Thursday, January 3, 2008

Standing Up for Energy

Clearly we at CARE were not the only ones alarmed by Parade Magazine’s outright attack on energy. Colorado State Senator Bill Cadman is demanding a public retraction of Parade’s anti-energy article. This posting reports on his efforts on behalf of energy. In addition to applauding his stand, we include this feature here because he brilliantly exposes the myths addressed in the Parade piece and offers the contrasting truth.

Western Senator Picks Fight With 'Parade' Magazine
Senator Demands Retraction and Apology by 'Parade'

New York City-based Parade magazine has stirred up a hornet's nest in the Western U.S. with its recent article demonizing oil and gas development, and a Colorado State Senator is now demanding a public retraction and apology by the magazine to its readers and to tens of thousands of industry workers.

In a letter to Parade, Colorado State Senator Bill Cadman (R) today demanded that the magazine issue a public apology to readers after an article in the publication’s Dec. 30, 2007 edition contained numerous inaccuracies about the U.S. oil and gas industry.

The article in question – “The Dirty Side of Domestic Fuel” – accepted as fact a number of false statements from the National Resources Defense Council, a radical environmental group that opposes domestic oil and gas production, according to Cadman.

Cadman specifically questioned whether the magazine has any links to the NRDC, whether NRDC paid to have the article published, and whether any members of the oil and gas industry were contacted about the “facts” in the article prior to publication.

"It looks like Parade magazine took NRDC’s extremist line and reprinted it as a news article,” said Cadman. “There seems to have been no effort made to find out the facts about the regulations faced by the oil and gas industry."

Cadman challenged Parade on several areas of the article, a story that focused on the question: “Is extracting domestic oil and natural gas important enough that companies should be granted exemptions from pollution laws?”

Of course, companies that develop oil and natural gas in the United States are not exempt from pollution laws and are in fact heavily regulated, both by states and the federal government. Cadman - a member of the board of Americans For American Energy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about the importance of domestic energy production - in a letter to Parade’s editors said “At a minimum, you owe your readers a correction – and an apology – for the factual misstatements in this article. I would suggest you also publish an apology to the hard-working men and women of the American oil and gas industry who are committed to producing the energy our nation needs to survive.”

“This article flunks even the most basic standards of journalism, “ said Cadman. "This type of article, if it's going to be published at all, needs to be marked as an opinion piece and Parade should disclose the actual author.

"Whatever happened to checking facts before an article is published?"

Among the misstatements and factual errors cited by Cadman:

  1. “Loopholes make such wells … exempt from parts of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Air Act that would control these substances.” Cadman noted this implies that oil and gas production escapes oversight in these areas. In fact, Congress ensures that oil and gas production is regulated primarily by state and local agencies because local officials are in a better position to tailor regulations to meet local conditions. Though this forces oil and gas companies to deal with a wide array of differing state-based regulatory structures, and increases costs to industry and to consumers, it still is the best approach for ensuring effective, highly-targeted and economically efficient environmental regulation.

  2. “Extracting oil and gas is known to release toxic chemicals, including mercury, benzene, arsenic, and harmful chemicals are routinely injected underground to boost output.” In fact,boosting the output of oil and gas wells through the process of fracturing underground rock formations primarily utilizes water, sand and food-grade gel. Studies conducted by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Groundwater Protection Council found no evidence that the injection process questioned here, regulated by state oil and gas agencies, has resulted in groundwater contamination.

  3. “Well operators are not required to file an annual toxic release inventory, a list of chemicals emitted.” In fact, oil and gas producers do report air emissions and “produced water” disposal to state regulatory agencies. Cadman also notes that operators are subject to the “Community Right to Know” law, and must file “Material Safety Data Sheets” for chemicals used in the production process with local emergency planning committees.

  4. "People living near wells have reported alarming health problems.” Cadman notes the article cites only anecdotal reports of these impacts and does not cite a single specific worker exposure or epidemiology study to back up these claims.

  5. Cadman notes that the magazine’s “poll” question - Is extracting domestic oil and natural gas important enough that companies should be granted exemptions from pollution laws? - is completely illegitimate because it is based on the presumption that the domestic oil and natural gas industry is “exempt” from pollution laws, which it is not.

  6. The underlying premise of the article – that “American oil may not be worth the price” – suggests that America should produce less of its domestic oil and gas resources. Even with greater conservation efforts, that will lead to only one outcome: forcing America to rely more on imports of foreign supplies. And that would result in more global pollution, not less, because environmental standards for oil and gas development in nearly every other nation are less stringent than those in the United States.

  7. The article misleads consumers because it speaks of the costs of producing domestic energy but completely ignores the heavy price that consumers – as well as our nation – pay by sending billions of energy dollars to foreign nations for imported oil and gas. Some of those nations are hostile to the United States, and some of that money ultimately winds up in the hands of terrorist organizations.

  8. Cadman pointed out that Parade chose not to report that America’s ever-growing dependence on foreign oil – and thus our increasing subsidization of hostile foreign nations and the terrorist organizations they support – is caused, in growing measure, by the political efforts of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an extremist environmental organization. Not challenging this group’s assertions raises serious ethical questions about whether Parade made any effort to substantiate the NRDC’s claims, and calls into question the journalistic integrity of the article.

Said Cadman, “To take the NRDC’s extremist anti-American energy line and report it as factual is a disservice to your readers and to a vital U.S. industry that is working hard to supply secure, domestic energy in an environmentally responsible manner.

“Perhaps Parade supports sending billions of dollars overseas to pay for our critical oil supplies? They seem to want to export the already high cost of energy production to poor nations abroad, and in the process are complacent to the documented flow of some of these dollars to nations hostile to American interests and the terrorist groups they support,” Cadman said.

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