Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Z_CNHI News Service

August 23, 2013

Obama avoids fracking debate in New York

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — President Barack Obama called for reduced reliance on fossil fuels as an energy source and rebuked Republicans for "manufacturing" a crisis over the federal government's budget deficit, during an hour spent taking questions from students at faculty at Binghamton University on Friday.

The president described natural gas as a "finite resource," even as he noted domestic gas and oil production has helped make the nation less dependent on foreign sources of fuel.

Obama also called for stronger energy conservation measures.

“We know that if we design our schools, homes, hospitals more efficiently, that as a country we could cut our power usage by 20, 25, 30 percent with existing technologies and we can put a bunch of folks to work,” he said.

However, he stayed clear of the controversy over hydrofracking, an especially hot topic in the region, which is considered a likely target of the gas industry should the state allow high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing to release gas trapped under layers of shale.

Obama's motorcade was greeted on campus by demonstrators on both sides of the hydrofracking debate. There were far more anti-frackers.

Kelly Branigan, of Middlefield, N.Y., who said she had also protested at Obama's speech in Syracuse the previous night, said she suspects Obama has been supportive of fracking because of what she called bad advice from advisers taking cues from the gas industry.

"Would he move his family next to a compressor station or a gas pad?" she asked. She contends the casings used in drilling are all doomed to fail at some point.

Eddie Rodriguez, of Butternuts, N.Y., an activist who often films such demonstrations, said the protests are designed to show political leaders that "there is a disconnect between the government and the people. The government is not listening to what the people want. The president is promoting fracking, and that's not what we want him to do."

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