• ECHO Action Editor

The fracked gas indoctrination of a nation

Updated: Feb 10, 2019

Stephanie Scherr

Activist Echoes Editor

Consumers, businesses, municipalities and legislators assist in delivering the fossil fuel industry's carefully crafted and marketed narrative.

Dennis Higgins' article below has been annotated. It takes you from a local Chamber of Commerce meeting, where the public speaks of concerns about the continued use and expansion of natural (fracked) gas, even quoting Edison, through the promises of a governor, the expectations of the powerful oil and gas industry and the eventual compromise to allow the gas flow to continue.

Have you ever tried to sell something, maybe a car, and asked for a price well above what you expect to receive? It's a little like that. The narrative is sold as a crisis and the eventual compromise is within the deliverable capacity of the industry.

Power and exorbitant amounts of money are used to market a story that proliferates and spreads like a pandemic where the diseased are coughing at every public place. The message for more gas even permeates the safe places of your home and car, your bedroom, as you scroll through social media. With the resources they can harness, our acceptance, our indoctrination into the fossil fuel cult, is complete.

What's the message? A simple one. We need more gas.

Every corporation, every lobbyist, every utility, every mainstream news agency under the auspices of other powerful corporations, repeats it again and again and again. The messages come on social media, TV, in news articles, when watching YouTube and in many other insidious ways. When you search for the truth, you can easily come across slick websites and what appear to be news articles with impressive graphics that would have you believe we are desperately in need of gas or the lights will go out, the heat will turn won't be able to charge your phone.

If the Rule of Seven is true, it takes only hearing something seven times before citizens will take action or consumers will buy. In this case, we buy their story. If it only takes hearing a message seven times to be accepted, imagine how a narrative repeated every day, from every angle, year after year, can become the accepted and believed norm. In fact, we so hate to be wrong, that we resist new information, dig our heels in and insist that we know the truth. Mission complete.

Case in point - I won't let this go - is the forced closure of the Concord Steam biofuel plant, and the subsequent conversion to natural gas.

The Concord Steam plant delivered forced steam heat to State Buildings, the New Hampshire State House and other Concord locations. Liberty Utilities lobbied hard with legislators. The majority of New Hampshire's 400 legislators are of retirement age. They were told that the gas was desperately needed and if they didn't convert to gas now, the State House and buildings would be cold come winter. Slick, very slick.

Green City Power offered to completely renovate the biofuel plant at no cost to the state. The state had to be pressured to even meet with them. In the end, legislators of both parties refused to accept any alternative to gas. A few representatives boldly tried to save the plant, educate colleagues, but powerful, long-entrenched senators sold out. Not even the concern over lost forestry jobs could move them.

The icing on the cake? A local politician, considered by some to be "one of us", those trying to act on climate, remained silent, then claimed the city to be "Ready for 100" [100% renewable], once the gas started being delivered. The ultimate betrayal.

Oh what a tangled web we weave. So tangled, that it's difficult to determine whether some are colleague or operative, friend of the movement or friend of fossil fuels.

How do we conquer our fears - all of them? Carry on. Carry on every day. When we feel betrayed, expose when needed, ignore when possible and continue the work. Speak truth to power because in the end our mission is for environmental justice and to protect, to save, what is precious.

Carefully read Dennis Higgins' article and consider how you, your neighbors, your state representatives and senators - even your U.S. Senators and Congressional representatives have been manipulated, maneuvered, cornered and greenwashed.

The utilities would have us believe that natural gas is somehow a climate solution. In fact, methane is a greenhouse gas 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The fracking process used to extract it contaminates and poisons wherever it is used.

Be aware of the images and words being used. Happy families cooking with gas, green lawns, comfy homes, promises of a clean, safe, cheap product. But is any of it true? Have they shared numbers with you? Are they real numbers or projected? What are they based on? What fees have they shifted? Are monies slated for energy efficiency reaching customers? Why is your utility expanding their gas customers as the world is shifting away from fossil fuels?

