Additional Reactions to the New York Times Articles Documenting Shale Gas Skepticism; More on Fracking

Michael Giberson

As a follow-on to my post on the recent New York Times articles on shale gas skepticism, here’s a collection of other reactions:

  1. The most thoughtful response appears to come from Michael Levi at the Council on Foreign Relations, Is Shale Gas a Ponzi Scheme?: “The New York Times’ war on shale gas continues with two more big stories by Ian Urbina. … Both articles are based primarily on piles of emails, the first from industry sources and the second from EIA staff. I hate to say it, but on the whole, both pieces are of pretty poor quality. That’s a shame, because both – particularly the first one – had the potential to raise some important issues for debate.” Levi continues, “I’m going to focus on the Sunday story here, because it’s much more interesting, and because some of its sources raise some genuinely important issues…. In contrast, today’s story is mostly a mix of some frustrated EIA analysts’ complaints and some healthy internal EIA debate taken wildly out of context.”  Levi’s commentary continues with a cogent and somewhat damning analysis of the Times article. Worth reading the whole thing.
  2. Also thoughtful is Michael Lynch posting at MasterResource: “Two specific issues raised in the article are important: the profitability of shale gas wells and their long-term production profiles.” But also, “A careful reading of the articles, however, suggests that it is more smoke than fire.” The post includes addition examination of the relevant issues. The remaining items are not as good as these first two, but for more reactions read on!
  3. Dallas Morning News editorial: “This newspaper isn’t ready to give up on the enormous promise of ‘abundant, clean and cheap’ that natural gas may hold for America’s energy future. Still, a disturbing pattern of unfulfilled claims justifies the public’s increased skepticism.”
  4. Fort Worth Star-Telegram‘s Barnett Shale Blog: “Chesapeake Energy and its high-profile CEO Aubrey McClendon issued a blistering response to a Sunday New York Times article …. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., citing a related Times article published Monday, said he wants the U.S. Energy Information Administration to justify ‘optimistic estimates’ for shale-gas production. The Star-Telegram published versions of both articles.”
  5. Chesapeake Energy’s statement: the aforementioned “blistering response.”
  6. Grist writer David Roberts: “If the WSJ editorial board says it, it’s probably wrong.” Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon’s response to the NYT stories, “… is chock full of logically flawed arguments and right-wing talking points. Indeed, it sounds like it could have been written by the WSJ editorial board!” (HT to Roberts for mentioning the great Levi commentary noted above.)
  7. reported that some of the companies mentioned in the articles were trading lower on Monday, but the effect appears small. Not mentioned by was that some companies mentioned in the articles outperformed the market on Monday. I’d say no real market effect.
  8. The blogger at Early Warning speculates on the two-headed editorial sensibilities at the New York Times, sometimes publishing cheery resource reports that seem to reflect oil company PR claimes and other times publishing highly critical analyses.
  9. At FuturePundit, Randall Parker wonders whether the electric power industry and transportation policies may get burned by big investments predicated on the shale gas boom story, if it turns out the skeptics are right.

[ADDED: At FuelFix, Tom Fowler collects other reactions to the NYT articles, including a sharp blast from John Hanger, a former Pennsylvania regulator.]

While I’m at it, there have been a spate of other fracking related pieces lately, including:

  1. Wall Street Journal, The Facts About Fracking: “The U.S. is in the midst of an energy revolution, and we don’t mean solar panels or wind turbines. A new gusher of natural gas from shale has the potential to transform U.S. energy production—that is, unless politicians, greens and the industry mess it up.”
  2. Kathleen White in the National Review, The Fracus About Fracking (link goes to a summary, full article req. subscription at NR, NR link here): “Human ingenuity, catalyzed by market dynamics, has foiled predictions of irreversible decline in domestic oil and natural-gas resources. Official estimates of the amount of recoverable oil and natural gas have soared.”
  3. The Economist, Fracking Heaven: Other Europeans fear fracking, Poland is steaming ahead: “The rewards could be vast. Shale gas could free the country from its dependence on coal, a dirtier fuel, which currently accounts for 95% of Polish power generation. It could also mean that Poland no longer has to rely on Russia, the neighbourhood bully, for most of its natural gas.”
  4. At the Huffington Post, Kevis Begos reports Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation: Fisherman, Hunters Take on Fracking: “A new coalition of outdoors groups is emerging as a potent force in the debate over natural gas drilling. The Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation isn’t against the process of fracking for gas, but its members want to make sure the rush to cash in on the valuable resource doesn’t damage streams, forests, and the various creatures that call those places home.”
  5. And for something different, at Cycles, Trends, & Vibrations Mike Aucott offers a preliminary but well documented estimate of the shale gas energy return on energy invested (EROEI) along with a discussion of related issues. The EROEI he comes up with, in the range of 70 – 100, seems shockingly high.