People of a certain age will remember the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show. It was a prime time satirical cartoon that was popular decades before The Simpsons and Family Guy. A regular feature of the show was ‘Fractured Fairy Tales’ which played on malapropisms to get you to chuckle. They were kind of ‘punny’ in their day.
Now, the governor of New York is promoting his own fairy tale. This one is over fracking, the controversial practice of bringing vast newly discovered reserves of natural gas to the surface. New York is sitting on the Marcellus Shale, the second largest known reserve of natural gas in the world at 95,000 square miles ranging in depth from 4,000 to 8,000 feet. If it had been discovered in Texas, every pickup truck in the state would be on autopilot to the nearest wellhead. Money would have been invested, drilling would have commenced, a new source of energy would be available to the public and guys wearing boots and ten-gallon hats would be lighting cigars with hundred dollar bills.
But, not in New York. Many a pickup truck can be seen with a ‘No Fracking’ bumper sticker and the environmental lobby holds a lot of sway in Albany. This is no small matter. Studies done by economists at Citigroup project that natural gas coupled with improvements in alternative energy sources and efficiency of power plants, factories and autos have the potential of making the US energy independent within a decade.
Fracking will attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), which has been on the decline since the start of the Great Recession. Energy independence will reduce our net trade deficit by approximately $433 Billion per year. Energy independence will mitigate our national security concerns in the Middle East, reduce our carbon footprint and create domestic jobs.
I do not mean to diminish the environmental concerns. Anyone who has seen the documentary Gasland knows that fracking, if done improperly can ruin the water supply. But, it’s being done safely in places like Texas and North Dakota.
To stir the pot a bit, President Obama has nominated Ernest Moniz to head the Energy Department. Moniz comes from the MIT Energy initiative, financed by the industry. He has expressed support for nuclear power and has declared the risks of fracking to be “manageable”. Perhaps the President really intends to follow through on the policies he outlined in his State of the Union speech: “this country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy.”
That isn’t to say that there won’t be incidents. These activities are prone to human error, as Three Mile Island, the Exxon Valdez and the BP Gulf oil spill have shown us. But, the opportunity is too great to ignore. The question isn’t should we or should we not frack. The question is how can we do it as safely as possible.
Moreover, we must be view fracking and natural gas in the proper context. It is not the final answer. It is a bridge solution. In the near term, it will reduce greenhouse gases and reduce imports of foreign oil. However, it’s equally important that we support the research and development initiatives of government agencies like the Advance Research Projects Administration – Energy (ARPA-E) that will provide long term solutions that will enable us to be energy independent while emitting fewer greenhouse gases. None of the alternative energy options are economically or technologically viable today. But, they will be some day. Just not some day soon.
For New York, there’s a broader issue. Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared his state “Open for Business” and is backing it up with an impressive public relations campaign. But, such declarations must be backed up by facts. Businesses are driven by dollars not slogans. And, New York continues to lose jobs and people to other states.
In a recent TV ad, the governor makes a big deal about his new policies not increasing taxes. But, if he wants his slogan to be true, he needs to come to grips with the lack of competitiveness from which New York suffers compared to other states. Businesses set up shop in low tax, low cost states. New York is at the opposite end of the spectrum.
The governor must address the structural problems that cause New York to be lagging the nation in job growth and unemployment. Otherwise the ‘Open for Business’ campaign is just another Fractured Fairy Tale.
WHO WILL LEAD?