May 31, 2012 —
In the dispute as to whether hydro-fracking for natural gas is desirable in this area (or anywhere), there are a number of legitimate bones of contention. Take jobs, which all agree are important: one valid topic of discussion is the question as to whether the number, quality and sustainability of jobs provided to local residents by gas drilling would outweigh the practice’s economic, environmental, health and social costs.
But there are other lines of argument that are pure drivel. The idea that opposition to gas drilling is an inimical conspiracy funded by the Park Foundation is a case in point. It’s not only drivel, it’s dangerous drivel, because it sets up a scapegoat—a propaganda technique that serves only to sow irrational suspicion and fear in the community, while diverting attention from legitimate concerns. This contention has been a favorite talking point for some time on the Energy in Depth (EID) Marcellus website, which admits openly (to its credit) the fact that it is funded by the natural gas drilling industry. More recently, public comments attacking the Town of Highland’s Local Law #3—which would ban hydro-fracking—on the grounds that it can be “traced back” to the Park Foundation, indicate that the idea is gaining broader currency.
It’s time to call a halt.
Yes, it’s true that the Park Foundation has been a major funding source for individuals and entities that oppose gas drilling, from Josh Fox and “Gasland” to the Community Environmental Defense Council (CEDC). So what?
To find out what kind of organization this must be to earn the aspersions cast upon it, we went to its website. Here’s its mission: “The Park Foundation primarily supports scholarships in higher education, quality media that heightens public awareness of critical issues and protection of the environment.”
Aha! So people who fear that hydro-fracking will damage the environment are being funded by, wait for it—a foundation that aims to protect the environment.
Well, duh. Argue that hydro-fracking does not damage the environment if you must. But there’s nothing nefarious about an organization whose mission is to protect the environment funding people who want to protect the environment. There’s no hidden agenda here.
But perhaps the other “left-wing fringe groups” (EID’s phrase) funded by the foundation betray more sinister goals? Well, a list is publicly available (tinyurl.com/6vggccp ), and here are a few: Family and Children’s Services of Ithaca, United Way of Tomkins County, Humane Society of the United States and the National Gallery of Art.
Oh, the horror.
Somehow, the Rockefellers also seem to have gotten dragged into the conspiracy—apparently there is a family connection between the Rockefellers and John Adams of the National Resource Defense Council, a recipient of Park money. It seems the “Adams-Rockefeller orbit” lies at the heart of the supposed back-room anti-gas-drilling syndicate.
And? The Rockefellers—a Republican dynasty dating to the day when the GOP followed in the footsteps of Teddy Roosevelt rather than Rush Limbaugh—have been famed philanthropists for generations, with major beneficiaries as diverse as the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Colonial Williamsburg, the University of Chicago, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital, Palisades Parkway and the American Farmland Trust.
Oooooh, that Rockefeller money is scary.
Admittedly, the Rockefeller fortune originated with John D., as ruthless a rogue as ever graced the corridors of the Gilded Age, who built up his company Standard Oil (note the irony), using methods that were, to put it kindly, ethically questionable. But EID Marcellus scarcely seems inclined to think present-day money can be evaluated in terms of its ancestry; on the contrary, a recent post laments that the wealth amassed by the “hard-working honorable first generation” of Parks has lost its virtue, being passed on to the “spoiled” second and third generations, who squander it on environmentalists.
If you think we’ve wandered pretty far afield from the topic of natural gas drilling, we agree.
The Park Foundation Conspiracy, in the end, boils down to nothing more than the fact that the Park Foundation funds opponents of hydro-fracking, while EID supports hydro-fracking. Disseminating the talking point that we should follow the money back to the Park Foundation, as though it takes us to some den of iniquity, merely creates a cloud of senseless suspicion that demonizes those who oppose gas drilling by tying them around the neck of a scapegoat, rather than addressing their arguments in the court of reason.
There is enough honest division in the community over the pros and cons of gas drilling without this kind of nonsense. Please, can we cut out this spurious bunkum and concentrate on the real issues?