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Category — New York Times

Why We Fight (Part I: AEA is ‘Big Liberty,’ not ‘Big Oil’)

[Editor Note: Tomorrow's post,"A Free Market Energy Vision," explains the philosophy behind the Institute for Energy Research/American Energy Alliance.]

The New York Times is upset with “Big Oil,” including the advocacy group American Energy Alliance (AEA). This is evident in their Saturday opinion-page editorial, Big Oil’s Bogus Campaign, subtitled “Industry spends heavily to preserve tax breaks and blame Mr. Obama for rising gas prices.”

What is the philosophy behind AEA, what are the Times’s complaints, and what is a free-market response?

American Energy Alliance

The American Energy Alliance is the C4 (advocacy) arm of the C3 (educational) Institute for Energy Research. I am founder and CEO of IER.

AEA’s “About” section on its website reads as follows:

Founded in May, 2008, The American Energy Alliance (“AEA”) is a not-for-profit organization that engages in grassroots public policy advocacy and debate concerning energy and environmental policies.

AEA believes that freely-functioning energy markets provide the most efficient and effective solutions to today’s global energy and environmental challenges and, as such, are critical to the well-being of individuals and society. AEA believes that government policies should be predictable, simple and technology neutral.

AEA’s mission statement is as follows: [Read more →]

April 2, 2012   1 Comment

Solar circa 1994: What Has Really Changed? (Remembering Enron’s hoodwink in the age of Solyndra)

[This post reproduces a front-page story in the New York Times business section that excitedly reported a breakthrough with solar energy as represented by a heady energy company named Enron. Formed in the mid-1980s, Enron had just entered into the solar business and was destined to revitalize--if not save--the U.S. wind industry just a few years later.]

“Federal officials, aware that solar power breakthroughs have shined and faded almost as often as the sun, say the Enron project could introduce commercially competitive technology without expensive Government aid.”

Allen Myerson, Solar Power, for Earthly Prices, New York Times, November 15, 1994.

The nation’s largest natural gas company is betting $150 million that it can succeed where the Government has so far failed: producing solar power at rates competitive with those of energy generated from oil, gas and coal.

The Enron Corporation plans to build a plant in the southern Nevada desert that would be the largest operation in the country making electricity directly from sunlight, producing enough to power a city of 100,000 people. It is expected to begin operating in late 1996.

Grand promises in the late 1970′s about the potential of virtually pollution-free, endlessly renewable energy sources like solar energy faded into an embarrassed hush. But several of the nation’s leading solar power experts say Enron’s optimistic goal is probably reachable.

The reason is that during the last decade, the cost of solar power generation has quietly declined by two-thirds. Far from depending on some wondrous breakthrough, the experts say, Enron can offer commercially competitive solar power by inexpensively mass-producing solar panels, and then employing thousands of them in the Nevada desert. [Read more →]

September 20, 2011   13 Comments

The Shale Gas Hit Piece: The New York Times (minus public editor Brisbane) Doubles Down on a Bad Bet

When New York Magazine reported earlier this month that the national editor of  the New York Times had sent an internal memo laying out a “surprisingly detailed” defense of reporter Ian Urbina’s latest front-page attack on natural gas, the hope was that the memo would spur an equally detailed response by Arthur Brisbane, the Times’ public editor.

That hope was realized when Mr. Brisbane’s 1,100-word piece was postedon the paper’s website over the weekend, a column in which Brisbane takes square aim at the Times for going “out on a limb” and “lack[ing] an in-depth dissenting view in the text” (see the Appendix below for more of his piece).

The Brisbane piece is remarkable for a number of reasons and on a number of levels, continuing the healthy scrutiny that spontaneously emerged from various respected experts over the past three weeks.

Just yesterday, in fact, the head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) told the U.S. Senate that “the data clearly show that shale gas is rapidly becoming a significant source of natural gas supply” – a direct hit to the Times. According to POLITICO, he went on to tell the lawmakers that emails from EIA cited by the Times as part of its reporting “came from an entry-level staffer who had been hired as an intern in 2009.”

Digging In and Doubling Down

Notably, as the criticisms of the Times have continued to pile up — most recently from paper itself — the response on the part of the reporter who authored the piece (and the editors who allowed it to run on the paper’s front-page) has been to dig-in and double-down. In an interview on public radio last month, Urbina sought to defend his story by characterizing it simply as a way to advance a “full and candid discussion of all the factors that play into the long-term viability of [natural gas].”

Urbina’s editors took a different tack, basing their defense on the notion that, since it took him six months to do it, and since it includes lots of emails from “industry insiders,” it must be good. Of course, activity isn’t the same thing as achievement. Just like volume isn’t the same thing as veracity.

Brisbane Weighs In [Read more →]

July 20, 2011   8 Comments

Shale Gas and the New York Times: The Challenge from Energy In Depth (A ‘Dewey-Defeats-Truman’ Energy Moment?)

