fracking

Park-and-chide: "The media-philanthropy-university complex"

Many people have been asking the question, "who blew up the 'bridge to the future'?" Tompkins County-based people are largely the answer.  At AEI:

An anti-fracking philanthropist has turned environmentalists into precautionary conservatives. How did this happen?
 

Environmentalists are not playing it straight on natural gas. Until recently, they have been amongst its most aggressive promoters, even coining the phrase “bridge to the future”...

...Now, many activists call natural gas a “bridge to nowhere,” as Earth Island Journal recently headlined. Inexpensive comparatively clean natural gas is portrayed as a Trojan horse that will bring “water contamination, air pollution, global warming, and fractured communities.” The morphing of natural gas from ‘a necessary alternative to dirtier energy’ to ‘worse than oil and coal’ happened, metaphorically, almost overnight. What’s behind this seismic turnaround?...

...There are two factors, one widely reported and the other ignored: (1) advances in gas exploration and extraction fracking technology; and (2) a below-the-radar outpouring of funding by connected, wealthy anti-shale gas antagonists—and one activist philanthropy in particular, the Park Foundation headquartered at the epicenter of the US shale gas boom in Ithaca, New York. It’s also the home of Cornell University, which has become the academic face of the anti-shale gas movement...
 

...sober environmentalists such as the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council continue to reject the simplistic demonization of shale gas. “At the EDF, we don’t pick fuels. We are realists; we recognize that fossil fuels will be around for a while,” says senior policy advisor Scott Anderson, noting that most states have considerable experience in regulating well construction and operation. “If wells are constructed right and operated right, hydraulic fracturing will not cause a problem.“

But hardcore opponents say there should be no middle ground: the environment is forever so only a total ban is acceptable. Consequently, scientists who consider trade offs face vitriolic criticisms. Much as the far right demands fealty on hot button issues such as no taxes or anti-unionism, enviroromantics are determined to turn opposition to shale gas into the ideological litmus test of our time....
 
...How did we get to this state where strident environmentalists and campaigning journalists define the debate while mainstream scientists and sober minded NGOs are ignored?... 
 
The media-philanthropy-university complex
 
What if wealthy donors are deploying their money to manipulate public opinion and support research whose conclusions often conflict with science? That in a nutshell is the media rationale for scrutinizing public relations efforts by Big Business. 
 
Journalists should be truth vultures. Expose the puppeteers. But the corrupting power of money and the ego enhancing romance of influence have no ideological limits. That’s the story unfolding in New York’s Tompkins County in the middle of the vast Marcellus shale formation. In this case, however, the key actors are not industry apologists but ‘white as snow’ philanthropists, NGOs and journalists. 
 
Over the last two years, Cornell University has emerged as the locus of academic study challenging the benefits of shale gas drilling. Research by a select group of scholars—oddly, none is considered experts in this field, even at Cornell—has been ballyhooed around the world, with the New York Times, consciously or unconsciously, playing the leading role of megaphone. 
 
In April 2011, the Times helped transform Cornell professor Robert Howarth into the ideological rock star of anti-shale gas activism. It ran a report and blog promoting a short article Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea had just published in Climatic Change Letters, a journal that had never before addressed the shale gas phenomenon. The authors claimed that shale gas generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the production and use of coal....
 
“There is a lot of money invested in shale gas development,” Howarth told me. Our research is threatening that, which makes it political.”
 
If the debate has become sharply contentious, Howarth is at least partly responsible. He often describes himself in ways that create the impression he has been researching fossil fuel issues his entire career. “I’ve worked on the water quality effects of oil and gas development for 35 years off and on,” he said recently. His training is in oceanography, with his primary concentration in marine science, particularly coastal marine ecosystems. Until his published letter, he had never published any university level research into natural gas, let alone shale gas. 
 
Howarth and his wife, Roxanne Marino, a biochemist at Cornell and partner at his lab, are well-known long-time environmental activists and outspoken opponents of developing shale gas reserves. Just months before the release of his letter, Howarth appeared in a YouTube video wearing an anti-fracking button at an anti-natural gas rally outside an Environmental Protection Agency meeting in Binghamton, NY, saying, “All this talk that it’s a clean fuel, as some say, is not based on any scientific analysis.” He continues to passionately and publicly lobby against shale gas.
 
