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Fracking: What Cuomo Won't (or Can't) Tell You

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On Saturday, June 2, 2012, I hosted a screening of Josh Fox's documentary film, Gasland, at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, New York. After the film, I moderated a panel that included Fox, Kate Hudson from Waterkeeper Alliance, ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber and Cornell University engineering professor Dr. Anthony Ingraffea. The event was co-sponsored by a consortium of anti-fracking groups in Central New York and beyond, such as World Grain Organization, Frack Action and Shale Shock, to name only a few. Supporters of hydraulic fracturing in the natural gas industry were invited to attend and provided with an opportunity to participate. All of those declined, as did all local, state and federal officials that were contacted. (A link to the e-mail chains for these contacts is available at the World Grain Organization website, www.worldgrainorganization.org.)

Needless to say, with Fox's film as the centerpiece, and with all industry invitees either unavailable or boycotting the event, the program was exclusively anti-fracking. Each panelist presented their observations regarding the short-sightedness of fracking from both an environmental and economic standpoint. Prior to the event, I had appeared on the Brian Lehrer radio show on WNYC with Robert Kennedy, Jr., who had enumerated many of the not-so-hidden costs that would likely be borne by the various local economies in the Marcellus Shale region that is the target of the gas industry. For those unfamiliar with the film, Gasland depicts the conditions of those who have sold gas leases for fracking purposes, and specifically in Dimock, Pennsylvania, and the environmental consequences of those leases.

Issues of hidden costs to tax-payers for infrastructure that will ultimately line the pockets of very few in the Southern Tier of New York State while potentially causing catastrophic contamination of billions of gallons of fresh water aside, it was Kate Hudson who raised what I view as the most chilling point during the proceedings: that fracking and all of its inherent risks will accomplish little, if anything, to lower the cost of energy here at home. The Great Fracking Race will only bring more natural gas to market which will be piped to U.S. coasts and sold overseas. This will make some small cadre of gas executives and their investors very rich, while possibly leaving behind incalculable amounts of environmental damage and a price tag for the American taxpayer, at a time of fiscal austerity, that is truly unimaginable.

I counted, it seemed, to three, and there it was. Hudson's warning about the work of LNG to bring fracked gas to market overseas showed itself in the July 14th issue of the Economist and its special report on natural gas and the U.S. economy.

In a future post, I would like to address the lack of caution of the Cuomo administration and its failure to present the facts to New York residents about the potentially staggering risks of the natural gas industry's plans for the New York and beyond. In the meantime, read the Economist article and learn how Dick Cheney's long-held dream of exploiting U.S. energy potential means abundant natural gas for China and pulverized infrastructure and irreparably fouled water for the U.S. And remember that U.S. energy companies never want the cost of energy to come down. Never. Ever.

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