Voltaire redux

Last week, there was an opinion piece in the Ithaca Journal by Lou Santoni, president and CEO of the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce, and Brian Sampson, the executive director of Unshackle Upstate.  The gist of the piece on drilling in the Marcellus Shale is this:

Harnessing this homegrown resource will create tens of thousands of jobs, generate billions of dollars for the state's economy and provide energy consumers with cleaner, more affordable energy.

As we frequently remind folks, read the comments.  Here's the gist of the lone commenter's response:

As an investment, our natural gas reserves are as sure a thing as it gets. The longer we keep that gas in the ground the greater the return we can expect to see, both in terms of financial and human and environmental health and safety.

Ah.

Looks as though the anti-drillers sense the momentum shifting, that they see that their hysteria is wearing a little thin as far as the general population is concerned, and so a new meme is emerging, one that was voiced by at least one speaker at the Dryden Town Board public hearing on July 20th: the "it's-like-money-in-the-bank-so-let's-hold-off-until-the-technology-is-better" argument—i.e., until perfection reigns in this world.

Right.

Surprise, surprise...today, a "Viewpoint" by Bruce Brittain in the Journal argues that drilling for natural gas in New York should wait.  Brittain suggests several reasons to wait:  for possible "better technology," for potentially higher future prices, for potentially smaller infrastructure footprints.

Then he calls for a ban on hydrofracking to force landowners to wait to see if any of these "benefits" comes along.

Life is imperfect. Always has been, always will be. Tech support here at Redneck Mansion tried "upgrading" the Macs hereabouts to the new Apple Lion operating system.  Isn't working so great, but ya know what? Dems da breaks. We're not going to suggest that Apple be prevented from releasing any new software until it's certifiably "perfect," as defined by somebody other than Apple. 

Mr. Brittain would like to to tell other people what to do with their land... which is their estate, their retirement.  Who is going to compensate the landowner for the loss of rights to drill for gas on his land, or for the loss of gas-drilling income he might have now?

Perhaps there needs to be a landowners' coalition to tell Mr. Brittain that he has to wait to buy the next iteration of the iPad (or the next...or the next...or...) because the technology might improve. Or to not let him remodel his house because someone might come up with better construction material someday. Or to not let him trade in his car for a new one.  It would be better to wait for hydrogen engines, after all.

Does Mr. Brittain stand ready to let us reinvest his retirement account the way we see fit?   

In the public sphere, maybe we should not be remodeling Ithaca High School (creating an eyesore at least as bad as any fracking site and in a "wetlands" (read: swamp) to boot) or buying  school buses because a new internet-based learning model which no longer requires everyone being in one building might come along.  How would that work for ya?

The point is that it's not Brittain's decision to make—it's not his land.  Hydraulic fracturing is a proven, safe (albeit not perfect) technology that has been used for decades.

And it's good to remember that we shouldn't make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Comments

Comment: 
Good post. I found you through a NY Shale Gas tweet. You might find this post of value in your future debates http://energeopolitics.com/2011/07/07/fracking-and-groundwater-contamination-the-data-naturalgas-natgas/ I am a former resident of the 607 area code, and I still have friends back there whose lives would change immensely for the better if the local nat gas resource is utilized. Keep up the good fight.