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adrian kuzminski

COLUMN: If Facts Can’t Defuse Deniers, What Can?
The View From Fly Creek

If Facts Can’t Defuse

Deniers, What Can?

‘What is Truth?” Pontius Pilate famously asked. Lately, it seems a bigger question than ever. If, like me, you surf between conservative and liberal websites, Fox News and CNN/MSNBC, talk radio and PBS, Sean Hannity and Alan Chartock, you know that you’re getting radically different, irreconcilable
versions of the truth on virtually any subject.

It’s scary.

The other day, driving down Fly Creek valley, it was Glenn Beck on the radio making fun of people worried about climate change, something President Trump calls a “hoax.” Trump, in a recent tweet, approvingly quoted a renegade Greenpeace activist, Patrick Moore, who says:

“The whole climate crisis is not only Fake News, it’s Fake Science.”

There are policy implications as well. The New York Times reports that the Trump administration is planning to alter the reporting of the government’s “National Climate Assessment” to eliminate projections for the years after 2040. That’s when the worse consequences of greenhouse gas emissions are expected to kick in.

Many conservatives reduce climate change to nothing more than liberal propaganda: a tactic by the left to frighten people into submission while providing a handy excuse to centralize government power and move towards socialism.

Call this Climate Change Denial. One is reminded of other, similar Denials, including Holocaust Denial, the denial that priests ever abuse children, or that smoking causes cancer.

What these denials all have in common is a rejection of overwhelming factual evidence. Photos, documents, and testimony about Nazi extermination camps are brushed aside or said to be fakes.

Accounts of child abuse are dismissed as preposterous. The established correlation between smoking and lung cancer is reduced to speculation.

In the case of climate change, the documented accelerating effects of humanly generated greenhouse gases warming the planet are simply ignored.

This in spite of a near consensus among climate scientists.

An oft-quoted statistic states that something like 97 percent of climate scientists agree that the evidence shows that human activity – using fossil fuels – is the main factor driving climate change.

This near-scientific consensus is blown off by climate deniers. One wonders if they would reject a medical diagnosis given by 97 percent of doctors, or legal advice given by 97 percent of lawyers. That would be considered, by most of us, classic cases of denial.They key tactic of deniers is to find any dissenting opinion at all, and use that to argue that the issue in question remains unsettled.

If you’re an addicted smoker, if you benefited by the appropriation of Jewish property during the war, if you’re a church trying to avoid scandal, or if your economic security depends on the continued use of fossil fuels, then you have an incentive to deny that smoking causes cancer, that the Jews were dispossessed and murdered, that priests molest children, or that humanly created greenhouse gases cause global warming.

Deniers come down on the side of calling something into question just because it’s been disputed. It’s a clever strategy that substitutes opinion for evidence, and it’s become a staple of fake news. It turns into denial when it persists in the face of overwhelming evidence.

This allows climate-change deniers, Holocaust deniers, child-abuse deniers, cigarettes-cause-cancer deniers, and other deniers to sound reasonable. I have my opinion, you have yours, they say, while subverting the truth.

Denial isn’t a monopoly of conservatives, to be sure. Many liberals, for instance, deny that globalization has dramatically increased economic inequality, or that open borders have negative consequences, or that there are gender differences, or that Trump voters are anything other than stupid, misguided “deplorables.”

Indeed, who among us hasn’t fallen into denial at some point in our lives? If I’m focusing here on climate change Denial, it’s because climate change is arguably the most disruptive challenge we face. It’s a denial we can no longer afford.

Absolute certainty isn’t required to make informed, rational decisions. What’s necessary is an objective, reliable standard of evidence, not uniformity of opinion. There will always be outliers who reject objective standards, out of fear, greed, or sheer craziness.

In such psychological states, objectivity itself is denied. Truth, by contrast, is what we normally observe in our common experience, including what we are most likely to experience in the future. We ignore it at our peril.

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

KUZMINSKI: A Guaranteed National Income?

COLUMN

A Guaranteed National Income?

Democratic president hopeful Andrew Yang flips pork chops during a swing through Iowa. (Yang2020 photo)

By ADRIAN KUZMINSKI • The View From Fly Creek

You might have heard of  Andrew Yang. He’s running for president as a Democrat. A long shot, for sure, but he’s already generated considerable interest and support.

