Murphy touts clean energy goals during speech at Princeton University

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Gov. Phil Murphy said on Nov. 9 at Princeton University that his administration is looking to expand clean energy in New Jersey, in seeking to copy a model he saw during his days working in business and later as an ambassador in Europe.

“I am not a newcomer to the idea that fossil fuels are yesterday’s news,” he said in a roughly 22-minute speech. “This is something that has been close to my heart and mind for a long time … ”

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Examples of clean energy are solar, wind and water energy.

Murphy’s remarks came at a conference at the university’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, attended by academics and business leaders examining clean energy and challenges to decarbonization.

In his comments, Murphy sought to tout steps his young administration has taken since he became governor in January. Those steps include supporting a ban on fracking in the Delaware River Watershed and prohibiting off-shore drilling for fossil fuels, a move that put him at odds with the Trump administration.

In terms of long-term goals, the state is requiring that by 2030, 50 percent of the energy sold in the state must come from renewable sources, like wind.

“Now about nine months into our term, we’ve not only gotten New Jersey back to the line of scrimmage, we’re looking to push the ball downfield,” Murphy said, using a football analogy.

In terms of off-shore wind energy, he said New Jersey “is blessed to have a location which puts us right smack in the middle of one of the best parts of the Atlantic.”

He said development in off-shore wind would have an economic benefit of more than $700 million.

Murphy, a former ambassador to Germany who also worked in that nation, said the European country showed how a leading industrial power “could grow and aspire to be increasingly powered by low-carbon or zero-carbon energy technologies.” He said he saw the successes and mistakes during that time.

“It made me question why couldn’t we do that here, not just in the United States, but right here in New Jersey,” he said.

Murphy has said the state already has led in some areas, including solar energy, with more than 100,000 solar installations statewide. Nuclear power plants also are an “important part of our energy future and an important bridge for us as we look to bring clean energy capacity online.”

Yet he said the state had put its “clean energy eggs into these two baskets.”

Afterward, Yueh-Lin Loo, director of the Andlinger Center and an engineering professor at Princeton, applauded the governor’s remarks.

She said “we want to see how we can help him in fostering his initiatives and in pushing his initiatives so New Jersey is at the forefront of clean energy.”

But one leader in the environmental movement in the state said after attending the speech that he sees the Murphy administration saying one thing and doing another.

“I thought the governor said a lot of good words, but the policies of the administration are going in the opposite direction,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Tittel said there are proposals for seven pipelines and five power plants to be built in the state and he said he believes there should be a moratorium on them.

“The point is unless the governor acts on fossil fuels on these pipelines and on these power plants, he can talk all he wants about climate change,” Tittel said. “We’re not going to have any reductions.”

“We’re ecstatic the governor is committed to 100 percent clean energy, we’re 100 percent on board there,” environmental activist David Pringle said in an interview after Murphy’s speech. “The key matter is you have to stop digging to get out of the hole.”

Murphy, a Democrat who took office in January, used some of his remarks to criticize some of his predecessors, without naming names. He has called for improving New Jersey Transit, among other things.

“It’s no secret New Jersey faces some tough challenges,” Murphy said. “But part of our problem is that past administrations, frankly, wouldn’t think very deeply about those problems.”

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