This post by Brendan DeMelle originally appeared on DeSmog Blog.
DeSmogBlog has uncovered an industry memo revealing that ‘Energy In Depth’ is hardly comprised of the mom-and-pop “small, independent oil and natural gas producers” it claims to represent. In fact, the industry memo we found, entitled “Hydraulic Fracturing Under Attack,” shows that Energy In Depth “would not be possible without the early financial commitments” of major oil and gas interests including BP, Halliburton, Chevron, Shell, XTO Energy (now owned by ExxonMobil), and several other huge oil and gas companies that provided significant funding early on and presumably still fund the group’s efforts.
According to the 2009 memo, Energy In Depth was orchestrated as a “major initiative to respond to…attacks” and to devise and circulate “coordinated messages” using “new communications tools that are becoming the pathway of choice in national political campaigns.”
Energy In Depth (EID) is featured in the news a lot these days, chiefly for attacking the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland, but also for its extensive efforts to malign the excellent reporting done by ProPublica, the Associated Press and other outlets. EID seems to attack everyone who attempts to investigate the significant problems posed by hydraulic fracturing and other natural gas industry practices that have been shown to threaten public health and water quality across America.
Here is how Energy In Depth describes itself on its ‘Contact Us’ page:
“Energy In Depth is a project of America’s small, independent oil and natural gas producers…”
While EID prefers to project this ‘mom and pop shop’ image, the June 2009 memo authored by Barry Russell, president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), reveals the seed funding provided by many of the world’s largest oil and gas companies for the creation of Energy In Depth.
The memo states:
However, none of these major oil and gas companies, or the industry’s largest trade association – the American Petroleum Institute – are acknowledged on the ‘About Us’ page of Energy In Depth’s website.
Instead, Energy In Depth portrays modest origins, suggesting that its “website and affiliated educational programs were created by” a coalition of state-based oil and gas associations, whose logos are featured on the ‘About Us’ page. This all seems designed to leave the impression that the EID was launched by small, “independent petroleum producers” rather than by the largest oil and gas companies on the planet.
Additionally, Enegy In Depth fails to acknowledge openly that its website URL was created by Dittus Communications, a Washington DC public relations firm best known for its work for major tobacco and nuclear industry interests. (Dittus is now part of Financial Dynamics, an international communications conglomerate.)
For a group that has accused Gasland director Josh Fox of creating an “alternate history,” and claims to want to “set the record straight” about the motives of anyone who dares to question the natural gas industry’s highly controversial hydrofracking practices, EID seems awfully disingenuous about its own ‘humble’ beginnings and ultimate interests.
The memo reveals the key role that the Independent Petroleum Association of America played in launching Energy In Depth:
Two IPAA staffers, Lee Fuller and Jeff Eshelman, spearheaded the launch. Chris Tucker is also listed as staff on the current ‘Contact Us’ page. Tucker did double duty in 2009 handling communications for Energy In Depth and the Institute for Energy Research, using the same phone number for both. (IER has received over $300,000 from ExxonMobil and an untold amount from other oil and coal interests to confuse the public about climate change and to attack clean energy sources. For example, IER was busted last year by Danish journalists for financing an infamous anti-wind study.)
Why would Energy In Depth want to hide its high-profile sources of funding?
Perhaps because these same companies are responsible for some of the worst environmental disasters in history, including last year’s BP/Halliburton/Anadarko blowout in the Gulf of Mexico; Shell’s multiple atrocities in Nigeria; Chevron’s court-affirmed destruction of the Amazon rainforest; El Paso Corp’s deadly pipeline explosion in Carlsbad, New Mexico; Occidental’s Piper Alpha explosion – the deadliest oil rig disaster in history; to name just a few incidents among this group.
Perhaps Energy In Depth thinks it might lose credibility with the media and the public if it revealed such key support from these notoriously reckless companies.
Perhaps it should?