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Sat, 2011-09-10 07:15Carol Linnitt
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More Than a War of Words: Gas Industry Plays Fracking Victim

Evoking an emotional response in one’s audience is a rhetorical means of persuasion well documented since Aristotle. But like Aristotle writes in his Rhetoric, if the reliable character of the speaker isn’t enough to convince a crowd, an emotional appeal might be the next best route to getting what you want – a strategy that is evidently well suited to a powerful but untrustworthy voice, like that of the gas industry.

The oil and gas industry's chief spokespeople have become rhetorical masters, the veritable trailblazers of the devolution of public relations into spin and misinformation campaigns. They probably have a thing or two to teach Aristotle about the art of persuasion and conjuring. Take climate science for example, where the industry has conjured up a ‘climate change debate’ out of thin air, or warming air for that matter. With a few flicks of the rhetorical wand a ‘debate’ over the anthropogenic warming of the climate began, despite an overwhelming consensus on the matter from the world’s leading scientists.  

But we’ve long passed the point where we take industry at its word. We have become too skeptical to trust the ‘character of the speaker’ and the industry knows this all too well. Hence the blatant emotional play at work in so much oil and gas industry public relations. 

Most recently the gas industry has chosen to play victim in a rather surprising aspect of the fracking controversy – its language.
Fri, 2011-09-09 15:04Carol Linnitt
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Reliance on Unconventional Gas is No Good for Climate, Says Scientist Tom Wigley

A partial shift from coal to unconventional gas on a worldwide scale will continue to accelerate climate change for a significant amount of time, according to Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). An increased reliance on gas would eventually reverse the warming trend but would only decelerate climate change by a few tenths of a degree. According to Wigley’s findings, that miniscule change will only feasibly occur sometime between 2050 and 2140, depending on the severity of fugitive methane from gas drilling, processing, and transport operations. 

Tom Wrigley, senior research associate at NCAR, is due to publish these findings next month in the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change Letters. The journal recently received significant attention on this topic after publishing the striking findings of Professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea. The Cornell University scientists performed a lifecycle analysis of the major fossil fuels to discover that unconventional gas offers little to no climate advantage over coal. 


The hotly contested findings sent a shock wave through the gas industry and environmental community alike, challenging the notion that the continent’s vast reserves of unconventional gas could or should serve as an alternative, interim fuel during the switch to a low-carbon economy. Wigley’s findings also pose a significant challenge to this assumption.
 
“Relying more on natural gas would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, but it would do little to help solve the climate problem,” Wigley told Science Daily. “It would be many decades before it would slow down global warming at all, and even then it would just be making a difference around the edges.”
Tue, 2011-09-06 16:39Carol Linnitt
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New West Partnership Includes CAPP Lobbyists in Fracking Policy Development

The British Columbia Ministry of Energy was designated a “lead agency” in a backroom collaboration with Alberta and Saskatchewan to address water concerns for the province’s rapidly expanding shale gas industry. The New West Partnership, an undisclosed collaboration between Canada's three western provinces to expedite shale gas extraction, has held four secret meetings since July 2011 to discuss water issues related to fracking, according to a leaked briefing note, released today by the BC Tap Water Alliance (BCTWA).

The leaked document, including an attached directive, outlines the group’s strategies to streamline gas production across the West while minimizing public and stakeholder involvement. The partnership project, which is aimed to design streamlined policy regarding gas extraction including the controversial technique fracking, is also posed to curtail public concern with “proactive” public relations campaigns that will respond to the “ill-informed campaigns” of environmental NGOs, public media and local communities. 

The Project Charter outlines the New West Partnership’s intentions to manage public opinion with ‘consistent messages’ regarding environmental concerns which are “potentially problematic” for shale gas development. Despite the group’s pretense to stakeholder transparency and “enhanced communication,” the only external body consulted so far is Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). According to the BCTWA press release, the internal meetings held by provincial regulators and government officials included three unregistered lobbyists representing CAPP, prompting a complaint from the Alberta Federation of Labour.  
Thu, 2011-08-11 06:53Carol Linnitt
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Scientists Say Obama Fracking Panel is Financially Tied to Gas Industry

The Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of the Energy Advisory Board released their draft report today, which outlines immediate actions to improve the health and environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. The report, a culmination of 90 days of research, is a part of President Obama’s larger plan for unconventional gas in his “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.” 

The panel, handpicked by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, is directed to investigate the safety of shale gas development and to make recommendations for both improvements to the process as well as ‘best practice’ strategies that can act as recommendations to relevant agencies. 

The 41-page report makes clear the conviction that the current state of distrust surrounding the gas industry is bad for business. The industry, the panel suggests, needs to become more transparent, well-regulated and engaged. “And industry response that hydraulic fracturing has been performed safely for decades rather than engaging the issues concerning the public will not succeed.”

Besides, the report goes on, modern hydraulic fracturing has really only been performed since 2002 or 2003 and not since the 1940’s

Despite the panel’s recommendations to make the gas production process more transparent to the public, there is still a strong industry back-bone running throughout the report’s body.

Thu, 2011-08-11 06:15Carol Linnitt
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New York Comptroller DiNapoli Introduces Frack Fund To Cover Industry Damage

Marcellus Protest

Although New York State comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has yet to take a stance on the issue of hydraulic fracturing within his state, he introduced legislation on Tuesday that will require the gas industry to pay into a frack fund that would cover environmental damages caused by the controversial process. The fund would be on standby during drilling and ready to issue compensation to landowners affected by fracking’s unfortunate side-effects, like air pollution and water contamination.

Taking its shape from an oil spill fund created in the 1970s that DiNapoli administers, the proposed legislation would require drillers to post a liability bond for damages before they begin. The legislation also proposes increased state involvement in emergency cleanup for which drillers will pay a surcharge on drilling permits.

Wed, 2011-08-10 12:23Carol Linnitt
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Communities At Risk from Gas Industry Air Pollution - Interview with NRDC's Amy Mall

Global Community Monitor

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is busy trying to figure out why communities near gas production facilities are experiencing life-threatening levels of hydrogen sulfide. At low levels hydrogen sulfide can cause respiratory distress, headaches, and loss of motor control, while at high levels can cause nausea, vomiting, shock, convulsions and death. 

In June, air samples taken near a gas well pad in Colorado showed hydrogen sulfide levels at 185 times the safety limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency.  The highly toxic gas was discovered by a group of vigilante air testers called the Bucket Brigade, working with the Global Community Monitor program to expose industrial polluters.

The investigation, led by a coalition of citizen and environmental organizations, collected nine air samples near gas drilling operations in Colorado and New Mexico. They discovered a total of 22 toxic chemicals in their community air, of which four are known to cause cancer. These industrial pollutants were discovered at levels 3 to 3000 times greater than official human safety thresholds.

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