News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.
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adrian kuzminski

ZAGATA: Rising To The Fly On Natural Gas

Column by Mike Zagata, August 31, 2018

Rising To The Fly

On Natural Gas

Mike Zagata

One of the main reasons that local brook trout don’t get very big is that they tend to rise to and take the first dry fly that is drifted over them.
During my professional career, I have avoided “rising to the fly,” but my fellow columnist, Adrian Kuzminski, in his Aug. 23-24, 2018 article, floated one that was just too tempting. He was commenting on my article the week before, where I stated, “To date, we don’t know if those green plants, found on land and in fresh and marine waters, aren’t able to process the carbon dioxide that is being produced. If there was more of it, could green plants produce more oxygen and sugar, or if there was more than they could process would it affect the climate? Answering those questions will take some good minds and pretty heavy-duty computers.”
He twisted that to read, “Zagata admits as much by worrying if plant growth will absorb the extra CO2”.
So it’s time, once again, to look at the science.

Natural gas is the cleanest burning fuel. It produces CO2 (carbon dioxide) and H2O (water) when it is burned. That is exactly what animals, including us, do during the process of respiration. We take in food, digest it, and, in the presence of O2 (oxygen), burn it in our cells to produce energy needed to sustain us and CO2 and H2O are the waste products. Our blood carries the dissolved CO2 to our lungs and we exhale it and also inhale new Oxygen. Some of the dissolved water also gets exhaled and some gets filtered out by our kidneys and leaves our body as urine.
That means that each of us are polluters – we emit the same gases that are produced when we burn natural gas. We also pollute when we create mulch piles or manure piles or eat beans, as they give off methane as a byproduct of decomposition.

Many homes in our area heat with propane – a heavier version of methane that also yields CO2 and H2O when burned – and it is transported to our homes by truck.
We drive to our meetings in cars fueled by gasoline, a fossil fuel, to plan on how to best protest against the next attempt to bring energy into our area – and these protests are not limited to just fossil fuels. We have protested against renewable energy sources as well, including wind turbines and biomass.
It is likely that, once we realize just how visually unattractive solar farms are and how much they adversely impact farmland, forests and wildlife habitat, we will protest against them as well.
It will be easy to do, because solar energy doesn’t totally replace the need for energy derived from fossil fuels – the sun doesn’t shine at night, so when the temperatures drop below zero during periods of darkness, the “grid” that supplies our energy relies on energy from fossil fuels like coal.
And what about those hazardous wastes in the solar panels that must be disposed at the end of their useful life?

Why is it that it’s still OK to pull up to the gas tanks and fill our cars with gasoline, a non-renewable fossil fuel, that, when burned, yields some nasty air pollutants like NOX (Nitrous Oxides) and SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide) but it’s not OK to burn natural gas – and gasoline is delivered by trucks?
Even if you’re the most rabid anti-gas person, that can’t make sense to you.
Why is it still OK to heat our homes with fuel oil, a non-renewable fossil fuel that emits far more air pollutants than methane or natural gas, when burned? And, it’s delivered by trucks.
Why is it still OK to use propane to heat our homes or fuel our barbecue grills? It’s a non-renewable fossil fuel and, because it’s heavier than air and thus stays close to the ground when leaked, may lead to a potentially explosive situation. And, it’s delivered by trucks.
Shucks, why not just vote like the County Board and ban all trucks transporting any kind of energy. It doesn’t take long to figure that one out now does it?

The other issue that those against natural
gas like to wave like a red flag in front of a bull is that of fugitive emissions – the natural gas that allegedly leaks from pipes, wells, etc.
If you were a company that produced (drilled for) or transported (pipeline) natural gas, would you knowingly allow it to leak? The company that produces the gas and the company that transports that gas make their money by selling the gas to customers. Does it make sense to you that they would knowingly allow gas to escape and thus not be available to be sold?
If you were a shareholder in a company that did that, would you be happy about it? If the paper allowed me more space, the story about the “studies” that claimed gas was leaking would be fascinating to debunk.

