut.) But California needs to make great strides in electric vehicles because the state is heavily dependent on cars, while New York City has one of the largest public transportation systems in the world. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority keeps 700,000 cars off the road every day. As writer David Owen noted for Yale Environment 360, New York’s per capita gas consumption is the national average – 1920! And while California brags about its clean buses, the fact is that eight times as many New Yorkers use public transportation, bikes, or walks to work as Angelinos.

3) Solar Gigafactory

Contractors install solar panels on a residential roof. (Photo credit: Dennis Schroeder, NREL.)

Cali may be installing more solar, but once SolarCity’s new Gigafactory is up and running this year, the modules will be made in Buffalo, New York! The factory will be over a million square feet, making it the largest facility of its kind not just in the United States but in the entire Western Hemisphere. Once fully operational, up to 10,000 solar panels will be pumped out daily, creating an estimated 5,000 jobs across the state.

4) Lowest emissions per person

Thousands of people cross the Brooklyn Bridge by foot or other means every day. (Photo credit: Thierry Cohen and Danziger Gallery)

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), New York State has the lowest per capita emissions in the country (with the exception of Washington, DC, which doesn’t really matter as it’s officially not a state, although the Residents May Be Annoyed That means that while New York is home to just over 6 percent of the US population, it emits a little less than 3 percent of the country’s greenhouse gases and consumes just 1 percent of the country’s industrial power So energies are commendable – but they’re still catching up with the Empire State.

5) Greatest emission reduction

This magnificent view shows the multicolored beauty of the Adirondacks, a mountain range in northeast New York. In this region, autumn foliage peaks in the last two weeks of September. (Photo credit: Elena Elisseeva Shutterstock)

Here, too, New York beats California in reducing emissions. According to the EIA, New York achieved the largest absolute decrease in fossil fuel emissions between 2000 and 2013, reducing its footprint by a full 25 percent, representing a total of 52 million tons of carbon dioxide reductions. How much is 52 million tons of carbon dioxide? That’s roughly a trillion miles driven in an SUV that hits 17 miles per gallon, which is a lot even for a Californian!

6) New York gets its money’s worth

Greenhouse gases are an area that urgently needs to be reduced. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Not only is New York making the biggest cuts and leaving the smallest footprints, but it also proves that a thriving economy doesn’t have to be dirty. New York has the most energy-efficient economy in the country and, according to the EIA, has the best ratio of GDP to emissions (how much wealth is produced per amount of greenhouse gas emitted) of any state. California is close, but New York is still winning, producing half the US average of emissions per GDP.

7) Bring activism home

The People’s Climate March in New York City consisted of 300,000 participants, making it the largest climate protection campaign in history. (Photo credit: Von Beyond My Ken – Own work, GFDL)

When the People’s Climate March became the largest climate protection campaign in history with more than 300,000 participants, his home base was not California. It was New York City. That’s because New York is home to a broad coalition of activists from different backgrounds and goals, all of whom are related to climate change. Out of that success, the NY Renews coalition has become a powerful force for change – the good kind, not the climatic kind. California may have activists, but apparently they’re not as good at attracting a crowd as New York is!

8) Clean electricity

New York is making steady strides towards being fossil fuel free. (Photo credit: mattwalker69 via flickr http://bit.ly/1dK8srs)

Cuomo’s budget for 2016 is to phase out all coal-fired power plants in the state. This would put New York even further ahead of California when it comes to fossil-fuel-free electricity. According to the EIA, only half of New York’s electricity comes from fossil fuels, while nearly 65 percent of California’s electricity comes from dirty fuels – mostly natural gas. [The True Costs of Renewable Energy ]

9) Better buildings

New York is making great strides in using less fossil fuels. (Photo credit: Patrick Theiner Creative Commons)

Heating, cooling and lighting in New York City are big jobs and account for nearly three-quarters of the city’s emissions. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Built to Last” policy of upgrading 3,000 city-owned buildings to be more energy efficient and driving improvements in private buildings is a big step towards a cleaner future. Therefore C40, an urban development initiative for climate protection measures, presented New York with the Building Energy Efficiency Award last December. Over the next 10 years, NYC will spend $ 1 billion on building efficiency and save 3.4 million tons of emissions annually – the equivalent of taking more than 700,000 vehicles off the road.

10) Cuomos $ 5 billion for clean energy

Wind energy production in the US increased by 16 percent from 2011 to 2012. (Image credit: SR Lee Photo Traveler Shutterstock)

To replace fossil fuels in New York’s power mix, Cuomo has raised a whopping $ 5 billion to invest in clean energy. That’s huge – that’s the total amount the US federal government spends on all energy research and development, according to a report by the American Energy Innovation Council. Not only would this investment secure New York’s place as a leader in clean energy, but by investing so heavily in renewable energy, the state would go a long way towards making the technologies cheaper and easier for others to adopt.

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So it’s obvious that New York is greener than California. New Yorkers have a smaller carbon footprint, the state’s electricity is cleaner, and the buildings are just better. But please don’t paint us hippie green. We’re so excited that California has a reputation for being a hippie – we’re too busy doing the real work.

Either way, with two of the largest economies in the US moving forward with their clean energy efforts, it is clear that the renewable energy revolution is afoot. This beef benefits all of us by lowering prices as clean tech goes up, regardless of which state moves faster.

Follow all the topics and debates from Expert Voices – and be part of the discussion – on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.

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