Last month, he announced that he had received contributions from over 65,000 donors in over 20 states, enough to qualify him for
the first round of debates by the Democratic candidates.

Yang, from a Taiwanese immigrant family, was born in nearby Schenectady (like our congressman, Antonio Delgado), and became a corporate lawyer working for startup companies. Later he served as the CEO of Manhattan Prep, a company which administers the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for business school applicants. He went on to run a non-profit, Venture for America, whose internship programs place graduates into startups across the country.

As a presidential candidate, Yang stands out for proposing what he calls the “Freedom Dividend,” a $1,000/month payment, or guarantee annual income, to all U.S. citizens over 18 years of age. There’s a long interview on “The Joe Rogan Experience” explaining his ideas which has received over 2,600,000 views. (Type “rogan” and “yang” in the youtube.com search line.)

Yang’s campaign slogan is “Humanity First,” which reflects his big campaign issue: the fact that automation and robotics are displacing human labor throughout the economy. Jobs are a key issue locally and nationally. The solution may not be more jobs, but something entirely different, like Yang’s Freedom Dividend.

Cutting labor costs enriches investor/owners, but it’s catastrophic for workers. Self-driving vehicles are going to put truck drivers out of business, just as scanners have reduced supermarket checkout clerks, and online purchasing has devastated retail outlets.

Automation affects not just factory-line workers, but most wage-labor, even on a professional level. Doctors, lawyers, and tax preparers are being replaced by remotely controlled automated services, the way travel agents have been replaced by online booking, and teachers and college professors now compete with online courses. Certain service sectors – plumbers, electricians, contractors, waitresses – continue to resist automation, but they too are vulnerable.

There are still jobs, of course, but they no longer provide the economic security they used to for the bulk of the population. Traditional wage-labor is a shrinking proposition, ever harder to achieve, leaving most of the population redundant, less and less able to support itself. The jobs that remain are all too often low-skill and low-pay, insufficient to support a family.

Labor, Yang is telling us, is no longer the source of security and value it once was. His attempt to restore economic security – a basic guaranteed income – is a radical departure from the usual remedy of trying to “create” more jobs. The government simply prints and sends you the money, instead of trying to find you a job.

If you just give people money, they will spend it, and stimulate the economy. At least that’s the idea. Adding money to the economy – all other things being equal – means more dollars chasing the same goods and services. That’s inflationary, unless the new spending is matched by enough new production to satisfy the new consumption.

And that’s the problem. If money is continuously printed faster than the economy is growing, we will suffer inflation, perhaps hyper-inflation. Yang and other guaranteed income advocates have yet to explain how their schemes will avoid inflation.

There might be a clue, however, in his use of the word “dividend.” The word suggests an income from a share of ownership in corporate assets. Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend comes to mind. Since 1982, it has distributed an annual royalty share of corporate revenue from Alaskan public resources (mostly oil and gas) to all state residents. The amount fluctuates (up or down) with corporate profits (and losses) over time. In 2018 the payment was $1,600 per person ($6,400 for household of four).

A guaranteed national income could be modeled on the same idea – an individual dividend paid out of a permanent fund supported by corporations. That would add a measure of public ownership of the means of production. Instead of 100 percent of corporate stock being privately held, a certain percentage could be publicly held, and form the basis of a national dividend.

A national dividend would not only give regular citizens a stake in the economy, it would also ensure that the money distributed would be neither inflationary or deflationary, but an accurate measure of the value of the economy, fluctuating with the ups and downs of economic activity.

That’s not socialism – corporations would still be privately run for profit – but it is a way to share ownership more broadly. Call it populism.

Adrian Kuzminski, retired Hartwick College philosophy professor

and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

 

Don’t ‘Abolish’ Otsego Now, But Consider Broader Council
from ADRIAN KUZMINSKI

Don’t ‘Abolish’ Otsego Now,

But Consider Broader Council

To the Editor:

I am privileged to be a columnist for this newspaper. Readers ought to be aware, however, that editors, not authors, choose the titles for op-eds, letters, and columns.

My last column was misleadingly titled “Abolish Otsego Now.” That suggests shutting down

Otsego Now, and everything it does. I advocated instead that its functions be included in a much broader Economic Development Council.

