Saturday, June 06, 2015

The true cost of the Fracking brouhaha in Rochester and New York

Despite six long years battling this fossil fuel option that hijacked the public’s attention on energy during Climate Change, every bit of news about Fracking continually sends our local media into paroxysms of hope and despair. 
We are halfway to the COP21 Paris Climate Conference in December. Bonn, Germany is now hosting a two-week conference on curbing carbon emissions so that these greenhouse gases won’t make life unsustainable. Pledges from many nations at this point are still falling short of a 2C limit, which many experts believe is way too high. But one of the positive updates to Bonn is a letter sent by six major oil companies asking for a price on carbon. (Don’t get too sentimental about this request because the Big Six are corporations after all and so their altruism is limited to their bottom line.)

With significant recent developments—including India blaming Climate Change for the deaths of 2,330 people thus far in a terrible heat wave, and the soon to be release Papal encyclical demanding that Christians around the world care about this crisis–you’d think the world would be riveted by this historic attention to the worldwide crisis of our time. Many are.

But not Rochester. Even though Dr. James Hansen spoke to over 800 of us on Earth Day about how the 2C goal is too high and our carbon emissions must go below our present levels soon, this issue has been mostly forgotten. Our press isn’t covering the worldwide effort to address this worldwide crisis. Our representatives aren’t talking about it, even to themselves. Think about it. We are living in an incredible moment, where our future is going to be determined by our decisions (and remember, not doing anything about Climate Change is a decision). But unless you get your news outside Monroe County, you’re probably not engaged with what the world is doing about Climate Change locally.

Locally, we are still bemoaning the loss of Fracking. Despite six long years battling this fossil fuel option that hijacked the public’s attention on energy during Climate Change, every bit of news about Fracking continually sends our local media into paroxysms of hope and despair. The long awaited EPA report on Fracking (“EPA Releases Draft Assessment on the Potential Impacts to Drinking Water Resources from Hydraulic Fracturing Activities”) gets the press while Climate Change languishes. For our local media, a battle, however moot and self-generated, is far more enticing to the media than the complicated story of Climate Change.

Both sides draw ammunition from EPA fracking report Hydraulic fracturing can pollute groundwater numerous ways, federal environmental officials have concluded, but the controversial process to extract gas from shale is not causing "widespread systemic impacts on drinking water." The conclusion came with the release Thursday of a five-year national study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The analysis involved a "robust literature review," in the words of the EPA's Tom Burke, of dozens of scientific studies, technical papers and records from industry and activists submitted as part of the contentious and ongoing battle over the wisdom of tapping shale gas to meet the nation's energy needs. (June 4, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

The truth is that there are more than two sides to this media-created Fracking frenzy. There is the side that is working diligently towards 100% renewable energy by 2030. Check out, especially the section on New York. This isn’t nuts, Hawaii is considering 100% by 2040 and science backs up our New York State effort: “Examining the feasibility of converting New York State’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight”.

There is the side that thinks New York is already moving steadily towards cutting carbon emissions via the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

The Surprising Facts About the Clean Power Plan: Most States Are Already On Track to Meet 2020 Benchmarks for Reducing Carbon Emissions A new analysis released today by UCS shows that most states are already making progress toward cutting carbon emissions from power plants by shifting from coal-fired power to cleaner generation sources like renewable energy, energy efficiency, and natural gas. As a result of recent decisions and state laws that predate the proposed Clean Power Plan, 31 states have already made commitments that would put them more than halfway toward meeting the 2020 benchmarks set out by the EPA, and 14 of those states are already on track to meet or exceed them, including some unlikely suspects. States like Delaware, New York, and New Hampshire that are able to meet their benchmarks through collective action with the nine states that are part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)—a multi-state effort to collectively cap carbon emissions from power plants. (June 3, 2015) Union of Concerned Scientists 

There is the side that thinks the EPA’s recent study was very limited and actually says Fracking pollutes drinking water. There is yet another side (our state) that doesn’t think the EPA study addressed many of the other reasons why New York said no to Fracking in the first place:

NY agency: EPA report won't affect state's ban on fracking Business groups are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to lift New York's fracking ban after the Environmental Protection Agency reported the technology hasn't caused widespread harm to drinking water, but the Cuomo administration says the ban will stay. Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Tom Mailey says the EPA review released Thursday focused on impacts to water related to high-volume hydraulic fracturing. But he said the state's review was much broader, evaluating impacts to air, water, public health, ecosystems, wildlife and communities. (June 5, 2015) WHEC Rochester

And there is the side that says that we are not addressing the true cost with any fossil fuels (including Fracking). The true cost of our energy is not the price you pay for this energy at the pump or your electric bill, which has been seriously bankrolled by your government to make it extremely addictive and deadly.

If we are to adapt to and mitigate Climate Change, we must adopt a more mature definition of costs than the one provided by a loony economic system that treats our life support system as an insignificant detail. 

Calls grow for full fossil fuel reckoning From the International Monetary Fund to doctors, voices calling out the fossil fuel industry over its health costs are becoming louder - and more numerous. But a lot depends on the definition of "cost." Six major European energy companies have called on policymakers to put global carbon pricing on the agenda at United Nations climate talks in Bonn this week. They describe this as the most effective way of encouraging greener investments. But as a growing movement shows, putting a price on fossil fuels could also provide a solution to the increasingly visible problem of their costs falling to taxpayers. (June 2, 2015) Deutsche Welle

The greatest cost of fossil fuels is the dangerous illusion that they are affordable and not responsible for this worldwide crisis of Climate Change. 

The True Cost of Fossil Fuels Fossil fuels reap profits in modern economies in part because the costs of their environmental and health damage are not included in their price. A new report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) finds that we're significantly underestimating society's subsidy for fossil fuel use worldwide. The report's co-author, IMF economist David Coady tells host Steve Curwood how they calculated fossil fuels subsidies worldwide annually cost taxpayers and consumers $5.3 trillion. (May 29, 2015) Living on Earth

The true cost of fossil fuels, including Fracking, is that it steals away our time, money, and attention as the window of opportunity to address Climate Change closes.

Time passes. 

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