News of Otsego County

View from West Davenport

ZAGATA: Better Living Through Plastics


Better Living

Through Plastics

By MIKE ZAGATA • Special to

Governor Cuomo is about to extend the temporary ban on fracking in New York and make it permanent via his budget Bill. Some will cheer that action, but those who understand its unintended consequences won’t be among them.

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

Indeed, they will live in fear of another pandemic where we don’t, as a result of his ban, have access to the materials needed to combat any medical illness – not just virus attacks.

Remember, fossil fuels like oil and natural gas aren’t just used for fuel.

How can a rational individual make those statements? Well, here’s how. Hydro-fracking for oil and natural gas, in addition to traditional production techniques, provides the raw material for all plastics and most pharmaceutical drugs/medicines.

Plastics are essential in the manufacture of those things needed to combat disease and save lives. They are used in thousands of products that increase the quality and safety of everyday life.
The list includes, but is not limited to: those much sought-after ventilators, face masks, goggles, IV bags and tubes, nearly all medical PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), heart stents, surgical gloves, syringes, insulin pens, catheters, inflatable splints, incubators for premature babies, dialysis tubing, artificial hips and knees, plastic pill casings (medicine), plastic implants for hearing, plastic cups and pitchers, eye patches, inhalation masks, disposable gowns, urine continence and ostomy products, tamper-proof caps, Petri dishes for microbiology cultures and thousands more.

Please read the list carefully and determine what your life might be like if you were no longer able to get one or more of the items you need to maintain the quality of your life.

One or more versions of the hydrocarbon methane (natural gas) are used as feedstock during the manufacture of most of the drugs we rely on to save, or maintain the quality of, our lives. Picture your world without them.

On a more morbid note, think about body bags. Consider that, if all natural gas
drilling was banned, we would be wrapping our meat at the grocery store and those who perish from the coronavirus in newspaper instead of plastic. What would that look like today in New York City?

Beyond medical uses, plastics have numerous other applications including, but not limited to: Motorcycle, skiing and cycling helmets, window safety glass, seat belts, nylon/polyester air bags and seat belts for safety in cars, cushioned foam dashboards, shock absorbing car bumpers, firefighter PPE (including jacket, pants, and boots), space suits, fishing waders. bullet-proof glass, clothing, eyeglasses, etc. Are those things you want to be without?

Think about what’s going on right now in our hospitals.

Can the healthcare providers and patients afford to rely on the wind and sun to provide the energy necessary to run the ventillators? What happens when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining – about 40 percent of the time between the two?

We all want a quality and healthy lifestyle along with a quality environment. We’re beginning to understand that without an abundant supply of oil and natural gas at this moment in time, both are at risk.

We’ve done a great job in this area of basing our economy on tourism and discouraging manufacturing. This summer will tell us if that was a wise decision.

ZAGATA: Democrats Keep Placing Blame On The Other Guy


Democrats Keep Placing

Blame On The Other Guy

By MIKE ZAGATA • Special to

If you’ve been following the governor’s response to the inability of folks on Long Island or Westchester County to acquire natural gas from Con Ed or National Grid to heat their homes, you must be flabbergasted by the newest twist of events. The governor is now blaming the Public Service Commission and the DEC, two agencies he controls, for the energy shortfall. Come-on man – bite the bullet and take responsibility for the problem you created.

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

Along those lines, I read with interest in last week’s issue of this paper a call for the Democrats to take over the majority control of the Board via this year’s election. I admire the author for his candor, but I take issue with his approach to bettering the quality of our lives. Using quotes from the McEvoy Memo as a basis, here’s what will happen to our County if the Democrats win a true majority. I’m doing this at the same time another paper released a six pages list of about 1,800 names of people who are delinquent with their taxes. What does that tell you about our economy and the agenda of those who have habitually opposed the energy and infra-structure needed to grow our economy?

Let’s break down some of his quotes into manageable bits:

• “There is a fundamental sentiment that current and past leadership has done little more than
manage the slow senescence of our region. Our current economy is a reflection of the ills of decades of declining population, unhealthy demographic trend lines, and systematic under-investment in our physical, energy, information, and human infrastructure.” You must be kidding me. A Democrat had the audacity to write that – in spite of the fact they have repeatedly opposed anything that would change the status quo.

• “We could finally pursue critical green initiatives.” Who is it that has opposed the proposed wind farms? Who was it that opposed the proposed biomass plant? What is a “green” initiative? What we should be pursuing are initiatives that are supported by good science that will, for every dollar invested, improve the quality of our environment. Wind farms and solar farms may or may not do that. In order to site them, either agricultural or forest land must be cleared. That agricultural or forest land was sequestering carbon via the process of photosynthesis and won’t do that after being cleared. Will the electricity generated by wind or solar farms that will occupy that land produce enough electricity to reduce the need for fossil fuels by enough to offset that loss? If not, we shouldn’t do it.

• “With the goal of protecting our natural and agricultural land.” Do we want to protect/preserve or manage? We protected for decades and found out that by favoring mature forests we were inadvertently evicting those species of birds and other wildlife that depended on grasslands, brush and young forests. The Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy are now supporting forest management, not preservation, via the “Young Forest Initiative” is an effort to restore the population levels of about 43 species of migratory birds. In addition, research has shown that young forests sequester more Carbon than older, mature forests.

