Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another Terrific Essay from Richard Downey, The Voice of the Upper Susquehanna

[Blogger's note:  I'm told this was scheduled to appear in the 12/31/2011 Oneonta Daily Star, but I can't tell as of right now whether it made it or not, or how much of it made it.  Downey is a former NYC school teacher, now retired upstate, who finds himself leading a coalition of pro-drilling landowners in the Greater Unadilla-Otego area — in a pitched battle against the local forces of "sustainability," whatever you want that to mean.]

For pure chutzpah, you gotta love it.  Adrian Kuzminski tells us “NIMBY is good.”  Move over, Gordon Gekko.  “Greed is good” is so-o-o Eighties.  There’s a new mantra in town.  We’re all New Age now.

In his Nov. 19th Op Ed piece, “Sustainable Shouldn’t Be a Dirty Word,“ Mr. Kuzminski condemns a hydrocarbon based economy, population growth, consumer demand, distant sourced food, energy, and manufactured products, Big Business, Big Government, and unresponsive politicians.  He lauds revitalization of our (organic) agricultural base, and processing local products for local use. Local renewable forms of energy — wind, solar, hydro, and biomass — are good.  Listing the evils of gas (you know the drill — no pun intended), he calls for home rule.

Not a bad list.  I can get on board for some of them.  And both mantras can be boiled down to “self interest is good.”  Again, no argument from me.  It’s central to Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations.”  Capitalism 101.  My argument with Mr. Kuzminski is his grasp on reality and his cramped application of the term “sustainability.”

So what is reality?

Our nation gets 45% of its electricity from coal, 25% from natural gas, 20% from nuclear, 7% from hydro, and 2% from wind.  Solar barely registers.  Wind/solar exists only with massive subsidies.  Solyndra, part of a $16 billion loan guarantee package that was supposed to generate 17,000 jobs, sucked $535 million out of the taxpayers’ pockets.  Chump change, actually.  Each job in the total package is underwritten with over $940,000 of public money.  How’s that grab you?

In transportation there’s no substitute for the internal combustion engine, the diesel, or the turbine.  These engines power 94% of commerce worldwide.  Without them we’re back to the ox cart and boats with oars.  As for electric cars, remember 70% of the generating power comes from hydrocarbons, 20% nuclear.

Hydrocarbons are the feedstock for everything from grocery bags to structural resins.  From the frames of Mr. Kuzminski’s glasses to the synthetic fibers in his clothes to the elastic in his boxer shorts to the “rubber” on the soles of his shoes, Mr. Kuzminski is wrapped in hydrocarbons.  As are we all.

To get those hydrocarbons 90% of all new wells drilled in the United States are hydrofraced.  This 60 year old technology, substantially enhanced over the last two decades by incorporating horizontal drilling, has unleashed the vast reserves in shale formations that make the US the “Saudi Arabia of gas.”  Oil production is likewise increasing.  So much oil and gas is being produced that US pipelines are in reverse flow to accommodate our neighbors to the north and south.  US dependency on foreign oil has fallen from 60% to 47% over the last 5 years.  It continues falling.

With Poland, Germany, Argentina, Australia and China developing reserves, shale gas is upsetting geopolitical power balances.  50% cleaner than coal and 30% cleaner than oil, expect a dip in pollution everywhere gas replaces coal.

No man is an island.  We’re not hobbits in the shire.  From our earliest days we’ve depended on others outside our valley to produce goods that suit our needs and desires.  Somebody outside of Otsego County made the Prius that was parked in front of me yesterday.  Nobody walked to the DEC hearings.  Few of us make their own clothes.  We buy them at Walmart.  Sure, we should eat only local foods but … oh, those oranges!

Mr. Kuzminski lists the evils of drilling — bad water, gutted roads, undesirable real estate.  A suggestion:  get in your car and hydrocarbon your way down to Pennsylvania.  Talk to people; the real estate broker, the town clerk, the guy behind you at the 7-11.  Drive around.  Look at the roads.  Do you see the nightmare scenario painted by the antis?  Search for FOR SALE signs.  I found one 4 miles north of Montrose on the left hand side.  Maybe YOU can find one also!

Then come home.  Ask why are there so many houses for sale?  Why are our young leaving?  Why are our schools emptying out (18% decline in 10 years)?

Why?  No opportunities for young families.  Retirees come for the many amenities Mr. Kaminski enumerates but Otsego’s overall population stagnates, growing ever older.  We’re Scottsdale, AZ, with icicles.  An exemplar of sustainability?  Perhaps somebody‘s, but not mine.

Sustainability is a locally produced cheap form of energy called gas.  Gas will attract and retain industry (think Amphenol) and stabilize our family farms and woodlots and provide tax revenue for our towns and schools.  The good paying jobs generated will attract young workers and their families.  Only opportunity will truly sustain our community.

NIMBY is good?  Yeah, good if you’re a NIMBY.  Not so good for others looking for a better life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Downey calls it like he sees it - and I share his perspective. Kazminksi is merely another in a long line of hypocrites whose daily reliance on hydrocarbons is acceptable to them as long as someone else is paying the price. This doom and gloom scenario that the antis paint is not occurring in other hydrocarbon rich areas of the country - or the world. Only in NY!