Editor's note: The following is a special commentary from former Oswego mayor and local author John T. Sullivan Jr. It appears here separate from his regular Forks In The Road column, which will return April 1.
The single biggest threat to our continued wellbeing and ability to thrive on this planet is man made. It is also reversible.
It is the change in climate brought on by cumulative carbon emissions which threaten to raise the temperature of the oceans and seas to intolerable levels, creating cataclysmic challenges like mega hurricanes, excessive rains which flood previously un-floodable places and coastal erosion, which threatens to inundate large portions or our sea coasts and make those areas uninhabitable in the not-too-distant future.
The answer is within our grasp, even if we cannot completely agree on the root causes of global warming.
We must produce energy in the most carbon-neutral way possible. That points to the need for renewable energy projects that use wind and the sun as their sources. Nuclear energy can be a continuing source of non-carbon polluting energy while we transition to other energy generation methods. If we can solve the problem of nuclear waste and standardize the design of plants, it may also be part of our future.
Returning to burning coal is not an answer. It would be a prescription for disaster. All fossil fuel used in producing energy has a life cycle and a carbon emitting price tag, which we have failed to focus on.
So how do we address this problem? How do we begin to fashion a solution? Let’s start with the wind. In certain parts of our country, we have inherited wind patterns that can produce safe, clean energy efficiently and affordably.
Oswego, with its prevailing winds and proximity off the eastern shore of Lake Ontario is one place where we could truly harness the wind with many beneficial side effects like the creation of jobs and economic activity in a region desperate for such sustenance.
Oswego is no newcomer to the electricity generation business. With plentiful hydropower, large coal-burning (now natural gas) turbines, small co-generating plants and three nuclear reactors, Oswego has become the energy producing capital of New York.
Over 6.5 gigawatts of electricity are pumped into the grid from Oswego to the more populous parts of downstate and the northeast in general. That dwarfs the Niagara project and the St. Lawrence Hydro projects.
The infrastructure to accept and improve on transmission capability currently exists. New sources like wind turbines have been proposed for places like Galloo Island in Lake Ontario near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River but that project has now been withdrawn by the developer.
A 2012 NYSERDA research paper concluded the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, from Oswego to Mexico Bay to Sacketts Harbor, is ideally suited for the construction of offshore windmills. In that area is a four-mile shelf area ideal for such construction and the visual impact of the turbines would be appreciably diminished. If Lake Ontario offshore wind development is ever to occur, this is the ideal place for it.
Certainly there are environmental considerations, as there are in any project. We must weigh the pros and the cons but a much bigger project than the Galloo Island proposal is entirely possible and would bring with it new, good paying jobs, an infusion of economic development and a potentially rich source of new tax revenue.
Under the circumstances, it is entirely appropriate to boldly ask the question: what if Oswego could help change the world?
What if Oswego could firmly claim its rightful place as the energy capital of New York?
What if wind and water are the keys to Oswego’s future?
What if Oswego could help solve climate change?
What if Oswego’s natural resources could be harvested to create a self funding and sustainable additional source of revenue to promote reinvestments into the community, environment?
What if Oswego could be put on the map for the positive attributes of promoting base load electrical generation, such as nuclear, while looking to the future for more sustainable sources?
What if Oswego could partner with a renewable energy company to invest in our children’s future?
What if Oswego could be a tourist destination for a new marina and offshore wind island?
What if Oswego was the host of the first offshore wind museum in the world?
What if Oswego had an educational program to train wind technicians?
What if Oswego could build a training center for wind technicians to come from all over the world to train in extreme weather conditions?
What if the local businesses of Oswego could benefit by stable jobs, investment in our community and at the same time, be a part of a global solution?
What if Oswego had an abundance of local, good paying jobs and more families had the option of making Oswego their home as a result.
What if we could come together on one issue to make this a better community?
What if Oswego could build a new energy education center on the site of the former grain elevator?
What if nothing was holding us back except ourselves?
These are all good questions to ask, and I have always felt that if you think big, it is better. Thinking small only limits you. The possibilities are endless. The rewards potentially limitless, and the benefits to the planet could be enormous as well.
So, why not?