The Foolishness of Absolutism Under the Guise of Environmentalism

"Environmentalists" - MarkindDaniel B. Markind, Esq.
Weir and Partners, LLP

 

Absolutism is the bane of both environmentalism and national security, as Dan Markind demonstrates with his analysis of fractivist, anti-pipeline activity.

It’s a few years too late, but the foolishness of absolutism under the guise of environmentalism finally is becoming too much to ignore.  Just two weeks after I railed against New England importing natural gas from Russia, the ultra-liberal Boston Globe joined in.  On Tuesday, in a remarkable 2,000 word editorial, the Globe finally said what needed to be said about the anti-pipeline movement.

Where I disagree with the Globe is in its portrayal of Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey as a fighter against these gas shipments.  Markey may have demanded the Federal Government stop the importing of gas that was drilled in Russia, but Markey has done nothing to alleviate the problem New England is causing itself by its environmental policies.

If anything, he’s done the opposite.  It is curious that while Markey demands Federal action to stop these Russian gas shipments, he remains mute over the usurpation of Federal control over our interstate gas pipelines by ideological state regulators under the pretense of protecting clean streams.

Environmental absolutist self-righteousness isn’t limited to New England, of course.  I saw it firsthand at the Delaware River Basin Commission hearings in Philadelphia three weeks agohttps://naturalgasnow.org/message-gas-industry-drbc-hearings-missed-opportunity/.  The West Coast is full of it.  California has sued the Trump Administration over 25 times about rules related to hydraulic fracturing.

Churches, mosques and synagogues in Oregon have environmental committees seeking to prevent more oil and natural gas pipelines in that State.  Oregonians don’t seem to question the wisdom of having their gas and oil brought in by rail over the environmentally sensitive Columbia River Gorge.  In June 2016, 16 oil tank cars derailed from a Union Pacific train, igniting an explosion, spilling 42,000 gallons and forcing an evacuation of the town of Mosier.

Then, there’s New York.

Usurping federal power over interstate pipelines granted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by using a loophole in the Clean Streams Law, Governor Andrew Cuomo has blocked the building of any pipeline from the Marcellus Shale region of Northeastern Pennsylvania into New England.  Even if New Englanders wanted to stop paying off Vladimir Putin, they couldn’t until Governor Cuomo approves.  I take no position on the entire Trump/Russia collusion spectacle, but it is ironic that the people actually putting American dollars into Mr. Putin’s pocket are the politicians of New York and New England.

absolutism

By any rational evaluation, the shale revolution and the pipeline buildout have been a net positive for the environment, the economy and our national security.   No matter how ineptly the energy industry makes its case, that use of natural gas has:

  • decreased our carbon emissions to levels not seen since the late 1980’s (more than offsetting any increase in methane emissions),
  • given hope and money to people in rural communities that were on the verge of bankruptcy,
  • allowed individuals with only a GED to get good jobs that actually can support their families and
  • made our country functionally energy independent for the first time in my lifetime.

Rationality often is lost in this debate, however, to be replaced by ideology and extremism.  As with most absolutisms, that has the opposite of its intended effect.  How else do you explain the goings-on in Boston?

What Northeast politician would run on a platform that he/she would encourage drilling for natural gas in the Arctic with lax or no environmental safeguards, transporting that gas in ships of unknown safety through sensitive habitats, charging New Englanders for that gas eight times the amount paid by Pennsylvanians for their gas and sending much of that money to Vladimir Putin’s cronies?  It’s all happening now – right before our eyes.

This is not to say that regulation of these pipelines shouldn’t be robust and vigorous – it should, and this is not to say that there isn’t a place for national environmental policy to interact with national energy policy – it must.  It is to say, however, that these issues need to be examined from a practical, not ideological, perspective.  There is nothing noble about drilling into the ground for gas and oil or in building pipelines.  They all have downsides.  But…so does everything else.

