Will Rogers said, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.” This is particularly true now that climate change forces us quickly to find energy solutions to ensure that there is a future for our children. We know that more fossil-fuel power plants, more pipelines, and more fracking will not provide a path to sustainability. As climate scientists have warned: fracked gas is not a “bridge;” it is a gangplank to a fried planet. So why would anyone still be gambling on lots more gas?
On Oct. 24, I attended LaBella Engineering’s conference, “Energy Solutions for Economic Success” at Tioga Downs Casino. Southern Tier 8, an organization of development agencies and planners from eight counties, including Otsego, has hired LaBella to help chart an energy path for the region. Invited agencies and utilities presented, while LaBella moderated, and participated in many of the panels. There were lots of charts and tables in the slideshows but much of the information was so incomplete as to be deceptive, and some of it was just plain wrong.
LaBella opened the conference with a picture of the Constitution Pipeline, pleased that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has put that project back on the table. This was followed by maps of pipelines, electric transmission lines and a random sample of energy sources — with no analysis of projected energy demand. While lip service was given to renewables, there was no consideration of new state law or any quantitative assessment of the steps needed to meet New York’s aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Instead, LaBella offered up “case studies,” among them a microgrid project funded through NYS Energy Research and Development Authority’s NY-Prize program. Although celebrated by LaBella as an example of “distributed generation,” it was a gas turbine application with token solar power and battery storage. In fact, more than 90% of energy generation proposed through the last round of NYSERDA’s NY-Prize microgrid contest will come from gas. Most conference presenters apparently did not understand that more gas is not an answer for our region, the state, or the planet.
Sadly, LaBella missed an opportunity to educate planners, business owners and other attendees on what a sustainable future might look like. Although heat pumps and electric charging stations were mentioned, the real potential for these to reduce regional demand for gas was not. Throughout the day, natural gas was wrongly characterized as “clean” and false claims were repeatedly made about emissions from fossil-fuel and pellet sources.
If you don’t know where you are going, you should be very careful who you ask for directions. LaBella is the “go-to” consultant for NYSEG, so it should come as no surprise that the firm promotes gas expansion. ST-8 will be unable to plan a sustainable future for Otsego, or anywhere else, with LaBella as its guide: Whatever question you ask, LaBella’s answer is “gas.”
Will Rogers said, “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” Some of us have read the science. Almost everyone has observed superstorms and record wildfires. We can confront the climate crisis with intelligence and possibly avoid the worst outcomes. Or we can pee on the fence.
Dennis Higgins is a resident of Otego.