COOPERSTOWN – Under the headline, “Much Ado in Cooperstown, N.Y., Over Vote to Dump Fossil Fuel Stocks,” New York Times business columnist James B. Stewart has assessed the multi-week debate in The Freeman’s Journal/Hometown Oneonta between Lou Allstadt and David Russell on the Village Board’s decision to divest fossil-fuel stocks from one of its pension portfolios.
“The trustees of Cooperstown, N.Y., hardly expected their village (population 1,834) to emerge as a flash point in a national debate over climate change and socially responsible investing,” Stewart, author of the 1992 best-seller, “Den of Thieves,” on the collapse of Drexel Burnham Lambert, and an eminent business columnist, wrote in an article that went up on www.nytimes.com this afternoon and is due for publication in Friday’s print edition.
Stewart is familiar with Cooperstown through attending the Glimmerglass Festival, and was at The Otesaga last summer to hear the festival-sponsored discussion of the Salem witch trials that featured New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin.
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.
By ADRIAN KUZMINSKI • The Freeman’s Journal & Hometown Oneonta
In my column of Aug. 9-10, 2018, I suggested that Otsego County might follow the example of Tompkins County and set up an Energy Task Force. I had little expectation that anything would come of it, but, thanks to a bipartisan effort led by county Representatives Michelle Farwell and Meg Kennedy, that Task Force is now a reality.
The Task Force will have to face the fact that, even as we continue to be dependent in the near term on fossil fuels, we have little choice but to abandon them as soon as we can. Most of us are alarmed at the gravity of global warming and climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions driven largely, if not wholly, by human activity.
No need to rehearse all that here.
This problem is now the object of public policy in New York State. The Public Service Commission is pushing utilities to convert to renewables. The Cuomo Administration is demanding a 50-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and a 100-percent reduction by 2050, with billions of dollars pledged towards this effort.
We all share a concern about our environment and what forms of energy to use in order to maintain our lifestyle and position in the global economy.
Fossil fuels are non-renewable and thus the day will come when they are gone. Energy companies know this and realize that, in order to remain viable, they must look for renewable alternatives.
However, there isn’t a magic switch we can turn on to allow us to go from a dependence on fossil fuels to relying solely on renewables. We need a bridge to get us to that point, and natural gas is that bridge.
COOPERSTOWN – In the end, 170 – up from 125 a week ago, and 155 a couple of days ago – today listened for eight hours to presentations on the United States’ – and Otsego County’s – energy future from some of the most knowledgeable people in New York State.
The venue was the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce’s “Energy Summit: Energy & The Economy,” which finished up in late afternoon in The Otesaga’s pretty-close-to-full ballroom.
When it was over, Al Rubin, chairman of the chamber’s board, and chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan both said they were pleased by the amount of information the 19 varied presenters delivered in mostly 15-minute segments between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
“This wasn’t about debate,” said Rubin. “This was about listening to what other people had to say. This event met and beat our expectations.” But, he added, “The work begins now.”
The local energy debate shows little sign of dying down. On the one side are opponents of any further development of fossil fuels, including natural gas, and on the other side are advocates for expanding the natural-gas infrastructure in our area
in hopes of luring new industrial development.
Most people, however, are somewhere in the middle. National polling suggests that majorities now see climate change as a growing threat
we have to do something about, which ultimately means getting off fossil fuels, including natural gas.
Climate change statistics continue to relentlessly worsen, while the costs of mitigating pollution and dealing with disruptive events like floods, hurricanes, and unreliable weather patterns keep rising. These external costs are borne by taxpayers, consumers, property owners, and the general public.
The definition of ignorance is “a lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.” Climate change deniers can’t hide behind a lack of knowledge, so they claim the knowledge is false and the facts are fake.
They could also claim the earth is flat, yet a satellite would still persist in orbiting it. Facts seem to work that way.
The most important issue humanity faces is already changing the futures of all living things. The destruction of our entire planetary environment through accelerating climate change is a well-known fact that cannot be intelligently denied or ignored.
Denial is among the worst decision any human being could ever make. Pulling a trigger and murdering someone is a horrific decision, but pulling a trigger on all of the living world is immeasurably worse.
Pulling the trigger is exactly what climate deniers are doing, and they are led by the loudest and most ignorant denier of all – President Trump.
Thousands of scientists and climate experts agree we have a crisis, and that failing to address the crisis spells disaster. The overwhelming consensus is rejected by Trump, and many
others, whose understanding of science is third-grade level at best, or, perhaps more importantly, whose
wealth is dependent on denying the facts.
It can be understood why the fossil-fuel industries won’t face the facts. The only way to fight climate change is through reducing CO2 – along with other gases such as methane – that are released into the atmosphere during extracting, refining, transporting, and burning fossil fuels. To cut these emissions threatens the livelihoods of 900,000 U.S. citizens employed in the industry.
Yet the October 2019 New Scientist magazine had an article citing studies showing 9.5 million jobs, or 4 percent of the working age population, are in the green economy, which is defined as covering everything from renewable energy to environmental consultancy.
Ten times as many people at work in the green economy as opposed to roughly one million in fossil fuel is not a fact Trump will tweet. Or acknowledge. He is resolutely engaged in taking our nation back to a mythically greater time while also cluelessly edging the world closer to the abyss.
Trump’s lack of knowledge is not news to anyone. What he falsely claims to know while exhibiting a
total lack of knowledge is legion. (Wind power causing cancer and gas emissions, anyone?) In fact, the louder and more frequently he says something is true, the more certain you can be it isn’t.
