New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg almost burned the roof of his mouth on a steaming slice of pizza from a food truck this week. I was among the reporters in attendance who yelled for him to wait for it to cool.
It’s hard not to care about Mayor Mike. He’s been a terrific mayor. But, like everyone else in politics, he’s complicated, and far from perfect. Beloved by environmentalists since he gave the Sierra Club $50 million for its anti-coal campaign a couple of years ago, he’s also a fan of natural gas.
Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens was with the mayor last Thursday at the press event to show off the city’s first natural gas-fueled food truck. A Pickens’ company helped pay for the truck as part of a big corporate gamble on natural gas pumping stations and trucking deals.
Side-by-side, Pickens and the mayor made their case for U.S.-sourced natural gas, and fracking in New York State in particular. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo makes that call, and has been mum lately on the topic as he “studies it further.”
Before Cuomo imposed a moratorium on the decision, Albany bookmakers had him pegged for a “yes” on fracking because there aren’t that many ways for him to create upstate jobs. But that was before the anti-fracking movement in the state really gathered speed.
Market conditions are making it easier for Cuomo to delay a decision. Natural gas companies aren’t pushing as hard in New York as they might, say industry insiders, because of oversupply and easier plays in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Ohio.
Someday Cuomo will have to choose though, and when he does, will he listen to Bloomberg?
Thursday, February 21, 2013 3:51 PM ET
New York should start fracking, say T. Boone Pickens, Michael Bloomberg
By Abby Gruen
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens met over pizza in New York City on Feb. 21 at a news conference featuring the city’s first natural gas-fueled food truck, where they also discussed New York state’s policies on hydraulic fracturing.
Pickens, active in the hedge fund BP Capital Management LP, founded Pickens Fuel Corp., which preceded Clean Energy Fuels Corp., a partner in the development of the pilot compressed-natural-gas-powered food truck with New York City-based Neapolitan Express. Bloomberg, a staunch proponent of natural gas as a clean energy source, said the city is expanding its use in its municipal fleet.
“I have supported smart new regulations to support the city tapping into the nation’s supply of natural gas safely and responsibly,” Bloomberg said. “Now, thanks to a better supply and better infrastructure, compressed natural gas is finally becoming a viable alternative for vehicles like this food truck.”
Highlighting the city’s efforts to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases by greening its fleet of vehicles, which includes a new campaign to support electric vehicle conversions, Bloomberg, who gave $50 million to the Sierra Club’s anti-coal campaign in 2011, also spoke out strongly in favor of shale gas drilling in the state.
“It is up to the governor, but I personally have said we should be fracking, not in the watershed, but we should be fracking. … About 13,000 people get killed every year by the pollutants from coal-fired plants. … [Also, as] Boone alluded to, getting oil from outside this country is expensive and it transfers our wealth to people who are trying to destroy our lives. … Of all the things we can do, natural gas isn’t perfect, but it certainly looks like it can make this country energy-independent and reduce dramatically the pollutants going into the air,” Bloomberg said.
“Does it have some risks? Everything has some risks, but unless you are willing to give up electricity, and give up automobiles and trucks and airplanes and go back to living in a cave, you’re going to have to get it from someplace. This is the best of all of the alternatives, and I would hope that the governor would come to that conclusion,” he said.
Pickens’ response was, “Mayor, if you were in Washington today, we’d be a hell of a lot better off than we are today.” A former geologist and engineer, Pickens said he has “never struggled with any damage done from any frack job,” going back to 1952.
“The governor said that he was not going to approve fracking until he’s comfortable that fracking is not going to damage anything,” Pickens said. “If I was the governor and didn’t understand fracking, I’d say the same thing he did. … But you should look around the United States. There have been over 800,000 wells fracked in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, and there has been no evidence of anything being damaged. I think when the governor looks at everything, he will decide for fracking.”
New York City operates three CNG stations to fuel 128 city vehicles for the New York City Department of Parks and the Department of Sanitation, Bloomberg said. The city is also planning pilots of high-speed curbside electric vehicle charging stations, as well as working on a plan for 10,000 EV parking spots.
Clean Energy Fuels has a number of CNG stations in the New York metropolitan area, part of its 62-station portfolio, which is expected to double in 2013. In addition, Clean Energy Fuels has 70 new liquefied natural gas truck fuel stations on highways, with 70 more planned for 2013 part of its plan to create a cross-country network of LNG stations 250 miles apart, Clean Energy Fuels Senior Vice President Peter Grace told SNL Energy.
“If we get on to the resources [of the U.S.] and off of OPEC oil, and get on the mayor’s plan [for] electric cars, natural gas and [using] our resources, this country would be way, way ahead of where we are today,” Pickens said.
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