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Search Results for: fossil fuel

DOWNEY: Benefits Of Gas Aren’t Fossil-Fuel Fiction
LETTER from DICK DOWNEY

Benefits Of Gas Aren’t

Fossil-Fuel Fiction

To the Editor:

Bob Eklund (“Praise For Fracking? Let’s call It Fossil-Fuel Fiction,” Jan. 2-3, 2020) and I are opposing veterans of the Gas Wars and almost friends.

The environmental and economic benefits of gas are NOT fiction. The EPA reports CO2 emissions peaked in 2007 as gas replaced coal in electric power generation. By 2017 emissions dropped 28 percent to 30-year lows. Emissions fell another 2.1 percent last year, mainly due to an 18 percent drop in coal generation. Coal power is now back to 1975 levels. Gas did it.

By replacing coal in electric plants, fracked gas (and oil) has stimulated our industry and our general economy while keeping prices low. Our population and GDP has grown enormously yet emissions keep dropping. No other industrial economy has that record.

The U.S.A. produces 14 percent of global emissions. The other 86 percent lies elsewhere. Coal-fired China pumps out more CO2 than the U.S. and the EU combined.

China “promises” to peak in 2030. However, according to the Global Energy Monitor, there are plans for increased capacity equal to current EU output of 150 gigawatts. That will mean building one coal-fired generator per week for 10 years, 500 of the 700 already planned. And we’re not even talking of what will be happening in India, Indonesia, and Africa.

In the meantime, in our little corner of the world, Andrew Cuomo slams the door on gas in the name of environmental purity.

He perverts the SEQR process in order to stop the 124-mile Constitution Pipeline that would deliver cheap Pennsylvania gas to New York and New England.

He extorts electric companies with the threat of franchise suspension. Note National Grid.

He raises the cost of electricity through subsidies and mandates favoring high-cost renewables.
He controls the agencies that withhold the permits.

It’s no great mystery that NYSEG requests a 27 percent rate increase. And … that’s only the beginning.
So while Cuomo diddles in “small ball” environmental politics, Vladimir Putin builds pipelines. He has two 800-mile pipelines under the Baltic Sea serving Germany.

Germany remains dependent on “brown” coal to backstop its renewables program. With electricity rates triple those in the U.S.A., it needs gas for price and environmental reasons.

Last month Putin opened the 1,800-mile Power of Siberia Pipeline to Northern China. The Power of Siberia Pipeline will eventually pump 38 billion cubic meters of gas by 2025. That’s the equivalent of Brazil’s annual gas consumption.

If the U.S.A. experience is any predictor, this will knock quite a few of China’s coal generators off the grid because … gas beats coal in price and emissions.

So I have a question for Mr. Eklund: which energy model is better for the global environment (and the individual’s pocketbook) – Andrew Cuomo’s or Vladimir Putin’s?

Give me a call, Bob. I’m in the book. I’d like to point out four or five other errors in your Letter but the ghosts of the poets tell me to stick to one theme.

That theme is – GAS WORKS. For the immediate good of our environment. For our collective and personal economics. For our country as a whole.

DICK DOWNEY
Otego

Only Grassroot Activists Can Save Our Planet

THE VIEW FROM FLY CREEK

Only Grassroot

Activists Can

Save Our Planet

By ADRIAN KUZMINSKI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Sustainable Otsego has been both a social network and political action committee since its founding in 2007. Over that time, it has advanced three principles around which local life could be organized:

  1. Sustainable Living.
  2. Economic Independence, and
  3. Home Rule.

Today let me address Sustainable Living; I’ll take up the other two in later columns.

Sustainable Living turns out to be a lot harder than many of us thought. The very word “sustainable” has been corrupted by phrases like “sustainable growth” and “sustainable capitalism.” Thanks largely to corporate propaganda and misinformation, it is less and less clear what terms like “sustainable” or “green” mean.

If it means anything, sustainable living means living on renewable resources on a finite planet.

At least that was the idea when the term “sustainability” went mainstream in the early 2000s.

Energy analysts had begun to worry about “peak oil” decades earlier, but by the early 2000s compelling evidence of limited conventional oil reserves, as well as of the depletion of other resources (fertile soils, clean water, essential minerals, species diversity), brought the issue of sustainability to a larger public.

The idea of sustainable living was a response to this brewing eco-crisis. It meant avoiding practices that led to pollution and a deteriorating natural world. The idea was to recycle everything, go organic, and use less energy and resources. We were supposed to lower our “carbon footprints” to minimize global warming and mitigate climate change.

Sustainable living became no less than a moral movement, a kind of secular religion where

Nature takes the place of God, cooperation takes the place of competition, holistic thinking replaces partial thinking, and harmony and compassion replace strife and tribalism.

That was a profound cultural moment, and it changed important human behaviors. It’s been the main force behind the progress made in recent years towards surviving on this planet. The hope was to maintain something like the middle-class lifestyle to which we have become accustomed.

The plan was to do it by replacing fossil fuels with eco-friendly renewables, poisonous chemicals with “natural” ingredients, and accumulated waste by recycling and composting.