Marino is the town supervisor in Ulysses, a small town in Tompkins County. For more than a year, often with Howarth at her side, she oversaw the implementation of an anti-fracking law through the local town council. “Industrial-scale hydraulic fracturing as proposed in the shale formations of the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier is a land, water, and chemical-intensive activity that poses unacceptable risks to human health and safety and environmental degradation,” Marino is quoted as saying, months before the publication of Howarth’s article.
 
...Each time the [New York] Times and anti-shale activists cite [Howarth's] letter, they make a make a point of mentioning that it was peer reviewed. But that’s misleading. It did not undergo classic double blind review...
 
With only a few exceptions, Howarth’s paper has been widely criticized by scientists across the ideological spectrum. The Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory reviewed the same data, concluding that natural gas, even from shale, results in far less emissions than coal. But that study did not make it into the NYT.
 
In August, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, in a study partly funded by the Sierra Club, concluded that shale gas has significantly less impact on global warming than coal, a direct rebuke of the Cornell study. “We don’t think they [Howath et al] are using credible data and some of the assumptions they’re making are biased. And the comparison they make at the end [that the development of shale gas generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the production and use of oil or coal], my biggest problem, is wrong,” wrote lead researcher Paula Jaramillo.
 
That same month, independent researchers from the University of Maryland also published a peer-reviewed response to the Howarth study, again to no notice in the popular media. “[A]rguments that shale gas is more polluting than coal are largely unjustified,” they concluded.
 
The article was received skeptically even by liberal experts at EDF and the NRDC, but their comments got little play. As the Worldwatch Institute wrote, “Despite differences in methodology and coverage, all of the recent studies except Howarth et al. estimate that life-cycle emissions from natural gas-fired generation are significantly less than those from coal-fired generation”...
 
...Howarth’s colleagues at Cornell, Lawrence Cathles, Larry Brown and Andrew Hunter, with years of expertise in this area, have written a stinging response accepted for publication in January’s Climatic Change Letters. They characterised it as “seriously flawed,” more ideology than science, noting, “the assumptions used by Howarth et al are inappropriate and … their data, which the authors themselves characterise as ‘limited,’ do not support their conclusions”...
 
...Much of the anti-fracking research at Cornell, including Howarth’s modest burst of scholarship, is possible because of the generous support of the Park family of Ithaca, through its well-endowed trust, the Park Foundation (emphasis mine--tvm). Its president, Adelaide Park Gomer, and her daughter, Alicia Park Wittink, are openly antagonistic of natural gas development. And they’ve found ideological soul mates at Cornell and at dozens of influential NGOs, from Friends of the Earth to the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) that receive contributions from Park.
 
The foundation funded the totemic video of the anti-shale gas movement, Gasland, the cinematically engaging but scientifically questionable documentary that made the rounds at Sundance, Berlin, Tokyo and Cannes, jumpstarting the backlash against shale gas. Park has sponsored anti-shale gas shareholder resolutions at the annual meetings of Chevron, ExxonMobil and Ultra Petroleum in alliance with the NGO, As You Sow, which Park also supports and which reliably churns out anti-shale gas propaganda.
 
...Gomer, a vocal shale gas opponent, has signed several anti-fracking petitions, this one in September 2010:
 
Hydrofracking will turn our area into an industrial site. It will ruin the ambience, the beauty of the region. But, moreover it will poison our aquifers. We can live without gas, but we cannot live without water. As a cancer survivor, I am especially concerned about the health repercussions! It is obvious that the 600+, as yet undivulged, chemicals that are used to extract the gas will not promote long healthy lives.
 
Gomer is also on the board of trustees of Ithaca College, which to an even greater extent than Cornell depends upon the largesse of the Park family. Its leading voice is biologist Sandra Steingraber, who, like the foundation, believes shale gas should be the litmus issue for progressives. “I have come to believe that extracting natural gas from shale using the newish technique called hydrofracking is the environmental issue of our time,” she wrote. 
 
The Park foundation lists assets of $320 million, guaranteeing that its views will be well represented. In 2010, it contributed $19m to various causes, more than $3.5m to seed dozens of anti-shale gas projects. 
 
Mother Jones, Earth Island Institute and Yes! Magazine among numerous media organisations have exclusively carried articles sharply critical of shale gas. They each received sizable donations from Park in 2010, $144,000 to Mother Jones.
 
