The New York Times and natural gas: Don’t facts matter any more?

You really have to wonder why the New York Times is campaigning against cleaner-burning, domestically produced natural gas.

In the latest installment (stories published yesterday and today), the Times questions the value of our  country’s vast shale gas resources with little more than anonymous sourcing, two-year-old emails and analysis unsupported by fact. Ironically, author Ian Urbina did not call ExxonMobil, the largest natural gas producer in the United States, for comment. You would think an investigative journalist for one of the world’s great newspapers would have been curious to know why the world’s largest publicly traded energy company has invested billions of dollars in a so-called “Ponzi scheme.” Of course we’re doing no such thing, no matter how hard the article works to imply otherwise.

What does the Times have against an industry that supports more than 2.8 million American jobs and contributes $385 billion annually to the U.S. economy? In Pennsylvania alone, more than 48,000 jobs were created in 2010 because of the development of the Marcellus Shale resources there. U.S. natural gas production in 2010 was at its highest level since 1973 thanks to industry breakthroughs in shale gas production – facts which the Times fails to mention.

Though he did not bother talking to us, the writer did seem to put a lot of weight on the word of a retired geologist who just two years ago wrote that it was “difficult to imagine” that the “Haynesville Shale can become commercial.” Ironically, the Haynesville Shale is now the largest gas producer in the United States.

The writer also invokes the Federal Reserve to try to lend credibility to his premise that the shale gas revolution is a flash in the pan like the dot-com bubble and built upon misleading or even illegal accounting practices – in this case reserves reporting – like the Enron scandal.

A closer read and a quick Google search shows that the person he is quoting from the Fed was appointed to the Dallas Fed’s advisory committee and is a long-time shale gas opponent. The writer conveniently omits a report issued last year by economists who actually work for the Dallas Fed that notes that “the Texas experiment in the Barnett Shale proved the technical feasibility of shale gas development and brought costs within bounds that promise to give shale gas an important role in global energy supplies for decades to come.”

The current low price of natural gas, which may indeed make certain wells for some companies uneconomic to drill at this time, is in part a result of increased supply on the market. And that’s a function of the industry’s ingenuity in applying technology to tap resources that had been uneconomic to develop before. These increased supplies of domestic natural gas enhance U.S. energy security and economic competitiveness.

Risks are inherent in the oil and natural gas business. There is no guarantee that oil and gas will be found in quantities that will make it economic to produce. There is always uncertainty in predicting ultimate recoveries, particularly in the early stages of development. The U.S. oil and gas industry is experienced in reducing this uncertainty through studies and the integration of production histories and other data. For example, in the Bakken Formation of North Dakota and Montana, the U.S. Geological Survey now says 3 billion to 4 billion barrels of undiscovered oil are available – 25 times more than the original estimate made in 1995.

If the writer had bothered to call us, we would have told him that ExxonMobil’s investment approach is disciplined and based on a long-term view of global market conditions. We invest through market cycles and are not driven to hasty decisions because of day-to-day commodity market volatility. It was this long-term vision that led to the acquisition of XTO and subsequent shale gas ventures. Today, we are the largest producer of natural gas in the United States, and we are positioned to double our U.S. unconventional production over the next decade with an inventory of approximately 50,000 drillable well locations. We have strong positions in the Barnett, the Woodford, the Haynesville, the Fayetteville, the Eagle Ford, Marcellus and the Bakken Shales.

Technology development and application are and will remain key elements in maximizing the full value of these large, long-life resources. Here are some examples: Unconventional production from Haynesville increased four-fold in 2010, while production in Fayetteville doubled in 2010. The Barnett Shale, where we currently have gross production of approximately 900 million cubic feet per day of gas, is another good example of value creation through technology. We have been able to maximize long-term ultimate recovery with longer lateral lengths and improved drilling and completion efficiency. And our net unit development cost in this shale play is about $1 per thousand cubic feet equivalent, a 50 percent improvement in the last five years, which is yielding attractive drilling program returns.  Our confidence in per-well recoveries in the Barnett is underpinned by a decade of production history of early vertical wells drilled in the play – hardly a flash in the pan.