But it didn’t quite work out that way, at least not yet. New technologies (fracking) expanded access to oil and gas reserves, postponing “peak oil” indefinitely, while locking in our reliance on fossil fuels through low prices. Recycling has yet to absorb the vast waste stream, and organic alternatives, popular as they are, are far from replacing cheap, chemically based products.

In the meantime, the methane and CO2 pumped into the atmosphere by continued fossil-fuel use has brought us to the verge of uncontrollable climate change.

The easy steps of sustainable living – buying a Prius, recycling, eating organic food, switching to

LED lighting, etc. – are no longer enough. We need structural, not just personal, changes.

Our continued post-fracking reliance on cheap fossil fuels has allowed the oil and gas industry to dominate the political system, frustrating the transition to renewables. Corporate-led deregulation has rolled back the environmental standards necessary to fully promote organic products and eliminate waste. Indeed, under Trump we’ve gone backwards on all these fronts.

At this point, only upheaval from below seems likely to change national politics. And that will happen only when the urgency of the biggest threat – climate change – reaches a critical threshold in most minds. Because of it, we’ve witnessed in recent months massive wildfires out West, catastrophic floods in the Midwest, melting glaciers and polar ice packs, another record heat wave in Europe, accelerating wildlife extinctions – the list goes on.

The floods a few years back gave us a taste of what can happen here, though climate change for us so far has been mostly incremental and cumulative, rather than sudden and overwhelming.

But it’s not any less significant for that. Hundred-year floods now occur a lot more than once a century. Storms and power outages are more common. The growing season has lengthened.

Winters are milder. Tornados, once unheard of in our region, now occur repeatedly.

If you experience the weather mostly when walking to and from your car, it’s easy to dismiss all this as some kind of delusion, a fake crisis. But if you’re a farmer, a gardener, someone who works outdoors, or manages infrastructure (powerlines, roads, etc.) exposed to the weather, you’re more likely to recognize that climate change is happening right before your eyes.

Sustainable living is both more important than ever, and even harder to achieve. To recognize its challenge is to feel its urgency, and especially the vital need to replace fossil fuels with renewables.

This is evident in the deliberations of the new Otsego County Energy Task Force, where climate change concerns and economic-development issues are coming together for the first time locally.

In response to this growing crisis Sustainable Otsego has evolved into a political action committee focused on local government. Given the failures of our major parties nationally and locally, Sustainable Otsego remains resolutely non-partisan. Visit us on Facebook, and at sustainableotsego.net.

If we’re to respond successfully to climate change from below, it will be because local grassroots activists – conservatives and liberals alike – insist upon it. Only they can force our representatives – local, state, and national – to do what’s necessary to secure the transition to sustainable living. No one else is going to do it.

Adrian Kuzminski, retired Hartwick College philosophy professor

and co-founder and moderator of Sustainable Otsego, lives in Fly Creek.

 

DILLINGHAM: Fold Fracking Ban Into Governor’s Budget

LETTER from NICOLE DILLINGHAM

Fold Fracking Ban

Into Governor’s Budget

Editor’s Note: Since the print edition went to press, the Governor’s Budget, agreed to Wednesday, April 1, included a fracking ban.

To the Editor:

The emergency now unfolding due to the coronavirus is not the only global crisis we are facing. The threat of global warming also requires state-wide, indeed global, response. The damage climate change is causing should not be ignored in the hope that it will magically disappear. Perhaps we have learned this much.

Our governor has taken a leadership role in response to the current pandemic. He has also taken a leadership role in responding to the climate crisis. The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) was passed last year setting ambitious goals to reduce fossil fuel use for electricity generation (70 percent non-fossil fuels by 2030; 100 percent by 2040).

The Governor now proposes a budget amendment to expedite implementation of the CLCPA known as the Accelerated Renewable Energy & Community Benefit Act. Adoption of the budget amendment will lead to accelerated state-wide permitting of renewable energy projects, specifically solar, wind, and related transmission infrastructure.

While CLCPA implementation is critical, this amendment as written raises concerns for erosion of Home Rule. I do not believe Michael Zagata (at one time an executive in the fossil-fuel industry, and briefly a DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration) is the best qualified to advise on the merits of Home Rule. He fought Home Rule for years in the fracking debate. His attachment to it now is disingenuous.

Without a state-wide fracking ban, individual municipalities could permit fracking without regard to risks to neighboring towns. Similarly, Home Rule in renewable-energy development without state-wide support will be ineffective. The two must work together.

Those who claim that there will be no benefit to host communities as a result of expedited solar and wind development are also wrong. The budget amendment specifically provides that host communities will benefit through payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreements and negotiated reduced electric rates. Landowners who lease their land will also receive substantial rental income. Finally, mitigation of climate change clearly will benefit all.

Conversion to renewable sources for electricity generation is a crucial state-wide initiative, like the state-wide ban on fracking. At the same time, the budget amendment should strengthen protections for prime agricultural land, wildlife habitat, tourism, recreational land use, and historic preservation, all matters of intense local concern.

