Building off an earlier post, I want to continue to reemphasize my newfound support for banning fracking and anything that could be remotely as harmful as it. Why the reprise? Well, this past weekend our family spent a wonderful day touring around the Finger Lakes. The area is in our estimation one of the most underrated beautiful places east of the Mississippi, and it is getting better with the huge, and I mean huge, proliferation of wineries over the past 20 years since we have been part of the area.
That’s a vineyard overlooking Canandaigua Lake. There are hundreds and hundreds more spectacular scenes than this one. The area has gotten even better for us recently, with the rise of the small, local brewery – there must be 50 or more of them scattered around the lakes now, and when we were driving through Hector on the east side of Seneca Lake this weekend we even saw a new local distillery. And given the incredible fall weather we had, the crowds at every one of these places were impressive. In addition to the happy people and stunning views, we also saw tons and tons and tons of anti-fracking signs, and we saw tons of these signs too:
(my favorite part of the sign above is that a 2.0 earthquake is wholly insignificant, and does not damage and is felt by few if any people. Earthquakes of that scale are expected to occur about a million times per year around the globe. The earth has about 200 million square miles. My estimate of the size of the Finger Lakes region is that it runs from Rochester to just west of Oneida and is about 100 miles long and about 50 miles wide for a total 5,000 square miles in land area. Thus, the Finger Lakes make up 1/40,000th of the land area of the world. If earthquakes are evenly distributed around the planet (and they are not) then each parcel that is 200 square miles in area should experience one earthquake of this magnitude per year. And therefore the Finger Lakes should be experiencing TWO HUNDRED such occurrences like this per year. I am so sure that the bastions of sciency goodness made this clear to their supporters and when they say “we got a 2,0 earthquake right here in Seneca Lake, it is one MORE than we already should have expected given the natural occurrences of such things, even as innocent as they are to begin with). Is there ANY place on earth, based on this data, where it’s “OK” to store anything underground?
There is a proposal to build a gas storage facility in the Seneca Lake area, and the locals, particularly the wineries, seemed to have come out to strongly oppose the facility. I don’t actually want to weigh in on the specifics of “the debate.” Instead, I’d like to ask the paragons of sciency goodness for a little science. How much risk to human health and well-being is there from storing gas? I’m not even talking about the fracking itself, instead just storing it? OK, then move onto the fracking? What are the known risks to human health from escaped methane gas? What are the known risks to human health from fracking chemicals escalating from depths? What are the known risks from the micro-quakes that can be caused by parts of the fracking process? Indeed, you are going to spend a LOT of time looking for any real impacts on human health and well-being from any of that. What you WILL see are that there are risks from fracking because it is, like a lot of things, an industrial activity – requiring lots of trucks transporting people, water and chemicals, and of course the emissions that result from running generators particularly for the transport stations. Therefore, you can think of ANY industrial activity as generating the same concerns.
To make this more concrete, how are all of the people who visit wineries and breweries getting there? Are they flying on fairie wings that emit orange blossoms instead of CO2 and noxious emissions? How are all of the wine bottles shipped to distributors and restaurants and tasting rooms and liquor stores all over the Northeast? Are they shipped on huffalumps? If we want a “gas free Seneca” why are those forms of industrial activity OK but not the storage of gas in tunnels that are already there? Again, this is not to say that I want the storage to happen, this is merely to ask what is different about the industrial farming that the finger lakes have turned into and the arguments made about the gas?
Or what about the risks posed to the watershed? Turning the entire Finger Lakes into a hop farm, vineyard and corn farm obviously has serious implications for the water quality, and the more these areas are farmed, even if organically and sustainably, the greater the threats to soil erosion and agricultural runoff into our lakes. I am sure, yes sure, that the risks to water quality from those activities are far more serious than from gas. So why the different treatments? Is it simply because a grapevine is prettier than a salt-tunnel?
Finally, and most important, if we truly cared about the impact of our activities on human health and well-being, and I think we should, then it is stunning to me that we allow wineries and breweries not only to exist, but that we have tax dollars being used to support the “Finger Lakes Wine Trail” and the “Finger Lakes Beer Trail.” I’ll leave this as a little research exercise for all of my sciencey-good readers, but how many deaths occur in the United States each year as a result of over-consumption of alcohol? How many families are destroyed because one or both parents are abusers of alcohol? How many road traffic accidents each year are caused because a driver or pedestrian was intoxicated? How many billions of dollars of higher insurance fees and medical bills are required because people in America abuse alcohol? And how serious are those risks as compared to ANYTHING gas storage, or fracking, or just about ANY iudustrial activity has been demonstrated to cause? Go look at the data oh ye bastions and sciency-goodness and please do report back to me. I am quite familiar with it.
I am 100% on board with banning fracking and with not permitting the gas storage as long as you show me the known epidemiology of these things. And then, since we can agree that risks at the levels and magnitudes imposed by gas are truly unacceptable, I will march hand in hand, banner-in-banner, slogan-in-slogan with me comrades to make sure we eliminate ANY threat to the health and well-being of the people of the Finger Lakes and central and western New York that is as bad or worse than fracking and gas storage. It will be great fun setting fire to the thousands of acres of vineyards. It will be incredibly powerful and moving to watch the dismantling of the hundreds of tasting rooms, so that we can convert those into the schools and outpatient medical facilities that our communities have a right to. It will be truly inspiring to tear up the roads around the Finger Lakes so we can put an end to the scourge of the drunk driver and the emitting fuel vehicle so that people can enjoy the clean air and water that they truly have a right to. It will be a testament to human progress to remove the millions of tons of stainless steel embedded in fermentation tanks and brew kettles and hot liquor tanks and mash tuns and see them reforged into the mighty windmills that will end our need to have gas stored beneath our precious lakes. It will be a testament to human progress to stop the hundreds of winemaking enthusiasts from their orgiastic travel to France and Germany and Italy where they learn about the stupid art of making people drunk and emit carbon ton after carbon ton from their journeys – they can now all be freed to be nurses and school-teachers. If only all of the people of the Finger Lakes were not blinded by their greed and the almightly dollar would they see the error of their ways and truly turn the area in the safe, bucolic, clean, free place that was god’s intention for it.
And don’t go starting to tell me that “wineries promote economic development!” After all, the clientele around the lake, and I’ve seen it for 20 years, is a wealthy one. Are you using the old dead voodoo idea of “trickle down” economics to argue that the expansion of the wine industry is good for everyone in the Finger Lakes? In whose pay are you? Are you cashing weekly paychecks from “Big Wine” to spout this propaganda? Do you really want to walk down this dreaded path? After all, no one likes cheap gas to warm a home. No one likes cheap gas to cook over. No one likes cheap gas to be used as a backup generating source to deal with the intermittency problems of wind and solar. After all, no one likes the cheap gas that helps us create the fertilizers that are vital for our successful agricultural system. Nope – it’s all bad, all the time.
So, what say ye?