Critics pile on New York Times’ shale stories

It looks like I wasn’t the only one who had issues with Ian Urbina’s stories in the New York Times on the economic viability of U.S. shale gas.

Industry, media, government, academia, investment firms and others have criticized the articles based on the lack of facts and the use of questionable sources.

The responses range from one by the U.S. Energy Information Administration saying the information it provided Urbina was different than what he included in his story – to a journalist from Forbes who wrote that the “New York Times is all hot air on shale gas.”

All of this criticism reminds me of an interesting post I saw last week by Robert Rapier titled “Media Misinformation Promotes Dysfunctional Energy Policy.” In it, Rapier argues that sensationalism over facts is leading people – regular citizens and politicians alike – to have distorted views of energy that prevent sound policymaking.

That’s clearly not always the case, and in fact the majority of reporters I work with are sincerely trying to be fair and balanced. But Rapier’s post is worth a read, especially since one of his examples involves a never-published editorial on ExxonMobil’s first-quarter 2011 profits that I wouldn’t have known about if he hadn’t done the post. Take a look at Rapier’s R Squared Energy Blog to read more.

Here are the links to some of the commentary on the New York Times’ articles. Energy In Depth has even more on its website.


20 Comments

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  1. Peter Cacioppi says:

    Yes, this clearly wasn’t one of the better moments in the history of the NYT. New Yorkers are somewhat obsessed with “fracking”, and thus they have a bit of a bias to print any anti-shale story.

    At the end of the day, technology trumps hype. 2-3 years from now, the citizens of Penn will be looking at stories like this and laughing.

    Shale energy has been slowing stealing the show from the “peak energy” crowd for many years. There is a segment of the population that wants the fossil fuels left in the ground, and thus promote the idea that there is no economic way to extract more fossil fuel energy. They envision a fuzzy future without oil. coal and gas, that somehow allows them to fly to Costa Rica every winter.

    They reality is that technology has changed the fossil fuel industry forever. Gas and oil that was once uneconomic is now reasonably priced, and it will inevitably be extracted no matter what articles get printed.

    • Scott Lenhart says:

      Are the citizens of Montana laughing at your oil in the Yellowstone River?

      • Robert Strasner says:

        Mr. Lenhart, we will certainly have accidents like this in an effort to curb our dependency on Foreign oil. Unless you are walking everywhere you go, living without heat and air conditioning and living without lighting, I would suggest you direct your jabs at those misinforming the public as such jabs point directly back at you sir.

        • j k says:

          That doesn’t addresss Mr. Lenhart’s question. I was going to buy Exxon gas this afternoon because there is a station near where I’m located. But considering how smug their spokespeople are, I am going to find another place to fill up.

        • mark fearing says:

          The issue isn’t that humans need energy, we know modern society does, the issue is that a company like exxon/mobile is only good at doing what is has been doing in the past. Exploiting the resources to get that energy. There are hundreds of valid, interesting methods to derive energy from, and we will know of many more in 2 years than we know now.

          The problem with E/M is they are looking out for their own interests, which isn’t a surprise nor is is a conspiracy. But they do have a bottom line to look at, and their expertise is simple doing what they have profited from for over a hundred years.
          Don’t look to them to care about issues that interrupt that view.

          Yes we need energy to power our future, and no that energy does not need to come from the same methods it has come from.

          Somewhat like Henry Fords famous story that most people would have wanted faster horses if he had asked them, while he had the vision for the automobile, I don’t expect E/M to desire to do anything but use their technology, the land they own and lease to extract energy. But I am not foolish enough to believe they desire to see their business turned upside down by new inventions or regulations that protect parts of the environment that they need to exploit to profit from.

          I wish E/M wouldn’t pretend otherwise, and I wish others wouldn’t shout so much venom at them. Be realistic… read more »

          …and understand they are looking out for their interests, and that sometimes an issue of common good might collide with that desire. The only side to take is that new technologies need to be developed before we do such serious damage trying to extract every darn micron of fossil fuel we are left with a habitat that is unlivable. But don’t look to E/ M to do that anymore then the companies that sold horses and carriages welcomed the original car. E/M is a fossil company, don’t expect them to change.

  2. Warrior Woman says:

    Or the citizens of Pennsylvania who can set their tap water on fire? I bet you they don’t think the Times story was misleading; they probably wish it had been more strongly worded. Face it, ExxonMobile and all other companies involved in fracking don’t give a rat’s patootie about the environment, since all you are really focused on is your bottom line. Clean drinking water? Ehhh, who needs it, right?

