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Bob Howarth Drops All Pretense; Goes Full Fractivist

350.org - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.



Like his buddy Tony Ingraffea, Bob Howarth has always been a fractivist on the Cornell University payroll but now he’s dropped every pretense of objectivity.

Bob Howarth is one-half of the Howarth Ingraffea partnership that produced perhaps the biggest lie of the fractivist movement. This Park Foundation financed duo tried and failed rather miserably to assert natural gas was dirtier than coal. It was a defensive move after natural gas replacement of coal in electricity generation started producing huge declines in CO2 and other emissions.

Fractivists needed to be able to deny the obvious; that natural gas production newly enabled by fracking was cleaning the air. Bob Howarth and Tony Ingraffea served up the needed junk science to assert gas produced more greenhouse gas than coal. It was a joke (more on that in a moment) but it got attention for a bit. The two Park shills, both of whom I’ve debated, got away with pretending it was their science and not their ideology that informed their positions. It’s now come to the point, though, that reality can no longer be denied. Howarth has dropped all pretense of objectivity and science, going full fractivist.

Yes, Bob Howarth is now a 100% self-admitted fractivist who has thrown his scientific credentials to the wind. What brought this to my attention was a webcast in which he recently participated. It was sponsored by Beyond Extreme Energy. It is a radical group that works the word “extreme” into its name to deflect attention from its own extremism (following the “always accuse your opponent of what you’re doing” axiom of all radical enterprises). Beyond Extreme Energy prides itself on staking FERC members their homes. They have been funded by the Center for Public Interest Research. It, in turn, is part of the U.S. PIRG operation, a trial lawyer rain-making initiative funded by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the Tides Foundation, et al. They now collect donations through Earthworks, one of the organizations connected, through fractivist Rasputin Jay Hafon, to the Park Foundation (he’s on the board of both) and the Rockefellers.

We always knew Bob Howarth was a fractivist first and a scientist second, of course. We wrote about it here and included this video of him wearing a “Drilling Is Not Safe” button and rallying against natural gas development in 2010 even as his infamous junk science study was being prepared:

That video alone should have been proof Bob Howarth had crossed the line from independent scientist to fringe advocate. Nonetheless, he was able to continue to maintain a straight face and perpetuate the farce for quite some time. As Katie Brown, at Energy In Depth recently noted, though, it all came crashing down as truly independent scientists took a look at his junk science:

Notably, just about every credible scientist working on methane has criticized Howarth’s research, including his work with activist Cornell Professor Anthony Ingraffea. Both Howarth and Ingraffea have argued that methane emissions from oil and natural gas development are enough to wipe out the fuel’s environmental advantages, a theory that has been widely panned.  Even President Obama’s former Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu (a Nobel Prize-winning physicist), said of Howarth and Ingraffea’s research: “we didn’t think it was credible.”

Other researchers who have criticized Howarth’s work include University of Chicago climate scientist Raymond Pierrehumbert; Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller; and Cornell earth, atmospheric sciences professor Louis Derry.  Michael Levi from the Center for Foreign Relations asked rhetorically about Howarth and Ingraffea’s research: “Is there value in debating people who don’t want to think?”

Reports from MIT, the University of Marylandmultiple reports from the U.S. Department of Energy, Carnegie Mellon and Cornell University have contradicted Howarth’s and Ingraffea’s work. Even the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) … specifically singled out Howarth’s research as lacking in credibility.

Katie’s piece (please read the whole thing) also notes Bob Howarth has, in perhaps the biggest sign of his defection from science to ideological madness, joined the board of Food and Water Watch. This is a money-grubbing and profoundly radical group we’ve written about before here. It is funded with a combination of dark money hidden donations from donor-advised funds and financial support from the Park Foundation. The Park Foundation gave it $170,000 in 2015 to fight fracking in New York and California. Over the years, the Park Foundation has given Food and Water Watch well over a million more for the same thing ($150,000 each in 2010 and 2011, $295,000 in 2012, $250,000 in 2013 and $272,500 in 2014).