The Editor also paired his title of my column with his own editorial calling to “abolish” Otsego

2000, suggesting some kind of equivalence which does not exist.

Material submitted to the paper ought to be allowed to speak for itself, and not be manipulated for sensational effect, especially in the very same issue in which it is published.

ADRIAN KUZMINSKI

Fly Creek

ABOLISH OTSEGO 2000!

ABOLISH OTSEGO 2000!

Abolish Otsego Now? Goodness. It’s Otsego County’s “single point of contact” on economic development, the locus of job-creating efforts.

Adrian Kuzminski, our creative and thought-provoking columnist, suggests such in the column on the opposite page. Read the column. But here’s an alternative idea.

How about abolishing Otsego 2000? It’s arguably the “single point of obstruction” to any economic development in Otsego County, evident most recently in the drive to stymie a
10-year effort to  redevelop Oneonta’s vacant D&H railyards.

Here’s just one instance: A few years ago, Otsego 2000 successfully blocked the 160-turbine
Jordanville wind farm because the windmills would have degraded the “viewshed” from James Fenimore Cooper’s Glimmerglass.

The typical 1.5 MW wind turbine creates enough electricity to power 332 homes; 160 would have powered 53,120 homes, more than double the 23,921 homes in Otsego County.
Now, Otsego 2000 has dug in its heels on bringing any more natural gas to Otsego County. Zilch. Nada. Zero.

Elephant In The Room Undergirds Discourse

Elephant In The Room

Undergirds Discourse

Dismiss Smokescreen Hype

About Dubious New Jobs

In last week’s editorial in this newspaper, Oneonta Mayor Herzig is quoted as saying: “We should not let those who are economically secure, by comparison, tell those who need jobs they can’t have them.”

The mayor was reacting to the March 5 hearing he moderated at the Foothills in Oneonta, where a long series of speakers pushed back almost unanimously against the gas-expansion project proposed by the city and Otsego Now to develop the D&H railyards.

The mayor’s insinuation of class warfare is totally out of line. No one at the hearing told anyone they can’t have a job. On the contrary, the point was repeatedly made – by many people distinctly not “economically secure” – that the development of renewable energy and retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient was far more likely to produce jobs than the proposed railyards project.

Something Like ‘Green New Deal’ Essential, But Impact On Personal Freedom Worrisome

Something Like

‘Green New Deal’ Essential,

But Impact On

Personal Freedom Worrisome

The Big Idea of the Green New Deal, now widely supported among Democrats, is to deal aggressively at once with the twin crises of climate justice and social justice.
The Green New Deal (GND) seeks to combine the progressive goals raised by Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election (single-payer healthcare, free college tuition, taxing the rich, and breaking up big banks) with a wholesale public infrastructure program for an immediate, full-blown transition to a renewable, clean, greenhouse-gas-neutral, energy-efficient economy.
Conservatives, who have no solutions to these problems, are either apoplectic (out of fear that it might succeed) or scornfully dismissive (out of bravado that its absurdity will turn off voters).

What Ails Yellow-Vested Nous Amis Ails Us

WE IGNORE THEM AT OUR PERIL

What Ails

Yellow-Vested

Nous Amis Ails Us

 

Last November the so-called  ‘Yellow Vest’ movement exploded across France. A new gasoline tax imposed by the Macron government sent waves of protesters into the streets.
Coming out in large numbers, they donned as their symbol the yellow safety vests the French government requires all motorists to keep in their vehicles in case of emergency.
The protesters called for a repeal of the gas tax. Initial reports pictured them as rural right-wing populists frustrated by the supposedly pro-environment and pro-immigrant policies of the establishment government.
And indeed the protesters included anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic elements, as well as supporters of Marine Le Pen’s nationalistic National Front party. 

Energywise, We Can Have It All: Natural Gas Now, Renewables Later

Energywise, We Can Have

It All: Natural Gas Now,

Renewables Later

Adrian Kuzminski, Fly Creek, Sustainable Otsego moderator, listens to Zagata. The two alternate a column in this newspaper every other week. In the background is Oneonta Town Board member Trish Riddell-Kent.

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.

KUZMINSKI: ‘Populism’ Isn’t A Dirty Word

Column by Adrian kuzminski for Jan. 3, 2019

Populism’ Isn’t A
Dirty Word,It’s As
American As Apple Pie

BY Adrian Kuzminski

Our columnist was prescient: Adrian Kuzminski’s 2008 study of populism, “Fixing the System,” foreshadowed Bernie Sanders’ and Donald Trump’s populism by eight years.