Host communities should be accorded deference in siting based on these key local considerations. New York can and must lead in conversion to non-fossil fuels, while supporting existing state policies to protect Home Rule and local economic drivers.

NICOLE A. DILLINGHAM, J.D.
Board President, Otsego 2000, Inc.

Gas Generated Electricity Quicken Way To Achieve Decarbonization Goals
Letter from DICK DOWNEY

Gas Generated Electricity

Quicken Way To Achieve

Decarbonization Goals

To the Editor:

Adrian Kuzminski’s June 13/14 column, “If Facts Can’t Defuse Deniers, What Can?” opens with the passage from the New Testament where Pontius Pilate asks Christ, “What is Truth? (John 18:38). This is an eternal question, always relevant, especially today. The column devolves into an attack on “Climate Change Deniers,” people skeptical of the dogma and prophecies of “The Climateers.” Climateers would have us make a sharp U-turn off the fossil fuel highway to follow the Yellow Brick Road of renewables.

First, let’s be clear. Climate changes. It always changes. The fossil fuel we feud over gives testimony to eons of changing climate. Climateers say this time it’s different. Man’s use of fossil fuels is the cause of climate change and THE END IS NEAR! For argument’s sake, let’s accept this premise. What do we do about it? How do we decarbonize, keep economies running, and maintain (and upgrade) a modern standard of living for all? What is Truth (reality)? What is wishful thinking (fairy tales)?

Solar, Wind, Pellets, Geothermal Promoted As Energies Of Future

70-80 ATTENDEES FILL ROOM

Energies Of Future

Promoted At Forum

Among Them, Solar, Wind, Geothermal,

Pellets Seen As Fossil-Fuel Replacements

Len Carson, the Oneonta entrepreneur, asks about the viability of small-scale wind devices instead of industrial windmills at tonight’s forum, which brought 7-80 people to Elm Park United Methodist Church in Oneonta. (Jim Kevln/AllOTSEGO.com)

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

“Cheap energy will kill us,” said Hartwick Professor Karl Seeley. Conservation and renewables will save us, he said.

ONEONTA – Fossil fuels – gasoline, fuel oil, propane and natural gas – that power Otsego County today were like an unexpected inheritance, allowing the Industrial Revolution and the world as we know it.

Buttermann

But 200 years later, Hartwick College Economics Professor Karl Seeley told 70-80 attendees at the Concerned Citizens of Oneonta forum this evening at Elm Park United Methodist Church, you discover the hidden costs of the bequest are bankrupting.

“It makes you rich enough to destroy your home,” Seeley said.  “But not rich enough to build a new one.”

The dynamics of the evening, moderated by Hartwick Professor Kate O’Donnell, followed an outline another panelist, Dan Buttermann, brought back from Al Gore’s “Climate Reality Project” forum last year in Los Angeles:  “Must we do it? Can we do it? Will we do it?”

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.

KUZMINSKI: More Gas? Only If Paired With Equal-Sized Renewable Project

Column by Adrian Kuzminski, May 5, 2018

More Gas? Only If Paired With
Equal-Sized Renewable Project

Adrian Kuzminski

When fracking was proposed in New York State a decade ago, the potential benefits were jobs, economic growth, lower energy prices, and energy security.
Opponents (like me) worried not only about local degradation of the environment but about the global consequences of methane seepage and emissions for the climate as a whole.
In most places outside of New York State, the frackers won the argument, and in fact much of what they claimed has come to pass.
Vast new reserves have been opened up by fracking, perhaps even more than anticipated. The United States has moved from deep energy dependence on often unfriendly foreign sources to a greater degree of energy self-sufficiency.
The US has become a net exporter of natural gas and is now able to leverage its new energy resources in foreign policy negotiations. Fracking has sparked renewed economic activity and a sense of energy security has been restored.
But the cost of these short-terms gains may yet overwhelm us. Professor Anthony Ingraffea from Cornell has a sobering new video on YouTube: “Shale Gas: The Technological Gamble That Should Not Have Been Taken.” Check it out; go to youtube.com and type “technological gamble” in the search line.
Ingraffea goes back six years and compares the climate change predictions made by a range of experts then with the latest data now available.
The new evidence shows those predictions to have been wide of the mark in the worst possible way. Global warming is happening much faster than predicted.

Cornell Professor Anthony Ingraffea’s conclusion in 2013 that natural gas contributes more to global warming than other fossil fuels changed the debate.

Ingraffea puts the blame for accelerating climate change squarely on the fracking revolution. As its critics have worried all along, the overall greenhouse emissions of fracked natural gas turn out to be as bad if not worse than any other fossil fuel.
Fracking has not been the “bridge fuel” the industry advocated. Ingraffea points out that fracking has extended the fossil fuel age, dramatically increased global warming, and, by providing continued low-priced gas and oil, frustrated the development of renewables.

