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  • Dave Ritchie

Gas infrastructure is a bridge to nowhere

The Feb. 6 Guest Viewpoint ("Gas provides bridge to cleaner energy tech") fails on several points.

It ignores the life cycle of natural gas, first by not counting the huge leakages in drilling, capturing, transport, processing and distribution (plus liquefying into LNG, and its transport and re-distribution if that's done) before burning.

Second, natural gas is mostly methane, and methane has been tagged as 80 times more damaging than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 20-year period by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — it's a super-bad greenhouse gas. Studies by NASA and others give the more complete life-cycle story: natural gas is as bad for the climate as coal. Further, gas industry forecasts show that the available shale-gas supply has already peaked (2013), and will run out by 2040. Natural gas is the bridge fuel to nowhere.

Even more problematic is promoting the mindset that a significant renewable energy fraction is "decades away" — which will become true if responsible energy plans are diverted and resources are misspent on increasing natural gas use and infrastructure when they need to be spent now on increasing renewables, efficiencies and conservation. The Solutions Project ( shows exactly how New York can reach the goal of 100 percent renewable energy for all uses by 2050 through planned and vetted combinations of adding renewable sources, more efficient technologies and conservation measures.

Oh yeah, there's a catch: we have to begin now — change our mindset, support developing renewable energy resources, adopt efficiencies and reject developing more gas infrastructure.

What, reject developing more gas infrastructure? Yes, whether it is:

• rejecting re-powering to natural gas the unneeded Cayuga power plant in favor of NYSEG's plan to make certain transmission lines more efficient (cheaper, conservation-oriented), or

• rejecting Dominion's New Markets proposal to increase the pressure in its 50-year-old gas pipelines through New York with more compressor stations and new connections (it's easier to export gas overseas from Canada), or

• rejecting NYSEG's attempt to build a 7-mile-long gas distribution line — or will it be a higher-volume transmission line? — from Freeville to Lansing through people's front yards (for four proposed residential and mixed-use development projects that could be re-located and/or powered differently), or

• rejecting Crestwood's plan to transport natural gas to storage in leaky former salt mine caverns under Seneca Lake (who is ready to fix the spills, polluted drinking water and crops, potential explosions, and loss of tourism?), or

• rejecting plans for allowing exporting gas from LNG terminals along the coastlines.

We need to reject them because gas infrastructure build-out diverts investment dollars and resources onto a bridge to nowhere, leaving us far away from the real climate-change solutions and with no time to start over. Finally, there are the job differences: $1 million spent in oil and gas development creates five jobs; $1 million spent in solar or wind creates more than nine jobs. Let's head now for the future that's sustainable.

Ritchie, an Ithaca resident, is a member of the Solarize Tompkins SE residential solar energy initiative.

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