Since 2016, we’ve had an explosion of political upheavals around the world – all widely described as populist: the Brexit vote in Britain, Trump’s election, and the rise of separatist and nationalist parties in Europe and beyond. We can also include the “yellow vests” in France and movements in places like Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, and the Philippines.Back in 2008, at the time of the financial crisis, I published a book about the history of populism called “Fixing the System: A History of Populism, Ancient & Modern.”  It didn’t make me famous, but it did aim to understand the rising political phenomenon of populism – something which since has morphed into a global tidal wave.

Populism is easily misunderstood. It can be found on both the left and right of the political spectrum. It’s not about how liberal or conservative you are. It’s about the failure of the system to provide economic and social security for a large part of the population.

KUZMINSKI: Public Banks, ‘Greenbacks,’ Might Close Gap Between Rich And Poor

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for December 14, 2018

Public Banks, ‘Greenbacks,’ Might
Close Gap Between Rich And Poor

Adrian Kuzminski

I brought up the Green New Deal in my last column as the only political agenda I’ve seen which, whether we agree with it or not, at least tries to measure up to the magnitude of the two biggest problems we face: climate change and economic insecurity.
Let’s take a closer look.

KUZMINSKI: Democrats Can Rebuild Around Climate Change, Economic Justice

Column by Adrian Kuzminski

November 30, 2018.

Democrats Can Rebuild Around Climate Change, Economic Justice

Adrian Kuzminski

Now that the Democrats have made a comeback by capturing the House of Representatives, they are faced with how to use their new power. Up to now, they have been obsessed with Trump, and split on how to address the problems of the day.
We’ll get to Trump in a moment. But first, let’s look at what the Democrats have to say about the big issues of the day.
These boil down to two super-problems: runaway climate change for all and increasing economic insecurity for many. It’s hard to think of any major issue which isn’t entangled in one or both of these, or that wouldn’t be greatly alleviated by progress on either of them.
Status quo Democrats (the Clinton-Obama tradition) have become the party’s conservatives. They’ve been running the show for a generation, and have failed to rein in either climate change or economic insecurity. There’s less and less reason to think they can deal with these mounting problems.

Progressive Democrats, by contrast, are largely defined by the Bernie Sanders movement, which, revealingly, calls itself “Our Revolution.” They are also influenced by the Green party, particularly by its call for a Green New Deal, recently endorsed by Bill McKibben.
The Green New Deal is remarkable in its focus on the twin problems of climate change and economic justice. So far, it’s the only alternative this writer has seen to business as usual (just Google “Green New Deal”).
The Green New Deal calls for closing overseas military bases and using the savings to help finance domestic renewal. It demands an end to subsidies and tax breaks for fossil-fuel related industries. It insists on an immediate transition to 100 percent renewables.
It identifies the financial system, led by too-big-to-fail private banks, as the main obstacle to economic restructuring. It proposes an alternative public banking system to fund infrastructure, guarantee employment, transition to renewables, offer free education through college, and provide single-payer, comprehensive Medicare for all.

Revolutions are risky business.
Can revolutionary excesses be avoided? Climate change and economic insecurity are increasingly catastrophic. Is a Green New Deal what we need to cope? Is it practical? Can it gain broad support? Can it hope to overcome its formidable opponents? Can its goals be achieved without chaos and abuse of power?
A lot will depend on the answers to these questions.
But, like it or not, the Green New Deal takes seriously our most intractable problems, and gives us a sense of what it will take to deal with them. If we’re going to have a revolution, this is the one the
left envisions.
Progress on big issues is unlikely, however, unless Democrats (and Republicans) learn to deal with Trump. We all know his faults. He has also become the voice of social grievances his critics have mostly, to their peril, ignored. Perhaps most important, he denies climate change and takes extremes of wealth for granted.

Whatever collusions and financial ripoffs might be pinned on Trump, even if illegal, blend all too easily with what many corporations and governments do routinely these days. In these ways, he’s as American as apple pie.
He should be impeached if impeachable offenses can be established. But for impeachment to stick, to avoid the appearance of political vengeance, it has to be part of a larger sense of renewed justice that speaks to the revolutionary changes which seem to be increasingly in the air.
That means getting serious about climate change and economic insecurity – two items not on Trump’s agenda.