This issue is playing out locally as well. There’s an energy crunch in Oneonta, with NYSEG interrupting gas service to some of their larger customers (SUNY, Fox, and some local businesses) because of limited supply.
In spite of the fracking boom in neighboring Pennsylvania, the infrastructure for delivering more gas in the Oneonta area right now doesn’t exist. The secondary pipeline serving the area isn’t big enough to meet demand.
The same arguments for the benefits of fracked gas used a decade ago are once again in circulation by those calling for more gas: It’ll bring jobs, stability, and economic growth.
Without a functioning economy we have social chaos, it’s true; but without environmental protections we have eco-catastrophe.
Transitioning to renewables remains the unavoidable answer in both cases. Renewables address the climate issue while providing economic relief with
jobs in the new industries we so desperately need. But it’s not happening fast enough.
That’s a political problem – one unfortunately not about to be solved.
The gas proponents now, as before, are focused on short-term benefits and seem oblivious to the bigger threat. Those who appreciate the long-term threat, on the other hand, have no immediate and practical solutions to the energy challenge.
Yes, of course, we must transition to renewables ASAP, but it’s not just a matter of effortlessly dropping one energy source and plugging in another.
There are serious technical problems (limits to electrical applications, intermittent power and inadequate electricity storage) and financial ones (funding the required large-scale infrastructure changes).
It’s time to recognize both the urgency of climate change as well as the need to buy some time to put in place technologies and financing that can transition us to renewables as quickly as possible.
It’s time to recognize both that the unintended consequences of gas may be worse than the problems it solves, and that those suffering from economic insecurity can’t afford to wait around indefinitely for promised but undelivered jobs in renewable energy.
What’s needed is restraint and prudence. Until we get to renewables, we’re clearly going to continue to overheat the planet to keep the economy going and avoid social breakdown.
How much more warming can we stand? It’s not clear, but major new pipelines and gas power plants are climate-denying projects that promise to take us over the edge.
In the meantime, we have growing local economic distress which might be relieved by delivering more gas to Oneonta by enlarging its existing pipeline.
Improving that pipeline and its capacity would clearly boost the local economy; a redone pipeline might also be more efficient.
But any expansion of gas consumption, even a small one like this, can no longer be justified unless correlated with a funded renewable energy project of at least the same scale.
Nothing less is acceptable any more.

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

Is Nuclear Power Answer After All?

SAVING OUR PLANET

Is Nuclear Power

Answer After All?

In the 1956 children’s book “Our Friend the Atom,” Walt Disney imagined nuclear power as a genie that could finally grant the wishes humankind has always dreamed of: Power, food, health and, finally, peace. It was
written by scientist Heinz Haber, at the behest of the Eisenhower Administration.

Editor’s Note: Len Carson, the former county rep from Oneonta and DC Marketing president, circulated a video of Michael Shellenberger’s 2016 Ted Talk, “How Fear of Nuclear Power is Hurting the Environment,” to Citizens Voice, the local businesspeople’s group, for discussion at its Wednesday, March 13, meeting. Shellenberger was one of Time magazine’s 2008 “Heroes of the Environment,” but in 2015 helped found Environmental Progress, seeking to prevent California’s closure of its nuclear plants. This is an excerpt. To see full video, type “shellenberger” in the search line at www.allotsego.com

Clean energy has been increasing… But when you look at the percentage of global electricity from clean energy sources, it’s actually been in decline from 36 percent to 31 percent. And if you care about climate change, you’ve got to go in the opposite direction to 100 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources, as quickly as possible. Now, you might wonder, “Come on, how much could five percentage points of global electricity be?”

Well, it turns out to be quite a bit. It’s the equivalent of 60 nuclear plants the size of Diablo Canyon, California’s last nuclear plant, or 900 solar farms the size of Topaz, which is one of the biggest solar farms in the world, and certainly our biggest in California. A big part of this is simply that fossil fuels are increasing faster than clean energy. And that’s understandable. There’s just a lot of poor countries that are still using wood and dung and charcoal as their main source of energy, and they need modern fuels.

But there’s something else going on, which is that one of those clean energy sources in particular has actually been on the decline in absolute terms, not just relatively. And that’s nuclear. You can see its generation has declined 7 percent over the last 10 years. Now, solar and wind have been making huge strides, so you hear a lot of talk about how it doesn’t really matter, because solar and wind is going to make up the difference. But the data says something different. When you combine all the electricity from solar and wind, you see it actually barely makes up half of the decline from nuclear. Let’s take a closer look in the United States.