On the Enron allegation, reserve filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission are taken very seriously by the oil and gas industry and come with serious consequences for misreporting.  ExxonMobil takes a rigorous and methodical approach to booking proved reserves.  All reserve additions are subject to a long-standing, thorough management review process regarding the reasonable certainty of recovery, which is the standard set by the SEC.

It is unfortunate that the words “rigorous” and “methodical” can’t be applied to the New York Times’ recent articles. Understanding the facts surrounding the potential for development of our nation’s energy resources is every American’s business.  Our economic recovery, environmental progress and energy security depends in part on a sound, stable and sensible policy and regulatory framework informed by honest, fact-filled debate.  The Times’ current campaign undermines this debate and is a disservice to its readers.


32 Comments

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  1. Michael Brown says:

    The answer to your question – about why this kind of thing happens – is not a pretty one: many people in the media and political establishment have an irrational animus against technology. It stems from an incorrect picture of the relationship of man and nature. Man is not meant to live humbly and tentatively in little huts and caves. And nature does not support such a life for man. Technology is a natural activity of man, and energy production is at the basis of everything. The political and media class use energy – and lots of it – to dig at the very basis of how man survives on earth. (This is not to say that it is intentional; by and large, it isn’t. But the results remain the same.)

    • Matt Hill says:

      This piece is exceptionally weak criticism. It never even tries to claim that anything reported in the NY Times article is incorrect. Instead, it uses the underhanded method of questioning the sources used for the article. Just because a quote is anonymous or from someone without a Nobel prize doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Question the assertions, not the sources.

    • chloe r says:

      That is an interesting point.
      However, you are lacking the fundamental knowledge of why dirty energy is in fact destroying the way we live. It may be nice right now, but its supporting our current society, it will not support the future generations. I hope that you can understand that we can still use technology (in fact I believe it is what will save us); no one is saying we have to go back to being cavemen. we just have to understand the leap that dirty energy allowed us to take and why the result of that is quickly collapsing, and what we are going to do about it. Energy production is needed for survival, but dirty, polluting, and unrenewable sources of energy are what is threatening our survival at this very moment.

  2. Peter Cacioppi says:

    Thanks for your post Ken, and I’m not trying to discount your points. But to put some perspective on the NYTimes comments, lets look at the “Internet Revolution” for perspective.

    10-12 years ago, serious people were proposing that the business cycle was dead, that profits didn’t matter to Internet stocks, and that the entire world would be revolutionized by the Internet.

    In hindsight, the Internet has represented a tremendous boon to society. Companies like Google and Amazon are real and substantial. But much of the hype has been found to be false, and it’s clear now that a great many players exageratted their claims for their own financial claim.

    My sense is that “shale energy” will follow some of the same patterns. The technology is real, and the benefits to society will be tremendous. But it won’t be the “cure-all” for energy and pollution. And, without a doubt, some smaller companies are doing their best to hype their shale play potential for their own financial benefit. At some point, the tide will go out, and we’ll see who’s wearing bathing suits.

    I think this is where the “Enron” type comments are directed. No-one thinks Exxon is the next Enron. But some companies are pushing the limits in the hopes that they will be acquired for favorable terms by Exxon, or Chevron, or maybe even BP.

  3. Tim Cohn says:

    Why indeed has the New York Times campaigned against cleaner-burning, domestically produced natural gas particularly on the front page of their Sunday edition?

    Was it not at attempt to influence national energy policy and if so why would the Times take such an Anti-American position?

    • Peter Cacioppi says:

      The NYT is simply no longer “the paper of record”. They are not attempting to deal with shale gas in a manner that is even remotely factual or rational.

      To get a fair assessment of energy in this country, one must read the Wall Street Journal, or The Economist.

      Sad to say, the Grey Lady is not what she used to be.

    • lance anderson says:

      The Left (NYT is their Bible) hates and opposes anything that makes life more affordable and reduces reliance on other countries. They will fight drilling in Anwar and off coasts and the pipeline that would transport energy from Canada to the Gulf port. Struggling young people can stop wondering where high gasoline prices come from: Democrats voting in the Senate. Replace them with a pro-production candidate and return to 1.99 per gallon. Not difficult. Futeres markets would get it.

