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The New York Times Loses All Credibility On Shale Gas

Why do New York Times editors persist in trying to discredit the only hopeful bit of economic news to come out of the US during the entire Obama presidency? Perhaps we should follow the money trail, to see who may be pulling the NYTs strings?

You’re Ian Urbina, a senior New York Times reporter. In February and March you write that hydraulic fracturing, a method of natural gas extraction, is contaminating Pennsylvania drinking water. Your accusations are subsequently disproved by government tests. What do you write next?

You write a three-part series in the Times saying that shale gas production is “inherently unprofitable” and a giant Ponzi scheme, as well as loosely-regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. _RCM

Unfortunately for the NYT, its latest 3-part hit piece on shale gas is no more meaningful in the real world than its earlier, discredited piece on fracking.


Why do NYTimes editors persist in trying to discredit the only hopeful bit of economic news to come out of the US during the entire Obama presidency? Perhaps we should follow the money trail, to see who may be pulling the NYTs strings?

Last weekend the New York Times published a front-page article raising serious questions about the true scale and economics of the production of natural gas from shale, invoking the specter of another asset bubble. To say that this created a buzz would be an understatement. Yet while the article addressed important concerns, it mischaracterized the overall situation by conflating the fortunes and prospects of individual companies with the long-term viability of exploiting the underlying resource. Even if some prominent shale-focused companies were to fail, that wouldn’t alter the quantity of shale gas in the ground. It also wouldn’t change the fact that shale gas accounted for more than 15% of domestic US natural gas production in 2009 and is expected to supply at least 25% by 2035, even in the most pessimistic shale gas scenario included in the Department of Energy’s 2011 Annual Energy Outlook. Comparisons to Enron or the Dot-Com bubble make little sense when the shale gas bonanza has shifted the fundamentals of physical supply and demand, irrespective of its effect on the equity values of companies in this sector.

…I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that that the paper’s editors, like many in environmental circles, find the development of this resource to be an unwelcome diversion on the path to a lower-carbon future. After all, while natural gas emits much less greenhouse gas than coal over its lifecycle, particularly for electricity generation, it certainly emits much more than wind, solar and geothermal power. Many renewable energy projects have struggled to compete with the low cost of gas-fired power generation that shale gas helped bring about. Ultimately, the price of natural gas lies at the heart of both the concerns raised in Sunday’s story and the worries of many environmentalists that cheap gas could delay the shift to renewables by many years–although I would remind them that gas-fired power also looks very helpful for enabling the grid to accommodate more renewables. _GeoffreyStyles

Sure, faux environmentalists, investors in shady and unreliable big wind and big solar developments, and peak energy doomers all have a natural hatred for abundant sources of energy. But Russian national gas companies, middle eastern national gas companies, and other corrupt concerns from Venezuela to Africa also stand to lose from the development of North American shale. Unfortunately for all of them, all the signs point to abundant long-term, safe and clean production for shale gas and liquids.

For natural gas, the stars are aligned for it to play a far more substantial role in the world energy mix, according to a pair of reports this week.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology today published its report on natural gas, which it characterized as an abundant and reasonably priced resource able to act as a bridge to a low-carbon future. The International Energy Agency released its own study (PDF) Monday, where it said natural gas is poised to enter a “golden age.” _CNET

Peak oil doomers and faux environmental energy starvationists gloat over high decline rates in some shale gas fields. But those decline rates are just part of the highly profitable business, and developers factor that information into the equation before they begin.
Major producers routinely share detailed production data that show first-year decline rates of 80 percent in some fields. This isn’t a revelation: Unconventional wells tend to exhibit high initial production rates, but many still prove profitable despite high decline rates. _InvestingDaily

Al Fin Energy, 2 July 2011