Last week, the Associated Press reported on a new letter sent to Governor Jerry Brown of California from a number of scientists urging the Governor to allow an expansion of fracking operations in the state.
The letter, with 21 signatories, suggests that fracking can be done safely with proper regulation, and that the economic benefits of fracking up California outweigh the inherent risks to the environment of the extraction practice. But even a very quick analysis of the signatories and the arguments they put forward will show another story. In short, this letter from scientists was made possible by the oil industry.
For starters, the letter was evidently “organized” by Energy in Depth, pro-industry effort underwritten by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, a oil and gas industry trade association. In their blog post on the letter, they note, “Energy in Depth helped to organize the letter, but exerted no editorial control over the content.” Their caveat that they did not exert editorial control is notable but unsurprising. It — I don’t recall them helping to organize the letter written by twenty of the nation’s climate scientists pushing for a ban on fracking in the state. Of course they wouldn’t, the only letters they would “organize” are ones that promote their causes.
Now on to some of the signers.
The first signature on the letter comes from Steven Holdrick, the former head of the Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University. Such a title makes it clear Dr. Holdrick does have some experience with oil extraction. But unfortunately, in addition to his former academic position, he has quite a career in the oil and gas exploration business as well. Among his many oil and gas-related corporate positions in his resume, he is now on the Board of Directors of Matador Resources Company, which describes itself as “an independent energy company engaged in the exploration, development, production and acquisition of oil and natural gas resources in the United States. Our focus is on unconventional resource plays with a strong emphasis on shale plays.” In other words, if fracking for oil in unconventional places like the Monterey is successful, his company will stand to benefit.
Another signer, Robert Chase, is so infamous in oil and gas circles in Ohio, Mother Jones magazine produced an expose about his ties to the industry. The Ohio Ethics Commission chairman concluded that Chase is “more than a passing participant in the operations of the Ohio oil and gas industry” while questioning his potential conflicts of interest. The Ohio Environmental Council puts it bluntly: “[Chase] is clearly a poster child for the need for a clear bright line between industry and academia.”
And then there’s Terry Engelder, who DeSmogBlog has described as “a shale gas industry spokesman”. They write: “He is the co-founder of Appalachian Fracture Systems, a natural gas consulting firm and was interviewed in “Truthland,” a documentary made in response to “Gasland” by Energy In Depth.”
In fact, quite a few of the signers of this letter appear to be part of the massive “frackademia” circles that promote fracking at all costs, often with industry support. Some are associated with corporations that depend on fracking for their profits, such as Conrad Geoscience Corp, WZI Inc., ARM Oil & Gas Solutions and other oil and gas industry outfits. Now, perhaps you can’t blame petroleum engineers bought and paid for by oil companies for pushing the technologies their profits depend on. But you can blame our leaders for taking those claims at face value.
The fact remains that the leading climate scientists in the world are saying we already have more fossil fuels than we can afford to burn if we want a safe climate future. And 20 climate scientists have made that case directly to Governor Brown in a recent letter (not organized by the industry, of course). Fracking for oil in California must be off the table, for the sake of our communities and climate.
It’s time for Governor Brown to place a ban on fracking in the state. Visit www.BigOilBrown.org to find out more and add your voice!