    • Darr Darr says:

      There’s nothing wrong with shale gas per se, and certainly cleaner-burning NG is preferrable to the front end destruction/pollution AND back end pollution of most coal-derived power. However, I’d like to see the available NG piped down across Canada from the North Slope FIRST, and save the shale gas for times when we “need” it worse than we do now (e.g. during a late-’70s-type embargo). We can also replace a lot of coal burning with solar PV (now less-expensive per installed watt than nuclear; getting cheaper all the time), and reduce NG use with domestic solar hot water production. Polluting an aquifer would be far-worse than the Deepwater Horizon was, for everyone and everything that depends on that aquifer for water.

      • Thomas Collingwood says:

        An Alaskan resident for 30 years, a natural gas pipeline from the Arctic Ocean to Chicago promises “Jobs for Alaskans”. Building the pipe to connect to the Canadian grid will provide lots of temporary welding jobs and get steel mills in Korea humming, It would be politically and socially incorrect to build a short pipeline to the Alberta tar sands, but I believe the natural gas will be flowing from Chicago and the North Slope to provide for the tar sands and the refineries in Texas, if we can get the pipeline built from Alberta to Texas. The cost of this additional plumbing, priced in billions is a small investment on top of the capital already invested, leading to the service station where you gas up. Investing billions into renewable energies would be adversarial to previous investments. To replace all of that equipment with solar cells on my house would be a bigger investment than even Enron could muster, and would empty the coffers of even Exxon Mobil. Nuclear, with electricity to cheap to meter, seems to be a decommissioning nightmare coming soon to an obsolete power plant near you, even if everything goes perfectly according to plan. Seems to me most ‘folk’ don’t care how their quarter pounder with 10,000 cattle in it get to the corner as long as they are able to get into the car to go get fat. Machines are doing the work men used to do. Cashiers, the last great job now that steel is gone soon will be replaces by scanners. The gasses in the earth do not belong in the atmosphere, kind of like the meanie Jeanie in the bottle. There are too many of us. The strain on… read more »

        …the systems is not balanced. Can we have more, using less? What if they made a can opener you could give your grandson rather than having to buy a new one every time you want to open a can. It might cost a bit more upfront, but since Jr doesn’t have to buy one, it might save resource and capital. Besides, the rubbish bin is getting full. I am using the LED lighting, Three 1.1 watt bulbs and a 10 watt. Back in the day, Romania was chastised for their 60 watt per room energy law. In summary, there are no easy answers, and even those of us with perfect thinking can’t figure it all out. Maybe we should ask IBM’s Watson what to do. We will. We won’t like the answer.

        In our decision, let it reflect that it is not about us, but about the babies to come. Things are becoming a mess. Let us clean up before we make new messes. Not to grandfather them, the future generations with unfathomable debt, filth and destruction but with true assets, worthwhile employment opportunities, and nature. Wind turbines that kill everything that passes through the pressure vacuum, Dams that block the fish, and steam solar in the deserts using vast quantities of fresh water are all part of the solution. There are no easy answers. Walk, ride the bus. You don’t have to talk to them but the garbage that comes out of their mouths….The right to silence is trumped by the right to spew profanities.

        As for the Times, underpaid enter-reporters no doubt believe that which they have written. No one said carbon dioxide was a pollutant, however it replaces oxygen and its output is up from typical natural levels. Air went in the front and that which came out the tailpipe is not the same. What can we do? I ride my bike and remained trapped in camp (concentration), even though Alaska is just 40 miles away. The heat is on, the apartment window is drafty and I am warm. I don’t even have to chop wood. Just sit here at my computer and………

        Merry Christmas. Be thoughtful and honest. Let us find solutions that enhance the environment our grandchildren will inherit.

        That’s my version of perfect thinking in less than 15 minutes. Thank you for reading my post.

        PS: I wish I had a good job. Meaningful. And only one cow in my 1/4 pounder, Good luck Exxon Mobil. Really. I pray someone steps up and gets it right. If not me, who? Maybe you.

  4. Bryan Wiggins says:

    Interesting your post and comments here complain so bitterly about 1-sided journalism but include no reference whatsoever to the controversy surrounding shale extraction methods or growing concern in the scientific community over potentially higher greenhouse impact from natural gas vs. oil or even coal.