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

KUZMINSKI: Gerrymandering Takes Away Our Right To Representation

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for November 2, 2018

Gerrymandering Takes Away
Our Right To Representation

Adrian Kuzminski

The most remarkable thing I’ve seen in this year’s midterm
election campaigns is Chad McEvoy’s op-ed in the New York Times. The headline says it all: “If I win my district, I’ll get rid of it.”
That’s the 101st Assembly District, a model of gerrymandering, which snakes in a narrow strip from New Hartford near Utica through part of Otsego county to the Hudson Valley.
Its shape guarantees that almost nobody living in the district is connected to anyone else in it. Its only purpose is to provide a safe seat for a politician who can be sure that his atomized constituents have no voice of their own.
Chad is running to overturn this kind of all too familiar nonsense.
The 101st district is an egregious case of gerrymandering, but in fact most of our legislative districts work exactly the same way. Most people couldn’t find their state legislative or Congressional districts on a map, or even name them accurately.
The districts overlay and cut across one another in insane fashion. People in one Congressional district are guaranteed not to be together in the same state Assembly or Senate districts.
Divide and conquer is obviously the rule.
Most districts are spread over a large number of communities almost entirely unique in terms of jobs, industry, schools, social services, and so on. That means our local communities are NOT represented in Albany or Washington.
The heart of your community is where you live and work. It includes your neighborhood, the town where you do most of your business and shopping, and the school district where your kids go. For most people – except for those commuting to distant jobs (say 20 miles or more) – these functions mostly overlap.
Call it home.
The largest local unit which people recognize and more or less identify with is the county, which administers social services, collects taxes, provides public safety, manages code enforcement and waste disposal, maintains major local highways, carries out environmental and planning responsibilities, and coordinates local towns which enjoy home rules under the state Constitution.
People know their counties; counties are the largest political entities which still function as communities. The county should be the political district that is directly represented in Albany, if not in Washington.
New York has 62 counties and representatives elected from each of those counties could comprise at least the state Assembly, if not the entire state legislature. That would be one way to upset business-as-usual in Albany and put the public back
in control.

This map of the “spaghetti district” accompanied the New York Times op-ed. For full column, Google “chad mcevoy nytimes.

Of course, counties differ widely in size. The largest county in the state – King’s County(Brooklyn)– has a population of 2,504,700, while the smallest – Hamilton County, in the Adirondacks – has 4,836 residents. But just as towns are represented on the Otsego county Board of Representatives by weighted voting, counties could be represented in Albany the same way.
The larger number of smaller, more rural counties would naturally work together to offset the clout of the fewer number of larger counties.
As far as Congressional districts go, in densely populated areas (like New York City) they should be drawn to be within counties as much as possible. In less dense areas, like Upstate, they can be drawn to include whole counties as closely as they can.
The point is that the interests of, say, Otsego county, would have a direct voice in Albany, something that is NOT currently the case.
In fact, our communities
are not directly represented anywhere at all.
This lack of representation
goes a long way towards explaining why a place like Otsego county has long suffered chronic economic decline and social malaise.
Let me close with a couple of personal endorsements of local candidates who recognize the need for the kind of fundamental change I’m talking about.
One is Chad McEvoy in the 101st Assembly District, as discussed above. Chad wants to strengthen local education, supports single-payer health care for New Yorkers, and advocates universal broadband and green energy as economic drivers.
The other candidate I’m voting for is Joyce St. George in the 51st Senate district. St. George – a feisty, anti-corruption investigator and local business woman who also supports single-payer health for all New Yorkers – is running against our long-time senator Jim Seward, who represents the status quo.
Seward has made a career of recycling taxpayers’ own dollars back to them as perks for which he can take credit; his so-called “economic summits” have gone nowhere; and his environmental record is among the worst in Albany – he’s been consistently rated near the bottom of New York legislators by the watchdog group Environmental Advocates. If you think we can do better on these issues, vote for St. George.
Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy professor
and Sustainable Otsego
moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

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.

