Winds of change blow in

Blowing in: activity in offshore US waters can be good for port business. Credit: Paul Blowing in: activity in offshore US waters can be good for port business. Credit: Paul

COMMENT: We've heard it before, but that didn't stop the Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo - perhaps a future Democratic candidate for the White House (yes, I know, it's four years away) - making a big push for offshore wind farms, writes Barry Parker.

In his annual address, he renewed his calls for a wind power farm way out in the Atlantic Ocean, beyond the gaze of homeowners and beach-goers, near Montauk. We also continue to hear about a possible installation offshore Rockaways with the participation of Statoil. There is an undertaking to prepare a detailed master plan for renewable energy to fuel New York by the end of 2017; in coastal areas, wind could be a big component of such plans.

Meantime, we are also in the throes of a fast and furious flow of Executive Orders (and similar vehicles) from the outgoing President. Fossil fuels are not going away, but offshore drilling - which is a non-starter at the $60/barrel point in the price cycle - has been restricted through the Outer Continental Shelf Land Act. So, at least for now, a big swath of the Atlantic from Massachusetts down to Virginia will be off limits to exploration and drilling for oil.

Wind and offshore drilling are complicated in the US; States have jurisdiction only a few miles out, then the Federal government has control out much further. But, whatever their politics, port interests should be considering how activity in offshore waters can be good for business.

Many ports are limited in their ability to advocate for matters not directly impacting their daily activities; this New Yorker would argue that advocacy now for all things offshore may actually add to the flow of business in the not-too-distant future.

The pronouncements from Governor Cuomo are instructive: besides advancing sustainability, offshore wind construction creates jobs around waterfronts. The experience in New England, at Narragansett Bay, where Davisville served as a staging area for the Deepwater Wind project, reveal synergistic benefits.

On the mid-Atlantic coast, the book will continue to be written. Any statements about the price of oil or the fate of Obama’s last stand on drilling when the new Administration comes in, are only conjecture. But activity in the Outer Continental Shelf (the part under Federal jurisdiction) may be a powerful catalyst for building out infrastructure in ports.

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