    A more effective and credible apologist would at least mention some of the downsides of the issue that are acknowledged far more broadly than just in the pages of NYT.

    • Danny Mandel says:

      Bryan
      I read this blog entry as a discussion of the whether the New Your Times writer made even a superficial attempt at providing a two-sided representation of the facts, not an in -depth discussion of every aspect of the technology. There are also two sides to that argument as well, but thats not what is in question here. I was appalled when I read the original article, with its continuous reference to anonymous emails and seemingly off the record conversations.

      I agree with the bloggers who have mentioned the slide into partisan journalism of the once great NY Times. It’s not the same paper my entire family would spend two hours or more with on a Sunday morning.

      • Matt Hill says:

        While this article bemoans the fact that the reporter didn’t call them, they don’t use this forum to express anything specific: “If the writer had bothered to call us, we would have told him that ExxonMobil’s investment approach is disciplined and based on a long-term view of global market conditions. ” That quote would have been a waste of a phone call!

  5. j c says:

    i think it’s admirable that you give information on your webpage so that we,the consumer ,can make up our own mind on what to believe.by the way,have the fishermen in alaska ever been paid for the exxon valdez disaster or are the lawyers still extending their fees in order to never pay?just curious.

  6. Drexel Kleber says:

    What’s the problem? you ask. Gee, I don’t know. Could it be that natural gas just substitutes one finite resource for another? Could it be that we are tearing up our land for temporary gain? Could it be that hunters, fishers and campers are negatively impacted? Could it be that virtually every case the economic projections on which these projects are based fail to live up to their promise? Could it be that we perpetuate a paradigm where we are poor stewards of the resources God has given us? Could it be that the discussion supposes that natural gas is a viable end-game and not simply a bridge to energy sources that support our most conservative and American values? Could it be that we know that you can never guarantee there will not be an accident? Could it be that many Americans aren’t willing to compromise their deepest values for short term gain?

    Yes, natural gas is plentiful and clean. But at what cost today? At what cost to future generations to become independent from a new addiction to natural gas.

    What is needed is a new energy paradigm, not just finding ways to make slight improvements to the old one.

  7. Deltaman says:

    Here come the trolls – eager to suck the oxygen out of any intelligent discussion…

    • dawn stafford says:

      i just listened to a radio program on fracking. the most mentioned alarm was toxic water which are part of energy journeys. i am not schooled in much,so what i have to say is only as an american who can read. i think about how hard it must be to clean water that has been fouled.the great thinkers can find oil gas the moon but can’t clean the water.

  8. John H. Tidyman says:

    Fracking must be the cheapest way to enrich energy companies. And to hell with the environment and the future.

  9. Gozo Rabat says:

    The situation with The New York Times and development of natural gas resources reflects the illness that besets all of America:

    An endemic lack of trust.

    Our government and our corporations have lost the confidence of the American people. Lay persons outside of any particular field must rely on their own analysis to make sense of the conflicting messages that come our way. Manufacturers of “non-addictive’ tobacco may be the most-egregious malefactors in the corporate world, but the energy companies—whether of petroleum or of nuclear energy—are far from reproach.

    On the one hand, ExxonMobil can blame the piece in The New York Times as exemplary of this mistrust. But the cavalier attitude that companies such as BP and ExxonMobil seem to take toward our shared land and waters is certain to stimulate more and more such mistrust.

    The one-sided press media coming out of the oil industry gives the media an obligation to do what it can to minimize the potential risk. ExxonMobil has resources far beyond those of The New York Times, while the clock holding back the damage that natural-gas development will bring about (at least occasionally; at least to some scale).

    When ExxonMobil and peers begins to present honest analysis, unhampered by the ideological blindness that inures with fighting public resistance to its reach for more energy-on behalf of its employees and its shareholders and its customers-then maybe things will change.

    In the meantime, it is easy for ExxonMobil to assert failures of bias and unsubstantiated claims by the media. The Company will continue to reap what it sows.

    Trust is so easily lost and so hard to regain. When will this company stop denying its inherent risks in its efforts to silence the mistrustful doubters? When will ExxonMobil finally grasp how essential full disclosure is to regaining public… read more »

    …trust-so many decades after disaster of the Exxon Valdez?

    Best regards,
    (($;-)}
    Gozo!

