In a swipe at Cuomo, Bloomberg says fracking decisions shouldn’t be political

Bloomberg at Columbia on Wednesday. (Center on Global Energy Policy)
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"When you start looking at things like fracking or nuclear power plants in the context of 'is it good or bad politics,' then we can't come up with an intelligent design," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg today.

It appeared to be a veiled swipe at Governor Andrew Cuomo, who, in the face of divided public opinion, has dithered on whether to allow New York State to move ahead with drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.

"No matter what you think about fracking or nuclear policy, you have to have something that's done on real science and a real assessment of the benefits and the risk," said the mayor, during a speech marking the launch of Columbia University’s new Center of Global Energy Policy on Wednesday morning.

Polls indicate New Yorkers are evenly divided on the issue, and Cuomo, who is extremely attuned to such things, has been uncharacteristically flummoxed about whether or not to move forward with hydrofracking in New York State.

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“Chris, fracking is a 50-50 political decision—literally 50-50," he told New York magazine's Chris Smith recently, adding, "All the polls: Half support, half oppose. If it’s 50-50, where’s the political decision?"

When Smith asked if if it wasn't Cuomo's job to lead, rather than merely to follow the polls, he said, "I don't know."

“A well may end up being poisoned a year from now—and then what?" said Cuomo. "A child falls into a well casing, or there’s an explosion. I don’t want the liability, frankly, and I don’t have the knowledge. There’s no politics for me one way or the other. It’s literally 50-50. I just want the smart decision. And I want the right decision.”

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former councilman Sal Albanese, both of whom are running for mayor, have also said they oppose hydrofracking in New York.

Today, Bloomberg said that he's "fascinated' by people who focus on the potential risks of natural gas-production technology.

"While we're having that discussion, just remember that 13,000 Americans will die from the effects of coal-fired power plant pollution every year," he said. "I don't know of anybody yet that's been killed by fracking."

"These things have to be looked in the context of, what are the alternatives," Bloomberg went on. "We're not going back into the caves without electricity and cooking our meals over a few logs. We are gonna use energy. And the bottom line is that wind and solar are great, but they just do not have the potential at the moment to become the main source of energy in our country."

Bloomberg has donated $50 million to the Sierra Club's efforts to retire coal-fired power plants. In 2010 coal combustion produced nearly one third of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. Bloomberg has also donated $6 million toward efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of fracking, a word that he really doesn't like "because it connotes something bad."

"There are too many consonants in the word 'fracking', hard consonants," he said.