Park also funded a widely circulated YouTube video on “Fracking Hell?” produced by Link Media’s Earth Focus. It also donated $50,000 to support distribution of the the influential Public Media radio program in the US hosted by Dick Gordon that regularly pilloried shale gas."
 
Curious about the recent sudden explosion in “grassroots” uprisings opposing shale gas? Southern Environmental Law Center received $125,000; Food and Water Watch banked $150,000; Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund operating in 110 municipalities got $35,000. The list goes on and on.
 
Park has injected millions of dollars into anti-shale gas education campaigns across the country, including $158,000 donated to Ithaca College for the development of “training kits” to ensure that children are exposed to only one side of this issue. It even funds the Green Guerrillas Youth Media Tech Collective, a group of teenage minorities getting job training in exchange for making an anti-fracking movie.
 
Park also provided $100,000 to seed a separate anti-Marcellus project at Cornell’s Department of City and Regional Planning, resulting in a paper and webinar contending that the benefits of shale drilling is overstated and will ultimately lead to an economic collapse in the region. The department has produced 13 “working papers” and “policy briefs” with the kind of narrow ideological conclusions one expects from an industry-funded “research center” generating propaganda for hire. Yet another Park-funded project is the anti-shale gas Cornell Cooperative Extension Natural Gas Resource Center, which has created an “Online Toolkit for Municipal Officials and Community Leaders” to develop expertise in battles against shale gas development.
 
Of course, philanthropists of any ideological stripe have a right to support any cause of their choosing. But big money raises conflict of interest issues, no different than the potential for corruption posed when industries fund lobbying against policies they find objectionable. Journals and researchers that receive funds should be disclosing conflicts and the media should be reporting about them. But that’s not happening...
 
...anti-shale gas advocacy groups are forging unlikely alliances. Their new allies include the Russians and the Iranians who thought they were going to corner the gas market in the coming decades, and factions of the oil, coal and even the nuclear industry, whose higher cost models may be as vulnerable to competition from natural gas as alternative energy. 
 
The most intriguing question lying ahead is whether politics—the forces lining up against unconventional sources of natural gas—will trump the science. The key is how reporters and university researchers who the public depends upon for a fair accounting of the consequences of innovation handle their responsibilities.
 
The signs are not promising. Not too long after the Times public editor blasted his own reporter, Ian Urbina, for questionable reporting, Urbina was invited to Cornell to discuss his anti-fracking reporting. The event was billed as the “Kops Freedom of the Press” forum. 
 
Robert Howarth was there. No journalist or scientist with long-standing established credentials in this research area—almost none of whom would have agreed with Urbina’s or Howarth’s perspective—were invited to participate in this celebration of academic ‘dialogue’ and journalistic ‘integrity’.
 
I was at Urbina's presentation.  All the usual suspects, including Walter Hang and Babs Lifton, were there. No one like, say, Terry Engelder, was there.
 
Absolutely, positively, read Jon Entine's entire article.
 
 

Getting the vapors

Heh.  Related to our recent post, from South of 5 and 20:

Earlier this month, the Finger Lakes' anti-prosperity elites got the vapors when every news outlet in the free world screamed that Obama's EPA* had determined hydraulic fracturing in Pavillion, Wyoming had polluted water wells.  Our local status quo gang assured us that this was the death knell for fracking....

And what does South say "EPA" stands for? You'll just have to read the whole thing.

Gasland redux

Oh, the power of innuendo.  At The Daily, "School Knows Frack-tions":

...Dozens of districts are closing budget shortfalls with fracking leases, especially in Pennsylvania and Texas.
 

However, fracking, which involves the injection of high-pressure liquids underground to extract gas and oil, is controversial. Opponents worry about polluted water and other environmental damage. The industry contends the method is safe, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced this month that fracking may be to blame for causing groundwater pollution in Pavillion, Wyo....
That's it, except to note that "School district and company officials did not return phone calls. "

Read the whole thing (it won't take very long—like most things in The Daily, it's what amounts to a sound byte). Compare it with this:
...The draft EPA findings, released Thursday, said compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath Pavillion, a small community in central Wyoming where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals.
 
But at a State Capitol press conference with Gov. Matt Mead, [Interior Secretary Ken] Salazar said the EPA’s findings were only preliminary and haven’t yet been reviewed by other scientists.
 
“We’ll see what happens with this Pavillion study,” Salazar said. “And I think it’s important that the real facts finally get to the table with respect to the peer review and seeing whether there’s something specific with respect to that basin that is different from what we have across the country.”

