The second installment of the energy horror trilogy in many ways is the most disturbing.
Boston is one of the world’s great cities, both the cradle of the American Republic and a town of awesome people. But its political leadership has lost its collective mind, creating an Achilles’ heel in the form of energy insecurity. A strongman in Russia took note and is now in control.
The road to ruin began with a wider effort across the northeast, led by the dysfunctional mess known as New York. New York Governor Cuomo got things rolling when he inanely banned natural gas shale development and blocked new interstate natural gas pipelines in his state. Both moves were, of course, justified under the banner of the public good and cloaked with a faux wrapping of scientific study.
Not only did the duo of Cuomo moves create an economic dead zone in New York (while across the border, Pennsylvania’s energy industry thrived), it also cleared the path for similarly small-minded politicians and bureaucrats in other regional states and cities like Massachusetts and Boston to follow suit with policies that punished natural gas and ran to the false hopes of wind and solar.
The cumulative result of this regionally daft judgement was the eradication of infrastructure investment in pipelines and related assets needed to maintain and bolster grid and home heating reliability. The result was premeditated and desired, not accidental or unanticipated.
As the northeast and Boston were starving investment in their energy resiliency, the natural gas shale revolution in Pennsylvania and other states was rewriting the geopolitical map. The United States today sits as the largest natural gas producer in the world and probably the lowest cost producer of the product. One of the largest and lowest cost gas fields in the nation is the Marcellus and Utica formations close to Boston.
But Boston, of course, is not able to enjoy that domestic natural gas. Instead, Boston is importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Russia. That country is run by a man named Putin, who is not what one would consider to be woke or an eco-warrior.
Leaders in Boston, Massachusetts, New York, and the northeast are forcing their citizens and businesses to place their energy security in the hands of our adversary an ocean and two continents away. Instead of a simple pipeline linking Pennsylvania to Boston, the city’s elite chose to link the Russian Arctic to the Mystic River. Instead of relying on their neighbors in Pennsylvania to manufacture their energy, they place their faith in Putin.
Such stupidity has consequences.
One consequence will be much higher energy costs for homeowners, businesses, and consumers in Boston. Boston and New England experience natural gas prices that are more than double natural gas prices in nearby states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. High energy costs are one of the most regressive taxes known to bureaucrats, and Boston’s poor will suffer. Sad, considering the lowest cost natural gas in the world is a few states away in Pennsylvania.
A second consequence will be a less resilient grid and energy infrastructure for Beantown. That’s what happens whenever you decide to transition from a supply chain that was tight and domestic to one that is over 4,000 miles long and spans continents and oceans. And the new supply chain starts with someone who is not afraid to shut the gas valve in the dead of winter to prove a point or to exert leverage. Expect the lights and heat to go out at the worst possible times. Just ask Ukraine or Poland.
The third consequence is environmental harm. A logistics chain that spans over 4,000 miles will have a massive carbon footprint. The natural gas is sourced from a nation where the regulatory standards are largely a joke when compared to U.S. standards. Boston and Massachusetts running to wind and solar won’t help and will only exacerbate the environmental carnage, since both present massive life cycle carbon footprints at scale. Boston and the Bay State are guilty of a massive offshoring of global pollution via purchase of Russian natural gas that is extracted in ways that don’t follow anything close to best practices and subsidization of Chinese-mined and -manufactured solar and wind components that have massively harmful environmental footprints.
People outside of New England are surprised to learn that about 20% of New England households use heating oil to heat homes in winter. That’s about 85% of the U.S. households that do so. With the natural gas shale miracle in full swing in nearby Appalachia, Bostonians and New Englanders today heat their homes in a way more like Thoreau did with his cabin at Walden Pond in the 1800s than the rest of the country does in 2021.
What’s really scary is understanding that’s exactly what Boston’s anti-innovation leaders desired.