• “Increasing our appeal to tourists.” Lake George attracts more tourists annually than we ever will and, guess what, they found out you can’t build an economy in upstate New York on tourism alone. There isn’t anything to do during the “shoulder” months and thus full-time employment isn’t an option. Folks leave looking for full-time jobs and those who live here complain about the short-term renters.

• “Doing our part to fight climate change.” What does that mean and what will it cost? Are we talking about the “Green New Deal”? If so, we simply can’t afford it. Are we talking about adopting what the city of Seattle did to address climate change?
They implemented a mandate to force residents to switch from using heating oil to an alternative energy source (not yet sure what that will be) by levying a high tax on fuel oil. The average cost of the proposed conversion was $10,000. If we can’t afford to pay our taxes, can we afford to pay more to heat our homes and cook our food?

One thing we could do is attempt to find ways to encourage organic farming where we might cut the emissions and environmental pollution from chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. Unfortunately, it takes about 40% more land to produce the same yield obtained when those chemicals are used. That being the case, the trick is to clean up these practices in ways that don’t require converting more land to agriculture to produce the same amount of food or forcing large parts of the world to go hungry. It seems there are always trade-offs.

• “Smart invasive species control.” Just exactly what is that and, once you define it, how do you expect to pay for it? Please read the list of invasive species, including Japanese Knot Weed, and list just one that we have eradicated. Unfortunately, herbicides are the most cost-effective and effective way to control, not eliminate, invasives.

• “Continuing to resist fracking and other extractive land uses.” Do you use oil or natural gas to heat your home or cook your food? If you do, you simply can’t support this agenda item without being a hypocrite. Do you drive on salted roads in the winter? If you do, then you can’t support banning extractive land use as salt is mined.

Final quote: “imagine an Otsego County where the agenda is being set by a Democratic chair.” In all honesty, I’m having a hard time doing that. I hope a majority of the readers agree.

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

Life Without Fossil Fuels? Where Would We Start?



Life Without Fossil Fuels?

Where Would We Start?

Do you really want to stop using fossil fuels?  Your immediate answer may be a resounding “yes.”  However, that could change your life in a way you hadn’t anticipated.  That’s because so many of us grew up in cities and have no real tie to the land or to how the things we rely upon in our daily lives come from or how they are made.

Do eggs, tomatoes and bacon come from the grocery store?  That may be where you purchase them, but that’s not where they originate.  They are grown on farms, often located thousands of miles from the store where you purchased them.  When you purchase a tomato during the winter, it likely was grown in California.  The eggs you buy likely were hatched by chickens residing in huge poultry farms in the South that were fed with grains from the Midwest.  The bacon probably came from hogs grown in Iowa.

Is Any Government Agency Efficient?


Is Any Government

Agency Efficient?

By MIKE ZAGATA • View From West Davenport

When Bernie Sanders starts a sentence by saying “The truth on this matter is,” it’s time to reach for your wallet to see if it’s still there.  He’s not alone in that regard, as there are lots of candidates trying to sell us on the virtues of socialism.  To learn how socialism has affected you, read the last three paragraphs.

book, “Our Revolution,” developed by the Stephen Colbert show, that has been circulating on Facebook.

The major differences between socialism and capitalism can be defined by the role of the government.  In general, capitalism affords economic freedom, consumer choice and economic growth. On the other hand, socialism, which is an economy controlled by the state and planned by a central planning authority, provides for a greater social welfare and is expected to decrease the business fluctuations likely to occur in a free market.

Capitalism is a market-based economy made up of buyers (people) and sellers (private or corporate-owned companies). The goods and services that are produced are intended to make a profit, and this profit is reinvested back into the economy.

The U.S. is considered to be a capitalist economy, along with most of the modern world.  Economists, however, are quick to point out that almost every society has a socialist aspect or program within it, i.e. Social Security.

ZAGATA: Power Grid Mixes Good, Bad And Ugly Electrons



Power Grid Mixes Good,

Bad And Ugly Electrons

A few weeks ago, an article appeared about installing a geo-thermal system to heat and cool the family home.

The subject was very transparent about the fact geo-thermal systems require considerable electricity to run the pumps that circulate the fluid and to provide the energy necessary to make up the differential between the temperature of the water sourced from beneath the ground (normally 55 degrees) and the thermostat setting during cold nights (usually about 68 degrees).

He then explained that he buys his electricity from a co-op that buys it from the New York Power Authority (NYPA) via a purchase contract.  The source of the power in that contract with the NYPA is hydro.  The author went on to say that because of this arrangement, they are not burning any fossil fuel.  Unfortunately, that may not be the case.

How can that possibly be?  They buy their power from a company that sells hydro-power to their supplier.

It’s because the power that is purchased by the co-op from the NYPA must enter the “grid” of transmission lines in order to be delivered to their home.  Once a given electron enters the grid, it is co-mingled with other electrons from other energy sources including coal, gas, oil, solar and wind.

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