When it comes to hydraulic fracturing, I just have never been able to imagine a future in which it turned out to be a good idea.
Seriously, it's difficult to picture my grandkids in the year 2064 saying, “Man, I sure am glad they decided to shoot millions of gallons of water and nasty chemicals the drilling companies refused to identify into the earth 50 years ago to extract natural gas.”
And when I do picture it, the kids are being very sarcastic, and filtering water through a huge multichambered, whirring contraption to make it fit for human consumption.
So the decision by New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday to ban fracking in the state is a good idea, although he's kind of saying it's not really him that's banning it. It's not particularly courageous, considering that he waited both until his second election was past and until energy prices plunged so low that it would barely be profitable to collect the gas if it were naturally streaming from tree stumps and could be trapped, pure, in big balloons. But the decision is good.
Even if you believe fracking industry people when they explain how well it all works, those explanations only apply when it all works well. The question is, what happens when human error occurs and it all goes badly? Do we get a giant “Oops, our bad” from an energy provider, along with five decades of pollution, lawsuits and cleanups?
That's not to say that I don't want jobs created upstate, but studies seem to show fracking creates fewer jobs than you’d think, and almost all of them for industry professionals rather than newly trained locals.
And it's not to say that I oppose energy production, or cast my lot with the environmentalists who so often oppose it. What drives me crazy about the most extreme energy environmentalists is that they seem to oppose nearly every form of energy: coal, oil and gas, obviously, but also nuclear, hydropower, biofuel and wind. There always seems to be a bird or plant or habitat or view to protect. These extremists can usually be counted on to support solar, mostly, but solar is far from a single-source panacea in a place like New York that lacks constant direct sunlight.
I drive a car. I heat a home. I know people need jobs, and that fossil fuels need to be burned. But fossil fuels that have to be extracted at great cost, and with a great danger to groundwater, don’t need to be mined in this state, at this point.
Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board.