[This factual rebuttal against peak-shale by Chris Tucker and Jeff Eshelman of Energy In Depth (a project of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, or IPAA) is a serious moment in the energy debate. MasterResource reproduces their rebuttal in total and invites comments, particularly from the 'peak oil' community that received the front page article of their dreams (or nightmares, depending on the ultimate outcome of this fact-versus-fact debate).]

“What [the New York Times] isn’t entitled to, at least in our view, is to represent its piece as an original investigation; not when the story was essentially outsourced to a well-known critic of the industry whose predictions on shale’s imminent collapse grow less defensible (and more difficult to find on his website) by the day. Nor do we believe The Times is entitled to mislead its readers on the expertise of those whose “leaked” emails — many written in 2008 and 2009 – are used to form the basis of the story, especially when real-world production numbers from 2010 and 2011 directly contradict those speculative accounts.”

- Chris Tucker and Eric Jeff Eshelman, June 27, 2011

The United States produced more natural gas in 2010 than at any point in the previous 37 years, a stunning reversal of fortune given the country’s supply picture earlier this decade, and one that could not have been possible without the massive volumes of American energy that continue to be generated from shale.

So what happens from here? By now, you’ve likely heard the stories and seen the estimates: with everyone from IEA to EIA to PGC to MIT projecting a future in which shale’s production trajectory continues along an aggressive upward path, delivering literally quadrillions of cubic feet of clean-burning natural gas to generations of consumers not only in the United States, but around the world. It’s a view that’s supported by the preponderance of science and a majority of scientists, not to mention one that’s continuously reinforced by new data.

Over the weekend, The New York Times sought to advance a contrarian view on the subject, and to that view The Times (and reporter Ian Urbina) is more than entitled. What it’s not entitled to, at least in our view, is to represent its piece as an original investigation; not when the story was essentially outsourced to a well-known critic of the industry whose predictions on shale’s imminent collapse grow less defensible (and more difficult to find on his website) by the day. Nor do we believe The Times is entitled to mislead its readers on the expertise of those whose “leaked” emails — many written in 2008 and 2009 – are used to form the basis of the story, especially when real-world production numbers from 2010 and 2011 directly contradict those speculative accounts.

Against that backdrop, we attempt below to pull back the curtain a bit on some of the tricks employed in The Times’ latest front-page assault on responsible natural gas development: [Read more →]

June 29, 2011   3 Comments

More on Peak Oil

The recent Houston Chronicle op-ed, ostensibly written to respond to my New York Times op-ed, is worthy of reading for a variety of reasons, but primarily entertainment. The reference to me as Stephen Lynch was apparently an editor’s error, but the analogy of oil fields and glasses of water was quite enlightening as to the state of the debate. The three gentlemen comment on the difference between a straw in a glass (a supergiant field) and a puddle of water on the table requires many straws.

In fact, I know of no supergiant fields that have not required many straws, since oil fields are not ‘pockets’ of oil but rather oil that is in rock, rather as water is in a sponge. Drawing all of the fluid from one spot doesn’t mean that all of the oil will flow freely and uniformly to the straw: to the contrary, a given well usually drains a very limited area, and supergiant fields typically have numerous wells, hundreds even thousands, depending on the geology and geography.
[The inappropriate use of analogy is reminiscent to the website of Colin Campbell, the founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil. He points out that when you have finished half the glass in a beer, you only have half left. Given that he lived in Ireland, this prompted the rejoinder that his inability to find another glass of beer should raise questions about his understanding of resources.]

There is also the rather illuminating comment that not knowing much about Russian and Middle Eastern supergiants suggests that they could decline much faster than we expect. And yet, couldn’t they also decline much slower than we expect? This selective attention is what is known as ‘bias’. In fact, while it is not possible to download comprehensive information about oil fields in those areas, I have done work in the past by relying on such information as is available, including the piece, “The Economics of Petroleum in the Former Soviet Union,” in Gulf Energy and the World: Challenges and Threats (The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, Abu Dhabi, 1997) as well as “Crop Circles in the Desert” (on this website), which show what can be done, given a little effort. [Read more →]

November 2, 2009   5 Comments

Is Joe Romm a 'Global Lukewarmer'?

“On our current emissions path, we’re going to … warm more than 4°C by century’s end.”

- Joseph Romm, Climate Progress, August 11, 2009

I will be happy to bet anyone that the 2010s will be the hottest decade in the temperature record, more than 0.15°C hotter than the hottest decade so far using the NASA GISS dataset.  Any takers? Andy [Revkin]?”

Joseph Romm, Climate Progress, September 22, 2009

In a fit of rage, uber-alarmist Joe Romm of ClimateProgress has recently offered a temperature warming bet that he can win even if more than 85% of all climate models are shown to overpredict future warming.

Has Joe seen the light and become a “lukewarmer”—that is, someone who thinks that the human CO2 emissions will result in only a modest rise in global temperature, somewhere at or below the bottom end of the IPCC range of projections? Might he even be a closet ‘skeptic’–not a skeptic of climate change or anthropogenic climate change, but a doubter of climate alarmism?

For someone so strident on this issue, I would have thought that Joe Romm, would bet on climate catastrophe, not climate-model catastrophe.

