The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The New York Times' Fracking Fail

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted June 28, 2011

Yesterday I posted some initial reactions to the latest articles in, as Michael Levi puts it, "The New York Times' war on shale gas..." More from Levi:

I hate to say it, but on the whole, both pieces are of pretty poor quality...[reporter Ian] Urbina was clearly looking for negative views of shale gas, and had no problem finding them. Given the massive size of the industry, and the number of financial bets being placed upon the sector, that shouldn't be a surprise. What is a surprise is that Urbina hasn't done much to put them in context...The Times descriptions of the emails (not just in the article, but in the document database) also betray a serious lack of understanding of the industry

Ken Cohen from Exxon wonders: "Don't facts matter anymore?"

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...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 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.

Increased supplies of domestic natural gas that enhance U.S. energy security and economic competitiveness? Sign us up! And sign up Forbes Fuel writer Christopher Helman too who thinks that most of the Times argument " is absurd on its face " and that "it's pretty awesome that thanks to drilling ingenuity the U.S. has proven to have one of the world's biggest and cheapest hoards of clean-burning gas."

While we support the N.Y. Times in its efforts to inform the public, presenting opinion as investigation is disingenuous and enlightens no one. More here on that point from Energy in Depth who looks at "some of the tricks employed by The Times' in executing its latest front-page assault on responsible natural gas development." And for the facts on the shale gas in the U.S. the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) suggests these three links. It may not surprise you that that the EIA's views on shale gas "differ in significant respects from those outlined" in the Times.

America's natural gas reserves offer enormous potential both in terms of energy security and economic growth. And America's natural gas companies are committed to developing these resources responsibly and having a conversation about responsible development. We only wish the Times, and others, were similarly committed to a responsible debate.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.