Will New York State be fracked? Jan. 12 closes the comment period on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement regarding “high volume hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling.”
The governor says the decision to frack or not will be based on scientific evidence as in “my science is better than yours.” Naturally, the oil and gas companies have evidence to prove that horizontal hydrofracking is “safe;” opponents have evidence that it is not.
But let’s be honest. The decision to fracture the earth for methane will not be made on science—we hardly know anything about horizontal hydrofracking except that we have the technology to do it, never a good reason to do anything. The decision will be made in the political and cultural arena, and money will play a big role.
Consider that eight of the 12 largest corporations in the world are in gas and oil; they have the resources to structure their scientific questions to get the results they want, and they have the clout to influence politics.
But really, the biggest problem with the argument that we’ll base the decision on science is that we are simply asking the wrong question. The question we need to ask is this: “How do we get off fossil fuels? How can we imagine a good life after petroleum?”
Easy energy from hydrocarbons has become an addictive habit, and as with all addictions, we have been in denial regarding the consequences of our actions. Common sense should have told us that there would be a reaction to our activity of digging deep into the earth, bringing up ancient flowers and organisms, burning them, and filling the air with their residue.
But we have focused only on the enormous power we have achieved with this energy, a power so enormous, we now know, that we have changed the very climate of the Earth. Getting methane from fracking is just another way of fueling the addiction, or putting carbon in the atmosphere.
It’s over. We have to move to renewable energy sources—now, not after we frack. We actually know how to generate alternative energy; we have the technology, and we can create wealth and jobs by doing this.
This decision is the ultimate challenge to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and to us—are we up to it? Or will our grandchildren and their children someday ask, “Why didn’t you see the consequences of global warming? Why didn’t you leave us clean land and water?”
This is cultural and political work, and it is ours. It is time to have difficult conversations about what kinds of energy, at what cost, and what impact it will have on us and future generations.
Yes, we need good science, but even more, we need courage and imagination to see a good life for us and our children’s children in a post-petroleum world.
Lynda H. Schneekloth is a member of the Executive Committee of the Sierra Club Niagara Group.