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Since this report was published in 2008, production levels of both oil and natural gas have remained temporarily stable because of widespread use of fracking and other unconventional recovery techniques.  As the Post Carbon Institute explains, the quantity of fuel supplies available through these methods has been exaggerated by industry, so the risk of volatility in fuel price and supply has simply been delayed rather than permanently resolved.  Likewise, scientists report that climate change is accelerating faster than predicted.  So, the recommendations of this report are still timely.  



Summary: Sustainable Energy Independence for NYC
Dan Miner, Chair, Sierra Club NYC Group (2008)


Full report (50 page PDF).


Part I: Preparing for Energy Volatility 
Part II: Making Transportation More Efficient 
Part III: Regional Production 
Part IV: Energy Efficient Buildings
Part V: Electricity
Part VI: Changing National Energy Policy 
Appendix A: Climate Change is Accelerating 
Appendix B: Fuel Depletion Guarantees Volatility 
Appendix C: Energy Shortage Contingency Plan


New York City is off to a great start on dealing with climate change through PlaNYC, but we have to go much further. We must reduce carbon emissions by at least 80%, and the pace of climate change is accelerating. At the same time, there's tremendous resistance to even moderate local and national efforts. Are the actions we need to take politically possible? Yes. While opinion polls show that public support for global warming action is widespread but shallow, when combined with concern about energy independence and higher prices, it becomes a top voter priority, even surpassing national security.  Reviewing our challenges will enable us to prepare more effectively for the future, and will also lead to greater public support for the responses we need to make.

We must also respond to the parallel challenge of increasing energy price volatility.  World oil demand keeps rising, and now exceeds world oil production, which will soon peak and go into permanent decline.  That guarantees greater volatility in the price and supply of oil.  Even though its extensive public transit system makes NYC less vulnerable to oil price spikes than other cities, short-term consequences of higher prices may not be immediately obvious.  

How would a prolonged increase in oil prices affect trucks bringing groceries to supermarkets?  Winter heating fuel prices?  The earnings of restaurants and theaters dependent on tourists?  Budgets for fire, police, and sanitation services?  Would commuters still choose to drive into Manhattan, or would they flock to mass transit?  

Government sustainability initiatives may have greater success when framed as responses to energy volatility than to climate change.  In the short term, expanding capacity margins through energy conservation will make the City more resilient to volatility, while expediting PlaNYC initiatives.  In the long term, we need to push discussion far past PlaNYC’s current goals, and start building a post-petroleum economy now.

The good news is that a national project to make clean energy cheap can restore domestic manufacturing, create millions of jobs that can’t be outsourced, and stimulate the economy, while improving our quality of life and mitigating climate change. New York City’s leadership can help make such policy actions a reality, while ensuring a better future for our citizens. What's the next step for New York City? 

Form a NYC Energy Volatility Task Force


  • form a Task Force to study potential impacts and mitigations of energy price and supply volatility

  • require consideration of energy volatility and future energy prices in all City agency budgeting and planning decisions, including PlaNYC revisions

  • universities, civic and advocacy groups and business organizations should form their own Task Forces

  • bottom-up voluntary sustainability actions should be accelerated simultaneously with top down incentives, mandates and legislation


Other report recommendations


  • implement congestion pricing

  • remove hidden subsidies for driving and parking cars

  • increase regular and express bus services

  • increase alternative fuel and electric vehicle fleets

  • implement electric streetcar and light rail systems, as in Vision 42

  • implement Auto Free NY plan to maximize use of subway and rail

  • build more intercity passenger and freight train capacity

  • restrict suburban sprawl

  • encourage urban infill development around mass transit access points

  • support and expand use of bicycles and pedicabs

Regional production:

  • include energy volatility and fuel depletion in New York City and State economic development policy

  • encourage production and procurement of regional farm products

  • support agricultural production within cities and suburbs

  • enable residents to find farming and gardening jobs

  • encourage schools to establish gardens on their facilities

  • open additional retail farmers markets, a wholesale farmers market, year-round public markets, and a regional product distribution center

  • explore entrepreneurial ways to make private land available to new agricultural workers

Energy efficient building:

  • increase mandates and incentives for energy efficiency retrofits

  • mandate energy efficiency standards for equipment

  • encourage solar heating systems

  • design buildings for maximum cost-efficient energy performance

  • discourage acceptance of relentless growth in personal electricity consumption

New York City and State energy policy:

  • consider a Council bill based on Int. No. 374, the Draft Energy Shortage Contingency Plan Bill,introduced in 2004

  • set timetables for PlaNYC’s many good energy initiatives, especially the formation of an Energy Planning Board

  • expand net metering to 2 megawatts per site for all customer classes, as in New Jersey

  • distribute smart meters/time-of-use meters, which enable users to choose less costly off-hours electricity

  • raise the New York State Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard to 30% reduction of 2006 electric and gas usage rates by 2015

  • update the State Energy Plan to account for energy volatility








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