Jubilant Local Fracking Foes Shift Focus To Renewables, Pipeline

Jubilant Local Fracking Foes

Shift Focus To Renewables, Pipeline

By JIM KEVLIN • The Freeman’s Journal/HOMETOWN ONEONTA

Editions of Thursday-Friday, Dec. 25-26, 2014

COOPERSTOWN

Next, renewables, Lou Allstadt, a Sustainable Otsego mainstay, tells celebrants at the Cafe Ommegang Wednesday, Dec. 17, after Governor Cuomo declared fracking will be banned in New York State.  In the back, from left, are Nicole Dillingham, Kim Jastremski, Larry Bennett, John Davis and Marion Carl. (Jim Kevlin/The Freeman's Journal)
Next, renewables, Lou Allstadt, a Sustainable Otsego mainstay, tells celebrants at the Cafe Ommegang Wednesday, Dec. 17, after Governor Cuomo declared fracking will be banned in New York State. In the back, from left, are Nicole Dillingham, Kim Jastremski, Larry Bennett, John Davis and Marion Carl. (Jim Kevlin/The Freeman’s Journal)

Today, Albany. Tomorrow, Kalangadoo, Australia.

While local fracking foes were elated by Governor Cuomo’s Wednesday, Dec. 16, announcement that he plans to ban the controversial practice in New York State, they were already looking beyond.

The widest-reaching is Lou Allstadt, the retired Mobil executive vice president, whose short-term plans include appearing on a Jan. 12 panel at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club. Fellow panelists will be Angus Gillespie, a Shell vice president from The Hague, and Mary Nichols, California Air Resources Board chair.

“I hope we don’t spend the whole time on (fracking),” said Allstadt, who for the past year also has been active in the Citizens Climate Lobby, which is asking Congress to enact a fee at the mine head and the drilling pad to encourage customers to move away from fossil fuels. “The whole big picture is renewables, and how do you transition to that.”

As fracking foes gathered at Cafe Ommegang within hours of the governor’s announcement to celebrate their victory, discussion – and subsequent interviews – turned to a number of outstanding issues:

• A ban on the spreading of sometimes radioactive brine from fracking operations in northeast Pennsylvania on Upstate roads to reduce dust. Dumping of other kinds of fracking waste in Upstate landfills is also a concern.

• Halting the “fracking infrastructure,” as Otsego 2000 President Nicole Dillingham put it, including the Constitution Pipeline through Delaware County and a new compressor station on the existing Dominion Pipeline at Minden, Montgomery County, 10 miles north of Cherry Valley.

• Quality-of-life initiatives to position Otsego County for an era where fossil fuels play less of a role. Dillingham mentioned promoting organic farming, the breweries and farmers’ markets. Bob Eklund, New Lisbon, said the Butternut Valley Alliance hopes to encourage solar energy, and promote its towns as artists’ communities.

In June, Allstadt was on Capitol Hill with 600 individuals affiliated with the Citizens Climate Lobby who in a few days were able to discuss the fee idea with 507 of the 535 senators and congressmen.

The fee would raise the price of fossil fuels, discouraging their use, and the revenues generated would be distributed to Americans to use as they wish, he said. At-border fees would prevent foreign companies from unfairly competing with U.S. concerns.

“Just doing away with fracking doesn’t help you unless you reduce total fossil-fuel use,” said Allstadt, who has received queries, in addition to Kalangadoo, from anti-frackers in Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Poland and Bulgaria, and provided them primarily with scientific studies that support the cause.

Allstadt declined to predict when legislation will be introduced, saying the Citizens don’t wish to see that happen until a clear bipartisan majority of support is achieved. “This is not a liberal or conservative issue,” he said. “We all have to deal with climate change.”

While it is supporting fight against the “fracking infrastructure,” already filing testimony in Schoharie-based Stop the Pipeline’s legal challenge, Otsego 2000 is also moving on, said Dillingham. It organized its second Glimmerglass Film Days in November, and is proceeding with its historic preservation awards and programs to help farmers.

The fracking ban, though, “removed a cloud that has been hanging over our region,” allowing people buy homes, move their families here and start businesses without worry, she said.

Since the fracking decision, U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, has visited the county, and told a Sustainable Otsego delegation meeting in Cooperstown that he will introduce a resolution recognizing climate change and the need to combat it, according to SO Moderator Adrian Kuzminski.

In some ways, it will be harder to combat multiple manifestations of “fracking infrastructure” than promoting the single focus of the ban, said Kuzminski, whose listserve was able to turn out hundreds of anti-frackers on short notice.

Still, “it reaffirms some kind of belief that the system is not totally broken, politically, that big money will carry the day,” said Kuzminski, a philosopher who has written such books as “Fixing the System,” a history of population. “Coming up against the largest industry on the planet, it turned out they couldn’t turn the trick because of grass-roots resistance.”

ADRIAN KUZMINSKI: Natural Gas Is A Bad Investment

Column by Adrian Kuzminski, October 5, 2018.

Natural Gas Is A Bad Investment

Adrian Kuzminski

It’s obvious we have to get off fossil fuels, yet we keep hearing that fossil fuels – natural gas in particular – are essential to local economic growth. While “solar and wind would be a viable source for electric,” Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky wrote in The Freemans Journal & Hometown Oneonta in the Aug. 30-31 editions, “it (the solar and wind source) does not currently provide a solution to companies that need extreme heat in processing.” For them, he tells us, natural gas is a necessity. Further, they are the companies he thinks we need for future economic growth.
Zakrevsky points out that two projects with potentially 475 jobs failed to materialize recently due to the lack of natural gas essential to their operation. That’s hardly surprising. Companies that can’t function without natural gas have been locating in places where adequate gas infrastructure already exists, and that is clearly not Oneonta.
Bringing more natural gas to Oneonta would cost a fortune: $17.5 million, Zakrevsky estimates, for a decompression station and related infrastructure. But many millions more would be needed to replace and expand the DeRuyter pipeline.

