The New York Times's Latest Gas Attack

For a paper so eager to wean us off “our addiction to foreign oil,” the New York Times is pretty squeamish when it comes to the actual alternatives. Ian Urbina’s Sunday lead story was the paper's latest attack on the natural gas industry, “Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush – Productivity of Shale Wells Is a Concern – Investor Flood Spurs Talk of Bubble.” That was followed by another front-page story Monday, “Behind Veneer, Doubt on Future Of Natural Gas.”

Michael Levi at the Council on Foreign Relations has a detailed analysis of the flaws in Urbina’s approach and the apparent gaps in the reporter’s expertise. Some highlights:

Urbina was clearly looking for negative views of shale gas, and had no problem finding them. Given the massize size of the industry, and the number of financial bets being placed upon the sector, that shouldn’t be a surprise. What is a surprise is that Urbina hasn’t done much to put them in context....many of the emails come from 2008 and 2009, when shale gas was still a much murkier industry. Lots of the technical debates that are played out in those emails have come a long way since....The Times descriptions of the emails....also betray a serious lack of understanding of the industry. For example: UBS cautions gas investors to “not get excited”, which the Times takes as a warning against gas producers in general; if fact, it’s a warning against people who are betting on higher gas prices...The Times repeatedly confuses the fortunes of various risk-hungry independents with the fortunes of the industry as a whole.

Clay Waters
Clay Waters
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center.