Print Edition

  Email News Updates

OPINION: California’s Energy Nightmare is a Cautionary Tale for N.Y.’s Climate Policies

By Will Barclay


Rushed, politically driven policy making doesn’t work, and California’s current energy crisis is proof of this fact. Officials there declared a statewide energy grid emergency and warned of potential blackouts as California faces a late-summer heat wave. Residents have been asked to limit their energy consumption by cutting down on major appliance use, including electric-vehicle chargers. That translates to, “Stop using your air conditioners and stay home unless your car already has a full battery.”

The stability of California’s energy grid is dangerously uncertain. Ironically, the call for residents to scale back on charging electric cars comes just a week after the state announced it would ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035.

“What’s going on in California is dangerous, and unless we heed this warning seriously, New Yorkers are going to be in the same position in the near future.”


This is alarming, and sadly, New York is heading down the exact same path thanks to the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) that completely overhauls energy policy and industry. We cannot allow this to happen. 

California, like New York, fancies itself as a leader in climate policy. And also like New York, it has taken a laudable idea, clean energy, and completely missed the mark on how to execute it. Per the California Energy Commission, utilities are already expected to procure one-third of retail sales by renewable resources, with that number jumping to 60 percent by 2030. It expects to be 100 percent clean energy by 2045. Residents are going to have a hard time getting to work, school, and the grocery store if they can’t charge the electric cars they are being forced to buy, though.

What’s going on in California is dangerous, and unless we heed this warning seriously, New Yorkers are going to be in the same position in the near future. Policy analysts in our state have issued dire warnings about some of the provisions in the CLCPA, including one assessment from the Empire Center for Public Policy estimating energy deficits could lead to a supply shortage of as much as 10 percent by 2040. With the electrical grid already strained, an energy shortage or blackout during, for example, a summer heat wave similar to the one we just experienced, or a winter storm, could prove fatal. 

Further, not only will our energy grid be at risk due to this dramatic overhaul, but its implementation is also going to costs billions of dollars in increased taxes, utility expenses, and retrofitting. These costs will undoubtedly be passed down to residents. A more-expensive, less-reliable energy grid serves no one, and masquerading this bad policy around as “climate consciousness” is disingenuous at best. 

As I have repeatedly pointed out, New York only contributes around 0.5 percent of global carbon emissions and only 3 percent of emissions in the U.S. The Empire State is already “green” by almost every conceivable metric. Our Assembly Minority Conference has always stood for a better environment and that is an important goal. However, without a full cost-benefit analysis, and a plan in place to mitigate the type of disaster we are seeing on the West Coast, we must pause what we are doing now before we find ourselves in a crisis. Thankfully, we have the benefit of learning from someone else’s mistakes; wasting that chance is irresponsible and foolish.        

William (Will) A. Barclay, 53, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County.