Cuomo’s Choice on Climate Change: Just Talk or Ban Fracking
Last week, as the seawater storm surge brought on by Hurricane Sandy still sat many feet deep in New York’s costal neighborhoods and subway tunnels, Governor Andrew Cuomo made an intelligent assessment of the situation. “Climate change is a reality… Anyone who says there is not a change in weather patters is denying reality.”
That such an obvious statement became news is troubling on multiple levels. But the fact remains that many mainstream political leaders are still reluctant to reference climate change at all. For Gov. Cuomo to do so in a clear and definitive way was important and meaningful, and he deserves credit for it. Yet a huge question remains as to whether he will choose to take action regarding climate change, rather than merely acknowledge its existence. His looming decision on fracking will answer that question.
Ultimately, any effort to counteract the growing effects of climate change will have to include a decisive turn away from the burning of fossil fuels and toward a future of clean, renewable energy sources. Of course this means diminishing our damaging dependence on dirty coal and oil. But it also means acknowledging that so-called “bridge” alternatives, including natural gas, are false solutions. By opening up New York State to natural gas fracking, Gov. Cuomo would simply be perpetuating the destructive status quo.
Those who argue that natural gas is better for our environment and our climate than other fossil fuel sources are just plain wrong. The facts prove otherwise. While it’s true that emissions from burning natural gas contain less carbon dioxide that those from coal or oil, this statistic ignores the huge environmental impact of methane discharge. As much as 90 percent of fracked natural gas can contain methane, which has far greater short-term climate, impacts than carbon. In fact, over a 20-year timeframe, shale gas actually has a more damaging greenhouse gas footprint than oil or even coal.
When it comes to the specifics of fracking for gas, the picture grows even grimmer: emissions from greenhouse gases take place at every step of the development, processing and transport stages. The National Research Council estimated that greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas extraction are likely to be higher than emissions from conventional gas. The Environmental Protection Agency agrees.
If political leaders like Gov. Cuomo decide to follow the false promises of natural gas, huge infrastructure development would be required. The building of huge networks of pipelines and processing plants would cost enormous sums of money, all of which could otherwise be spend on clean energy technologies. Every dollar spent now on natural gas development is a dollar not spent on our long-term energy future.
That facking ought to be banned for a whole host of reasons that have nothing to do with climate change — like protecting drinking water supplies and preventing the mass industrialization of our rural landscapes — isn’t the point here.
As Gov. Cuomo tours the damage from Hurricane Sandy that will take months (if not years) to repair, and as he talks with the families whose lives were shattered by the storm, he’d do well to read up on the facts about natural gas fracking. Because talking about climate change is one thing, but doing something about it is another.
Take a moment now to thank Gov. Cuomo for speaking out about climate change and encourage him to do something about it by banning fracking in New York.