Balance Today’s Energy Needs, Tomorrow’s Energy Wishes

Editorial for September 28, 2018

Balance Today’s Energy Needs,

Tomorrow’s Energy Wishes

It’s a great idea.
In a column at the end of August, Adrian Kuzminski – citing the Tompkins County Energy Roadmap, completed in March – wrote,
“Let me suggest … 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.”
He concluded, “Get key people in the room and tackle the problem.”

County Rep. Meg Kennedy, R-C, Hartwick/Milford, invited Irene Weiser, a member of the Tompkins County Energy & Economic Development Task Force, to attended the Sept. 18 meeting of the county board’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. That task force’s mission is to encourage economic growth while working to reduce gas usage.
NYSEG, which also serves southern Otsego County, had proposed an $18 million gas pipeline into the Town of Lansing, an Ithaca suburb. The task force has been working with NYSEG, trying to find an alternative to the pipeline; it issued an RFP (request for proposals), but received no proposals. It is not revising the RFP and plans to try again.
That may mean, as Irene Weiser reported, that the RFP was poorly drawn. Or it may mean there’s no ready alternative to natural gas right now, at least a full alternative.
One IGA member, county Rep. Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, drew the latter lesson. “I struggle with the short term and the long term of it,” he said. “… We need to figure out some short-term solutions while we’re building for an energy-smart future.”

The Freeman’s Journal – Irene Weiser from the Tompkins County Energy & Economic Development Task Force is flanked by, from left, Otsego 2000 President Nicole Dillingham, Sustainable Otsego Moderator Adrian Kuzminski and Leslie Orzetti, executive director, Otsego County Conservation Association, at the county board’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee Tuesday, Sept. 18.

On these editorial pages over the past two months, a number of knowledgeable writers have submitted well-argued letters and op-eds on the gas vs. renewables debate, spurred by Otsego Now’s CGA application to install a natural-gas decompression station in the former Pony Farm Commerce Park at Route 205 and I-88. Kuzminski is in the no-gas camp, joined by Otsego 2000 President Nicole Dillingham. When it appeared to some that the OCCA seemed to be open to hearing more about the decompression station, Executive Director Leslie Orzetti responded emphatically: The Otsego County Conservation Association does not support gas expansion.
On the other side, Kuzminski’s fellow columnist, Mike Zagata, argued fossil fuels are necessary right now. Otsego Now President Jody Zakrevsky said, without natural gas, the Oneonta area has actually missed going after 500 jobs this year alone. Dick Downey of Otego, who led the Unatego Landowners Association in support of the Constitution Pipeline, likewise falls into this camp.
Dave Rowley of West Oneonta, the sensible retired Edmeston Central superintendent, who served as interim superintendent in Oneonta before Joe Yelich’s hiring, probably caught it best in last week’s op-ed: Everyone wants renewable energy, but it’s simply not sufficiently available. For now, natural gas is necessary.

This is a long way of saying, everybody’s right. In the face of global warming – yes, not everybody “believes” it’s happening; but why reject the preponderant scientific consensus? – clean energy is a necessity.
California is on the forefront, with its Senate Bill 100 aiming at 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045. (New York State is aiming for 50 percent by 2030.) Greenhouse-gas emission is a separate category.)
Further, Otsego County’s population (60,000) is 0.02 percent of the nation’s (320 million), one 200th of 1 percent. Even if local energy needs were fully served, it is a negligible piece of a huge national – even international – challenge.
We all want to be part of the solution, but the solution is not going to be reached between Roseboom and Unadilla. It will be developed at the state and national levels, and when there’s an answer, we can support it and embrace it.

Meanwhile, the county’s population is dropping. Some 16.3 percent of our remaining neighbors (slightly more than 9,000) live below the property line ($24,600 for a family of four). That poverty rate is 14 percent higher than the national (14 points).
Plus, there are millions of state dollars – some $15 million so far – targeted for the City of Oneonta’s revitalization.
Now’s not the time to ensure our unmet energy needs – for homes, institutions, businesses and industry – remain unmet for a generation and a half.
Yes, the county Board of Representatives should name an energy task force; Adrian Kuzminski is right. But it should have two goals.
• First, to come up with ways to meet today’s energy needs now; perhaps CNG – compressed natural gas – is part of it (though not XNG trucks on roads that can’t handle them). But so are renewables, like the second solar farm being built in Laurens.
• Second, to fast-track renewables – solar, winds, heats pumps, the whole gamut – to put ourselves on the cutting edge of the future.
For her part, Kennedy is commited to pursue the task-force idea. In an interview, she said it must be made up of “people who want to reduce demand; and people who know the demands.
At base, though, true believers need not apply, only open minds, or the cause is lost.
To end where we began, with Kuzminski: “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.”
So let’s do the job.