Food and Water Watch has also funded Howarth and Ingraffea’s research and their phony Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy fractivist facade. Bob Howarth’s addition to the Food and Water Watch board, in other words, is simply the addition of another title in the same organization. He’s still working with the same people. He’s only using a different moniker. He still gets attention from sycophants in the fractivist movement, of course, and even garnered a White House briefing opportunity recently to shore up a EPA power grab attempt and, no doubt, throw a bone to fractivist supporters of the Obama administration, but the evidence continues to come with study after study that his basic supposition is not only wrong, but that natural gas conversions are “reducing total national annual health damages by $20 – $50 billion annually.”

Meanwhile, Bob Howarth is now participating in Beyond Extreme Energy events. This latest one is another FERC attack. It took place at a FERC hearing in California on the Also Canyon matter. According to the group “members entered the meeting and spoke out to disrupt the hearing and demand that the concerns of the public be included.” They “set up camp outside the building and held [their] own ‘people’s hearing’ featuring front-line activists and experts from around the country.” At the top of the lineup was Bob Howarth to talk by Skype about “the climate threat of fracked gas.” It’s the same old pitch, of course, Howarth ignoring anyone and everyone who critiques his work.:

But, more importantly, take a look at Beyond Extreme Energy’s other activities here. They have not only stalked FERC members but also blockaded the offices of the Democrat National Committee Offices, hijacked the stage from U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at the Virginia Energy  Forum, assembled disruption teams, shut down bank branches and taken several other actions that can only be described as extremist. They don’t even tell you who they are on their website (for obvious reasons) but do list their “endorsers,” a list of equally radical rag-tag useful idiot enterprises that do the bidding of the Park and Rockefeller families.

This is who Bob Howarth has chosen to associate with these days. He’s now fully revealed himself as the radical advocate he always was. He’s still on the Cornell faculty, though, where it costs $67,613 to send your kid to school for one year. Think about that.

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12 thoughts on “Bob Howarth Drops All Pretense; Goes Full Fractivist

  1. Great article Tom! It looks as though these two non believers have all of their money invested in solar panels. Right now they are running scared, because they could well lose all of that money too. They are both suffering from a self imposed state of panic. Want to make a bet that they both heat their homes with natural gas too? Have a great day.

  2. The furry of Shepstone’s attack indicates he and probably others in the oil & gas industry are afraid of how the science is actually going. Most of his attack is nonsense and false, and much is way out of date. For those interested in the real science, look at my review article from late last year: https://www.dovepress.com/methane-emissions-and-climatic-warming-risk-from-hydraulic-fracturing–peer-reviewed-article-EECT

    And note that within the past 4 months, I have given invited briefings at the White House and European Parliament.

    • I followed the link to Dr. Howarth’s paper and saw that it was published in a journal of Dove Medical Publishing. Here is what Dove says:

      Dove Medical Press is a for-profit open access publisher which receives no government, educational, charitable or any other kind of funding and does not carry paid advertisements. Our income is derived from article-processing charges and commercial re-use revenues.

      If you haven’t already joined the Dove Press Favored Author Program I would encourage you to do so. Why? To receive real benefits like fast-tracking and a personal co-ordinator for your paper, as well as a discount on the publication processing fee.

      It must be that when he paid Dove to publish it, he was only concerned about the quick turn around time they promised.

      Then I followed the link to papers that cite his paper and found only 9. Two are about methane emissions from sheep, two were polemics about the evils of natural gas, two were about public attitude towards fracking in Britain, one was about US vs. Brazilian regulation of gas in Portuguese, one was about a rapid switch to renewables and one was about “Greenhouse gas emissions from domestic hot water: heat pumps compared to most commonly used systems”.