Let’s keep looking for ways to develop, store and transmit renewable energy, including spending large sums of tax dollars on research and development, but let’s not use the hope of a truly renewable, environmentally-neutral power supply to prevent us from doing the things now to clean our environment and protect our children’s future.  To do otherwise would be national negligence.

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5 thoughts on “The Foolishness of Absolutism Under the Guise of Environmentalism

  1. Absolutism under the guise of “energy independence” is also foolishness …

    Can you explain “functionally independent”? what kind of independence do these words cloak?

    The Resistance to Shale Gas continues with today’s news about the Netherlands banning Shale Gas: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2018/02/dutch-minister-confirms-ban-on-drilling-shale-gas-not-an-option/

    Until you live next to Shale development, Shale infrastructure and Shale Risks and the latest explosion and fire like in Ohio, you’re words fall on deaf ears:

    latest fire and explosion:
    http://wtov9.com/news/local/well-pad-explosion-fire-forces-evacuations-in-powhatan-point-area

    • Vera, I’ve lived in the Netherland. It gets quite cold there in the winter and even a sunny day on a North Sea beach is too cold for me to enjoy. The Dutch government also withdrew its support for offshore wind energy, when they realized the cost was too high. The Dutch are paying many more times the cost for that wind energy than for traditional energy. When I was in the Netherlands, the most common heat source was fuel oil, which was quite expensive and the Dutch kept their homes fairly cool in the winter as a result. Electric heat was essentially non-existent, since the cost of electricity was also quite high, even in the 1970. The Dutch government is highly socialized, taxes on everything are high, especially gasoline. The population is very dense, given the actual size of the Netherlands. The Dutch could benefit greatly from an increased supply of energy, especially one that is not imported and inexpensive.

    • Vera,

      Not only have the Russians meddled in our political system, they are doing the same to our infrastructure and financial systems. They support and instigate anti-US oil and gas development and pipeline expansion, so that they can take advantage of the US, selling their LNG in US markets, that could easily supply their own needs, if not for the radical and ill informed anti-everything movements.

      After recent importation of Russian LNG into Boston these Russian comments were made:

      “Referring to the impact of U.S. sanctions on Russian energy, Mikulska suggests in her article that “In this context, the U.S. should rethink its approach to Russia and sanctions; it should look for multilateral, broad commitments rather than unilateral and narrow measures.””

  2. Because there is no credible Republican/conservative opposition to Cuomo for the November elections, he will only respond to pressure from the like of Zephyr Teachout and the Working People’s Party.

    It should be obvious that the NY State Republican party is worse than useless with lackluster candidates and no money. It should also be obvious that your conservative issues and talking points don’t cut crap with the rest of the electorate. If you want gas development, shut up about everything except gas and the positive economic and environmental effects of gas. NY and the Northeast are way more liberal than you; that is the ocean you swim in, deal with it. Most of your political ideas, like climate denial, “clean” coal, the SAFE Act, etc. are non-starters to the electorate.

    If you want to influence Cuomo’s energy policy, keep it simple stupid and pin the shortage of gas and higher utility bills on him. Then show people the irrefutable evidence that renewables cost more, aren’t popular if you can see them and are way behind schedule. You will accomplish nothing until you make gas the solution to other people’s problem rather than the justification of your counter productive political agenda.

    • The liberal electorate in NY will be happy to go along with the liberal agenda as long as they are not inconvenienced. The only way to shake them out of their liberal trance is to shock them into reality. Push for the immediate adoption of the stated liberal policy of only using 100% “green” energy for electricity generation and allow absolutely no increase in the natural gas supply to NY. Totally ban the use of coal and oil for generating electricity in NY. Ban the importation of oil generated electricity. Ban the importation of coal generated electricity. Ban the importation of LNG from Russia. The resulting shock in the next extreme cold wave and/or heat wave will wake them up.

      Getting to 100% non-fossil fuel energy, will eventually happen, or at least, near 100%; but it would be good to have a realistic and economically viable plan for doing so.

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