Act One: The Prequel, starts in 2008 and ends with the publication of the Supplemental Generic Impact Statement.
The act begins with a wave of boilerplate drilling leases, the formation of landowner coalitions to counter those leases, the pushback by anti-drillers, and the Department of Environmental Conservation and Environmental Protection Agency hearings. Approaching the end of Act One, the anti-drillers control the narrative (gas drilling is bad; no good can come of it) and on the surface, they are in their ascendancy.
Act Two: The Empire State Strikes Back.
After three years of review, New York state issues the strictest set of guidelines in the nation for natural gas drilling. Since anti-drillers want to ban gas development, they will take to the courts. The court cases take time, but the anti-drillers inevitably lose.
Act Three: The Aftermath.
No one knows when the curtain rises on this act, but drilling comes slowly to New York. It starts in Broome and Tioga counties and slowly works its way north as infrastructure fills in. Otsego County is drilled because it has multiple gas plays estimated to contain at least 100 billion cubic feet per square mile. Otsego gas sells at $1 premium to Texas or Colorado gas because it's only 180 miles from the wellhead to a stove in Queens.
As gas flows out and money flows in, the loss of farmland in Otsego County stabilizes. Farmers don't have to work two jobs or sell of roadside parcels to survive. School (and general) populations start to rise as young families are once again able to find good-paying local jobs. School and town taxes stabilize and, hopefully, trend lower. Each well is a business, taxed separately, contributing to the community.
More jobs accrue as local businesses use local energy, giving them a competitive advantage. Plans for the use of Coventry gas for Bainbridge and Sidney businesses and residents are in the pipeline (pun intended).
As welders, truck drivers, gravel pit operators, carpenters and dozens of other businesses and occupations experience an uptick in activity, more jobs are created. Workers and landowners buy goods and services, thus creating more jobs. That's how it works.
There will be no wholesale degradation of the environment. Accidents will happen and there will be inconveniences, but no post-apocalyptic nightmare that the antis are predicting. Twenty years from now, people will wonder what the fuss was about.
In optimistic moments, I see people on both sides of the issue joining together to monitor and consult with industry to ensure safety and convenience, to suggest modifications for a flexible SGEIS, and to advocate for ample staff at the DEC for monitoring and enforcement.
Probably won't happen as long as the hardcore leadership pushes for renewables and sees cheap, plentiful, local natural gas as an obstacle to their goals.
A renewable energy future is an admirable goal, perhaps even attainable in some far-distant time. However, nationally and locally, we need a mix of energy sources and we need it now. We also need a basic understanding of TANSTAAFL _ There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.
Currently, a little more than 5 percent of our national energy mix is renewables. Roughly 3½ percent is hydroelectric. Wind and solar (less than 2 percent) have problems. Biggest problem _ sometimes the wind doesn't blow; the sun doesn't shine. When it does blow and shine, it's often in inconvenient places needing huge infrastructure investments. Wind and solar need market-distorting subsidies and mandates just to be marginally competitive. These subsidies usually support existing technologies rather than cutting-edge advances that might one day make renewables competitive.
A renewable such as hydroelectric needs 250 square miles of man-made Lake Mead behind a Hoover Dam. Goodbye, environment. Replacing just one of the two 1,000-megawatt reactors at Indian Point would require lining the Hudson River from New York City to Albany with 45-story windmills one-quarter mile apart. That's 600 windmills. But there's a catch _ the 600 windmills would only generate electricity one-third of the time, when the wind is blowing.
For solar, let's go local. Let's fill the fields across from the Clark Foundation building on state Route 28 with solar panels. Cooperstown would be provided with clean energy, but at what cost to the viewshed? Plus, panels have to be cleaned with water. Easy in Cooperstown; environmentally difficult in Arizona. TANSTAAFL, anyone?
Finally, what can renewables do for global trade? Diesel engines power 94 percent of trade, from oceangoing vessels to trains and trucks. It dominates because of cost, efficiency, reliability and durability. What kind of battery pack would be needed to power a container ship across an ocean? What's in the renewable pipeline to replace the gas turbine that has shrunk our world through transoceanic flight? There's nothing even remotely comparable.
As the Gas Wars unfold, no matter what the regs or how strictly they are enforced, accidents will inevitably occur. Just as inevitably, these accidents will be addressed and remediated, and life will go on. Otsego County could be on the cusp of an economic opportunity that, if managed wisely, will far outlast all of us who are at each other's throats. Misinformation, fear and emotion are no substitutes for reason and reality.
Dick Downey of Otego is a founding member of the Unatego Area Landowners Association.
Act One: The Prequel, starts in 2008 and ends with the publication of the Supplemental Generic Impact Statement.
