Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fracking tail wags NYS energy policy

DogWagAngry and impatient as the Fracking industry may be with New York State, we have a moment to examine whether our media has properly characterized the Fracking issue. Fracking cannot proceed without the completion of the SGEIS report and that report cannot proceed until the health impact analysis review is complete; so we have a little time. We should use it wisely.
Mainstream media presents the Fracking issue as if two opposing groups in our state are fighting about our energy future, a debate that is only concerned about reaping the harvest of this new drilling process from within the larger context of a US Fracking boom. But that is not correct. I suggest that our energy policy in New York has been hijacked by a single-mindedness about Fracking solving our energy and security issues. New York State already has an energy policy, which is going to go into effect soon—and it doesn’t even include Fracking.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s The New York Energy Highway blueprint gets hidden behind all the media preoccupation about Fracking. In it Cuomo addresses our state’s future energy needs while addressing Climate Change. The Blueprint updates our electric grid to a smart grid, increases renewable energy (provided federal help doesn’t pull away), includes programs to help citizens conserve energy, provides a lot of jobs, and limits greenhouse gas emissions.  Tragically, if the federal tax extension for wind is allowed to expire this year Cuomo’s plan will languish.
The federal government has not resolved extension of key supports for some of these advanced technologies, which may affect the ability of some projects to advance. (Blueprint , Page 67)
So, why is the Fracking tail wagging the energy dog? Why hasn’t mainstream media focused on educating the public about the importance of saving energy and helping renewable energy as this plan calls for-- instead of Fracking?  Why is Cuomo’s new energy plan invisible to the media and the public, while Fracking, which we don’t need, looms?  Why is the Fracking industry’s hysteria about lives and livelihoods in New York State allowed to go unchallenged, when actually we have a plan that addresses all these issues?  Why are we talking about Climate Change, our energy future, and Fracking in the reverse order of their importance?

Maybe we should have a real debate about this issue. Some think we’ve been having that debate for the last four years. But as Gandhi was once asked what he thought about western civilization, I think a debate on energy as our state adapts to Climate Change would be a ‘good idea.’ Instead, everyone has been slinging mud at each other from their silos under the guise of ‘science’, when the bigger issue of sustainability in a warming world has been avoided altogether.

You cannot come away from Ken Burn’s ‘The Dust Bowl’, about mankind’s greatest environmental disaster, without wondering why the Midwest farmers thought they could solve their calamity by working harder at doing the same thing that was destroying their environment and their livelihood. Somehow we have to stop using more fossil fuels as a solution to Climate Change. Somehow we have to stop a single industry from being our future’s decider.

We here in the twenty-first century should seriously consider the further use of fossil fuels in the context of Climate Change. Not as a singular issue about an industry enjoying disproportionate attention in our media because of its wealth, tax advantages, and ability to promise a cheap solution to a world-wide disaster they are in part responsible for.

If we continue business as usual in this debate on Fracking in New York State, we will end up as the other states have: benefitting a few at the cost of the many, and the many to come. However, if we stop doing what is destroying our chances for a future, New York State could be a beacon of hope in a world mad over quick, cheap, impossible solutions to a very complex problem called Climate Change--rather than just another Fracking victim.

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