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Otsego County has it all. Natural beauty, a significant history, many cultural institutions and colleges, and a noted rural health system. It has two sizeable towns with a varietry of restaurants and ample night lives. The outlying villages have congregations of many faiths, school pride, and local civic and private organizations where neighbors help neighbors. It's a good place to raise kids.

Except . . . where are the kids? In the last 20 years half have moved. Their parents packed the U-Haul and took their young families elsewhere in search of good jobs and opportunity. With that loss, Otsego County stagnates and grows older, schools close, local organizations search for volunteers. Other than Cooperstown and Oneonta, our towns and villages lose the vitality that comes with young families as neighbors. That's a problem. What's to be done?

 

Last month the Chamber of Commerce's Energy Infrastructure and Economy Summit started that difficult conversation. Since energy is a key factor, the Summit centered on sources of energy needed to power an economy that retains the young. The conversation now goes to the County Legislature's 21 member Energy Working Group. That's where the conversation may devolve into an argument. Wish us luck.

 

There are two energy factions in Otsego County . One would use only renewables in any future build-out. They do this in order to save the planet. The second favors ALL sources of affordable energy, including gas.

 

Count me among the latter. Natural gas is cheap, abundant. reliable, scaleable, and its adoption has environmental benefits. Its price lowers overhead, creating jobs. Its infrastructure preserves rural character while boosting rural economies. Its diverse uses enables diverse economic options. And - dirty little secret - it's good for the environment.

 

Drive eighty miles south of Otsego County and you're in the second largest gas field in the USA. The Marcellus produces 25% of the nation's natural gas. Its short history has free market lessons for Hunger Gamed New Yorkers. Pennsylvania's residential gas is about one third the average price in NYS. If permitted, gas would heat New York homes at a premium of 30% of the cost of propane. Take out your bill. Do the math. My calculations show savings of about $900 per year. That's EVERY year, not just the Governor's election year tax refund.

 

Before the shale gas revolution in 2005, only 5% of PA's electicity was gas generated. By 2015 it jumped to 27%. Over that period Pennsylvania's CO2 emissions dropped 46%. A twenty year look-back shows sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide and various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) dropping 86%, 73% and 5 1%repsectively. Those numbers will drop further as Pennsylvania's gas-fired power plants replace coal along the NYS border. Incidentally, Pennsylvania's fracked gas-powered electricity WILL cross that border. Somebody has to keep New York's lights on.

 

Border counties provide good comparisons. One region prospers; the other withers. From 2010 to 2017, manufacturing GDP in Prnnsylvania's Northern Tier grew 24%; New York's Southern Tier's grew 1.5%, outpaced by a factor of 16 to 1. 1,300 farms closed in New York between 2007 and 2017. New York farmers can watch their Pennsylvania neighbors prosper while they struggle. Bradford County (PA) statistics show that between 2005 and 2012 the number of farms increased 12%, the number of acres increased 15%, and the real estate values went up 25%. Compare that to the "For Sale" signs that greet you in New York.

 

Longitudinal data on tax revenue, new businesses. local bank deposits, home sales, charitable contributions, and foreclosure auctions are all good indicators of economic health. If you were picking a winner, on which side of the border would you place your money?

 

Green New Deals proliferate lately. Not to be outdone, Governor Cuomo has one that calls for 100% carbon free by 2040, zero emissions by 2050. No new gas gas infrastructure. This plays well with the True Believers but here's reality. Germany, after twenty years of pouring billions into energiewende, their "Green New Deal "equivilent, has stalled on CO2 emissions. Their high-cost electricity (over three times ours) will use two Russian gas pipelines and three multinational LNG terminals to provide gas back-up for wind and solar. In order to maintain grid stability and lower emissions and prices, the Germans need gas. So does New York. The Governor is now getting early wake-up calls. Con Ed has curtailed new gas connections in Westchester, then raised residential gas rates 11% and electricity 6%. More to come if the Governor doesn't pay attention. He probably won't.

 

Policies have consequences. We have to invigorate New York with all forms of affordable energy, lower the energy prices, and encourage businesses. Watch gas replace coal in the energy mix while making New York a destination for jobs and opportunity for young families. We can start the process with the constuction of the Constitution Pipeline with its outlet to the Leaterstocking distribution line.

 

Then watch the kids return.

 

Keep the faith,

 

Dick

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