The Freeman’s Journal – Otsego Now’s Zakrevsky outlines plans for a decompression station Aug. 9 to the Oneonta Town Board.

Why aren’t the local businesses who would benefit raising the money themselves? Perhaps it’s because no serious investor would fund a project importing natural gas when industry can locate far more cheaply elsewhere, where gas is abundantly available.
That’s as it should be. Natural-gas dependent industries ought to go to natural gas rather than spending more money to get natural gas to come to them. That’s economic efficiency.
Even then, there’s no guarantee businesses will come. Look at Richfield Springs in our own county. A surplus of natural gas hasn’t helped Richfield attract industry.
Yet Otsego Now seems bent on depleting the public purse to bring more gas to Oneonta, leaving citizens and consumers (taxpayers and ratepayers) to bear the costs of the project.
The few businesses involved, including NYSEG, would, whether they realize it or not, in effect be making a profit on the backs of the public. Yes, some jobs would be created, but they are unlikely to support whole families (few jobs today do).
Meantime, the public as a whole would be impoverished by having to pay for the project, arguably leading to less, not more, overall economic growth. And money invested in natural gas is money that is not invested in other job-creating industries – like renewables.Even worse, this project, which calls for a 25 percent increase in the amount of natural gas delivered to Oneonta, would re-enforce the
current, unnecessary use of natural gas
by residential and institutional
consumers.

These consumers are not dependent upon natural gas for industrial processes requiring “extreme heat.” Non-polluting alternatives would serve them (and the climate) far better, and create jobs too. That should be the priority.
Yes, it’s true that our electricity supply is also constrained, but renewables can expand available electricity, which should be prioritized over gas.
And there’s the safety issue. Otsego county’s Public Safety Committee, to its credit, after several virtual pipeline gas truck rollovers, has called for the trucks to be taken off local roads.
Also, keep in mind, according to the New York Times (Sept. 14, 2018), “since 1998, at least 646 serious gas distribution episodes have occurred across the country, causing 221 deaths and leaving nearly a thousand people injured, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.”
The whole Otsego Now project is in effect a massive subsidy by the public for a polluting and unsafe industry which would better be located elsewhere. It’s time for local planners – and politicians like state Sen. Jim Seward – to abandon economically non-viable proposals for bringing more
fossil fuels to this area. In spite of its
history, Oneonta’s no longer the place for fossil-fuel dependent heavy industry.
The essential infrastructure we need – as I’ve argued in my last column – is state-of-the-art broadband for all, not obsolete gas pipelines for a few. Real internet would help give us a new economic base, which in turn would help finance sustainable local enterprises.
This is the vision that our economic planners should be pursuing, and for which they ought to be fighting to find money. Earlier this year, New York State announced $1.4 billion for 21 renewable energy projects, including 22 solar farms, three wind farms, and one hydroelectric project.
That’s the kind of money Otsego Now should be going after if it wants to invest in the future of Otsego County.

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

KUZMINSKI: Can Human Ingenuity Save Us From Perils Of Our Successes?
Column by Adrian Kuzminski for November 16, 2018

Can Human Ingenuity Save Us
From Perils Of Our Successes?

Adrian Kuzminski

It’s a widespread article of faith that “economic growth” is essential to future prosperity. That’s hardly surprising, since the modern world has been brought into being in less than 200 years by an unprecedented wave of economic growth.
If we go back 200 years – to 1818 – we see there were no automobiles, no airplanes, no railroads, no antibiotics, no anesthesia, no electricity, no central heating, no telecommunications, no refrigerators or appliances, no computers, no internet, no a lot of things.
Life was, comparatively speaking, nasty, brutal, and short.

In 1818 there were about a billion people on the planet. The overwhelming majority were farmers, peasants and artisans, with a thin veneer of landlords, officials, merchants, professionals and entrepreneurs.
Energy came through physical effort, or from water and wind power. Most consumer goods were made on the homestead or in the nearest town. People lived sustainably, whether they liked it or not, dependent as they were on renewable resources and the rhythm of the seasons.
Fossil fuels changed all that. They made explosive economic growth possible. Coal and oil and gas turned out to be much more potent sources of energy than muscle, water or wind.
The energy density of fossil fuels is orders of magnitude greater than muscle power. Try pushing your car when the engine doesn’t work! Further, fossil-fuel-based fertilizers dramatically expanded agriculture and helped support much larger populations.
Fossil fuels also made possible the chief instruments of the industrial revolution – large-scale machines, beginning with railway locomotives and steamships and the steel mills to build them, and on to tractors, bulldozers, motor vehicles, paved roads, power plants, the electric grid, airplanes, appliances and the whole range of modern products and infrastructure.
A famous study, called “Limits to Growth,” published in the 1972 by a team of MIT researchers led by Dennis Meadows, focused on the global resource consumption required for the production of goods and services.
It projected that the depletion of natural resources and the finite capacity of the planet to absorb emissions and other pollutants would force society by the 21st century to divert more and more capital to make up the difference, eventually bringing economic growth as we’ve known it to a halt.

