|A small sampling of the many|
anti-drilling articles financed by
The Park Foundation
It’s hard to believe that natural gas was a favored fuel of leading environmental groups as recently as six years ago. In 2008, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change heralded its promise: “We also need to consider…how to better support natural gas as a bridge fuel to a more climate-friendly energy supply,” said president Eileen Claussen in a widely circulated speech.
This was a common view and had been for years. In 1997, when shale-gas reserves were beginning to be identified, the progressive D.C.-based Renewable Energy Policy Project waxed optimistic. “Natural gas is inherently cleaner than coal or oil,” the nonprofit wrote. “Since renewables will be unable to meet most energy needs for some time, gas is an essential bridge to a renewable energy era.”
Natural gas used to be seen as a marriage of enlightened capitalism and pragmatic progressivism. It was welcomed as a relatively low-impact fossil fuel, much superior to America’s previous industrial and power-generating workhorse, coal. It was available in reserves of modest size but sufficient to carry us over until the price of alternative energies became competitive.
But over the past few years, the rhetoric has completely changed. Sharp criticism of fracking and shale gas is now a staple of green activism. The online environmental magazine Grist regularly runs articles bashing shale gas, such as the recent “Will Obama allow fracking to endanger his own water supply?” The Nation launches anti-fracking broadsides conjuring “contaminated water wells, poisoned air, sick and dying animals, industry-related illnesses.” Earth Island Journal raises the specter of “water contamination, air pollution, global warming, and fractured communities,” and mocks Claussen’s “bridge fuel” reference, calling natural gas a “bridge to nowhere.”
The morphing of natural gas from promising next step to “worse than oil and coal,” as some activists now claim, happened almost overnight. What’s behind this abrupt turnaround? For one thing, advances in extraction technology have made gas inexpensive and caused it to be used much more extensively (usually as a substitute for coal). And while most scientists and economists see in shale gas an inexpensive fuel with relatively modest environmental impact compared to coal and oil, some environmentalists view it as a Trojan horse that is giving fossil fuel a new image—clean, abundant, not purchased from overseas tyrants—and thus a new lease on life.
This swing against gas has been spurred by a carefully coordinated outpouring of research, media, and advocacy grants by the Park Foundation, headquartered at the epicenter of one of the most promising shale gas regions in the U.S., and home to Cornell University, the academic base for the country’s most vehement anti-shale activists.
Publications such as Grist, the Nation, Earth Island Journal, Mother Jones,American Independent News Network, Yes! Magazine, the American Prospect, and numerous other media elements have one thing in common. They have all received donations from Park in recent years to conduct anti-fracking journalism and related environmental reporting. Along with advocacy groups like Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and more than 50 large and small groups, they were the recipients of anti-fracking grants from the Park Foundation that totaled $3 million in 2013. Park has a plan, and a savvy one, to kill the American shale-gas revolution.There is much more in the article, which examines how the Park Foundation has played a crucial role in spreading the feeling that shale drilling is a danger. Click here to read it all.
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