      Of course, this was by Howarth, and a Cornell colleague named Hong, which concluded that it was better to run a heat pump with coal fired electricity than with natural gas. The reason for this is (and always has been) that natural gas leaks too much. This is amply cited in the references, where Howarth cites himself eight times out of 37 references. Hong has none in this paper. This is typical of virtually everything Howarth has written; cite everything you’ve ever published , often multiple times (as in the link he provided). Despite the fact that much of it has been refuted many times by multiple scientific sources (see Shepstone’s article above), he just recycles the same old crap over and over.

      He lists the Wallace Global Fund, the Park Foundation and Cornell as funders and thanks, among others, Anthony R. Ingraffea (who shares 5 of the 8 references) for reviewing an early draft. Under “Conflicts of Interest”: “None declared”. Yeah, right.

      • I didn’t reply to Bob Howarth because I knew one of our enterprising readers would dig into this and you did, Mark. Thank you for some great research, especially for the Wallace and Park funding info, two of the biggest funders of fractivist junk science out there.

    • Sorry howarth. Food and water watch is not a credible organization and neither is beyond extreme energy . And I do not work for the oil and natural gas industry but have seen your movement in action for years and it lies like mad. It is also incredibly intolerant and cares little about democracy. Massively misinforming the public, lying repeatedly to reporters and agencies and politicians is a serious problem.

  3. I am very pro gas…
    But give me 2.5 million dollars like the park foundation gave anti gas activist Walter Hang, and i will tell you gas bad, wine good for liver, so why should phony Howarth be any different.

  4. Mining coal releases methane into the atmosphere Bob. That’s why underground mines have air shafts. Why don’t you address that issue as you claim natural gas is dirtier ??

    Burning coal leaves behind toxic ash that must be disposed of. Natural gas doesn’t. Why don’t you address that issue as you claim natural gas is dirtier ??

    Burning coal releases toxic mercury into the atmosphere. Natural gas doesn’t. Why don’t you address that issue as you claim natural gas is dirtier ??

    Coal has to be cleaned leaving behind mountains of waste that release chemicals like mercury into the groundwater. Natural gas doesn’t. Why don’t you address that issue as you claim natural gas is dirtier ??

    • He can only make his case if he ignores all of that and emphasizes only the green house gas bit from leaks, not the CO2, which gas is the least productive of the fossil fuels. He really wants to stop gas because once it is established, renewables will have a much harder time penetrating areas where renewables are not a good fit.

  5. It seems like Howarth is probably right about what lies behind Shepstone’s raging desperation. The language in the following description of this latest Harvard study is typically qualified and circumspect, but its implications are pretty clear, and even advocates of fracking will know perfectly well that this doesn’t bode well for them, or for the planet:

    “The researchers found that U.S. methane emissions have increased by more than 30% in the past decade, making the United States a hefty contributor to the global rise in emissions. It seems the increase is largely caused by sources in the central United States—the only region in the nation to show statistically significant increases in methane production. Recent increases in oil and gas production as well as shale gas production may possibly account for this change, but other sources could be involved as well.”


  6. Terrance the EPA study you posted states shale gas “may” be the cause of the higher methane emissions. It then states other sources may be the cause as well.

    According to this recently released NOAA study fossil fuel production including “coal”, which Howarth is claiming to be cleaner than natural gas, has caused some methane emissions. But other sources such as cows, rice farming, wetlands and even termites are responsible for the increase.

    “The Environmental Protection Agency may have overlooked the real culprits in its recent crackdown on methane emissions from fossil fuels: rice farmers and cows.”

    “A newly released study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration attributed the increase in global atmospheric methane since 2007 to microbial sources, including rice paddies, livestock, decaying vegetation in wetlands, even termites, not fossil fuels.”


    • One more thing. Yes there are methane emissions from oil and natural gas drilling operations. Most of these emissions are burned or flared which turns the methane into CO2 which supposedly is far better for the environment.

  7. Pingback: Duplicitous Bill McKibben Shills for Rockefeller Special Interests - Shale Directories

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