    Hypocrites.

    • Robert Strasner says:

      Again, if you do any of the aforementioned or buy products , such as food, that were trucked to you then I would not be so quick to throw the hypocrite word around. Do you even understand the fracking process? Do you realize how many regulatory agencies the oil companies must comply with to get their product to market. And speaking of a bottom line, they are a company, this is not China and they are allowed to operate to make a profit. You are more than welcome to buy stock and let your voice be heard with the board of directors. You have a wonderful day in this land of opportunity!

      • Xavier Watson says:

        So oil and gas are the only way to move food around. And the only way to produce electricity. Since it is purely a matter of economics, if this discussion were happening in 1911 would you be staunchly defending coal against clean(er), more expensive upstarts like oil and gas? I wonder.

        • charles robb says:

          They are certainly not the only way to move food around. We could go back to using covered wagons. Of course it might be a tad less efficient.

      • Rick Krupa says:

        Really, regulatory agencies? Do you really think that they are looking out for the good of the people or the good of a bottom line? Don’t use that as a reason everything is good to go. They turn a blind eye on many occasions.

    • Mark Otrhalek says:

      Natural gas is wonderful for the US economy.
      Cheap, plentiful and domestically produced it is the cleanest fossil fuel with no ash residue no mercury contamination and no acid rain problems.
      It creates jobs, helps our trade balance and because it is a cheap energy source makes us more competitive on the world stage

    • Jack OBrien says:

      Pennsylvania is so rich in minerals they cannot be avoided in the environment. Col. Drake was alerted to the presence of oil in Titusville because it was polluting a stream nearby where he drilled the nation’s first well. That stream was named Oil Creek.

      Mount Washington, the precipice above the city of Pittsburgh, was originally called Coal Hill because locals could easily gather the fuel which allowed them to stay warm, cook food, and eventually make the steel that built this country’s great cities.

      Frakking occurs well below the water table in Pennsylvania. Shallow wells within 1,000 feet of the surface are much more likely to cause a problem with potable water supplies. Too bad, almost every property owner in Northwestern Pennsylvania could drill a shallow well and have enough pressure to heat, cool and power their homes – and their cars.

      There are probably 10s of thousands of deep wells in the US today, and despite the insatiable appetite of the media for kissing up to the environmentalists, you seldom hear of problems associated with drilling. It’s possible such problems would be bad for the oil and gas industry and they’re actually trying to prevent them.

  3. Conna Dewart says:

    In response to “Warrior Woman”:

    The film, ‘Gasland’ misrepresented its facts in grossly negligent ways. I’m a fan of documentary film making, but that was a unethical approach.

    The tap water that was shown catching fire in the kitchen so dramatically in Colorado? As it happens, it had nothing to do with frakking. In much of the U.S., there is enough methane in the ground to leak into well water.

    “Colorado investigators went to that man’s house, checked out his well and found that frakking had nothing to do with his water catching fire. His well-digger had drilled into a naturally occurring methane pocket.”

    “There are lots of … naturally causing effects that occur,” Matthew Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation, (think tank in Pennsylvania). “It’s really no surprise. We find that 40 percent of the wells in Pennsylvania have some sort of naturally occurring methane gas and other types of things.”

    While there are urgent needs to closely monitor and investigate in dangers posed in ALL types of mineral mining, hype and political agenda do nothing but cloud the issue. I believe many people have been duped by a few media savvy attention hounds.

    Respectfully.

    • Rick Krupa says:

      So fracking is OK? wow, then why is it meeting resistance? because it isn’t everything it is purported to be, that’s why. naivete isn’t an excuse.

  4. rohn bayes says:

    what’s interesting to me is that Exxon/Mobil has their own column on USA today where they can make their case under the guise of ‘journalism’ – how convenient !! it’s unlikely that the issue of conservation will ever be brought up here – but that’s the simplest most practical way to address the energy issue – ofcourse that confronts our lifestyle choices and we would rather avoid that at all costs including war / destruction of the environment / species extinction and the threat of destroying the life support systems of this planet that allow us all to live here – one day we will have to wake up and face those choices – i sincerely hope it won’t be too late

  5. charles rowland says:

    There are certainly enough broad sweeping generalizations out there to go around. Tell ya what..I will add my hand to support the pipeline..IF EXXON, shell and say..BP agree to pay taxes at the same rate I do. Fair?

