The Buffalo snow piled up rapidly but Cherie Messore and neighbors stayed warm thanks to Pennsylvania produced natural gas. What does it take for New York to learn?
Greetings from the snowy wonderland that is my hometown, Buffalo, NY. If you watched any national TV news in the past week or so, you probably saw reporters and weather casters stumble over various Buffalo-isms while lots of snow fell around them. Lots of snow. Really, really lots of snow.
NBC News anchor Brian Williams (a Chemung county native), began one night’s newscast citing that Buffalo was enduring a wicked snow storm, oh and by the way, the same city suffered when President William McKinley was assassinated here in 1901. Really? That’s all he remembered about Buffalo from his New York State-mandated fourth grade local history unit? Well, at least he didn’t drag out the usual “The Buffalo Bills lost four consecutive Super Bowls” rant. Or this gem:
In fairness, only a small portion of the city proper was impacted by this one. Buffalo’s south side and the southtowns suburbs were in this weather event’s bull’s eye. Travel a couple miles north, and folks were still raking leaves off their lawns. At the risk of sounding like a serious old timer, I have never seen this much snow fall at one time. Where I live, we had 79 inches this past week and considering this area usually gets 95 inches in an entire year (Rochester and Syracuse usually get more), that’s pretty amazing. And white and wet and awfully scary. Here’s the view from our porch over three days, followed by some more Buffalo snow in pictures.
Despite all this, I’m grateful that I was safe and warm in my natural gas heated home during the worst of it. Thank you, Pennsylvania, for providing New Yorkers with the power we need survive these days, and the fuel we’ll need now as we scoop our way back to normalcy. High lifts, scooper trucks, pay loaders, bobcats are clearing our roads and parking lots now: in some cases, snow plows and snow blowers couldn’t even begin to tackle the immense piles of fallen (not drifted…there was almost no wind) snow in driveways and walkways.
Their common trait, of course, is their gasoline power source. While an energetic bunch of folks brandishing shovels made their way to Buffalo’s First Ward to shovel off porches and front steps and sidewalks (a southside neighborhood with a mostly older population), this group called The Shovel Brigade Mob couldn’t have accessed the neighborhood unless the big trucks cleared the way.
Buffalonians usually complain that our gasoline prices are slightly higher than the rest of the state (the party line is that the New Jersey refineries has us as the last stop in the delivery circuit), and even with gas prices hovering around $3.30 now, lack of fuel hasn’t been an issue yet.
True, there were some power outages over the past few days, but they were localized and fairly brief in duration. The supply of natural gas was never in question. Our hot water heater, gas dryer, and stove are still keeping us cozy. Even my gas faux fireplace has its requisite glow. And since 86-percent of my WNY neighbors heat with natural gas, I wasn’t alone. According to an article in The Buffalo News last month, my bill may be 20-percent lower this year, too, with no loss in comfort.
In other words, solar panels aren’t at peak efficiency on very grey winter days (the sun shines brilliantly the day after the storm passes), and wind turbines (if you’re wealthy enough to live on a large plot of land, have several thousand dollars on hand to build it, and don’t mind waiting upwards of 15 years to realize your investment) don’t cut it when the wind isn’t blowing.
First responders, contractors, and the National Guard have been here for days from all over the state to lend their help. Governor Andrew Cuomo has been here for almost a week to assess this situation first hand, and assure us that recovery resources would continue for as long as needed. His humvee entourage even passed my home not once but twice to view the most devastated areas.
I hope between media briefings and visits to more storm ravaged sites today (including a few just up the street from the Independent Oil & Gas Association of NY office in Hamburg, NY), the governor took the time to read this in Sunday’s Buffalo News:
When Kenneth G. Langone appeared on a Fox Business Network program recently, the Long Island billionaire went into surprising detail about his admiration for Buffalo and its economic potential.
Langone, 79, co-founded Home Depot, and ranks No. 261 on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans. He has an investment firm called Invemed Associates, and Forbes pegs his current net worth at $2.6 billion.
During his TV interview, Langone advocated for hydrofracking – a controversial issue whose future in New York state is uncertain – to boost the upstate economy…
Q: Why do you support hydrofracking?
A: Look, two sister next-door neighbors (Ohio and Pennsylvania) are doing it and we’re not. And I’ve told (Gov. Andrew Cuomo), there’s no environmental reason not to do this. What happens is, once you get the revival of the economy, watch what happens with education. People become more conscious of public school education in particular. Just give these people the weapons to fight the war.
Q: How did Gov. Cuomo respond?
A: He indicated to me he’d have a fresh mind after the election. Well, the election’s over, and he won. It’s this simple: you look at map, and Buffalo’s in a wonderful, strategic position. Access to waterways, gateway to the west. If you look at that whole region, if you look at Cleveland, Akron, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, that whole area should have a revival all at once. The others are having it. Look at Akron. No reason in the world why Buffalo shouldn’t be part of that mosaic. … The biggest thing I see are the people. These are good, hardworking people that just want to be given a chance. Their work ethic is there, it’s alive and well. They take care of their homes.
Q: How does low-cost energy figure in?
A: Cheap energy makes everything else happen easier. Buffalo obviously in the winter months, you use a lot of energy. But guess what? Anything you can do to drive down that cost inures to the benefit of the people themselves and industry up there.
Q: Do you think the governor will side with you on this issue?
A: Look, the one thing I’ve learned after 79 years: don’t expect anything out of a politician. Expect only one thing: surprises. You have to understand that Western New York needs help. But it doesn’t need welfare, it doesn’t need that kind of help. It needs help in getting itself in a position where it can compete economically, globally, and it’ll be able to.
Perhaps Governor Cuomo should reflect on his conversation with Mr. Langone, and assess WNY’s current situation against the hard realities of a strapped economy. Even with the significant aid and support being given in direct service to Buffalo right now, and the promise to keep helping us weather this rigorous storm and its aftermath (when the snow melts, the flooding follows), there’s no substitution for a robust economy, lower unemployment, reduction in home heating costs, and the benefits of indirect business opportunities. A good economy is a rising sun, after all, even in Buffalo.
The city of Buffalo enacted a “symbolic” ban against hydraulic fracturing, followed by a similar ban in the suburban town of Amherst, a pair of pyrrhic victories since Erie County isn’t considered viable for Marcellus Shale development. There’s a small but vocal army of people who oppose fossil fuel use and shut down their listening and learning faculties when it comes to understanding how our region can (will!) benefit from shale gas development. But, when consumer costs for home heating are kept relatively low by Pennsylvania’s successful shale development, it’s hard not to pay attention to Mr. Langone’s sound reasoning.
Our region is working hard to rebuild its economy, and is looking to advanced manufacturing and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus as two key initiatives. Critical to both projects is energy. As Mr. Langone says, “Cheap energy makes everything else happen easier…but (Buffalo) doesn’t need welfare…it needs help getting itself in a position where it can compete economically, globally…”
And Mr. Langone recognizes that this region’s biggest asset is its people. People who believe in this region (snow and all), and people like me who haven’t sought our greener (yikes, make that warmer) pastures.
In the meantime, as I hear the continued beep-beep-beep of the big trucks that are still clearing my street, I’m content that natural gas development is keeping me and almost all of my WNY brethren warm in our homes on a chilly night.
And because we’re hale and hearty Buffalonians, we’ll be ready for the next storm, too.
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