KUZMINSKI: Let’s Build On Sustainable Assets, Not Unsustainable Liabilities

Column by Adrian Kuzminski,

Friday, September 21, 2018

Let’s Build On

Sustainable Assets,

Not Unsustainable Liabilities

Adrian Kuzminski

Otsego County needs a new direction for energy and economic development. An important step to that end was taken last week when the county board’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee endorsed the idea of setting up an energy and economic development task force.
Kudos to them! A county-wide task force would give us two things we don’t have now: long-term economic planning and a wide range of interests and expertise systematically participating in local decision-making.
We’re increasingly recognizing how vulnerable we are. We depend on long supply lines for food, energy and necessities. As climate change accelerates, those supply lines become less reliable.
We read, almost daily, of one disaster after another regionally, nationally, and internationally: mega-hurricanes, severe droughts, enormous wildfires, melting polar ice, mass extinctions, etc.
No place is immune from climate change, not even Otsego County. Nonetheless, our quiet corner of the planet looks more and more like a refuge compared to many in other places, and that may be our greatest asset.
In fact, climate change may have some advantages for us: milder winters, a longer growing season, plenty of water.
We may be more resilient as well – thanks to a lower population density – than overdeveloped areas, including coastal cities in the South and drought-prone regions in the West, which now bear much of the brunt of climate change.
We need an economic plan that builds on sustainable assets, not on unsustainable liabilities.

Parker Fish/The Freeman’s Journal – Flanked by Otsego 2000 President Nicole Dillingham, left, and county Rep., Liz Shannon, D-Oneonta, Irene Weiser reported on the Tompkins County Energy & Economic Development Task Force to the county board’s Intergovermental Affairs Committee Tuesday, Sept. 11.

Our sustainable assets include, above all, an uncrowded, serene, clean, safe, attractive and relatively stable environment – something increasingly rare in a world of accelerating climate change.
We have an underutilized rural base, including agriculture, forestry and the potential of value-added products. Farming has not recovered from the death-blow to the dairy industry, it’s true, but if local boutique and organic farmers had more financial support and better distribution systems, they could be more competitive and develop new local products.
We have a high-quality health care system, and we often forget it is our major industry. Even so, it has yet to realize its full potential as a magnet for medical and nursing care.
Bassett Healthcare, as an integrated medical system, provides a superior level of care that could be coupled with additional facilities for assisted living. An aging population will demand it, and we could supply it.
We have, in Oneonta, institutions of higher learning that could be further developed and better folded into the community. Curriculum innovation and more partnerships between the colleges and local institutions and businesses – after the model of the Hartwick College nursing program – could make it possible for more students to stay on in our communities after graduation, as we see in other college and university towns.
Tourism has become the main interface between Otsego county and the world. Our cultural attractions – events, concerts, festivals, galleries, and museums – could be expanded even further. But tourism works only insofar as the powerful symbiosis between our cultural assets and the historical aura and natural beauty of the area is maintained.
Tourism needs to be kept proportional and diversified, so as not to overwhelm the fabric of local life.
And, perhaps most important of all, we have a steady in-migration of people looking for second homes, or retirement living, or the opportunity to conduct internet-related businesses and raise families in a new setting, away from the urban madness.
These new immigrants are attracted by the natural assets they find here, as well as good schools, good healthcare, a lively cultural scene, and a vibrant civic life worth being a part of.
They want sustainability, which we can offer, in contrast to the increasingly unsustainable systems they’re looking to escape.
If I were to make an optimistic prediction about the future of our communities in response to the growing ecological and economic crises, I would look to a synthesis of high-tech internet with a rural, family-oriented lifestyle.
Such a synthesis would realize participation in the global economy with the virtues of small town and country living.
If this is to be our future, if these are the people we want to attract, then we need universal broadband to sustain the economy, as well as renewable energy to preserve a clean and beautiful local environment.
That’s where our investments ought to be going.

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

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