All of us are tempted, like the young brook trout, to rise to the fly and devour it. In the future, before rising, please take the time to reflect on what is being said and ask yourself, in light of what you know about the topic, does it really make good sense?

Mike Zagata, a DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and former environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in Davenport.

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KUZMINSKI: Let’s Take Control Of Our Energy Future

Column by Adrian Kuzminski, August 24, 2018

Let’s Take Control

Of Our Energy Future

Adrian Kuzminski

Recently, nearly 100 people crowded the Oneonta Town Hall to respond to a report by Otsego Now head, Jody Zakrevsky, about the controversial gas decompression station proposed for Oneonta.
The backlash was overwhelming. A long series of speakers unanimously condemned the project and demanded instead a full-scale effort to transition to renewables as soon as possible.
As the speakers pointed out, a myriad of solutions exist to the problem of inadequate natural-gas supply affecting some institutions and businesses in Oneonta. We heard about retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, replacing gas and oil furnaces with heat exchange systems, and developing local renewable energy sources, including solar and wind.
This isn’t pie in the sky. The Otsego County Conservation Association, for instance, is currently supporting a NYSERDA-funded program, Heat Smart Otsego, to promote the financial and environmental benefits of currently available non-fossil fuel technologies. Check it out.
The speakers also made clear the gravity of this issue.
We’re not just talking about inconvenience, higher costs, or limits to local economic development. We’re talking about a global crisis increasingly affecting us all.
The inability of our local community to do its part in getting us off fossil fuels is symptomatic of a larger political failure which is dangerous to our future. We have mostly relied on someone else to deal with this problem, usually in Albany or Washington.
They haven’t done the job, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to, at least not unless they’re prodded from below.
Yes, our community continues to be divided over energy policy. The editorial in last week’s edition of this paper characterized speakers at the town of Oneonta meeting as “anti-gas true believers.”
There were a couple of strident speakers, as with any large group, but nearly all were thoughtful people pointing out the very real and harmful consequences of using more gas.
Mike Zagata in last week’s paper also misinforms the public by talking about “clean-burning natural gas,” when in fact there’s no such thing. The combustion of natural gas unavoidably produces CO2, a polluting greenhouse gas. Zagata admits as much by worrying if plant growth will absorb the extra CO2.
Even worse, he ignores the seepage of methane from wells, pipes and compressors, which adds another, more potent greenhouse gas to the mix, making natural gas as bad as any other fossil fuel.
By contrast, Zakrevsky, to his credit, bemoaned his fate at the Town of Oneonta meeting, confessing to the crowd his own confusion and lack of expertise. He was hired to promote local economic development, he noted, not to make energy policy. He’s exactly right. He and Otsego Now are not qualified to make energy policy and should not be tasked with that burden.
What was painfully obvious at the meeting was the lack of coordination among capable parties interested in developing a local energy plan. Currently we have groups too often confined to their respective silos – elected officials, economic development people, the local business community, the colleges, the hospitals, the environmentalists, etc.

Ian Austin/HOMETOWN ONEONTA & The Freeman’s Journal – Otsego Now President Jody Zakrevsky details decompressor-station plans to the Oneonta Town Board and 100 audience members Aug. 9.

