How the oil and gas industry fixes their public image

August 23, 2013

Colorado, oil & gas industry

oil and gas industry propagandaAfter my recent post, The oil and gas industry’s public image in Colorado, I thought it would be interesting to see how the industry goes about fixing its public image. An interesting pattern emerged immediately.

August 16 — The Daily Sentinel: Natural gas predicted as political flashpoint [subscriber only]

… Natural gas, however, is likely to remain a legislative flash point, Tisha Conoly Schuller, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, told The Daily Sentinel editorial board on Thursday.

There will be “highly polarized discussions” about the drilling industry driven mostly by Front Range interests, Schuller said, but the results could be felt statewide and make it more difficult for operators on the Western Slope.

“It’s going to affect the whole state,” Schuller said.

To blunt the effects of sharp debate, the association and the industry are working to change the way they approach issues, Schuller said.

“We’re engaging in conversations that historically we might have shunned,” Schuller said.

She and David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, are working to emphasize responsible drilling and the dependence of regional and national economies on natural gas to make their point, Schuller said …

That’s right. The week after the big energy summit in Denver, COGA’s Tisha Schuller met with the editorial board of The Daily Sentinel, talking smack about the Front Rangers (must be those “extremists”). At least The Sentinel admitted it and reported it, unlike most newspapers and media outlets. I have a feeling High Country News associate editor Sarah Gilman was invited to COGA’s event to report on it. Perhaps COGA even covered her expenses. Who can say? HCN didn’t. It would explain the puff piece she gave them.

At any rate, we know that the industry uses COGA to cozy up to the media. COGA feeds their propaganda to the media and they in turn regurgitate it as “news.”

Voodoo economics

The Sentinel reported that Schuller said she and David Ludlum “are working to emphasize … the dependence of regional and national economies on natural gas.” Two articles came out a couple days later.

August 19 – Denver Post: Jobs in Colorado’s oil and gas fields swell to nearly 30,000

August 20 – The Daily Sentinel: Study quantifies oil and gas impact on state economy [subscriber only]

The Sentinel article says basically the same thing as the Denver Post article. But it’s a skewed view with most of the information for both articles taken off COGA’s webpage about the study, and not taken from the actual study.

At The Sentinel’s website in the comments section, Claudette Konola provided a link to the actual study: Colorado Midyear 2013 Economic Update.

Claudette said: “This is not the whole picture in Colorado. It appears that you [The Daily Sentinel] took just one piece of the report to play to the locals without reporting on the whole economy. If oil and gas is ‘nearly 3 percent of all Colorado salary and wages in 2012’ it is a minor, not major employer. 97% of all Colorado wages come from other industries.”

She added that the study “also includes these gems”:

With Colorado manufacturing employment at approximately 132,000 jobs in May 2013, this is the second year in a row that the Manufacturing Sector has expanded in Colorado after 10 straight years of job losses starting in 2001.

Claudette said: “So, manufacturing employs twice the number of people that are directly employed by the oil and gas industry.”

According to the December forecast, 10 of the 11 sectors analyzed were projected to gain jobs, with Information being the only sector expected to decline. The magnitude of growth has exceeded expectations, and our statewide employment forecast has been revised upward from 1.8% to 2.5% for 2013. Overall, the committees remain confident that Colorado will continue to experience employment growth.

Fourth quarter 2012 Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) results indicate Construction; Trade, Transportation, and Utilities; and Information will undergo the greatest upward revisions to payroll jobs estimates, while Leisure and Hospitality, Government, and Manufacturing are expected to see the greatest downward revisions.

Me again (wouldn’t want to mislead you like the O&G industry does): Thanks Claudette! I would also point out the last line of the Denver Post article: “The [oil & gas industry] sector employed a total of 51,000 people — including those working at gas stations and convenience stores with gas pumps, the study said.”

Gee. I wonder if the study included all of the employees at the City Market and King Sooper locations that have gas pumps.

Air quality

On the issue of air quality, the industry’s tactics are multi-purpose and not so easily discernible. Let’s go back to the article about Schuller’s meeting with The Sentinel’s editorial board in which Schuller said:  “We’re engaging in conversations that historically we might have shunned.”

“She and David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, are working to emphasize responsible drilling …”

While it’s not clear what Schuller meant by “conversations that historically we might have shunned” I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I think she was talking about air quality. In order to see the bigger picture playing out here we have to go back to the week before COGA’s energy summit.

July 28 – Denver Post: Air, health impacts of oil and gas drilling remain little-known

A short and misleading article that highlights a few air quality and health impact studies and Will Allison, director of Colorado’s Air Pollution Control Division pronounces them inconclusive while touting the current industry funded CSU study.

But more to the point, what is newsworthy about the content of the article? Nothing. What it IS is an article where the director of the division that was supposed to be addressing air quality issues in the coming months downplays air quality and health impact studies. And it was published in the Business section of the Denver Post.

