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Addressing the “anti-Frackers are hypocrites!” charge

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The question, as we move deeper into Climate Change, is not how many anti-frackers in New York State heat their homes with natural gas (It’s one of the ways anti-frackers are dismissed. See the comments on my article:“Aftershocks of NYS landmark decision on local Fracking bans”). The question is: how can we stop business as usual with fossil-fuel-based energy and move to energy sources that don’t emit greenhouse gases?

Too many pro-frackers dismiss those who message that we need to stop digging for more gas and oil because at the core of their argument pro-frackers don’t believe in the science of climate—though they tend to believe in the ‘science’ of present-day economics, and presumably, the ‘science’ of drilling for gas and oil. Pro-frackers cherry-pick their way through science and only pick those arguments that buttress their belief in fossil-fuel business as usual. The science says overwhelmingly that our use of fossil fuel is warming up the atmosphere faster than it has warmed in at least 10,000 years—which is faster than most animals and plants can adapt, and probably faster than we can adapt also.

However, New York State is fully capable of transitioning to renewable energy. Read “Examining the feasibility of converting New York State’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight” (M.Z. Jacobson et al. / Energy Policy 57, 2013) As for the argument from those who are hell bent on hammering the present need and existence of fossil fuels, no one thinks that the transformation from fossil fuels to renewables can be done immediately—it’s a change of direction we need from an energy source that does destroy our environment to one that doesn’t. The quicker the better.

But too many pro-fossil fuel folks are comforted that those who think we must move to renewable energy are simply a bunch of hypocrites, driving on gasoline, and heating their homes with natural gas, while crabbing about fossil fuels. This argument has many problems, not to mention it’s depressingly disturbing that it is still being used with such distain even now as CO2 reaches 400ppm. Here’s the problem:

  • The renewable industry has to compete with oil and gas industries that get billions of tax subsidies each year.
  • Oil and gas industries spend millions preaching to the public that we can solve Climate Change with fossil fuels—which is a lie.
  • The argument ‘if you heat your home with gas and rail against Fracking you must be a hypocrite’ is ludicrous because all of us are condemned to a fossil-fuel based transportation, economic, and energy system. No other energy zeitgeist has a chance! It’s the whole point about needing a revolution, changing quickly and on a large enough scale so that our energy system doesn’t heat up the planet more.
  • Local media still views NYS energy options during Climate Change through the lens of the Fracking fight. Rather than inform the public that there are many other options to address our energy needs during a rapid warming, the local media are still stuck on only the legal and political ramifications of this controversial fossil-fuel drilling technique.
  • There should be no Fracking debate at all. We are all losers if we continue to debate Fracking in the midst of a warming planet. In this sense Climate Change is like no other issue. Historically we have battled each other for eons to decide on positions where neither side will give. But on the issue of Climate Change, the physics of how our planet uses energy from the sun compels all of us towards the same result—regardless of what intellectual or belief positions we might hold. It is delay that will doom us; the Fracking issue is only a side-show.

The great tragedy of this six-year Fracking debacle in New York State is that it has stolen everyone’s attention from the real problem—energy and Climate Change. There’s a great danger that humanity’s inability to see the big picture and only focus on the political and economic fights stirred up by the self-interests of a few will render our life support system null and void.

Bill McKibben, the great environmentalist and writer, gets at the heart of this hypocrisy issue:

“Hypocrisy is when you say one thing and do another at the same time. Growth is when you weigh new information and then change your thinking and behavior.” (We Want People to Change Their Minds, July 10, 2014, The Huffington Post)

If you don’t understand the Climate Change issue, you tend to think only the economic issues have merit. The fossil fuel industry and those who pledge allegiance to it, just like the tyrants of old, want it all—all the land for drilling, all the transportation options, all the money—and none of the responsibilities of this world crisis. We in New York State have the possibility of a fantastic economic boom if we keep our water free from being Fracked, as eventually climate refugees will come to our state from the ravages of Climate Change in their regions. We can change.

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