Each of them is working on their piece of the elephant. What’s lacking is an effective mechanism for combining their resources and talents to develop a plan for all of us.
In my last column I mentioned the Tompkins County Energy Roadmap (Google it!) as a precedent for what should happen here. That initiative began in 2010 as part of a Tompkins County Energy Strategy for 2020. It was first developed as a project by Cornell graduate students.
In 2014, a steering committee was formed composed of individuals “who represent the breadth of experience, interest and perspectives within the community regarding our energy future.” The draft Energy Roadmap was then presented to numerous community groups and has since become the focus of Tompkins county energy policy.
This Energy Roadmap doesn’t rely on hiring expensive outside consultants, who are often ignorant of local circumstances; nor does it narrow options by handing authority to a single, unprepared agency. Instead it utilizes the expertise already found in a variety of existing organizations and individuals.
We may not have Cornell University, but we have SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College. We have Otsego 2000, OCCA, Citizen Voices, chambers of commerce, the Land Trust, Farm Bureau and Sustainable Otsego, and others. We have individual engineers and scientists and retired executives who’ve worked for multi-national corporations. We have the talent.
Let me suggest, again, that the Otsego County Board of Representatives, in a bi-partisan spirit, is the logical authority to establish an Otsego Energy Task Force. A large, diverse umbrella group is far more likely to develop a comprehensive, viable energy strategy that gets it right, and to do justice to the needs of the community as a whole.
The point is to get key people in the same room and tackle the problem. It’s up to the County Board to make this happen. The time is NOW.

Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick philosophy professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

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KUZMINSKI: Natural Gas, No! Renewables, Yes!… AND COUNTY CAN TAKE LEAD

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for August 10, 2018

… AND COUNTY CAN TAKE LEAD

Natural Gas, No!

Renewables, Yes!

Adrian Kuzminski

It’s recently been reported that Otsego Now, the economic development arm of Otsego county, is proposing a natural gas decompression station in Oneonta to help alleviate energy shortages that have plagued some businesses and institutions in the city.
Otsego Now is applying for a $3 million grant to help facilitate the project, which is estimated to cost $17 million.
Currently, SUNY Oneonta, Fox hospital, and Lutz Feeds suffer interrupted gas service during winter cold snaps when demand exceeds supply. Gas service is maintained for residential customers only by having these institutions inconveniently switch over to more expensive oil.
There has been talk of enlarging the existing NYSEG DeRuyter gas pipeline from Norwich to Oneonta. But Otsego Now Executive Director Jody Zakrevsky is quoted as saying that the estimated cost has ballooned to $100 million and may take a decade.
Zakrevsky estimates that the gas needed could be delivered to the proposed decompression station by two or three trucks a day for a couple of weeks a year.
This story leaves me scratching my head. Zakrevsky reports that natural gas is not only cheaper than oil, but that oil “pollutes more.” This ignores compelling evidence, first developed by Cornell University researchers, that natural gas is as much a polluting greenhouse gas as any other fossil fuel.
The pollution comes from cumulative seepage of methane during the life-cycle of natural gas production, from drilling to end-use. By the time the gas would get delivered to Oneonta – in what some call “bomb trucks” – the polluting damage would already have been done, starting back at the well-heads in Pennsylvania.
So why are we looking at the local energy scene solely through the lens of natural gas?
Why is there no serious consideration of non-fossil fuel alternatives?

This schematic of a decompression site is from the website of Algas-SDI, self-identified as “a manufacturer of products and systems for the reliable deployment of clean hydrocarbon fuels worldwide.”

We are facing a climate crisis. Our warm summer days feel good, but Arctic ice is melting, storms are getting more severe, and ecological instability is staring us in the face.
Under these circumstances, as I suggested in an earlier column, any proposal to expand the use of fossil fuels ought, at a minimum, to be accompanied by an equally funded parallel proposal to develop renewable energy.
We don’t have to rely on oil or gas. Efficient, low-cost heat exchange systems, which do not burn fuel, are now widely and cheaply available. The minimal electricity required to run such systems in our area comes from relatively clean hydro-sources.
Otsego Now might do better to forget the decompressor station and apply for a $3 million grant to convert residential and non-industrial systems from natural gas to heat exchange systems, and leave gas to those few situations for which it may be essential.
Somehow, there are always excuses why we can’t do renewables. Zakrevsky tells us that “weather and expensive batteries” are issues. Somehow the weather around here hasn’t stopped other solar projects from going forward.
As for the costs, here is where government subsidies, particularly from New York State, ought to come in. How much solar power is needed to make up for two or three gas trucks a day for a couple of weeks a year? How much solar power capacity can you buy for $17 million? How about a cost-benefit analysis?
For you pro-business people out there leery of borrow-and-spend, remember that’s how the Erie Canal, the railroads, the electrical grid, indeed America itself, mostly got built.
Neither government (socialism) nor business (capitalism) can do it by themselves. Government ought to be giving business the infrastructure it needs so that private enterprise can prosper, and it ought to make sure that the infrastructure we build doesn’t hurt the environment.
These kinds of decisions are too important to be left to a small agency like Otsego Now. What’s needed is comprehensive leadership – perhaps an Otsego County Energy Task Force – drawn from broad sectors of the community.
Other places are already doing it; just Google, for example, the “Tompkins County Energy Roadmap.”
Our Board of Representatives could take the lead in setting up such a Task Force for Otsego County, ideally composed of members from the colleges, businesses, non-profits, and other key sectors.
Once established, the Task Force ought to be empowered to make the decisions now left to Otsego Now. It should prioritize getting renewable energy subsidies, and be prepared to fight for them if they are not available.
Such a Task Force would be crucial in giving Otsego County a voice promoting its energy interests in Albany and beyond – something now sorely lacking.

Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy
professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

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KUZMINSKI: On Playing The Race Card

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for July 27, 2018

On Playing The Race Card

Adrian Kuzminski

There was a time not so long ago when the ideal on racial issues was to be color-blind, presuming the equality of all.
When that proved not to effectively
address the underlying problem of racism, affirmative action became the order of the day. It played an important role in bringing minorities, especially blacks, out of the ghettos and into prominence in the professions, the media and middle-class life.
But, at the same time, life for most blacks in the inner cities continued to deteriorate in a downward spiral marked by increasing crime, police repression,
drugs and desperation.
This is the world which gave us rap and hip hop.
Antonio Delgado’s early hip-hop recording, “Painfully Free,” has come to dominate the opening stages of the race for the 19th Congressional District.
According to the New York Times, the lyrics of his CD, made in Los Angeles when he was 28, “include frequent use of a racial epithet common among black rappers, and criticize some of the founders as ‘dead presidents’ who ‘believe in white supremacy.’”
His opponent, Congressman Faso, was quick to jump on the issue, claiming, according to the Times, that Delgado’s lyrics are “inconsistent with the
views of the people of the 19th District and America.”
Delgado shot back at once, saying of Faso, according to the Times: “In his dated mind-set, he thinks it’s accurate to suggest that if you’re black or if you’re of a certain race, you can’t be of this community.”
In an earlier interview with his alma mater, Colgate University, reported by Hybrid Magazine, he discussed his CD, saying, “Hip Hop is misunderstood.” “Hip hop is a philosophy to live by … Hip hop is its purest form conveys the plight of the underprivileged.”

The Freeman’s Journal – Antonio Delgado confers with Adrian Kuzminski at last week’s candidates’ forum in Cooperstown, hosted by Sustainable Otsego.

Delgado, a product of a middle-class upbringing in Schenectady, and of Colgate, Harvard Law and Oxford University, hardly grew up a desperate ghetto kid. But
he did give voice to the plight of the underprivileged, as he says, and used their idiom to do so.
The world of inner city ghettos represents a festering wound in America, and its unsettling, provocative language is an unpleasant reminder to the rest of us of a major failure of our society – something we still need to fix.
No matter how uncomfortable it makes us, we should respect not condemn hip hop for the challenge it poses.
The rappers are telling us that racism, far from being something we can ignore, has been built into our culture, and thereby into how we think.
Delgado is saying that we’re not color-blind, that we’re all racists on some level. This is meant not to condemn us, but to invite us to acknowledge a common problem, which is the first step to overcoming it – like an alcoholic admitting he or she’s an alcoholic.
Like an addict in denial, Faso pretends to be color-blind. But he betrays his own prejudices by cynically stooping to play the race card against Delgado.
I’m not a racist, he insists, but Delgado must be
because he has the audacity to remind us of the truth of our tragic history.
By insisting that Delgado’s lyrics are un-American, when they are in fact as American as apple pie, Faso only deepens the racial divide. To exploit racism for votes is despicable demagoguery.
Luckily, the voters will have a choice in November of either giving in to their racism, or beginning to
transcend it.

