April 15, 2012 · 0 Comments
By Press Action:
The New York Times organized a conference on energy, which included speeches and panel discussions that addressed the use of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from shale plays across the United States. Even though there is widespread opposition to the use of hydraulic fracturing, the day-long conference on April 11 did not include a single speaker opposed to fracking.
The conference included a representative from the Environmental Defense Fund, but neither the representative, chief counsel Mark Brownstein, nor EDF as a group is opposed to fracking. On the other hand, the conference was awash with cheerleaders for natural gas production, including Energy Secretary Steven Chu, American Gas Association President and CEO Dave McCurdy and Southwestern Energy Co. President and CEO Steve Mueller.
Given the New York Times’ often strong reporting on natural gas drilling, it is shocking that the “newspaper of record” would exclude opponents of fracking from the agenda of its energy conference. Regarding the format of the conference, the Times said it would “curate both speakers and audience, to guarantee a balanced, thorough and open debate.” For those attendees who dished out $1,500 to attend the conference and were expecting a truly balanced and thorough debate on hydraulic fracturing and other energy issues, they should demand their money back.
During his session, Chu emphasized that he had no doubt that drilling in shale gas plays could be performed in an environmentally responsible way. “That’s something I believe that can be developed very responsibly,” he said. In fracking, millions of gallons of chemically treated water are injected underground to break up rock and free trapped gas.
Chu also said he supports the export of domestically produced natural gas as a way to drive up natural gas prices. The Energy secretary said that if natural gas prices remain depressed for too long, it could impede natural gas production in shale plays. Chu did not address the belief of many people that slowing down or stopping natural gas extraction would benefit human health and the health of the environment.
Instead, for Chu, the focus is entirely on creating wealth for U.S. energy and industrial companies. The Obama administration official said there is a way to continue natural gas extraction and allow liquefied natural gas exports that will “create a lot of wealth in the United States.”
The U.S. Department of Energy, under President Barack Obama’s leadership, has been extremely pro-fracking and pro-LNG exports. Speaking in Houston in early February, Chu said the low price of natural gas is hurting domestic job growth and exporting the fuel would boost the U.S. economy. “Exporting natural gas means wealth comes into the United States,” Chu said.
Obama recently trumpeted how U.S. natural gas production has reached an all-time high during his presidency. In his 2012 State of the Union Address, Obama announced a new goal to develop natural gas resources in a way that would support employment for 600,000 Americans by the end of the decade. This includes jobs involved in the production and distribution of shale gas as well as jobs in companies that supply services and equipment to the shale gas industry. Do these pronouncements make you feel confident that Obama administration is truly concerned about the terrible environmental consequences of natural gas extraction and recognizes how an economy based on nonstop growth will destroy the planet?
Ken Salazar, Obama’s Interior secretary, says that “hydraulic fracturing is very much a necessary part of the future of natural gas because without this new technology, the amount of natural gas we have in this country is a very [minute] amount.”
The Environmental Defense Fund, one of the Big Green groups that supports natural gas extraction, welcomes natural gas’ role in replacing coal as a fuel for power plants. Speaking at the New York Times conference, EDF’s Brownstein said natural gas serves as a perfect complement to the intermittency of renewable energy. “Gas can play that role,” Brownstein said.
At the New York Times conference, Michael Levi, senior for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that it is a “great thing” that natural gas is replacing coal as a fuel at power plants. Natural gas “has done more than any legislative initiative in the last decade to push coal out of the system,” Levi said.
Unfortunately, the New York Times chose not to offer a real discussion on natural gas. Instead, it was a one-sided affair in which you had industry and government officials expressing great confidence in the potential of natural gas and the loyal members of the environmental and nonprofit world providing their stamp of approval for natural gas production and exports, as long as they are conducted in a thoughtful and responsible manner.