EID Response to the New York Times

A recent article in the New York Times made several sensational and dubious allegations about Energy In Depth (EID) and the work that this program does. As the person who started the program back in 2009, I thought it would be useful to provide a short history lesson.

When the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) launched EID more than a decade ago, the term “fracking” barely registered in Google searches. Opponents of the oil and gas industry no doubt preferred it that way, because they were advocating for legislation in Congress that would have ended the successful, state-based regulatory structure for hydraulic fracturing that had been in place since the process was invented in the 1940s. Instead, the legislation would have shifted regulatory authority to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. To suggest the trajectory of the shale revolution would have been far different had that happened is perhaps an understatement. The legislation was defeated – as it has been multiple times in the years since – but the conversation about “fracking” would obviously only grow.

IPAA created the Energy In Depth program to provide timely and valuable information about hydraulic fracturing – everything from the chemicals used during the process and the layers of casing that protect groundwater to the finer details of how the process is regulated across the country. From the early days, EID produced fact sheets and blog posts countering misinformation, and we regularly spoke with media to share resources and our perspectives (we still do). We produced detailed responses filled with source citations and links to government agencies and peer-reviewed research; one of our mantras has always been “don’t just take our word for it.” EID became an indispensable part of the conversation about what was still the early days of the shale revolution.

When the attempt to put EPA in control of hydraulic fracturing failed in Congress, opponents of the industry shifted tactics and began to attack it directly – and with sensationalism. There were dubious accusations of flaming faucets in the Gasland films. There were the claims of astronomically high methane leakage rates in the United States, based on data from Russian pipelines (no, really), and which the scientific community roundly rejected. There was research linking fracking to premature births, which upon closer examination was so devoid of scientific rigor that the author regretted ever making it public. A self-described “science advisor” to Americans Against Fracking once even claimed that all female energy workers are either “hotel maids or prostitutes.” At every step of the way, when misinformation appeared about hydraulic fracturing – and the U.S. oil and gas industry as a whole – EID was often the first to call it out and correct the record. Being first has actually been our goal from the beginning.

Of course, EID’s success has made it a target of industry opponents, who would naturally prefer that their spurious claims go unchallenged. Some have simply disagreed with our perspectives, and we can handle that. But others who cannot win on the substance (and don’t even care to try) have attacked EID directly. They largely point to EID being funded by the oil and gas industry, as if that is something we have hidden: the IPAA logo appears on every page of the EID website! From there, the accusations often devolve into the silly and nonsensical, like suggesting IPAA is just a front, and that the program is actually run by a handful of big companies.

Let me be clear, as I have been many times before: IPAA owns and directs the Energy In Depth program, and I personally oversee and approve all content. Energy In Depth is even a registered trademark of IPAA.

One other “accusation” – on which the New York Times focuses its ridiculously biased story – is that IPAA works with a firm called FTI Consulting to do the EID program. But here again, that is not a secret. We’ve worked with FTI for almost 20 years now – before it was even called FTI. In the context of EID, numerous FTI employees have served as spokespeople for the program over the years, at all times operating under my supervision. They pen blog posts under their own name, provide statements to the media (often utilizing their FTI email addresses), and interact publicly on social media with their FTI affiliations listed. Despite the fact this is readily apparent to anyone, critics continue to try to characterize this partnership as some sort of smoke-filled room conspiracy that no one previously knew about. It’s so silly!

Of course, only a program as successful as EID could receive such breathless attacks from opponents of our industry. And to be clear, I am including the reporter from the New York Times who filed this latest story in that category: last month, in a tweet she later deleted, she linked the U.S. oil and gas industry to “white supremacy,” and her editors have heretofore done nothing about it. Such a vile and disgusting accusation is a perfect example of why we have a program like EID to rebut misinformation that all too often proliferates in the media.

As a final point, the New York Times says Energy In Depth “has been central to the fossil fuel industry’s championing of fracking.” On that point, at least, we couldn’t agree more.

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