  10. Bob Plugh says:

    There are several things that come into play here.

    First is that Exxon, as company, does not have the best environmental record. No one with half a brain can forget the Exxon Valdez whose footprint is still being felt 22 years later!!!

    Second is that energy == freedom. That’s right, energy is freedom. If gas were $1 a gallon, many more people would be prosperous, our economy would be going great guns, fewer people would be on welfare, unemployment, and food stamps, and fewer people would OWE THEIR EXISTENCE to government handouts! That’s right, part of this is engineered by the very government who is supposed to protect the people. If we are beholden to them, then they effectively control us. Just look at what Obama is doing with the International Small Arms Treaty…

    “Once the US Government signs these international treaties, all US citizens will be subject to those gun laws created by foreign governments.”

    Think this can’t happen – you should learn what happens when the US signs a treaty – it becomes the LAW OF THE LAND, usurping any States or local laws !!!

    I really try to be a rational person, but why is all of this hush-hush?! Clearly, the US Government wants to strip the population of their ability to rise up and overthrow them. Think it can’t happen?! Just look at how the Afghans are resisting other far mightier countries. With a population armed to the teeth (we have more guns per capita than any other country), it would be a bloodshed if the government turns the armed forces on it’s own civilians, but, they figure that once disarmed, the resistance would be minimal.

    Sad, but true.

  11. Patrick Sherman says:

    The populist rhetoric about energy companies “enriching” themselves is not productive and largely based in ignorance. These companies supply the energy needs that our society is literally based on. These “companies” are not a few seedy deviants locked behind doors thinking of ways to screw up the world – they are millions of people working hard to provide for the wants and needs of every human being on this planet, and in turn they hope to provide for themselves and their families.

    It is easy to inflate specific events – I believe someone on his thread referenced the Valdez incident – and paint an entire industry with one unseemly brush. A recent example is the shutting down of Gulf drilling at the behest of Washington, supposedly to save the people of the Gulf Coast from the oil companies that are in fact their very lifeline. The result was thousands upon thousands of middle class Americans thrown into crisis, the only skills they have unwanted while outsiders drove their vehicles down superhighways content that they lobbied for the “right” solution.

    The energy industry as a whole is the economic foundation for countless towns across America and is the sole source of employment for millions of Americans.

    To those naysayers who believe the energy industry is set to screw the rest of America out of money, peace, and environment, I say this: stop demanding that strangers forgo their livelihood, and vote with ACTION. If you believe there is blood in oil, stop burning it in your cars, homes, factories, and delivery trucks. Doesn’t seem so easy now, does it?

    • Mary Bawa says:

      This (Patrick’s) is the best reply on this post.

      Shutting down the Gulf due to BP’s blow out (a rare and unlikely event) is comparable to shutting down the airlines industry due to a plane crash. How many wells are drilled without incident?

    • Tom Scruggs says:

      You hit the nail on the head when you said you’re in the energy business and not the petroleum business or natural gas business or whatever more specific end of the energy business you’re in. Because an industry, over time, changes. It’s market changes, increases or even dies off completely. As has been said, if the railroads had only realized that it was the transportation business that they were in, they would own the airlines today. That logic should apply to America’s great energy companies who should be leading researching and inventing, development and production, training (and re-training) of new energy sources that don’t use up the earth’s resources.

  12. Gozo Rabat says:

    “BIG” Is the Problem, Not “BIG OIL,” Not “BIG GOVERNMENT”: Just “BIG”

    It’s true that, “The energy industry as a whole is the economic foundation for countless towns across America and is the sole source of employment for millions of Americans.” And few people are in any position to throw away their internal-combustion engines and go without petroleum-based fuels.

    The problem is all the deferred costs. While low-cost fuel create jobs and help to grow the economy, by ignoring environmental costs for so long, we have been borrowing from our children’s future, the money they’ll need to fix things up.

    As fo all those for those “nay-sayers” who paint our oil companies as “set to screw the rest of America out of money, peace, and environment,” their anger and frustration against the oil industry is exactly the same as the frustration at the size and incompetence of government.

    Is big government the problem? Is big business the problem?

    What we’re all really frustrated by is the same thing….

    Regards,
    (($;-)}
    Gozo!