Ask, learn, know and speak the truth. It will take all of us to deprogram the thinking that put our planet in peril. My mantra continues as I, and so many others, call for a fossil-free, renewable energy planet.


For the sake of less distracted reading, the annotations in bold, preceded by a 🔸symbol, are not bracketed, but they are my own subheadings, not the author's. They are intended to lead the reader through the story noting the subtle, and not-so-subtle marketing and manipulation of everyone from the bottom up, to buy into their claim and buy their gas.

When is ‘compromise’ a deal with the devil?

Dennis Higgins

Guest Commentary for the Daily Star


"Along with a couple of hundred others, I attended the Chamber of Commerce Energy Summit on Jan. 31. One speaker ended his presentation with this Thomas Edison quote: “We are like tenant farmers, chopping down the fence around our house for fuel, when we should be using nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide.” Sadly, the irony of Edison’s statement, made to Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, who nodded in agreement, was lost on many summit attendees.


Much of the area’s recent concern over energy was sparked by the Otsego Industrial Development Agency’s ham-fisted proposal for $17.5 million to bring in compressed gas "bomb" trucks and to build a gas plant at the Pony Farm industrial park. As several speakers at the summit made clear, certain business interests want more gas, perhaps much more gas — enough to power both the Southside corridor and heavy industry in the rail yards.


So, the summit did make clear that a much bigger plan is being hatched — a massive proliferation of gas, expanding the existing local network and doubling the volume of pipelines to Oneonta.


To make this happen, the IDA must get us to buy into its contrived narrative of an energy crisis evidenced by a handful of customers who must burn oil a few times a year. The IDA’s claim that there was insufficient energy for new businesses was disputed by NYSEG representatives at the summit who said that the IDA had never submitted energy-load requirements for review.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pledged to move New York to zero carbon emissions and significantly ramp up renewables. The state Public Service Commission is now telling utilities to look at conservation and demand-response to meet energy needs.


Still, a few speakers at the Otesaga event scolded the state for banning fracking.


You’ll recall, the state Departments of Environmental Conservation determined that hydraulic fracturing [fracking] of shale jeopardizes human health and the environment. But industry mouthpieces at the summit —


the American Petroleum Institute and Marcellus Shale Coalition - seem to know better. Constitution Pipeline is still promoted by industry, although courts have upheld the state’s determination that trenching hundreds of streams across the Southern Tier would jeopardize water quality.


The recent chamber summit did provide a level forum for speakers on different sides of the issue. Notably, Dr. Tony Ingraffea of Cornell told the audience that science is on our side with respect to addressing climate change, but time is not: The planet is on course to hit a 3-degree-Fahrenheit temperature rise in about a decade and blow past 4 degrees by mid-century. Coastal populations will be under water, interior lands parched. Maple syrup, trout fishing and skiing will be history. But perhaps we can grow cotton.


Lou Allstadt, who worked for Mobil Oil field development in this hemisphere for decades, reminded the audience that cheap oil and gas is gone. What’s left are deep-sea and arctic drilling, and less productive shale. Meanwhile, the price of renewables keeps falling.


Jay Egg, a geothermal engineer, told the audience that there is always a geothermal solution to meet heating and cooling demands and that, with the Susquehanna River and Otsego Lake, our area is well positioned to take full advantage. In fact, any flow source — water or sewer lines, water-treatment discharge, or stormwater — is an opportunity for sustainable energy. Perhaps gas-and-oil interests don’t like the sound of that?


Public opinion, state energy goals, the warming planet, all require sustainable development. Mayor Herzig and Senator Seward both called for compromise: put in a bigger pipe, bring on the compressed gas trucks, do whatever it takes to get more gas.


As CS Lewis said, “the safest road to hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Accepting Seward’s compromise would be to surrender our health, our environment, our planet, to corporate interests.


I’ll make a counter offer: let's not shut off the gas currently flowing to Oneonta. Let’s build solar farms, wind farms and install commercial geothermal heating/cooling for downtown, the rail yards, Southside. Let’s resolve to use less gas tomorrow than we are using today.

Dennis Higgins is a resident of Otego."


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