from Energy, Security, and Climate and Energy Security and Climate Change Program

The Wrong Way to Defend Shale Gas

August 02, 2011

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I wrote yesterday about the troubling revelation that the New York Times relied on emails authored by an EIA intern as a key source for a hard-hitting recent article on shale gas while presenting that intern as an “official”. Later yesterday, in a move that can only be described as baffling, EnergyInDepth, a prominent industry-backed website that defends the natural gas industry and fights regulation of hydraulic fracturing, piled on – by stridently attacking the intern.

I won’t rehash the five hundred plus words that EID spills on its critique of the work done by the intern (now a junior analyst) on an EIA website and in mocking his stated views of social justice. I certainly won’t follow their lead in linking to the young man’s Facebook page. I’ll just point out what should be obvious to the people behind this ugly campaign: this is low.

There are a lot of people wondering why the editors at the Times have their backs up so strongly against those who have critized the paper. These sorts of nasty personal attacks are a non-trivial part of the reason why. That doesn’t excuse shoddy reporting by any stretch. But lashing out against reporters and interns alike is an awfully ineffective way to win friends.

There are a decent number of industry people who read this blog; heck, EnergyInDepth’s twitter feed linked here just yesterday. Many of them are sensible, responsible folks. I hope that those people understand how wrong this strategy is, and that some of them use the influence they have over operations like EID to turn down the heat.

Here’s an idea: Industry would be much better off focusing its efforts on trying to craft smart compromise approaches to shale gas regulation rather than attempting to humiliate EIA interns. The shale gas industry is obviously diverse. If too many people in it choose the low road, though, they will have only themselves to blame for their declining public standing.