The puzzling thing is why presumably intelligent people support his denier beliefs: US senators and
congressmen, governors and other state officers, business people, down to everyday citizens.
It’s simple to assume politicians are trying to avoid being ridiculed by Trump or avoiding primaries from the hard right. But that overlooks the economic incentives, such as fossil fuel industry donations to politicians and grants to state and local governments, all designed to influence legislation.
On the national level one answer is found in the almost $½ billion donated by the combined fossil fuel industries to Congressional Republicans since 2016. That buys vast amounts of influence – or perhaps more accurately, votes.
While money rolls into Republican coffers, the ice caps melt, oceans rise, temperatures rise, extreme climate events grow, and life in the seas, on land, and in the air dies off. It is outrageous that our elected representatives sell out our entire world with lies and falsehoods adds insult to injury.
Finally, I don’t understand how Republican deniers imagine they can escape climate change. Their first world lives and money will buy little respite from bigger storms and enormous wildfires, from repeated rising oceans and coastal flooding, from growing food supply issues, or other problems.
It seems their votes have been corporatized in the worst possible way – to focus on immediate returns and not think about tomorrow.
A few weeks ago, an article appeared about installing a geo-thermal system to heat and cool the family home.
The subject was very transparent about the fact geo-thermal systems require considerable electricity to run the pumps that circulate the fluid and to provide the energy necessary to make up the differential between the temperature of the water sourced from beneath the ground (normally 55 degrees) and the thermostat setting during cold nights (usually about 68 degrees).
He then explained that he buys his electricity from a co-op that buys it from the New York Power Authority (NYPA) via a purchase contract. The source of the power in that contract with the NYPA is hydro. The author went on to say that because of this arrangement, they are not burning any fossil fuel. Unfortunately, that may not be the case.
How can that possibly be? They buy their power from a company that sells hydro-power to their supplier.
It’s because the power that is purchased by the co-op from the NYPA must enter the “grid” of transmission lines in order to be delivered to their home. Once a given electron enters the grid, it is co-mingled with other electrons from other energy sources including coal, gas, oil, solar and wind.
The Otsego County Chamber board and president deserve a heartfelt “thank you” for having the vision and courage to host the “Energy Summit.”
Speakers from New York and Pennsylvania talked about fossil fuels and renewables including biomass, ethanol, electric cars, wind, solar and geo-thermal. At the end of the day, it was clear that, although promising for the future, renewables are not currently capable of replacing or offsetting our demand for energy provided by fossil fuels.
That does not mean we should abandon our pursuit of alternative sources of energy that emit less carbon and are cost-competitive with fossil fuels.
The Otsego County Chamber board and president deserve a heartfelt “thank you” for having the vision and courage to host the “Energy Summit” Thursday, Jan. 31, at The Otesaga.
Speakers from New York and Pennsylvania talked about fossil fuels and renewables, including biomass, ethanol, electric cars, wind, solar and geo-thermal. At the end of the day, it was clear that, although promising for the future, renewables are not currently capable of replacing or offsetting our demand for energy provided by fossil fuels.
That does not mean we should abandon our pursuit of alternative sources of energy that emit less carbon and are cost-competitive with fossil fuels. Natural gas, our cleanest-burning fossil fuel, is currently abundant and inexpensive relative to renewables and thus offers us a bridge to the time when one or more renewables is capable of replacing it by being available, reliable and cost-competitive.
COOPERSTOWN – Rejecting the advice of the village treasurer, the Village Board this evening voted unanimously to shift its investments in S&P 500 stocks over the next year into an S&P 475 scrubbed free of fossil-fuel companies.
Trustees acted despite Treasurer Derek Bloomfield, citing guidelines for CFAs (chartered financial analysts), advising them that a fully diversified portfolio, including fossil-fuel stocks, is the most stable. “Social investment should be done with one’s own money,” he said.
By ADRIAN KUZMINSKI • Special to wwww.AllOTSEGO.com
At the January 2019 Otsego County Energy Summit in Cooperstown, sponsored by the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce, a NYSEG representative surprised many present by announcing that the utility was planning to rebuild and expand the DeRuyter pipeline, which brings natural gas to Oneonta.
In a subsequent report, filed with the Public Service Commission on March 15, NYSEG states, with regard to the DeRuyter pipeline, that it “will replace approximately 50 miles of 8-inch and 10-inch 298 psig-coated steel gas transmission gas mains with 12-inch main in several phases.”
People Create ‘Center
Of Energy Excellence’?
‘Energy Infrastructure Summit,’
County Task Force’s Makeup Will
Help Answer That Question – And Soon
Where angels fear to tread…
The angel in this piece is Barbara Ann Heegan, Otsego Chamber of Commerce president, who this week announced the chamber is planning an Energy Infrastructure Summit Thursday, Jan. 31, at The Otesaga.
“By bringing other stakeholders to the table, we can help inform our membership on the best path forward on meeting our energy needs and the needs of economic development,” Heegan said in an interview.
Of course, the intent is right on, and businesspeople – with an eye on costs and profitability, as well as the good of the planet – are in many ways as good environmentalists as anyone else.
Take Jim Doig, Sidney Federal Credit Union’s recently retired president. Heegan toured the bank’s new headquarters a couple of years ago, and saw energy consciousness everywhere: geothermal heating, solar panels – even rainwater captured to flush toilets.
“That’s one example of how a business, a bank, has really taken advantage of clean, renewable energy,” said Heegan. The chamber formed an Energy Committee last January, chaired by Country Club Auto’s Peter Armao, and its members suggested the summit idea.