If the only newspaper you read is The New York Times, you could be forgiven for thinking that all the news about hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is bad. Still, the good news about fracking -- energy security, economic development and jobs -- is often drowned out by environmental worries, former commodities trader, analyst, energy author and New Yorker Raymond Learsy told NGI's Shale Daily.
"You have people talking about fracking, at least from my perception, you have the environmental groups talking about fracking incessantly. You don't hear nearly as much of what it can do economically or what it can do in terms of energy independence," said Learsy, whose new book is titled Oil and Finance: The Epic Corruption.
To be sure, hydraulic fracturing if it's done irresponsibly is a problem, he said. "But then again you have vested interests, like the coal industry, that would like it to become a problem. The coal industry is a powerful force in Washington...[W]hen you see some of the legislation that has been passed relating to energy and what have you over the last few years, you sense...that the coal industry has had a very heavy hand and the natural gas industry somehow has not really been heard from."
Learsy looks to Bakken Shale oil development in North Dakota and what it could mean for U.S. energy independence. "North Dakota is at the beginning," he said, "and going west of North Dakota the resources are enormous. What the environmental factors are and what it will do to that part of the world, I don't know. But certainly there is going to be the volition to extract it as environmentally safely as can be done. I'm sure given the incentive, industry and science are going to come up with the proper solutions."
In the meantime, the energy industry has work to do to tell its story better. "There are three issues that have to be looked at when it comes to the development of our natural resources. First, not in any particular order, environment, economy and national security. If you let people just talk about one of those issues...it's going to be very difficult unless you can bring all the issues in together.
"Does it make more sense to frack...or to import more oil from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia? In Texas...you can frack until your heart's content...You come up to New York state and, my god, you're run out of town."
If the industry is looking for help in telling its story, it best not look to The Times. "...[T]hey have really been flaying the natural gas industry and the whole fracking business and this that and the other thing [see Shale Daily, June 28]," Learsy said. "And they always come in with misery stories."
Learsy, a former Reagan administration appointee to the National Endowment for the Arts, is a member of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He is also the author of Over a Barrel: Breaking Oil's Grip on Our Future.