Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)
The Philanthropy Roundtable website has published a superb analysis of the Park Foundation and its multi-leveled astroturf campaign against shale gas. Jim Willis summarizes.
For years MDN (and others) have written about the shadowy Park Foundation, a supposedly philanthropic non-profit with offices in Ithaca, NY, as behind some of the most insidious and frankly false “research” that attempts to smear the miracle of hydraulic fracturing.
A new article in the summer issue of Philanthropy magazine lays bare the collusion that exists between the Park Foundation and researchers at once-storied institutions like Cornell University. In fact, Park is the funder of many anti-shale groups, including Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and more than 50 large and small anti-gas groups. Park has woven a clever web of bought-and-paid for “researchers” and “reporters” at both big and small media outlets to develop and then plant false stories about shale gas.
How the Park Foundation Manipulates Research and the Press
Here’s how it works: Park gives boatloads of money to Cornell (and Ithaca College), among other educational institutions. BOATLOADS of money. So Park environmental extremists tap an obscure professor on the shoulder who’s in a field not even related to geology or natural gas–Robert Howarth, ocean ecologist–and they ask him to author a series of papers denigrating shale. How can he say no? His institution’s funding, and some sweet grant money for his program and some recognition (payoff?) ride on his decision.
Howarth proceeds to investigate fracking–outside of his own field of expertise–and magically finds natural gas is worse for the environment than coal. Then, he tries to sell that crap to the public via published “research” in “peer reviewed” journals. Those articles are then hyped by Park Foundation funded writers at online journals such as Truthout and DC Circuit and quoted by anti-drilling reporters in major publications. That’s how so-called independent research works in Park-land. Or, maybe we should call it South Park?
The Park Foundation also funds, in part, Grist, the Nation, Earth Island Journal, Mother Jones, American Independent News Network, Yes! Magazine, and the American Prospect. Sympathetic “reporters” at publications like the New York Times (Ian Urbina) simply regurgitate the Park Foundation party line in their reporting of the shale issue–quoting extensively from Park bought-and-paid-for researchers and sources without revealing their connection to the Park Foundation. Have you ever read a pro-drilling, or even neutral, article on fracking in any of the aforementioned publications? No, we haven’t either. You see how this works? Bought and paid for media. Cuckold media that’s a complete stranger to the truth.
In the middle of all this pulling the strings is the Park Foundation, a non-taxed, non-profit pedaling an extreme political viewpoint (dump fossil fuels now). Where’s Lois Learner’s IRS and her jackbooted investigation squad? Nowhere to be found, apparently. No investigations of Park and their shady activities. No calls to rescind their non-profit status for illegal activities.
The Philanthropy article does a great job in highlighting the turning point when seemingly overnight enviro groups like the Sierra Club changed from embracing natural gas as a bridge fuel (as recent as 2008), to Howarth’s “worse for the environment than coal” Park Foundation party line:
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 Gristregularly 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.*
Law, Media, Science – All Bought by the Park Foundation
There you have it. The change was bought and paid for–from so-called research to so-called media articles–by the Park Foundation. The motivation? Irrational hatred of fossil fuels by the Park Foundation’s leaders, Adelaide Park Gomer, and her daughter, Alicia Park Wittink. They, along with their activist gatekeeper Jon Jensen have turned a once great organization into the equivalent of an anti-shale pimp turning professors and media outlets into prostitutes for their anti-drilling agenda.
One more choice morsel from the expose of all exposes that lays the nefarious Park Foundation and its incestuous funding schemes bare:
While science was moving slowly, the Park Foundation moved quickly. By simultaneously funding an interlocking triangle of sympathetic scientists, anti-fracking nonprofits, and media outlets, Park helped move the idea that natural gas is environmentally unfriendly from the activist fringe to the mainstream. The foundation has continued to provide numerous grants (in the range of $50,000-$60,000) directly to Howarth and his research colleagues. And the Howarth argument, despite its dismissal by scientists of various ideological stripes, has taken on immortal life among many progressive organizations that are supported by Park.
The foundation’s mostly unknown ties to scientists, journalists, and activist groups were on display last September in the brouhaha over a methane gas and fracking study that contradicted Howarth’s claims. Researchers at the University of Texas-Austin released a study done in cooperation with the Environmental Defense Fund which found that the national rate of leakage of methane during natural gas production was equivalent to four tenths of one percent of total U.S. extraction, vastly lower than Howarth’s claims. This was the most comprehensive shale-gas emissions study ever undertaken, covering 190 well pads around the country.
Howarth and his co-authors denounced the UT/EDF findings, and other groups funded by Park joined in the criticism. Media stories quoted a heretofore unknown organization, Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, portraying the university and the environmental nonprofit as shills. UT was quite open in disclosing that the study received industry support, but few noted that the physicians group, characterized as “independent” in many stories, had been recently founded by one of Howarth’s co-authors, Anthony Ingraffea, with Park Foundation money, specifically to promote an aggressive anti-shale-gas agenda.*
Looks like you can buy a Cornell “scientist” for about $50-$60K. Nice to know if you ever need to plant false research on an unsuspecting public.
This is a must-read article, folks.
Editor’s Note: Jim is correct, this is a must read piece. Even so, it leaves out much, including the unholy alliance between the Park Foundation, the Rockefeller created Sustainable Markets Foundation and the NRDC gang. It also doesn’t touch on the funding of the faux home rule campaign by the Park Foundation through the Community Environmental Defense Council and the vile Community Environmental Legal Defense Foundation or any number of other relationships the organization has with other major fractivist initiatives. Still, there are few pieces that so capture the nefarious nature of the Park Foundation. The incredibly shallow quotes from Adelaide Park Gomer alone are worth the read. They demonstrate just how much damage an uninformed spoiled child with money can do.