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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

N.Y. Governor Goes Green

Air Date: Week of

New York Republican Governor George Pataki says this will be a green year for the Empire State. The Governor will propose a plan to get alternative fuels at fuel stations across the state. As Governor Pataki tells host Steve Curwood, the plan will also provide incentives for improvements in the hybrid and flex- fuel car markets.


CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood. The governor of New York calls for his state to lead the country in energy independence.

PATAKI: We don't have to look far for evidence that the time to transition away from foreign oil is now. It is right there on the gas pumps and in our home heating bills.

CURWOOD: In his State of the State address, Republican Governor George Pataki proposed a plan to boost the availability and production of renewable fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, in New York. First stop: getting the service stations along the New York Thruway to pump tax-free ethanol, biodiesel as well as low carb and compressed natural gas. The new plan will also encourage clean coal technologies, and offer incentives to expand the hydrogen and hybrid-electric car market.

Governor Pataki joins me from his office in Albany. Hello, Sir.

PATAKI: Hello, Steve, nice being on with you.

CURWOOD: Well thank you for joining us, Governor. Well tell me, so how are you going to get ethanol into the gas pumps of New York State?

PATAKI: Well it’s not just ethanol – it’s biodiesel, it’s compressed natural gas, it’s having plug-in power where people can have hybrid cars that use existing battery technology. All of which would end our, or would certainly reduce our, dependency on foreign oil; result in cleaner air; and also a stronger local economy.

What we are proposing, among many other things, is first to have an incentive program where we’ll provide grants to service stations across the state if they will convert pumps to E85, or biofuel B20, or put in a CNG refueling station. We’re going to direct that all of our thruway rest stops retrofit their stations to provide alternate fuel to vehicles. And then we’re going to encourage people to purchase the vehicles by giving them a $2,000 tax credit if they buy a hybrid vehicle.

CURWOOD: Let’s talk about ethanol in particular. Where’s all this ethanol going to come from for New York State?

PATAKI: Right now we don’t…we have a plant being built in a converted beer brewery in upstate New York that are looking to create an ethanol plant, but anywhere it’s produced in the world. Mostly in the United States, mostly in the Midwest. But we’re not just looking at ethanol from current sources.

The new technology that to me is enormously exciting is cellulosic ethanol. That is where you break down the cellulose fibers in woods or in grasses, biomass that can be replenished, and is replenished naturally, year after year after year. And preliminary indications are you can get 25 times the amount of energy out as the amount of energy that goes into producing the cellulosic ethanol.

CURWOOD: How much is it going to cost the taxpayers of New York to get this program going?

PATAKI: Well it depends on what you mean by cost. I’m a supply-side economic conservative, so you lower, you get rid of, the tax on alternate fuels themselves. Yes, the state is going to be taking a slight loss of revenue, but the consumer’s going to be paying 40 cents a gallon less for their fuel. I think ultimately the total estimated cost to the government of this package is about $200 million; but the savings, in terms of lowered pollution, less dependence on foreign oil, the creation of jobs through the creation of technologies and the production of fuel sources here in New York, would be a multiplier many, many times more than that.

CURWOOD: How many jobs are you talking about?

PATAKI: Well that depends on the success of the program. But ultimately, if today in the upcoming year we’re going to send a quarter of a trillion dollars overseas just to buy oil, and we can cut that in half – I think we can do far better than cut it in half – then we’re talking about hundreds of billions of dollars invested in the United States for jobs and products here, instead of just sending it overseas and getting nothing in return.

CURWOOD: Governor, how soon, when I go on the New York thruway, will I be able to get, say, biodiesel or E85 ethanol or?

PATAKI: I would love to see it this year. Two hundred thousand people today have vehicles that could use E85 or B20 as they’re currently configured. We have some CNG fueling sites across the state; I want to see us get more that have different types of facilities. So obviously it’s not going to happen today, but we want to have the government policies in effect as quickly as possible.

CURWOOD: Governor Pataki, some people say you might be running for President. And if you were President of the United States, what would you do?

PATAKI: First of all, I’m the governor of this state for another year, Steve. And I appreciate the speculation, but my goal in the next year is to do everything I can to continue to move New York State forward.

CURWOOD: Right, but that job isn’t open until 2009, so.

PATAKI: But with respect to national policy, it just seems to me that if government leads the way the ingenuity of the American people – the entrepreneurism of the private sector, the creativity of our research and science community – will allow us to solve these problems in a way that keeps those dollars here and keeps our air cleaner.

CURWOOD: George Pataki is the governor of New York. Thank you so much for taking this time with us today.

PATAKI: Steve, good being with you, and thank you for having me on.



To find out more about Governor Pataki's environmental policy click here.

To find out if you're driving a flex-fuel car click here.


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