Romm issued his bet after hyperventilating about Andy Revkin’s recent article in the New York Times, which suggested that the lack of change in the world’s average surface temperature since the turn of the century (or in some instances, a few years prior) has the potential to make it difficult to get CO2 emissions regulated in the name of “global warming.”

For what it is worth, I agree with Revkin on this (tune in next week to see why), as do an increasing number of science writers who are hedging their bets in line with recent data and what new peer reviewed articles are suggesting. And Romm is furious that Revkin has ‘mainstreamed’ lukewarming in the pages of the newspaper of record, the New York Times.

States Romm: “I will be happy to bet anyone that the 2010s will be the hottest decade in the temperature record, more than 0.15°C hotter than the hottest decade so far using the NASA GISS dataset.”

Well, many climate realists the world over would feel vindicated if the average temperature of the 2010s was only 0.15°C hotter than the decade of the 2000s (the current warmest decade). For that would provide more strong evidence that the earth’s climate was responding to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in a far more benign manner than the ensemble projection of climate models.

In fact, the rejoicing wouldn’t be limited to climate realists but to just about anyone overly concerned about the potential for large negative impacts from climate change given a slower-than-model-predicted evolution of global temperatures. I imagine, though, that Joe Romm would be an exception because while he would have won the bet, he would have lost his Hell-or-High-Water war. He is emotionally attached to the issue with a public record of alarmism that is beginning to put Paul Ehrlich in the shade. (John Holdren, with his billion-death climate scare still on the table, might be another story.) [Read more →]

September 24, 2009   14 Comments

Why is the Party in Power So Fearful of Copenhagen? (Is a 'death spiral' for climate alarmism ahead?)

[Editor note: Ken Green was a Working Group 1 expert reviewer for the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001]

For weeks now, we’ve been hearing an odd refrain from the Democrats who are pushing hardest for the Waxman-Markey climate bill. They are determined, it seems, not only to have such a bill drawn up before Copenhagen, but to have it signed into law. At the same time, the EPA is widely expected to issue its endangerment finding for greenhouse gases, triggering what will undoubtedly be a hotly disputed regulatory process.

President Obama, it is reported, wants to sign climate legislation before the critically important Copenhagen climate conference in December. And Senate Majority leader Harry Reid wants the President to sign a climate bill this fall as well.

They both have plenty of company in the “act first, think later” brigade.

A New York Times article shows the sense of urgency: [Read more →]

September 1, 2009   14 Comments

Response to 'Peak Oil' Critics (the hydrocarbon age is still young: plan accordingly)

[Editor note: Mr. Lynch's op-ed in the New York Times last week stirred a good deal of  comment and disagreement from "peak oil" proponents. His response is here]

The publication of my op-ed on peak oil in the New York Times brought forth the usual tidal wave of criticism. The Oil Drum went so far as to put up a separate page for comments, and Joseph Romm issued a ‘challenge’ to me to wager on oil prices. (For an executed bet coming due next year, see the appendix below.)

Responding to each and every comment, or even the main ones, would be a Herculean (and Sisyphean) task, so I will (here) make some hopefully useful observations.

First, I apologize to Fatih Birol for lumping him in with the peak oil advocates. He is pessimistic about supply, as are many others, without being in the ‘peak oil’ camp, and he informs me that the widely-cited Guardian interview misrepresented his views.

Second, many comments bordered on the bizarre, to the point where a number of my friends—who are not acquainted with oil—found them so. (Just as an example, I was not director of the Center for International Studies, nor am I currently employed by M.I.T.)

Third, readers should understand that an op-ed piece is intended to express opinions, it is not a research piece, thus it was not loaded with facts and citations. The Times was kind enough to give me much more space than usual (hey, it’s August), but even so it would take an entire book to address most of these issues in detail.

The intellectual tradition behind resource expansionism (versus the fixity/depletion view) is a rich one, calling to mind such names as M. A. Adelman and Julian Simon. An overview of this theory, and its rich intellectual history, is provided by Robert L. Bradley Jr. in Resourceship: An Austrian Theory of Mineral Resources (28 pages). [Read more →]

August 31, 2009   43 Comments

Challenging Alarmism: John Maddox (1925–2009), RIP

It was nice to see John Tierney in his blog post, The Skeptical Prophet, pay tribute to John Maddox, the scientist and revered long-time editor of Nature. “He debunked the catastrophists, most notably in his 1972 book, The Doomsday Syndrome,” noted Tierney, “in which he argued that Spaceship Earth had more carrying capacity and ecological resilience than environmentalists realized.”

Tierney adds: “His book was denounced at the time by John P. Holdren, who is today the White House science advisor. In a 1972 article in the Times of London, Dr. Holdren and his frequent collaborator, the ecologist Paul Ehrlich, dismissed Dr. Maddox as ‘uninformed’ and clearly unable to understand ‘simple concepts’ of population theory.” Stated Ehrlich/Holdren (as quoted by Tierney): [Read more →]

April 21, 2009   1 Comment