| March 14, 2012

Truth is stubborn — thankfully

Truth is a funny thing. It can be ignored, abused, and twisted, but it still somehow finds the light of day. Nowhere is this more evident than in America’s energy industry. Political operatives masked as journalists and documentary film makers are scampering around the country, pushing their agenda. Peddling half-truths and outright lies and refusing to report certain positive stories, their work product has all the credibility of a Michael Moore film. As America seeks energy independence, greater freedom, and better security for our citizens, our nation’s energy producers are under attack from those who wish to remake America. Rather than allow the free market to thrive, they prefer to let the winners and losers be chosen by the government – or by them.

The truth is that America’s energy producers are providing jobs, helping us become more secure as a nation, and generally improving the quality of life for all Americans. In fact, a recent ExxonMobil post by Ken Cohen showed the company’s total contribution to the U.S. economy was $72 billion in 2011 alone. Company profits of $9.6 billion came after they paid taxes, salaries, returns to investors, and operations costs. For every dollar ExxonMobil earned in the U.S., they contributed seven more dollars to the U.S. economy – to both governments and individual Americans.

Unfortunately, some media outlets and filmmakers focus on profits alone and act as though companies should apologize for making money. As the battle rages, here are some other things you might not know.

In Film
A recently released movie entitled Gasland has been distorting the truth in many ways. Billed as an “expose” and purporting to uncover facts about drilling in America, one of the movie’s most sensationalized scenes involves residents in a Pennsylvania town whose drinking water was so contaminated they could light it on fire. Many aspects of Gasland have been repeatedly and thoroughly debunked by credible third party experts, but perhaps no area of the film has proven to be more disingenuous than the now infamous faucet lighting scene. After all, according to the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), “Dissolved methane in well water appears to be biogenic [naturally occurring] in origin. … There are no indications of oil & gas related impacts to water well.”

In Academia
Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment recently published a study by Stephen Osborn, Robert B. Jackson, Avner Vengosh and Nathaniel Warner looking into possible claims of groundwater contamination near well sites in Pennsylvania and New York. Celebrated as the first peer-reviewed study to measure contamination drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the study reportedly found measurable amounts of methane in a large portion of the samples it studied. Oklahoma’s own Chesapeake Energy Corporation disputes the findings of the study and has the facts to back them up. In April 2011, Chesapeake geologists, petrophysicists, environmental scientists and engineers shared volumes of information with those conducting the Duke study. In all, Chesapeake’s team shared over 7,000 data sets they had collected over the last few years in Pennsylvania which showed measureable methane in 22% of the water sources sampled prior to any drilling operations occurring, directly refuting the contents of the study. Unfortunately, the Duke researchers were undeterred by these facts. Chesapeake is not alone in its criticism of the study. Michael Krancer, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection believes the study was, in a word, biased. “The bottom line is it was biased science from biased researchers,” Krancer says, addressing a luncheon audience during a recent conference in Pittsburgh.

In Popular Culture
To discredit the practice of hydraulic fracturing, activists paint it as some covert practice where drillers are allowed to inject anything they want into the ground. Opponents of the drilling technique would have you believe that no one really knows what chemicals are being unleashed on the environment. This claim is directly rebutted by several sources, but this quote from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is particularly on point: “Drilling companies must disclose the names of all chemicals to be stored and used at a drilling site … These plans contain copies of material safety data sheets for all chemicals … This information is on file with DEP and is available to landowners, local governments and emergency responders.” In addition, many major operators voluntarily disclose hydraulic fracturing components to a publicly available chemical disclosure registry at the website

Thankfully, truth is quite stubborn. Disingenuous writers and filmmakers can try to hide the facts, but the truth eventually prevails. Not only can the truth debunk these false attacks, but just look at the exciting developments happening right here in Oklahoma.

Chesapeake Energy recently announced an agreement with manufacturing giant 3M to collaborate in designing, manufacturing and marketing a broad portfolio of compressed natural gas (CNG) tanks for use in all sectors of the United States transportation market. The new tanks will reduce costs while increasing performance and enable greater market adoption of CNG as an alternative automotive fuel source. Less than two weeks later, Chesapeake had more big news with the announcement that it would partner with GE on groundbreaking technology to provide more than 250 modular and standardized compressed natural gas compression stations for natural gas vehicle infrastructure. This breakthrough will provide core infrastructure to enable expanded access to CNG at fueling stations and other designated installations.

And perhaps one of the most exciting and encouraging developments in the energy industry is being driven by another one of Oklahoma’s energy pioneers: Harold Hamm of Continental Resources. By now, you have likely heard of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota that reaches into Montana and even into Canada. Hamm began working in that area nearly two decades ago, and his persistence and ingenuity have paid off in big ways. Simply put, the Bakken is the largest oil find in the United States in half a century, and it is creating a boom in North Dakota that has never quite been seen before. Previously unreachable or extremely difficult oil reserves are being tapped because of an entrepreneurial spirit thriving in the free market. Good paying jobs are being created, the economy is growing at a fast clip, and people are enjoying a better life. Though politicians have been talking about energy independence for 40 years, Hamm and his fellow pioneers are actually making it happen. And he believes North America can be energy independent in the next 10 years – if not sooner.

The truth is that American energy producers are working together with American manufacturers and technology firms to revolutionize transportation and energy consumption. The truth is that American energy producers are employing our neighbors and contributing billions to the real economy. Don’t let the truth be hidden by activists with an agenda.

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