Adrian Kuzminski, retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, resides in Fly Creek.

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KUZMINSKI: OPEN LETTER TO ANTONIO DELGADO

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for July 13, 2018

OPEN LETTER TO ANTONIO DELGADO

Fight Faso Over

Big Money In Politics

Adrian Kuzminski

Congratulations on winning the Democratic nomination for Congress in New York’s 19th Congressional District.
You’ve got a tough fight ahead against a smooth and wily opponent. I’m one of many who would like to see Representative John Faso defeated. He is a bought and paid for ex-lobbyist with big hardcore far right support.
The Mercer family, investors in Breitbart News and supporters of Steve Bannon, gave a half-million dollars to the pro-Faso PAC “New York Wins” in the last election, helping put him over the top.
All told, the Mercers spent over $25 million in 2016 supporting far-right candidates PACs, and organizations across the country, including New York State. Their agenda of radical privatization requires the destruction of public institutions and entitlement programs. That means lowering the standard of living for most people while concentrating wealth in fewer and fewer hands.
The Mercers are the .001 percent, and Faso is the guy they’ve hired to represent us in the 19th CD in
Washington.
All that ought to be a slam-dunk for the Democrats, but not unless they act on it. This is an opportunity for you, Mr. Delgado, to take up the challenge. Faso needs to be called out on his right-wing, pro-corporate, anti-people agenda.
The Democratic leadership unfortunately has enabled, even embraced, much of that agenda. Beginning with the Clinton years, they abandoned labor unions and sided with corporations, supporting trade agreements that outsourced jobs, and tax breaks that favored corporate development over public service.
They continue “to talk the talk” about fighting for their constituents, but they no longer “walk the walk.”
You and the Democrats aren’t going to win this election by supporting a status quo that is working for fewer and fewer people. Defending the status quo is Faso’s job, not yours. You need to challenge the system, not claim that you can work it better than he can, or that it’s not so bad.

Parker Fish/The Freenan’s Journal  – During a visit to the Hometown Fourth of July celebration in Oneonta, candidate Delgado chats with Steve Londner of the League of Women Voters.

You have to show voters that Faso is the local agent responsible for people’s growing insecurity.
You need to expose the sham property-tax reduction he tried to pawn off on voters by gutting local healthcare funding. You need to alert voters to his duplicity in
voting to repeal Obamacare, after promising otherwise – something he’s likely to do on Social Security and other entitlements.
You need to remind voters of his support for deregulating Wall Street and destabilizing the economy.
And then there’s Trump. He’s a demagogue who’s been left free to exploit the insecurities and fears of the people whom the Democrats have left behind, and Faso seems 100-percent behind that.
Trump and Faso’s agenda is the same as the Mercers’: Privatize everything in sight.
You’ve got to do what other Democrats haven’t done. They have not attacked the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, the culprits blocking the kind of universal, affordable healthcare enjoyed by citizens of almost all other developed countries.
They have not broken up monopolistic corporations, whether it’s Amazon, the Wall Street banks, Google, or Walmart, which collectively have killed off small business, the backbone of the economy.
The Democratic leadership has not fought to reduce military spending, which is funding immoral wars abroad and bankrupting our government, while sucking up tax money that should go to social services and infrastructure.
They have done little to get us off fossil fuels and onto renewables, allowing for the acceleration of greenhouse gases and the destabilization of theclimate.
And they have completely failed to get money out of politics, leaving us stuck with a corrupt, pay-to-play system, for which Faso could be the poster boy.
You don’t want to be part of those failed strategies.
If you fudge on these issues, you’ll lose; if you face up
to them, you have a chance to win.
But there’s an even bigger challenge. There’s little doubt that the benefits of American imperialism since World War II have run their course. Globalization led by unrestrained corporate power is no longer a tide that lifts all boats. It only lifts the yachts.
We can no longer economically dominate Europe and Asia, nor can we afford our massive global military machine.
Those days are over.
If globalization has a future, and I hope it does, it has to be more inclusive economically. In the meantime, America must figure out its own identity in a new, multi-polar world.
Now is the time to put our own house in order, and rethink what we’re doing. We need a new definition of American Exceptionalism, one that rejects racism, bigotry and narcissism in the name of a common understanding of the deepest American principles: democratic accountability, Constitutional rule, economic justice, and the greatest possible liberty that’s consistent with mutual respect.
Then we can redefine our place in the world. The Republicans aren’t going to do that, but you might. It could be our last chance.

