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September 10, 2013

If fracking can't save us, what will?

The Daily Star

---- — Last night, I had a terrible nightmare about the future. New York had followed Pennsylvania’s lead and allowed fracking, and now the effects of gas exploration and fracking were coming home to roost. It was worse than any sorority house slasher movie, and more terrifying than the implementation of Obamacare. 

Refugees by the tens of thousands were leaving Pennsylvania and New York seeking safety, economic opportunity, and a better life in the liberal, Democratic bastion of Detroit. 

They fled because our dairy farms were going out of business, every year over 80 percent of our high school graduates had to leave this area to find jobs, and those that returned with a college degree flipped burgers, greeted at Walmart or sold athletic supporters at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Our small towns were all but gone! No longer did we find feed mills, equipment dealers, large animal vets, or local hardware and grocery stores. Instead, we had vacant hulks, or if we were lucky, antique stores, hair salons, or real estate offices filled the void. 

Our larger towns and cities were also decaying. Many downtown stores were vacant, and those still open no longer were of substance. Gone were the department stores, sporting goods and furniture stores. They had been replaced by tattoo parlors, candle and incense stores, and snack shops.

What little manufacturing we had was gone, and the possibility of luring new industry was nil. Anyone with the tens of millions needed to build a manufacturing facility would be too smart to invest those millions in this wasteland created by gas exploration and fracking.

We had been cursed with a long-standing 16 percent poverty rate, unemployment was frozen at 8 percent, and tourism had gone the way of the spotted owl.

My heart was pounding, and finally, I awoke! Thank goodness it was just a dream! After my obligatory 64-year-old man’s middle of the night trip to the bathroom, I realized it was not a dream at all. Except for the refugees, this nightmare is happening now! 

This is the situation in Delaware and Otsego counties, and surprise, we’ve yet to drill and frack one well. Sadly, those in charge, and those with a following, know not what to do. But a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and what do they say about empty barrels? 

These “experts” advise nonsensical remedies like boutique farms, honey and syrup production. They call for grape-growing, sausage-making, and local cheeses. Look folks, these things are fine, and a family can make a few bucks, but you’ll never support a vibrant economy with these cottage industries.

People need jobs, and if an area has natural resources, they must be used. Here in New York, we have both Marcellus and Utica shale, and Utica is estimated to be 300 to 400 feet thick. There is tremendous potential, and not just for us “greedy landowners.”

Ponder this: Which option is going to sell more cars, pickup trucks and motorhomes? Could you tell me which will create better-paying jobs and lower the unemployment rate? Which is going to build more homes or remodel more existing homes?

Which industry will keep our young in the area and lower the poverty rate? Which has the potential to truly lower school and property taxes? Which is the only thing that may save our dairy farmers?

Answer: A) Boutique farms, wineries, tattoo parlors, candle and incense shops. B) Gas exploration.

Ponder this, too: If what the anti-gas folks say is true (you know, the poisoned water, animals dying and widespread environmental devastation), it would be on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN every night. There would be interviews with grieving widows, suffering farmers, owners of contaminated wells, and mayors of bankrupt villages, but you know what? There are no such reports! Doesn’t that speak volumes? 

Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Louisiana and other states, totaling 32, have hydraulic fracking. Only 18 states have no fracking, but many are states like Florida, Rhode Island, and Hawaii, which probably have no gas deposits.

So, here we sit in good old New York state, under the bold economic leadership of Homer Simpson and Walter Mitty, watching our children head to greener pastures, paying taxes through the nose, and trembling in fear like a herd of sheep. 

Note: On Tuesday, Sept. 17 at River Valley New Holland, 3910 State Highway 7, Otego, N.Y., at 6 pm, we will be showing the documentary “Fracknation.” It will open your eyes to the chicanery in the anti-gas movement. All are welcome, and refreshments will be served. Questions: 607-432-8180 or 607-435-3358.

CHUCK PINKEY is a retired area businessman. He can be reached at The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Star and its editorial board, but the author thinks they ought to.