Poet William Blake (1757-1827) was decrying the Industrial Revolution’s “dark, satanic mills” almost from the beginning.

A 30th anniversary edition of the work, in 2002, found its projections confirmed. Since then, the challenges of resource depletion and environmental degradation have only intensified. Economic growth has become increasingly expensive and uncertain.
The steep decline in energy return on energy invested is a good example of the limits to growth, and that’s true of many other resources as well, from fisheries to arable land to clean water.
Around World War II, the return of investment in an oil well was on the order of about 100 to one. It cost about a dollar’s worth of energy to extract $100 worth of energy. That’s $99 of more or less free energy. Today that ratio is down to about 15 to 1, and declining.

Another measure of economic limitation is what economists call the externalities of production, where the costs are born not by the producing enterprise, but by the public or the environment. Industrial pollution – such as General Electric’s release of PCBs polluting the Hudson river – is a classic economic externality. The widespread use of pesticides, which has seriously reduced amphibian, insect, and bird populations, is another of many examples.
Similarly, the climate costs of greenhouse gas emissions – storm damage, wildfires, flooding, loss of property values, stress on agriculture, and the rest – are not priced into the energy economy, but are disproportionately borne by the individuals who suffer them.
The only growth that seems to escape these limits is mental rather than physical – growth of the imagination, of the digital technology of cyberspace, of the production and exchange of ideas, images, and stories and the values they represent.

Many believe that this human ingenuity will also find a way to deal with the undesirable consequences of traditional economic growth. Maybe. So far that remains a hope, not a fact. In the meantime, the obstacles to conventional economic growth continue to increase.
Many ecologists say that we need a sustainable, steady-state economy, not an economy predicated on a belief in endless economic growth. A steady-state economy presumably would wax and wane with the cycles of renewable resources upon which we ultimately have to depend. How that might work, we have yet to figure out.
In that event, we would not have to go back to 1818. Since we have the advantage of all the knowledge and technology accumulated since then, we can hope for efficiencies that would give us more energy than we could find back then.
If the limits to growth are as real as they seem to be, we may have little choice but to relearn how to live within the ecological budget of our physical home, of our planet.

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

BROCK: Renewables, Not Gas Cleaner Way To Go
LETTER from BRIAN BROCK

Renewables, Not Gas

Cleaner Way To Go

To the Editor:

The preliminary estimate of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions for 2018 is up 3.4 percent, reversing the recent downward trend.

What is more, arguing that burning methane is better than coal because it releases less carbon dioxide conveniently neglects that the entire gas infrastructure leaks methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  (Conveniently that is for that argument, not for the environment.)  Like carbon dioxide, methane in the atmosphere shows an upward climb.

Unproven is that the conversion from coal to gas decreases the net greenhouse gas emissions. (However, the lack of residual coal ash is a great environmental benefit and gas is cheaper.)  Increasing atmospheric concentration of methane flattened in the first years of this century, but resumed its upward climb with the boom in the natural gas industry as it tapped into shale reservoirs.

In contrast, there will be tremendous reductions in greenhouse gas emissions with the switching from fossil fuels to renewable energies.

Objecting to the subsidies for renewables overlooks the far larger subsidies that the fossil fuel industry has accrued over the decades.  And these don’t foster a fledgling industry, a long-standing practice in the United States, but instead fatten the bottom line of established companies at the expense of our country.

The boost to our economy for conversion from coal to gas pales in comparison to the boost from fossil fuels to renewables.

As becomes clearer with each passing year, the arguments for fossil fuels, including gas, are based on selective presentations that just don’t hold up to scrutiny. Net benefits are not just fiction but fantasy.

And there’s the irony of those who once argued against restrictions on the burning of methane because there’s no manmade global warming, now argue against restrictions because burning methane will lessen that same global warming.

BRIAN BROCK

Franklin

No, We Can’t Save World Alone; Yes, We Can Embrace Opportunity

EDITORIAL

LESSONS FROM OTSEGO CHAMBER EARTH SUMMIT

No, We Can’t Save

World Alone; Yes, We Can

Embrace Opportunity

“Time is not on our side,” Cornell professor Tony Ingraffea tells the Otsego Chamber’s “Energy Summit” Thursday, Jan. 31, at The Otesaga. Listening at right is Rep. Meg Kennedy, R-Mount Vision, who announced members of a 21-member energy task force created by the Otsego County Board of Representatives. Next to her is Keith Schue, Cherry Valley, an engineer advising Otsego 2000.

