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Guest Column

September 18, 2011

Coventry pipeline could benefit region

Last month, anti-drillers campaigned against a pipeline shipping Coventry gas to Bainbridge and Sidney customers. What's wrong with this picture?

It's local energy. It's cheaper and cleaner than currently imported fuels. It's sustainable for many decades to come. It creates and saves local jobs. One Sidney company tells us that the savings equal the salaries of 44 jobs. That's 44 jobs less likely to be shipped offshore. What's not to like?

Oh, I see. It's GAS from Chenango County! Want clean, cheap, reliable energy for upstate New York? You won't get it if the local anti-drillers have their way.

The old environmental mantra used to be, "Think globally. Act locally." Good idea! Here are some facts.

The United States imports 60 percent of its oil. Along with our European allies, we are dependent on some very nasty, unstable and unfriendly countries: petro-states such as Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria. As of last year, the proven reserves of these five countries were about 600 billion barrels. In comparison, the largest free-market energy company, Exxon Mobil, had 8 billion barrels of reserves.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, determines the price of oil. We pay that price because we need the energy to drive our economy.

However, our dependence sucks money from our economy, undermines the dollar and often supports thugs, kleptocrats, mullahs and dictators.

Then, somewhere in the mid-1990s, technology evolved that literally opened the shales _ rocks rich in oil and gas. Shales are found worldwide, but they are particularly bountiful in the United States. The Marcellus and the other stacked plays in our Northeast constitute the second-largest known gas reserves outside of Qatar. Gas from our region will provide energy to our largest population centers for decades to come. In the U.S., production has grown from virtually nothing in 2000 to the current 10 billion cubic feet per day. Estimates of technically recoverable shale in North American have grown from 38 trillion cubic feet in 2003 to the current 1,930 trillion cubic feet, with 860 trillion cubic feet in the United States alone. That's a lot of gas for our energy needs.

With domestic production serving our domestic market, gas previously designed for the U.S. is going to other countries. Already, shale development in the United States has unshackled the price of gas in Europe from the old indexed oil price ratio to a price determined by the spot market. In plain English: Russian oligarchs can no longer dictate the price of gas to a Belgian housewife. Now there's competition, and a free-market price. This price will further moderate worldwide as Polish, German, French, Australian, Indian and Chinese shale plays come online.

This is the game-changer _ multiple sources for a clean(er), cheap form of energy.

But that's only the beginning of the long-term geopolitical benefits. Our country will lessen its energy dependence on petro-thugs. We'll keep our money here instead of sending it to them. There will be a greater use of natural gas worldwide, with significant impact on meeting global environmental objectives. We'll dampen the prospects of a gas OPEC, or a single-state producer's stranglehold, like Russia had on Europe. We'll reduce Venezuela's ability to export its "Bolivarian Revolution," with its authoritarian dictator framework. We'll diminish the likelihood of Iran's use of energy diplomacy as a means to power and nuclear blackmail. We'll reduce U.S.-Chinese friction in competition for Mideast energy supplies. Globally, what's not to like?

Finally, aside from keeping American dollars at home to buy American energy, we will have an efficient, clean(er), reliable energy source underpinning our economy. This will bring good-paying, productive jobs and tax revenues to our nation, our state and our communities.

After the lawsuits, New York will start to produce natural gas under the strictest guidelines in the nation. The pace of development will be determined by the number of personnel needed to monitor it. Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be watching. Part of his presidential ambitions will depend on lifting the upstate economy from the doldrums of 40 years of empty promises. For this, he needs drilling, but he needs it done right. This will be a carefully monitored industry.

But drilling may not happen in Otsego County if we who support the opportunity afforded by gas drilling don't act locally. Those opposed have done a good job scaring people by painting a nightmare scenario of a devastated landscape. Don't believe them. Don't believe me. Just get in the car and drive down to Susquehanna or Bradford County, Pa. Go cold. Stop in the doughnut shop, the bank, the real estate office, the town hall. Talk to regular people on the street, but get a good sampling. The people will tell you the real story. Look around. Compare what you experience with what you've been told in our local press and at the "educational forums" run by antis.

Here in central New York, we are part of a larger picture. Do your homework and get active locally. Only then can we make this experience work for all of us in Otsego County, and in the larger sense, our country.

Downey, of Otego, is a founding member of the Unatego Area Landowners Association.

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