- Guest Column
State's budget gimmick is hindering schools
Recently, the Margaretville and Roxbury boards of education joined their colleagues across the region and throughout the state in adopting a resolution calling on the state legislature to end the so-called "gap elimination adjustment."
The state Board of Regents deserves a shakeup
Last Saturday, despite a blanketing snowstorm, more than a hundred people showed up, some from as far away as Binghamton and Utica, at Oneonta High School for a forum titled, "On the State of Education in New York: Reform and Resistance."
It's no wonder businesses avoid us
Otsego County's gas potential was the subject of a Foothills symposium last Friday. Four gas activists/analysts shared their opinions on geology, production, and industry practice, with a side trip into the usual Doomsday Scenario.
How to bridge a widening wealth gap
If the governmentâ€™s figures are correct, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing. Two questions logically follow: should that be a surprise; and what are we going to do about it?
Nimbys, shills and celebs: A morality play for our times
As international corporations continue to ship U.S. jobs overseas, privatize water, track internet shopping and buy elections -- and argue that this improves our lives -- it's worth looking at how big oil's push to frack the earth is playing out in Otego.
- Saturday, December 14, 2013
As the decades pass, are we better off?
Since February 2011, I have been the anonymous scribe who has brought you "Step Back in Time," the daily column which contains news bits from 25 years ago and 50 years ago. This means I have been culling stories, some simple and others terribly complex, from the late 1980s and the early 1960s, for the Daily Star's readers, doing so with the consciousness of a middle-aged woman living in the second decade of the 21st century.
- Saturday, December 7, 2013
Attitudes are changing on gas drilling
With elections over, the candidate lawn signs are gone. Otsego's permanent signage has once again returned. "For Sale" signs have reclaimed the lawns -- people attempting to sell and leave.
- Saturday, November 23, 2013
Balancing the city budget on kids' backs
It is ironic that the Nov. 12 issue of The Daily Star carried a story on Page 2 that the city is considering charging fees for recreation programs and paying the YMCA $65,000 for programming, staff and supplies, and on Page 3 a column by Cary Brunswick describes how poverty can affect the outcome of test scores for our youth.
- Saturday, November 9, 2013
Dude, where's my socioeconomic class?
Growing up in suburban and rural New Jersey, I had encountered the signs of it regularly.
- Saturday, November 2, 2013
Congress playing hunger games
On Nov. 1, the daily ration of Food Stamps (also known as SNAP) was cut for 47 million Americans. Each of these families now has $29 a month less to buy food.
Election choices: what are they, really?
It's going to be an interesting election, and one that determines our future for a long time. The governor is asking us to legalize casinos in upstate New York. Sustainable Otsego is asking us to support hops and breweries as our future. Most every candidate is promising to oppose fracking.
- Saturday, October 26, 2013
Nothing 'sustainable' about Otsego
By definition, our local economy is not sustainable. We are losing people due to their inability to find jobs and high taxes. Our local governments and school boards are cutting programs. The county is being forced to find a new owner for the Manor. Those things we know.
- Saturday, October 19, 2013
Sustainable Otsego is part of the problem
In a flurry of letters to the editor last week, Sustainable Otsego unfurled its banner in support of its candidates.
Harpersfield track is criticized for a reason
A recent commentary by Steve Pushkar, who describes himself as a resident of Oneonta and New York Safety Track's "marshal," complains that everything he has been reading about the track has been negative. There is a simple reason for this.
- Saturday, October 12, 2013
Sustainability shouldn't be a dirty word
There has been some confusion recently about the definition of sustainability. There has also been some willful misrepresentation.
- Saturday, October 5, 2013
Who are the real conservatives?
The old way of thinking about politics doesn't work anymore. Let me explain why the current stereotypes fail us.
- Saturday, September 28, 2013
Some considerations on shale gas
We have been told that it is not economically profitable to extract natural gas from shale deposits, be they Marcellus, Utica, Bakken, or any others, unless the market price is at least $5 to $6 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf).
Motorcycle track's critics need to relax
For the past year, all that I have been reading about in The Daily Star concerning the New York Safety Track has been from one point of view, and it has been negative.
- Saturday, September 21, 2013
Gay rights push threatens free speech
Newspapers are usually advocates of free speech. But I've come around to the idea that liberals, including their print edition mouthpieces, are the greatest threat to free speech in America.
- Monday, September 16, 2013
We must do more to prevent bullying in schools
As a new school year commences, the routine for most children and teens remains quite similar to when I attended school several decades ago. This includes back-to-school shopping, anticipation of new classes and teachers, and the excitement of getting reacquainted with friends. Unfortunately for many, another part of the routine includes the fear of being the target of bullies. What's most unfortunate is that although we as a civilized society have made tremendous strides in sciences and technologies, we have yet to find a way to end this highly destructive problem, and until we do, we must not rest.
- State's budget gimmick is hindering schools