Salazar said fracking “can be done and is being done safely” in the United States...
Oh.  Well, that sounds a little different doesn't it?  The Daily story does say that "fracking may be to blame..."   But many people who attended a PAUSE presentation in Newfield in October greeted with utter disbelief the doubts expressed by CSI's Steve Penningroth about the validity of the oft-quoted Duke study on methane in drinking water. How likely would those folks be to think that the jury is still out on the EPA Pavillion study?
 
And we're talking about schools here. So The Daily is slyly engaging in the kind of fear-mongering that avante-garde director Josh Fox raised (almost) to the level of art in Gasland.
 
And they wonder why we're skeptical.
 

Chutzpah

Gasland with all its errors and misrepresentations goes on and on, continuing to be screened before an adoring public, but what follows seldom sees the light of day. And I thought this kind of interference in matters beyond the scope of governing a small American city only happened in Ithaca. From NewsChannel 34:

The City of Binghamton is looking to help a group of residents in Dimock who say they've run out of clean water.
 
Wednesday was the last day that Cabot Oil and Gas was forced to deliver daily water supplies to some residents on Carter Road after a drilling operation contaminated their water several years ago. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection okayed the stoppage, agreeing that the water is safe. However, impacted residents say it's not safe to use. They did appeal the DEP's decision, but were denied.  As a result, an effort was spear-headed to get clean water delivered to the residents. Mayor Matt Ryan, who has been a vocal anti-fracking politician, says he is looking at helping the group down in Dimock. For at least one day, the city would provide a water truck to fill water buffaloes that people have near their homes. 
 
Julie Sautner says residents are willing to pay for the water from an account that has been set up at Montrose Lake. Sautner says the offer for assistance is a temporary relief. "At least we're going to have water. I keep going out there, saying oh my God, how low are we? Because nothing is coming today. We're used to having a delivery everyday. I tell my kids, take ten minute showers, instead of 20 minute showers or whatever."...
No wonder they're out of water.  Read the rest.


At EID Marcellus:

The mayor of a city so down and out it can’t keep its senior services going, fix its sewage treatment plant or collect its water bills is going to use Binghamton City taxpayer funds to serve the ideological desires of a distinct minority (mostly from far outside the City) who would bankrupt this entire State before allowing natural gas development!...

...And, by the way, does the Mayor know he needs a permit to haul water into Pennsylvania?  Has he received a request for Mutual Aid by Dimock Township? Does he know the EPA just found Dimock’s water to be safe?

Witness the unmitigated gall of "interloper" Mayor Ryan speaking to some riled-up Dimock residents:

As we had written in a previous post, the mere sight of NYS tags on a car in Susquehanna County can make some of the natives pretty ornery.  This was another instance of why that is.

Probably the same people shouting for "home rule" in NYS want to be able to tell the people of not only another town but another state what to do.

And Foxy Josh was in Dimock today and was greeted by this:

Energy development's own 99ers are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. It's about time.

 

Crikey! Pigs are flying!

In case you missed it...an endorsement of development of shale gas resources from—wait for it—David Brooks at the New York Times:

...John Rowe, the chief executive of the utility Exelon, which derives almost all its power from nuclear plants, says that shale gas is one of the most important energy revolutions of his lifetime. It’s a cliché word...but the fracking innovation is game-changing. It transforms the energy marketplace.

 
The U.S. now seems to possess a 100-year supply of natural gas, which is the cleanest of the fossil fuels. This cleaner, cheaper energy source is already replacing dirtier coal-fired plants. It could serve as the ideal bridge, Amy Jaffe of Rice University says, until renewable sources like wind and solar mature.
 
Already shale gas has produced more than half a million new jobs, not only in traditional areas like Texas but also in economically wounded places like western Pennsylvania and, soon, Ohio. If current trends continue, there are hundreds of thousands of new jobs to come.
 
Chemical companies rely heavily on natural gas, and the abundance of this new source has induced companies like Dow Chemical to invest in the U.S. rather than abroad. The French company Vallourec is building a $650 million plant in Youngstown, Ohio, to make steel tubes for the wells. States like Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York will reap billions in additional revenue. Consumers also benefit. Today, natural gas prices are less than half of what they were three years ago, lowering electricity prices. Meanwhile, America is less reliant on foreign suppliers.
 