    • Pete Texas says:

      Haha, fat chance Charles.

      Actually, I have an even better idea. Let’s give this company two choices: either convert to a non-profit and divert all profits towards cleaning up this atmosphere or agree to have their corporate charter abolished by the state which has, in OUR NAME, so GRACIOUSLY allowed them to convert the public wealth of our earth into the private wealth of an aristocratic elite.

      • craig Permenter says:

        Are you aware that government already makes multiples of profit per gallon of gas than the oil companies do ?

        Probably not. Do you care ? Probably not as well.

        We could go the route of other countries who have nationalized their oil industries. They watch as production declines through mismanagement and then finally get to a point where they have to call in outside capitalist ventures who have the technological expertise and organizational skills to revitalize their government run (into the ground) industry. Such narrow minded and ideology based thinking always costs them production and net tax revenues in the long run. Care to investigate the environmental record of state run oil concerns ? Don’t, or it might case you to have to rethink your entire rational towards government run oil. But it does serve two purposes. It lines the pockets of those in political power and it makes some shallow thinkers feel good because they think they have done some thing good. Like the guy who drove through the Chick-filet drive through just to order a free water and complain about corporate policy and harass a front line server just trying to earn a living. He was even quoted saying he “felt good” because he thought he had done something “useful”.

        Silly children.

  6. Mark Leheney says:

    Hmmm. Whom should I believe? A Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper, or an energy company flak?
    I wonder if you realize that most people see through the agenda you have.
    This perversion of “news” through blogs from people like the Koch Bros., Americans for Prosperity et al is just ridiculous.
    Exxon just wants to make money. It doesn’t really care what happens to the environment. Just be honest about it.

  7. Peter Cacioppi says:

    Yes, this clearly wasn’t one of the better moments in the history of the NYT. New Yorkers are somewhat obsessed with “fracking”, and thus they have a bit of a bias to print any anti-shale story.

    At the end of the day, technology trumps hype. 2-3 years from now, the citizens of Penn will be looking at stories like this and laughing.

    Shale energy has been slowing stealing the show from the “peak energy” crowd for many years. There is a segment of the population that wants the fossil fuels left in the ground, and thus promote the idea that there is no economic way to extract more fossil fuel energy. They envision a fuzzy future without oil. coal and gas, that somehow allows them to fly to Costa Rica every winter.

    They reality is that technology has changed the fossil fuel industry forever. Gas and oil that was once uneconomic is now reasonably priced, and it will inevitably be extracted no matter what articles get printed.

    • Scott Lenhart says:

      Are the citizens of Montana laughing at your oil in the Yellowstone River?

      • Robert Strasner says:

        Mr. Lenhart, we will certainly have accidents like this in an effort to curb our dependency on Foreign oil. Unless you are walking everywhere you go, living without heat and air conditioning and living without lighting, I would suggest you direct your jabs at those misinforming the public as such jabs point directly back at you sir.

        • j k says:

          That doesn’t addresss Mr. Lenhart’s question. I was going to buy Exxon gas this afternoon because there is a station near where I’m located. But considering how smug their spokespeople are, I am going to find another place to fill up.

        • mark fearing says:

          The issue isn’t that humans need energy, we know modern society does, the issue is that a company like exxon/mobile is only good at doing what is has been doing in the past. Exploiting the resources to get that energy. There are hundreds of valid, interesting methods to derive energy from, and we will know of many more in 2 years than we know now.

          The problem with E/M is they are looking out for their own interests, which isn’t a surprise nor is is a conspiracy. But they do have a bottom line to look at, and their expertise is simple doing what they have profited from for over a hundred years.
          Don’t look to them to care about issues that interrupt that view.

          Yes we need energy to power our future, and no that energy does not need to come from the same methods it has come from.

          Somewhat like Henry Fords famous story that most people would have wanted faster horses if he had asked them, while he had the vision for the automobile, I don’t expect E/M to desire to do anything but use their technology, the land they own and lease to extract energy. But I am not foolish enough to believe they desire to see their business turned upside down by new inventions or regulations that protect parts of the environment that they need to exploit to profit from.

