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Editorial: Do We Want Natural Gas?

The long discussion on improving energy performance at the latest Syosset CSD Board of Education meeting got me thinking about fuel sources, not just for the school district but throughout our area. 

It is a point of concern that most of the savings Syosset would realize on the Siemens plan for updating their heating systems is projected to come from changing over from oil to natural gas, and getting that gas comes at a price.

During the election season, there was a lot of talk about hydrofracking for natural gas, or fracking. We don’t have to worry about fracking on Long Island proper (we don’t have the geology for it), but we do have to be concerned with it happening nearby. If fracking is allowed to occur in New York, there’s a possibility that Long Island’s wastewater treatment plants could end up dealing with the byproducts—and our aging plants are overtaxed as it is. Senator Carl Marcellino (5th SD), among other local officials, has stated that he is against Long Island processing any fracking waste, but just because our elected representatives are generally against it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

You have to wonder: is it right to make use of natural gas obtained through fracking if we don’t want to have to deal with the logistics of processing it? I’m not unilaterally against the use of natural gas, but it seems to me that ethically, if we use it, we should be prepared to clean up after it. Plus, if fracking leads to significant environmental problems, the money saved by switching from gas to oil will look like pocket change compared to the damages.

I don’t know if technologies that come with much fewer ethical dilemmas, like solar panels, are even feasible at this point for most projects. But I would encourage Syosset CSD, and any other entity considering switching fuel sources, to make sure to research all of the options before deciding to make a commitment to natural gas; there’s an awful lot going on here, and a dizzying array of opportunities to be proven pennywise and pound foolish.