The debate around here has appeared to be all about energy.
Listening to 19 content-rich, tightly packed presentations –
15 minutes, 15 minutes, 15 minutes – at the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce’s “Energy Summit: Infrastructure & Economy,” Thursday,
Jan. 31, at The Otesaga, you’d have come to a different conclusion.
The discussion’s all about jobs.
Energy is the means. Which can best produce jobs, gas or renewables? Ideally, both.
There were woeful predictions.
“Time is not on our side,” intoned Tony Ingraffea, the Cornell professor. (Better was his cool presentation on his ultra-efficient house near Ithaca. Add in the Norway firs his grad students have been planting for years, his family’s carbon footprint is “less than zero.”)
We know The Earth is under challenge. The question locally is, what is our role in fixing it? The numbers convincingly argue, not much. Otsego County is micro; the solution is macro.

Renewables are already creating more jobs than fossil fuels, Lou Allstadt reported. He provided a list that appears at left.

With 0.018 percent of the U.S. population (less than 2/100ths of one percent), and 0.00008 percent of the world’s (less than 1/100,000th of one percent), the fate of The Earth isn’t going to be decided between Richfield Springs and East Worcester.
This frees us to think about Otsego County, what we need today, and what the opportunities are in the near-to-
mid future.

EDITORIAL: If We Want Solar Energy, Let’s Get Serious About It

Editorial, May 5, 2018

If We Want Solar Energy,
Let’s Get Serious About It

If we care about solar energy, it’s time to get serious about it, don’cha think?

Happily, Otsego 2000 may be doing just that, having taken a leadership role among local environmental groups on this matter. On Feb. 24, its board adopted a resolution that reads, in part:
“Climate change, driven in large party by fossil-fuel use, is a significant threat to our region and way of life.

“We call for and support energy conservation and efficiency to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and the necessity or expanded fossil-fuel infrastructure and delivery systems.
“In addition, we call for and support smart development for renewable energy sources to meet the goals adopted by New York State for greenhouse-gas reductions.”
Caveat (conservation first), then support.
The resolution continues in the same vein. It supports rooftop solar panels. And solar farms, but again with caveats: Put them on “previously disturbed areas,” protect farmland, “protect historic, cultural and scenic resources,” maintain conserved lands. This is fine, and clearly in synch with Otsego 2000’s overarching mission – to protect, not develop.

But if, in fact, we want solar energy around here, a more affirmative strategy is necessary.
The most significant solar project proposed so far in Otsego County – thousands of panels on 50 acres north of Morris – is on hold, according to Chet Feldman, spokesman for Distributed Solar, Washington D.C. As he explained it, a PSC ruling last year on economical proximity to power lines, and federal tariffs made the project “not conducive,” at least for the time being.
Promisingly, Feldman said “We’re always looking forward to doing business in New York.” So it, or another project, may still happen.
So far though, solar power locally is limited to boutique uses: People who can afford it equipping their homes with panels. Otherwise, the Solar City installation near Laurens, by county government for county government, is the only functioning solar farm in the county. (Thank you, county Rep. Jim Powers, R-Butternuts, now retired, for pioneering it.)
If Otsego 2000, Sustainable Otsego, OCCA and other environmentally focused entities – goodness, even the Clark Foundation – really wants solar power widely used here, they need to say so and go after it, without the caveats.

Ed Lentz, Butternuts Valley Alliance chair (now New Lisbon town supervisor), surveys the 50 acres where Distributed Solar planned a solar farm. It is off the table for now.


If it chose to be, muscular Otsego 2000 certainly has the clout to get it done.
Meanwhile, Otsego 2000’s executive director, the able Ellen Pope, has taken the new policy seriously, attending a forum March 27 organized by Scenic Hudson, and – she reports – well attended by municipal officials from around the state.
It’s complicated. Large installations – 25 megawatts and up – fall under state Article 10 regulations for siting electric-generating facilities, signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2011. Below that, a good town plan can guide where things happen, or don’t.
Attendees were advised, “plan for the town you want.” Of course, we all know that means: Keep everything the way it is. If we really care about global warming, about renewables, about humankind’s survival, that probably won’t fill the bill.
The Otsego 2000 policy dwells on what needs to be protected. But let’s turn it around. Let’s identify appropriate sites – sure, brownfields (Shur-Katch in Richfield Springs, maybe), former landfills, acreage shielded from public view – those black panels are ugly – and so on.
It might make sense to rule solar farms out, period, in the extra-protected Otsego Lake watershed. It makes sense to extra-protect a national environmental icon. But that leaves plenty of space elsewhere in Otsego County.
The Morris installation, tucked in the beauteous Butternut Creek Valley, would have been an eyesore, and perhaps polluted the creek, too. The county’s Solar City site is in a former gravel pit – ideal.
If Otsego 2000 could identify ideal spots for solar farms – a half dozen, a dozen, even more – and put the regulations in place to enable them, it would be doing our 60,094 neighbors (as of last July 1, and dropping) a favor. When a solar developer shows up, no problemo, with enhanced tax base and jobs to follow.
Plus, an itty bit, we might even help save Planet Earth.

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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