          I wish E/M wouldn’t pretend otherwise, and I wish others wouldn’t shout so much venom at them. Be realistic… read more »

          …and understand they are looking out for their interests, and that sometimes an issue of common good might collide with that desire. The only side to take is that new technologies need to be developed before we do such serious damage trying to extract every darn micron of fossil fuel we are left with a habitat that is unlivable. But don’t look to E/ M to do that anymore then the companies that sold horses and carriages welcomed the original car. E/M is a fossil company, don’t expect them to change.

  8. Warrior Woman says:

    Or the citizens of Pennsylvania who can set their tap water on fire? I bet you they don’t think the Times story was misleading; they probably wish it had been more strongly worded. Face it, ExxonMobile and all other companies involved in fracking don’t give a rat’s patootie about the environment, since all you are really focused on is your bottom line. Clean drinking water? Ehhh, who needs it, right?

    Hypocrites.

    • Robert Strasner says:

      Again, if you do any of the aforementioned or buy products , such as food, that were trucked to you then I would not be so quick to throw the hypocrite word around. Do you even understand the fracking process? Do you realize how many regulatory agencies the oil companies must comply with to get their product to market. And speaking of a bottom line, they are a company, this is not China and they are allowed to operate to make a profit. You are more than welcome to buy stock and let your voice be heard with the board of directors. You have a wonderful day in this land of opportunity!

      • Xavier Watson says:

        So oil and gas are the only way to move food around. And the only way to produce electricity. Since it is purely a matter of economics, if this discussion were happening in 1911 would you be staunchly defending coal against clean(er), more expensive upstarts like oil and gas? I wonder.

        • charles robb says:

          They are certainly not the only way to move food around. We could go back to using covered wagons. Of course it might be a tad less efficient.

      • Rick Krupa says:

        Really, regulatory agencies? Do you really think that they are looking out for the good of the people or the good of a bottom line? Don’t use that as a reason everything is good to go. They turn a blind eye on many occasions.

    • Mark Otrhalek says:

      Natural gas is wonderful for the US economy.
      Cheap, plentiful and domestically produced it is the cleanest fossil fuel with no ash residue no mercury contamination and no acid rain problems.
      It creates jobs, helps our trade balance and because it is a cheap energy source makes us more competitive on the world stage

    • Jack OBrien says:

      Pennsylvania is so rich in minerals they cannot be avoided in the environment. Col. Drake was alerted to the presence of oil in Titusville because it was polluting a stream nearby where he drilled the nation’s first well. That stream was named Oil Creek.

      Mount Washington, the precipice above the city of Pittsburgh, was originally called Coal Hill because locals could easily gather the fuel which allowed them to stay warm, cook food, and eventually make the steel that built this country’s great cities.

      Frakking occurs well below the water table in Pennsylvania. Shallow wells within 1,000 feet of the surface are much more likely to cause a problem with potable water supplies. Too bad, almost every property owner in Northwestern Pennsylvania could drill a shallow well and have enough pressure to heat, cool and power their homes – and their cars.

      There are probably 10s of thousands of deep wells in the US today, and despite the insatiable appetite of the media for kissing up to the environmentalists, you seldom hear of problems associated with drilling. It’s possible such problems would be bad for the oil and gas industry and they’re actually trying to prevent them.

  9. Conna Dewart says:

    In response to “Warrior Woman”:

    The film, ‘Gasland’ misrepresented its facts in grossly negligent ways. I’m a fan of documentary film making, but that was a unethical approach.

    The tap water that was shown catching fire in the kitchen so dramatically in Colorado? As it happens, it had nothing to do with frakking. In much of the U.S., there is enough methane in the ground to leak into well water.

    “Colorado investigators went to that man’s house, checked out his well and found that frakking had nothing to do with his water catching fire. His well-digger had drilled into a naturally occurring methane pocket.”

    “There are lots of … naturally causing effects that occur,” Matthew Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation, (think tank in Pennsylvania). “It’s really no surprise. We find that 40 percent of the wells in Pennsylvania have some sort of naturally occurring methane gas and other types of things.”

    While there are urgent needs to closely monitor and investigate in dangers posed in ALL types of mineral mining, hype and political agenda do nothing but cloud the issue. I believe many people have been duped by a few media savvy attention hounds.

    Respectfully.

    • Rick Krupa says:

      So fracking is OK? wow, then why is it meeting resistance? because it isn’t everything it is purported to be, that’s why. naivete isn’t an excuse.