It wasn’t until mid-August that it became obvious the article foreshadowed the announcement of a delay in new air quality drilling rules.

August 15 – Denver PostNew Colorado air quality drilling rules delayed

Looks to me like the fix is in with regard to air quality. The industry wants the state to back off on any new regulations and wait until the industry-funded CSU study is finished. Obviously the state looks like its siding with the industry. In the meantime, the industry (COGA) works the media with their air quality propaganda.

Case in point – The Daily Sentinel again.

August 21: Drilling for gas, with gas [subscribers only]

PARACHUTE—WPX Energy didn’t have to go far for a fuel source for the red-and-yellow Aztec Drilling rig operating last week in a side canyon up the Parachute Creek Valley.

A line running from a separator unit from four natural gas wells previously drilled on the same pad was providing a power source that saves the company thousands of dollars a day and reduces air pollution as well…

The switch from a diesel-powered rig is producing a “monstrous” fuel savings because the gas being used costs 15 percent of the diesel cost, said Brad Moss, WPX’s district production manager. The Aztec rig is realizing $7,174 in fuel savings a day, which could result in $2.6 million in annual savings.

WPX also estimates it will result in a 24 percent reduction in total air emissions, with an 80 percent drop in compounds that contribute to ozone formation.

Not using diesel also eliminates the truck traffic and related air pollution required to deliver diesel to a rig …

Encana USA spokesman Doug Hock said his company began using natural-gas-powered rigs a couple of years ago.

Companywide, 57 percent of its fleet is now powered by natural gas. In the Piceance, the five rigs it’s now running include two that use gas produced in the field, and three that are powered by liquefied natural gas.

He said Encana is estimating about a 50 percent emissions reduction from the rigs, and a 30 percent average fuel savings …

PX expects to have more of its Piceance rigs converted to dual-fuel use this year …

The emissions reductions from gas-powered rigs come as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment prepares to consider new restrictions on air pollution related to oil and gas development. Alvillar said WPX participates in such rulemaking processes to try to ensure what’s passed by regulators is reasonable and safe. At the same time, said WPX district drilling manager Scott Brady, “We try to stay ahead of what we anticipate their rule changes might be.”

My first reaction? Well DUH!

You’re kidding me. The industry could have been using natural gas — the very thneed they produce -– to power drill rigs all along but instead they burned dirty, expensive diesel because what -– they were too cheap to make the change? I don’t get it.

They are either not very smart or they aren’t really sold on their own product -– natural gas.

But let’s not get too bogged down in the industry’s shortsighted stupidity and unmitigated greed. What the article tells us is that in the Piceance Basin where there are more than 10,000 active natural gas wells, between Encana and WPX Energy there are total of six — that’s 6 — drilling rigs that burn natural gas instead of diesel. A drop in the bucket. And that doesn’t even take into consideration all the other chemical emissions – BTEXs, H2S, etc – associated with the drilling process. Yet Encana’s Doug Hock and WPX’s Scott Brady have the nerve to ballyhoo emissions reductions, with Brady even tying it to any proposed rules changes from the Air Quality Control Commission.

Natural gas powered rigs are just overblown industry propaganda disguised as news to make the public think they are doing their part to improve air quality, but they really aren’t and it doesn’t matter anyway because their real motivation is to pressure the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission to back off on any new air quality regulations on the oil and gas industry.

The subliminal message from the industry through the media is: Trust us. We can make the necessary changes to improve air quality without regulations.

From the looks of things the state is playing along with the industry’s game. That doesn’t mean the rest of us have to be fooled by their bullshit.

OBTW, here’s how the energy industry undermines the development of renewable energy —

Dirty Energy’s Dirty Tactics: Boulder on the Front Lines of the Renewable Energy Future

… A coalition in Boulder, Colorado, is leading the way to create an energy utility that phases out the use of coal while it increases the use of wind, solar and renewable sources of gas. It has done extensive research to demonstrate that this can be accomplished while maintaining similar or cheaper rates and improved reliability. It has developed a roadmap and tools that other communities can use.

Throughout the process, the Boulder Energy Future Project engaged its current utility, Xcel Energy, but Xcel has shown no interest in negotiation and cooperation. As the Boulder project nears success, Xcel is becoming more aggressive in its efforts to undermine the project. Boulder is at a critical crossroads and is providing lessons for the rest of us …

frack-o-cola poster

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2 Comments on “How the oil and gas industry fixes their public image”

  1. Barb Says:

    Peggy I noticed the offensive in the Denver Post that you mentioned; the article about jobs…and I can’t remember the other. Now that the Front range is involved they appear to be pulling out the stops.

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    I think the ban fracking petitions and getting it onto ballot initiatives really sets their hair on fire. They know voters in general are not going to vote for fracking.

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