Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, the second largest privately-held energy company in America, have poured millions of dollars into creating a web of media influence to increase their power to sow doubt about climate change among the American public. A network of bloggers, pundits, think tanks and foundations get funding from the Kochs, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has received over $700,000, and the libertarian Cato Institute, which has received $13 million from the Kochs since 1998. The Manhattan Institute received $1.5 million, Americans for Prosperity has gotten $5.5 million, the Pacific Research Institute has gotten $1.2 million and the Federalist Society $2 million. This web of think tanks and foundations operates blogs and Web sites and house prominent writers who pump out climate denial writings that help spread the Kochs' anti-climate change ideology. The Kochs' influence isn't limited to fringe media, either. Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, who writes for the Weekly Standard and the Washington Post, Philip Anshutz, owner of the Examiner newspapers and the Weekly Standard, Stephen Moore, a Wall Street Journal editorial board member, are just some of the conservative media figures who attend the Kochs' exclusive, private annual gatherings.
The Marcellus Shale lies are unraveling daily right before our eyes. T. Boone Pickens, for example, was on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show on Thurs. Jan. 27 to hype up the Pickens Plan. Yet, this is what the Pickens Plan will get us on a weekly, if not daily basis. The New York Times reports:
Drilling service companies have injected at least 32 million gallons of diesel fuel underground as part of a controversial drilling technique, a Democratic congressional investigation has found. Injecting diesel as part of hydraulic fracturing is supposed to be regulated by U.S. EPA. But an agency official told congressional investigators that EPA had assumed that the use of diesel had stopped seven years ago ...The letter said they had not been able to determine whether the diesel injections threatened groundwater. The service companies told Waxman's staff they did not know how close their frack jobs were to sources of drinking water, saying their clients, the well operators, would have that information. Of the total figure, 10 million gallons was 'straight diesel fuel,' according to the letter, while another 22 million gallons was products containing at least 30 percent diesel.
Acquiring "clean natural gas" and "getting off of foreign oil" are pitched as reasons to continue natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. And yet, beyond all the problems associated with fracking, Pro Publica's Abrahm Lustgarten revealed in a January 25, 2011 article that "clean natural gas" isn't all that clean after all. Lustgarten writes,
The United States is poised to bet its energy future on natural gas as a clean, plentiful fuel that can supplant coal and oil. But new research by the Environmental Protection Agency … is casting doubt on the assumption that gas offers a quick and easy solution to climate change … Advocates for natural gas routinely assert that it produces 50 percent less greenhouse gases than coal and is a significant step toward a greener energy future …The EPA now reports that emissions from conventional hydraulic fracturing are 35 times higher than the agency had previously estimated. It also reports that emissions from the type of hydraulic fracturing being used in the nation’s bountiful new shale gas reserves, like the Marcellus, are almost 9,000 times higher than it had previously calculated …"
Environmental groups say we should be certain of the factual data about emissions and environmental effects of shale gas drilling before making major policy decisions that push the nation into dependence on methane gas obtained through drilling.
Those who follow energy politics closely should not be surprised. The government-industry revolving door constantly spins rapidly, and thus it is no different on the natural gas front within the United States. This is highlighted acutely by ProPublica in an article titled, "Some Appointees to Oil and Gas Commission Are Industry Execs, Lobbyists."
The article states, speaking about the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission,
The home page of T. Boone Pickens' "Pickens Plan" is emblematic of the oil industry's aggressive push to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale basin. The page greets visitors with the blaring headline, "WE MUST BREAK AMERICA'S ADDICTION TO FOREIGN OIL. The Pickens Plan will do it, but we need your help."
In the age of the perpetual War on terrorism, politicians, pundits and other U.S. demagogues have successfully used fear as a bargaining chip. Fear-mongering is a method of Orwellian thought control. In this example, Pickens equates foreign oil with evil, similar to the Bush Administration's Orewellian logic regarding American's position in the world: "You're either with us, or you're with the enemy." Bush put forth a false paradigm of absolute good versus absolute evil. The Bush Administration used fear as a political tool after 9/11 to march the country into war, and convince citizens that we need to permit domestic spying to keep us safe domestically. (Think Patriot Act). Fear also led to the heinous crimes committed at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib Detention Centers.
Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has, for the most part, been out of the spotlight for the past year since he wrote his book titled The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege...And How We Can Be Safe Again, which came out in September of 2009. In that book, Ridge confessed that, although unsurprising to anyone who understood the rampant fear-mongering and propaganda that took place in the post-9/11 Bush era, he was pressured by others in the Bush Administration to purposely manipulate the infamous color-coded National Security Alerts for political reasons, and in particular, during the run-up to former President George W. Bush's re-election in 2004.
America's voracious oil consumption is criticized for many reasons in the media today, but three reasons seem to dominate the headlines. First, the Gulf oil disaster has galvanized public outrage at oil companies and led to questioning of our energy needs which push oil rigs out into treacherous deep waters. Second, climate change attracts significant attention, as academy award-winning films are made on the topic and the manufactured "Climategate"; scandal fills news articles with tales of espionage. Finally, as the Iraq War drags on and tensions with Iran remain high, every politician is giving lip service to the national security threat created by "our dependence on foreign oil." But what often gets ignored is perhaps the most obvious and persistent problem involved with oil use: air pollution.
Energy in Depth and the gas industry are deploying spin doctors to counter a new documentary being aired nationwide on HBO. This time around, the truths unearthed about what the impacts would be of methane gas drilling into the Marcellus Shale unveiled by the film Gasland, by scientists, and by investigative journalists, are all victims of a prolific oil industry smear campaign.
Quick refresher: Marcellus Shale is an extensive underground formation of shale in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and other states in the region that has received renewed attention both because of new estimates of the quantity of methane gas believed to be under these rocks, and because of the significant environmental concerns that have been raised about the method of extracting the gas from the shale. "Hydrofracking" is a process in which a fluid is injected at high pressure into oil or methane gas deposits to fracture the rock above and release the liquid or gas below. The process uses enormous amounts of drinkable water, along with toxic chemicals. It also releases radioactive materials and other hazardous substances within the shale deposits, a fact that has raised significant environmental and health concerns.
Conservatives may have moved quickly to dissociate themselves from Representative Joe Barton's apology to BP, but many on the right still believe that the establishment of a $20 billion escrow fund violated the legal rights of the company. A frequent claim is that the Obama administration has violated BP's due process rights. Appearing on ABC's This Week, George Will stated the creation of the escrow fund amounted to a confiscation of assets that circumvents due process. Former Washington Times writer Robert Stacey McCain argued in his blog that Rep. Barton was rightly concerned about due process when he apologized to BP. Michael Barone in National Review Online quipped that, "the Constitution does not command 'no person ... shall .... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; except by the decision of a person as wise and capable as Kenneth Feinberg." The Framers stopped at "due process of law." It is to be expected that conservatives care less about the decimated lives along the Gulf Coast than they do about a multinational corporation losing $20 billion over several years, even when its cash flow for this year alone will reach $30 billion, according its own estimates. What is a slightly more surprising is that they would completely misconstrue a fundamental legal concept in the process.