According to today’s New York Times, New York State in imposing stricter regulations on hydro-fracking in our watershed. This is good news as far as New York City’s water supply is concerned, but does not by any means close the door on the environmental problems of natural gas mining, which is still in the works. The National Resources Defense Council does not consider greater regulation a victory, claiming that nothing short of a ban will protect our water source. The Independent oil and Gas Association of new York says the regulations are excessive, but claims that the watershed is not really the spot they care about right now anyway compared to prospects in surrounding areas.
Natural gas is considered “clean” energy because using it releases fewer C02 emissions. But natural gas is itself a greenhouse gas, and extraction can be brutal on the environment. Needless to say, our relationship to energy and the environment is frustrating. Constant nay-saying without alternative solutions does not get us very far. Energy on earth comes from the sun, but in order to concentrate that energy into electricity and fuel, material from the earth is required–whether that’s natural gas, petroleum, and coal or the silicone and other minerals needed to make photovoltaic panels. Identifying and extracting resources is one problem. Cultural norms, the calcification of urban forms, and systematic reliance on energy-intensive systems of distribution for food and water are another.
An alternative energy future is going to have to focus on a diversity of means to productively recoup waste rather than resigning ourselves to an unworkable duality of ecological mess on one side and a return to primitivism on the other. It will mean changes to lifestyle, but that’s a bigger cultural question about maturing as human society and not one to beat ourselves up about as individuals–though we should always remain conscientious of our decisions. As far as today is concerned, I’m glad our government is prioritizing the watershed and hope that policies affecting the sustenance of vast numbers of people will continue to be ecologically sound and scientifically considered.