The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Guest Column

September 8, 2012

Shale gas drilling can sustain upstate New York's future

A few weeks ago this newspaper printed two AP stories with no apparent connection. However, the Gas Wars make for strange bedfellows, even on the news beat.

The first story was a report out of the Empire Center, a nonpartisan think tank that focuses on New York. In "The Graying of the Empire State: Some Parts of N.Y. Grow Older Faster," the researchers highlighted the growing regional differences in age distribution, particularly in young adults 20 to 34 who are abandoning upstate New York. It further noted the decline in children and teenagers in our area, a demographic fact that runs contrary to broader national trends.

No surprise here. Richard Dietz of the 2nd Federal Reserve also studied this issue. His findings: if upstate New York were considered a state of its own, its out-migration of 25- to 40-year-olds would be considered average (26th out of the 50 states). However, the in-migration of people of this age would rank us 49th out of 50 states. Nobody's coming here to find work.

Both reports cite the lack of opportunity and jobs as the pre-eminent factors in this population decline. More ominous, since "the relative youthfulness of a population is an important precursor of future economic growth ... unless the upstate region can attract more young workers and their families, its population of children and young adults will continue to spiral downward."

As will upstate New York's economic potential.

The second story, a little noticed U.S. Energy Information Agency technical report, noted the drop in carbon dioxide emissions in the USA to a twenty year low. Reason: with abundant, cheap natural gas available now and in the foreseeable future, power plant operators are switching from coal to gas, a cleaner burning fuel.

The connection of these two stories lies in the irony that those purporting to be most concerned about earth conservancy and sustainability are against the one job growth engine that would serve both in our area. That engine is safe, responsible gas development.

The "sustainables" tout farming, light industry, and tourism as a basis for economic development. Fine, as far as it goes, but gas development will open opportunities in over 50 different trades, job categories, and service industries, all at good wages.

What's sustaining our youth today? Nothing much. They're moving out. The family farms that are hanging on wait for gas development to make equipment upgrades so as to become competitive. The opportunity and the jobs that would come from gas development are opposed by those who would conserve The Earth. But wait … gas development IS conserving The Earth, at least by carbon dioxide standards.

The tide is turning. Everybody knows it. Gas development is coming to New York. From Barack Obama to Michael Bloomberg, the word is out. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in, and just waiting for the right time to announce. The Environmental Defense Fund is in. Others will join.

But apparently the memo hasn't reached the "sustainables" in Otsego County. They're still playing the same old "fire on the hillsides, desolation in the valleys" tune. However, even with Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, and Lady Gaga singing harmony, that tune won't chart. There is something called reality.

Reality is that nine out of 10 wells drilled are fracked. When you turn the key in your car, fry an egg on the stove, use a plastic fork at a picnic, transfuse blood in a hospital, or walk into the interior of the 787 Dreamliner, you're making use of a material whose origin was fracked.

Hype and fear work best in the absence of reality. Reality is just a short ride 70 miles south of us. Do yourself a favor. Take that ride.

Dick Downey is a member of the Unatego Landowners Association.

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