Friday, February 25, 2011

Will the Real Upstate, Please Stand Up:
Or Greene on the Chenango?

[I have some Deliciously Real Upstate New York text here from Susan Dorsey of Greene, NY — on the Mighty Chenango, well upstream within the Susquehanna Watershed.  I've not yet met Susan, other than over the Internet, but I understand she's now Veep of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, an organization I recommend to anybody who thinks that humans are still an important part of the environment.  Susan wrote this after attending an "educational session," put on by drilling opponents in Norwich, NY, on Feb. 24 — an event I did not attend, because I just don't have the stomach for it anymore.]  

Dr. Jannette Barth came to town last night.  She spoke at the United Church of Christ, with God as her witness.  Before her presentation, the audience was duly chastised and threatened with fire and brimstone, should they misbehave.

Barth is an economist by profession.  I am not not an economist, nor a PhD.  But I read that two main purposes of Econometrics are to give empirical content to economic theory by formulating economic models in testable form, and to estimate those models and test them as to acceptance or rejection.   It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world, rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation.  Hence, science is considered to be methodologically empirical in nature.

I figure that Econometrics must have something to do with money, and money has something to do with numbers.  When I was in school, we used to have to prove our answers by showing our work.  At the very least, you should be able to show your formulas and show your equations.  While Barth claims the right to pontificate on other subjects such as endocrinology, hydrogeology, seismology, land use policy, taxation, and "farming and tourism" — subjects she admittedly has no background in — as an economist, she should be able to prove her math.

Where are your numbers, Dr. Barth?

So I asked the question:  Where can we find the study you did?  Online?

Answer:  "I didn't do a study.  I read other studies and drew these conclusions."

That pretty much sums up the due diligence devoted to telling the populace across 17 Southern Tier counties what they should and shouldn't do with their futures.  For their own good, of course, as stated by the doctor, "We don't know what they'll do with the money," referring to farmers.  She uses the same criteria for local municipal and school leadership also.  She says they will overspend and over build and then, when populations decline, they will not be able to maintain those levels of services.  Better to keep them down so they won't have so far to fall?  We are not qualified to make our own decisions with money, if we don't have a doctorate in economics?

Both Barth from Croton-on-Hudson, and her sidekick, attorney Nicole Dillingham of Cooperstown via California, spoke at length to detract from the opportunity we have been blessed with.  With absolutely no verifiable facts and plenty of innuendo and deliberate misrepresentations, they spun a story of fear and woe.  But they were unable to answer direct questions from local residents — questions on the very topics they themselves introduced in the body of their respective presentations.  The overall tone from both of them was intimidating to those who can be intimidated by letters behind a name —  and condescending.

Dillingham listed "myths" about gas development.  She expertly skirted the truth, but was called out by questioners at the end, such as, "What do you call someone who wants to use natural gas from somewhere else (as she contends we should), instead of their own resources?"

I can think of several things to call such a person, and none is flattering.  Worse than that are people who hold themselves out to the public as experts, and are respected by virtue of their education, but who abuse the trust placed in them by using slanted, biased misinformation to create fear and panic to further their agenda, while claiming to be impartial.  I would think professional ethics should be considered.  

Dr Barth spoke of the Marcellus multiplier effect, described by her as "every dollar paid by the gas industry generates $1.40," but she questioned whether other industries might have an even greater multiplier effect.

When questioned about her statement by Scott Ives of Norse Energy, the doctor said she was referring to jobs not money.  Come again?

Several weeks ago Dr. Barth was caught out by the audience at the Vestal Library and had no answer to questions regarding tax revenues that would be generated by real property taxes paid by gas companies.  She had no answer, so — like every good academic — she went home and looked it up?  Apparently not.  She was asked repeatedly last night in Norwich why her opinions did not take into consideration the fact that property taxes paid by gas companies are not based on the small footprint of the well head, but are assessed using the income approach to value, so that every cubic foot of production from every well is taxed by town, county and school for their direct benefit.  She is in favor of a "severence tax" which, instead of being kept close to home, would go to the state general fund, perhaps some winding its way to Croton-on-Hudson.

If implemented, that would be double taxation.

Time ran out on the Q & A session as Ms. Dillingham pleaded exhaustion.

I left with one question unanswered:  "Isn't it wrong to lie in church?"

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