All of this is tremendously good news, but, of course, nothing is that simple. The U.S. is polarized between “drill, baby, drill” conservatives, who seem suspicious of most regulation, and some environmentalists, who seem to regard fossil fuels as morally corrupt and imagine we can switch to wind and solar overnight.
 
The shale gas revolution challenges the coal industry, renders new nuclear plants uneconomic and changes the economics for the renewable energy companies, which are now much further from viability. So forces have gathered against shale gas, with predictable results.
 
The clashes between the industry and the environmentalists are now becoming brutal and totalistic, dehumanizing each side. Not-in-my-backyard activists are organizing to prevent exploration. Environmentalists and their publicists wax apocalyptic...

Read the whole thing.

As we say in American English: WTF?

Astonishing. From Dr. Britt Minshall, "...an author of several books and a speaker on societal behaviors impacting politics, religion and wealth....He is also a former Security Agency operator and INTERPOL Officer. His police career was compromised when he became a Freedom Rider in the mid- sixties," writing in the UK Progressive:

For God’s Sake – The Diner Wars
...the money-profit, bunch hangs out at the Queen’s Diner, where owner John Boulous pontificates against the “do gooders” claiming he and his land owner groupies are losing fortunes in gas revenue. The Community Cafe (ironic name) is loaded with town folk, supporting the ban in favor of the environment and the peaceful community of the small town....
....Framed in Red, Queen’s Diner and their customers see life as money, profit, self interest and the accumulation of wealth. Plated on blue, the Community Cafe and its customers see life as moderation in wants, good air and water, sharing with others in fellowship, peace of mind and love of place....
Read the whole thing.  You'll be amazed...not only because the place is the Queen Diner, but also because the Community Cafe is a progressive clubhouse subsidized with Dryden taxpayer money while the Queen Diner (along with other privately-owned eateries in town) has to stand on its own two feet and has for years, thank you very much. So the juxtaposition of the two was appropriate in ways that the author of this screed couldn't have imagined. 
 
The author, as you have no doubt surmised, is an American Tory; the online progressive publication is British.
 
To misquote a certain First Lady, for the first time in my adult life I fully understand why we fought a War of Independence. 
 
Pip, pip, cheerio and all that.
 

A Pack of Lies

Check out this clip from Talk 1300 AM, the Albany area station.  Fred Dicker, long time State Editor for the New York Post, comments on a commercial which ran on his talk radio program.

 

 

The, um, less than truthful presentation doesn't seem to be sticking.

Yeah, facts are stubborn things.

h/t: A.L.

St. George slays the frackosaurus...

...just not in Poland. Another great catch from South of 5 and 20.

That progressive paragon of probity, that altruistic archetype, George Soros is virulently opposed to fracking everywhere, not just in the US, right?  Errrr...not so much:

....San Leon Energy is just the kind of huge, multinational exploiter of the earth's resources that have New York's anti-energy true believers' panties in a wad.   Rather that targeting Soros, however, these zombies would rather burn gasoline driving all over the Finger Lakes, fighting to raise the cost of their neighbor's heating fuel. The real class war is taking place right under our noses...

Read the whole thing.

Forum on “Water and Energy Development” in Dryden, September 7th

The Dryden Safe Energy Coalition (DSEC) is holding the second in its series of public education meetings on energy development (the first was a legal issues forum held in Binghamton on August 22nd). The second forum is on “Water and Energy Development,” and will be held on Wednesday, September 7th, 7:30 – 9:00 P.M., at the Dryden Fire Hall on Route 13 in the Village of Dryden.  It will be hosted by engineer Ron Szymanski, a member of the Freeville Planning Board, and moderated by Dave Vieser, WHCU morning personality.  The public is invited.

Shades of Carole King

While at Southworth Library yesterday afternoon, we stepped back so as not to be directly under the huge—and swaying—light fixture near the circulation desk.  If we were Californians we would have been out the door toot sweet, but as naïve new Yorkers we all just stood there looking at each other.  And what caused the earth to move under our feet?  Umm, probably not fracking:

What we had in Virginia was a rare, large earthquake, the epicenter of which is hours from the nearest fracking site. While studies have found possible links between fracking and quakes, the likelihood that Tuesday's episode was the result of natural gas extraction is highly unlikely.

Winner of the best line contest re: the earthquake:
Josh Trevino on Facebook: “Sorry about the earthquake, DC. That was just Rick Perry getting off his horse.”

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