Saturday, July 30, 2011

In Search of the Elusive Middle Ground in Natural Gas Development

Natural gas development is a complex issue. It bigger than hydraulic fracturing or fracing, it is bigger than the issues related to water quality, roads, air quality, lifestyle changes, vistas and above all it is bigger than me in my small corner of the world here in the Foothills of the Catskills. While I cannot presume to understand all its related facets, I understand the part that fits into my expertise and that is the part that I choose to discuss . I do not have all the answers but I can supply the bare facts with little of no intepretation.  I also realize that long after this discussion is ended; some of us will remain living here in NYS while some of us will fly south to warmer lands. So, for those of us who live here fulltime, we will be judged by our successors on how we dealt with this perceived crisis. This is the reality and responsibility of expressing ones opinion openly in a public way and it is a responsibility that I do not take lightly.
Having said that; understanding our need for energy simple; it is as simple as flipping on a light switch, it is a luxury that millions of people live daily with the helping hand of fossil fuels. It is so simple that many people take it for granted; when you flip on your light switch you never wonder whether the lights will come on or not. When we raise our fists to the energy companies, we raise our fists to that which we take for granted and have become accustomed to.  Now ask yourself, are we ready to turn off the lights?
The way I see it, we need energy, and as long as we drive cars, power up our homes with electricity, continue to consume large amounts of fuel as a nation, and as long as there are people or communities willing to embrace natural gas development, a different type of vigilance is imperative. This type of vigilance is geared towards the best available protection measures, responsibility and accountability. I was raised to understand that you never put all your eggs in one basket. This is the other basket.  People need to think proactively, to anticipate potential impacts and find ways to minimize them locally, while at the same time maximizing benefits beyond the financial gain. That is, investing in sustainable ideas that can carry us beyond our reliance on fossil fuels.  We all know the "what ought-a-be" but this is the "what is", simply put, this is our reality.  
It is not about denying that there are problems associated with natural gas development, it is about looking at the problems and figuring out practical and realistic solutions that are within our control. It is also not about winners or losers nor is it about who draws the larger crowd or who gets the most comments in response to a newspaper article or blog post, it is about finding the simpler solutions by balancing our needs, and our available resources, with potential consequences. It is not hoping that our energy problems will miraculously go away if we ban them.
Uni Blake
Otsego Proactive Network

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