    • first last says:

      The very day that someone comes up with a competitive alternative the world with turn…but until it does we have to use what we have….don’t you think?

  13. Louis Lawson says:

    The criticism was not weak and it was not pointed at the reporters sources, but at the reporter himself. The lack of research for this article was not good journalism and did not do the reporter any favors.

  14. Thomas Murphree says:

    The New York Times continues in lock-step with the looney left: ” no-fossil fuel “. They consider their position with the radical liberals to be more important than the welfare of the people!

  15. Jules Maze says:

    If the discussion is in regards to dubious reporting by the NYT, why preface your article with jobs claims? By the way, I live in Pa and that jobs number has been contested (why not place additional sources on here as well – I guess it is kind of like the NYT using one side of the story) and so what if the natural gas is domestic energy production, why not discuss that this energy is not necessarily being used here. For example, several high ranking Chinese officials were here in Pittsburgh and secured a slice of the natural gas pie. Kind of like the Pa coal that is shipped down to Baltimore and then onto China. Point being, this energy is not really helping the U.S.’s break it’s reliance on foreign energy (the issue of “energy security”), but it is most surely benefiting Exxon, Chesapeake Energy or some “energy” corporation (economic competiveness, well maybe). NYT or Exxon, your both selling something. Also, glad you chucked the keyword “environmental” in there at the end, I happen to be an engineer who works for a government agency in Pa that is charged with protecting the environment. Since your industry likes to do the bare minimum, which is usually what is meant by “meeting the regulations”, I invite you to come here and help yourself to a glass full of water from several sources that I know your industry discharges too. Then we can discuss the relevance of some NYT article booing and hissing at your industry.

  16. Bob Shaw says:

    I’m thinking that the NYT is sadly inline with 21st century journalism, quite dead IMO as a disciplined profession in terms of social science notions of detachment and discipline and even handedness. I think that within the media (rather than the archaic “journalists”) you find a monoculture of like minded folks overwhelmingly of one party and these folks seek to be players. Regarding NYT and their antipathy to natural gas development, Tim Cohn raises an interesting Q to me, “…so why would the Times take such an Anti-American position?” My own guess is that none of the party disciples think of their own opinions and scribble at any time Anti-American. And I’m guessing the NYT partisans consider natgas a fail. In their idealized and insular world natgas is not near green enough.

  17. first last says:

    For all you folks who talk about fracking being so horrible….

    Have you ever actually seen it done?

    First, I am not in the industry, nor make money in any form from oil or gas production. Second grew up on a farm, I love nature and absolutely don’t appreciate those who have little regard for our environment. Further, I have been involved in drilling water wells for the farm and know the process/depth.

    I live in Oklahoma and have seen the fracking job done a few dozen times. I’ve went to the rigs and asked if I could observe the process, asking plenty of questions since I live close to where some of the shale gas exploration occurs.

    You people simply don’t know what you are talking about. While drilling, it takes up the space of about an acre of land and does make a muddy mess(although its just rain/snow mixed with the dirt).

    They DO dig pits in the ground(most of the time lined with a rubber lining) which hold both drilling mud and/or fracking water at times.

    The fracking is not a lot more than pumping (under high pressure) to fracture(which is where the name comes from) the rocks in the earth THOUSANDS OF FEET below the surface. Again, THOUSANDS of feet below where we get our drinking water.

    They do this high pressure frack ONLY at a desired depth….meaning its not just a dirt hold from surface to bottom. There is a steel pipe cemented in from the surface all the way down to the bottom of the hole. Only at the depth desired(again thousand of feet down) do they pump this pressurized frack water.

    Once drilling is completed… read more »

    …the land is restored and in the area about equal to a typical yard here in Oklahoma you now have enough energy to power small cities in some cases for 20 years.

    In a matter of weeks the grass starts growing back and there is very little actual disruption to the environment.

    So regardless of what folks are telling you(since its clear you have NEVER ACTUALLY SEEN IT DONE) its simply not true.

    So don’t be sheep, don’t believe either side and check it out yourself.
    Until you do you are merely repeating rhetoric from someone with an agenda.

  18. chloe r says:

    You talk about jobs, energy security, and the economy. But you left out the one most important thing: its impact on the environment which supports human life.