Adrian Kuzminski, retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

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KUZMINSKI: Can GOP, Democrats Compromise?

Column by Adrian Kuzminski on June 29, 2018

Can GOP, Democrats Compromise?

Adrian Kuzminski

About a year ago, a deal was suggested between President Trump and establishment Democrats whereby Trump would support a path to citizenship for at least some illegal aliens while Democrats would support something like The Wall on the southern border.
The deal came very close, after Democrats met with Trump, but fell apart. It’s now back in the news again.
Is such a compromise possible, or even desirable? A Wall is anathema to Democrats. Closing off the southern border with some kind of impenetrable human barrier seems to them a crime against humanity.
Thousands of refugees from Central America in particular are fleeing the violence not only of drug lords, but also – this isn’t so well reported – of authoritarian regimes suppressing dissent, especially in San Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
A case could be made that the American support for these governments has contributed to the violence, and that the U.S. owes it to these people to take them in – but the Democrats aren’t making that argument.
The idealism of some Democrats has reached the point where, in their minds, national borders are an anachronism that should no longer exist. Since all peoples are equal, what could possibly justify any kind of barrier to admission to the United States?
Isn’t everyone really a citizen of the world? Isn’t the United States – as the exceptional society defined by the Constitution, not by ethnicity – the representative of the future, and thereby the natural home of all refugees?
Some Republicans, on the other hand, are alarmed by the loss of national identity and traditional values. They fear cultural dissolution not only from unrestricted immigration, but from the related forces of globalization and secularization.

This week’s controversial Time magazine cover juxtaposes a photo taken last week at the border in McAllen, Texas, with a photo of President Trump.

The certitudes of family, religion, custom, ethics, patriotism – even the rule of law – seem to be eroding away in favor of a disorienting cosmopolitan culture without clear values, where money rules, and traditional roles and behaviors are replaced by consumerism and egotism.
Walls don’t seem very promising. Think of the Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall, the Berlin Wall, or the current Israeli West Bank Wall. Border; security only seems to work when there is normal traffic, not a press of desperate refugees or insurgents.
On the other hand, there is arguably no national sovereignty if there is little or no border control at all. That’s long been the case on our southern border, where a blind eye has been turned to illegal immigrants because they provided cheap labor for jobs no one else would do. The result has been an illegal American underclass, estimated at around 11 million people.
In a deal, Trump would get his Wall, or some version of it, which would probably be more effective, if not foolproof, than what we have now. In return for this, the Democrats would get no less than a reasonable path to citizenship for ALL illegal aliens currently in the country, not just the Dreamers. Immigrants would be offered a dignified formal process for citizenship, with families kept together, in place of the police state tactics we have seen.
Some kind of standard of what it means to be an American would be established. Not everyone (criminals, etc.) would qualify, but most presumably would. Think of Ellis Island. The promise of an America for all would be restored, and the underworld of illegal immigration would be drastically reduced, if not eliminated.
Compromise takes courage and vision, now in short supply. The challenge is to figure out a definition of America that lies between the relentless march of a global cosmopolitanism that undermines traditional values, and a desperate reaction to it that doubles down on chauvinism, racism, and religious dogmatism.
The middle ground between these extremes is where a real compromise can be found. It would be the reinvention of a viable American center, something long overdue.

Adrian Kuzminski, retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

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