New York Times: Nightmare on Shale Gas Street

Freddy KruegerFor many, the New York Times is the paragon of virtue, the ultimate source, arbiter of truth, beacon of light in a world of darkness. And of course, everything you read in the Gray Lady is the honest truth—for real!

Sometimes I sigh and wish I too could live inside the liberal bubble and ignore reality and believe everything in the NYT—life would be so much simpler that way. But alas, I’m one of those few who don’t automatically believe what I read. In fact, a lot of what I read I would consider fiction, rather than fact.

The latest example of fiction passing for journalism in the NYT is the twin hit-pieces published June 25 & 26 from the same author—Ian Urbina—who has written hit pieces against the natural gas industry in the past for the NYT. Seems Mr. Urbina just has a grudge against natural gas.

Let’s take a look at the articles. The first, Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush, makes the breathless claim that Mr. Urbina has gotten his hands on secret internal emails that “prove” all is not peaches and cream in gasland—that natural gas is actually much harder to get and not as cheap to get as energy companies are proclaiming. That’s the theme. Along the way, Mr. Urbina weaves a horror story that would make Stephen King envious. By using unidentified  “sources” Urbina says:

  • natural gas drilling is just like the dot com bubble;
  • natural gas drilling is a Ponzi scheme (like Bernie Madoff);
  • natural gas drilling is just like Enron (and horror of horrors, a former Enron employee actually works for an energy company!);
  • that energy companies are lying, about many things;
  • that consumers will end up paying more for electricity and home heating because of natural gas;
  • that hydraulic fracturing, used for shale gas drilling, produces toxic waste;

About the only thing we didn’t have was a picture of Freddy Krueger to accompany the story (as a courtesy I’ve supplied one with this story).

The theme of the second story, Behind Veneer, Doubt on Future of Natural Gas, was: “Natural gas ain’t all that big a deal after all.” It tries to lay out the claim that estimates of natural gas reserves are vastly, and intentionally, overstated. Again we have a comparison to the dot com bubble, this time using former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan’s quote about “irrational exuberance.” The article bemoans how the U.S. Energy Information Administration gets its data, claiming it’s an incestuous affair, in bed with industry. The article says that many shale drillers will go bankrupt. Energy company executives are liars. Yada yada yada.

A question for Mr. Urbina and NYT devotees: Why would energy companies, and the executives who run those companies, bet their companies and their own careers on something they know to be a lie? Answer: They wouldn’t. The truth is, shale gas is a big deal and there are huge reserves—the estimates continue to grow, not shrink, based on actual production data. Shale gas is not in a bubble, gas reserves are not overstated, and shale gas will lead to lower energy prices for all consumers. Those are the facts—the truth that is missing in Mr. Urbina’s missives.

Energy in Depth, an industry-backed association that is a counterbalance to those who oppose oil and gas drilling, has done an excellent analysis of Mr. Urbina’s articles: NYT’s “Dewey-Defeats-Truman” Moment on Shale? MDN recommends you  read both of the NYT articles, and then EID’s response, and then decide who you believe.

New York Times (Jun 25, 2011) – Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush

New York Times (Jun 26, 2011) – Behind Veneer, Doubt on Future of Natural Gas

Energy in Depth (Jun 27, 2011) – NYT’s “Dewey-Defeats-Truman” Moment on Shale?