    It is beyond the fact that these resources are unrenewable, it is more than even if they were, they are damaging to our health, they are damaging to the environment, and they will destroy the systems that support us because they are polluting and yes, causing the climate to change so that it will drastically change and possibly make this earth uninhabitable (but let me guess – you don’t believe in climate change?). You didn’t mention hardly anything regarding that. I hope this helps you understand why folks are not wanting to support gas, however “clean” it is. I do support cleaner energy, but not as the end goal, as a transition from dirty energy to clean energy that will actually last us and leave our grandchildren with a healthy place to live, and not to mention, all the other creatures that happen to be here with us as well.

  19. Joe Zuckersuck says:

    To be honest, the NYTimes has not cared about facts for a while now. They have been becoming more and more of an opinion piece and less and less factual for the last 5 years or so. It’s really a shame, they used to to be top-notch and credible. Now? They are almost 100% political. Which is the real answer to this article.

  20. Michael Brown says:

    The answer to your question – about why this kind of thing happens – is not a pretty one: many people in the media and political establishment have an irrational animus against technology. It stems from an incorrect picture of the relationship of man and nature. Man is not meant to live humbly and tentatively in little huts and caves. And nature does not support such a life for man. Technology is a natural activity of man, and energy production is at the basis of everything. The political and media class use energy – and lots of it – to dig at the very basis of how man survives on earth. (This is not to say that it is intentional; by and large, it isn’t. But the results remain the same.)

    • Matt Hill says:

      This piece is exceptionally weak criticism. It never even tries to claim that anything reported in the NY Times article is incorrect. Instead, it uses the underhanded method of questioning the sources used for the article. Just because a quote is anonymous or from someone without a Nobel prize doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Question the assertions, not the sources.

    • chloe r says:

      That is an interesting point.
      However, you are lacking the fundamental knowledge of why dirty energy is in fact destroying the way we live. It may be nice right now, but its supporting our current society, it will not support the future generations. I hope that you can understand that we can still use technology (in fact I believe it is what will save us); no one is saying we have to go back to being cavemen. we just have to understand the leap that dirty energy allowed us to take and why the result of that is quickly collapsing, and what we are going to do about it. Energy production is needed for survival, but dirty, polluting, and unrenewable sources of energy are what is threatening our survival at this very moment.

  21. Peter Cacioppi says:

    Thanks for your post Ken, and I’m not trying to discount your points. But to put some perspective on the NYTimes comments, lets look at the “Internet Revolution” for perspective.

    10-12 years ago, serious people were proposing that the business cycle was dead, that profits didn’t matter to Internet stocks, and that the entire world would be revolutionized by the Internet.

    In hindsight, the Internet has represented a tremendous boon to society. Companies like Google and Amazon are real and substantial. But much of the hype has been found to be false, and it’s clear now that a great many players exageratted their claims for their own financial claim.

    My sense is that “shale energy” will follow some of the same patterns. The technology is real, and the benefits to society will be tremendous. But it won’t be the “cure-all” for energy and pollution. And, without a doubt, some smaller companies are doing their best to hype their shale play potential for their own financial benefit. At some point, the tide will go out, and we’ll see who’s wearing bathing suits.

    I think this is where the “Enron” type comments are directed. No-one thinks Exxon is the next Enron. But some companies are pushing the limits in the hopes that they will be acquired for favorable terms by Exxon, or Chevron, or maybe even BP.

  22. Tim Cohn says:

    Why indeed has the New York Times campaigned against cleaner-burning, domestically produced natural gas particularly on the front page of their Sunday edition?

    Was it not at attempt to influence national energy policy and if so why would the Times take such an Anti-American position?

    • Peter Cacioppi says:

      The NYT is simply no longer “the paper of record”. They are not attempting to deal with shale gas in a manner that is even remotely factual or rational.

      To get a fair assessment of energy in this country, one must read the Wall Street Journal, or The Economist.

      Sad to say, the Grey Lady is not what she used to be.

    • lance anderson says:

      The Left (NYT is their Bible) hates and opposes anything that makes life more affordable and reduces reliance on other countries. They will fight drilling in Anwar and off coasts and the pipeline that would transport energy from Canada to the Gulf port. Struggling young people can stop wondering where high gasoline prices come from: Democrats voting in the Senate. Replace them with a pro-production candidate and return to 1.99 per gallon. Not difficult. Futeres markets would get it.

    • Darr Darr says:

      There’s nothing wrong with shale gas per se, and certainly cleaner-burning NG is preferrable to the front end destruction/pollution AND back end pollution of most coal-derived power. However, I’d like to see the available NG piped down across Canada from the North Slope FIRST, and save the shale gas for times when we “need” it worse than we do now (e.g. during a late-’70s-type embargo). We can also replace a lot of coal burning with solar PV (now less-expensive per installed watt than nuclear; getting cheaper all the time), and reduce NG use with domestic solar hot water production. Polluting an aquifer would be far-worse than the Deepwater Horizon was, for everyone and everything that depends on that aquifer for water.

      • Thomas Collingwood says:

        An Alaskan resident for 30 years, a natural gas pipeline from the Arctic Ocean to Chicago promises “Jobs for Alaskans”. Building the pipe to connect to the Canadian grid will provide lots of temporary welding jobs and get steel mills in Korea humming, It would be politically and socially incorrect to build a short pipeline to the Alberta tar sands, but I believe the natural gas will be flowing from Chicago and the North Slope to provide for the tar sands and the refineries in Texas, if we can get the pipeline built from Alberta to Texas. The cost of this additional plumbing, priced in billions is a small investment on top of the capital already invested, leading to the service station where you gas up. Investing billions into renewable energies would be adversarial to previous investments. To replace all of that equipment with solar cells on my house would be a bigger investment than even Enron could muster, and would empty the coffers of even Exxon Mobil. Nuclear, with electricity to cheap to meter, seems to be a decommissioning nightmare coming soon to an obsolete power plant near you, even if everything goes perfectly according to plan. Seems to me most ‘folk’ don’t care how their quarter pounder with 10,000 cattle in it get to the corner as long as they are able to get into the car to go get fat. Machines are doing the work men used to do. Cashiers, the last great job now that steel is gone soon will be replaces by scanners. The gasses in the earth do not belong in the atmosphere, kind of like the meanie Jeanie in the bottle. There are too many of us. The strain on… read more »

        …the systems is not balanced. Can we have more, using less? What if they made a can opener you could give your grandson rather than having to buy a new one every time you want to open a can. It might cost a bit more upfront, but since Jr doesn’t have to buy one, it might save resource and capital. Besides, the rubbish bin is getting full. I am using the LED lighting, Three 1.1 watt bulbs and a 10 watt. Back in the day, Romania was chastised for their 60 watt per room energy law. In summary, there are no easy answers, and even those of us with perfect thinking can’t figure it all out. Maybe we should ask IBM’s Watson what to do. We will. We won’t like the answer.

        In our decision, let it reflect that it is not about us, but about the babies to come. Things are becoming a mess. Let us clean up before we make new messes. Not to grandfather them, the future generations with unfathomable debt, filth and destruction but with true assets, worthwhile employment opportunities, and nature. Wind turbines that kill everything that passes through the pressure vacuum, Dams that block the fish, and steam solar in the deserts using vast quantities of fresh water are all part of the solution. There are no easy answers. Walk, ride the bus. You don’t have to talk to them but the garbage that comes out of their mouths….The right to silence is trumped by the right to spew profanities.

        As for the Times, underpaid enter-reporters no doubt believe that which they have written. No one said carbon dioxide was a pollutant, however it replaces oxygen and its output is up from typical natural levels. Air went in the front and that which came out the tailpipe is not the same. What can we do? I ride my bike and remained trapped in camp (concentration), even though Alaska is just 40 miles away. The heat is on, the apartment window is drafty and I am warm. I don’t even have to chop wood. Just sit here at my computer and………

        Merry Christmas. Be thoughtful and honest. Let us find solutions that enhance the environment our grandchildren will inherit.

        That’s my version of perfect thinking in less than 15 minutes. Thank you for reading my post.

        PS: I wish I had a good job. Meaningful. And only one cow in my 1/4 pounder, Good luck Exxon Mobil. Really. I pray someone steps up and gets it right. If not me, who? Maybe you.