Peer Review Abuse Flares Up Yet Again

shale gas outrages - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


Fractivists have now taken peer review abuse to a whole new plane with a phony study of oil well flaring by one of their own, “peer reviewed” by another.

If you thought the peer review abuse connected with the New York State health studies used to rationalize Andrew Cuomo’s politically inspired fracking denial was something new or the worst you’ve seen, you haven’t seen the new Friends of the Earth (FoE) propaganda “study” targeted at Bakken shale oil drilling. It was “peer-reviewed” by another fractivist outfit called the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC), both organizations being fractivist outfits to the core and funded by the same people. That it promotes a bizarre theory labeling flaring of wells a “subsidy” takes this particular instance of peer review abuse into new territory both geographically and metaphysically.

The “study,” entitled A Fracking Shame: North Dakota and the Hidden Fracking Subsidy is the dictionary example of propaganda, the very title providing all the evidence anyone might need of extreme bias. FoE produced the slick 12-page handout, which is a blend of flaming pictures, not-so-clever headings (e.g., “The Flarers”) and graphics intended to show flaring is somehow a “subsidy.” It is, perhaps, one of the most shallow prices of drivel I’ve seen from the fractivist side and there’s been no dearth of such material from them. It consists, in fact, of a mere 3,837 words and that includes table entries, footnotes and the table of contents – we’ve had  longer posts here without counting any of those things.

peer review abuse

Photo from EoF “Study” by Joshua Doubek  via Wikimedia Commons

Yet, this supposed “study” was, we’re told, “peer reviewed” by Thomas O. Singer, PhD, Senior Policy Advisor at the Western Environmental Law Center. Singer’s PhD is in International Business, not economics or science, and this is how the WELC introduced him when hired (emphasis added):

It is my pleasure to announce that Tom Singer, Ph.D., has joined WELC as a Senior Policy Advisor. Tom will work in our climate and energy program, helping us speed the West’s transition away from dirty fossil fuels toward energy efficiency and clean, carbon-free energy. Tom’s extensive policy and economics expertise reflects our ongoing commitment to combat climate change and will strengthen our legal advocacy work.

Peer Review Abuse Tom 3_rev_0

Tom comes to us from the Natural Resources Defense Council, where he was a Senior Advocate working on climate and energy issues.

No, no bias there – just the guy to decide whether some other fractivist’s work rises to the level of academic professionalism and soundness. If Singer’s economic expertise is such that the cost of flaring represents, in his mind, somehow a subsidy, one can only imagine what other ideas he might have. Of course, that’s probably why he’s apparently only ever worked for advocacy groups and government and never in, well, business.

When Singer worked with NRDC, though, he participated in preparing another study and that one, albeit biased, was actually worthy of the name. It was called Leaking Profits: The U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Can Reduce Pollution, Conserve Resources, and Make Money by Preventing Methane Waste. Nowhere in that study did Singer and his NRDC comrades refer to methane losses (which included, in their analysis, flaring) as a subsidy. Rather, they viewed flaring and other methane losses as “leaking profits” that offered oil and gas companies great opportunities to gain from green completions, but now, three years, later FoE says, no, those aren’t leaking profits, but subsidies and Singer suddenly agrees. What gives?

Well, what gives is this: the mission has changed. The fractivist community was then occupied in getting its foot in the door on methane emissions. Now, the foot and the rest of the body are inside the room and want to throw out oil and gas altogether, so Singer, ever the loyal soldier in the fractivist phalanx, now says it isn’t about lost profits but giveaway subsidies. That tells all we need know about him.

His new employer is another matter. The WELC is funded by an assortment of the usual suspects among the fractivist world of special interest funders, including the dark money, speedboat driving hedge funds guys at the Energy Foundation, Teresa Heinz Kerry’s Tides Foundation. And, guess what? Those same entities also fund FoE and the last place he worked; the NRDC. It’s all one big happy family of fractivists.

Notwithstanding this obvious conflict of interest and peer review abuse, it goes one step further with the faithful reporting of this “study” and the phony peer review by Inside Climate News. This is the Rockefeller shill organization we reported on last year here, and it is closely connected with the euphemistically named (aren’t they all?) Center for Public Integrity and guess who funds them? Yes, you guessed correctly; the Energy Foundation, the Tides Foundation and something called the Deer Creek Foundation, which also funds both FoE and WELC. This is precisely what Energy In Depth calls the “echo chamber of research, media and campaign activities,” all parts of which are funded by the same special interests.

This is peer review abuse at its worst. The process is now so thoroughly corrupted by fractivists (and related groups) as to be totally meaningless as the same special interests fund the phony studies, the fake peer review and the fraudulent reporting. Call it “brown-washing” because it’s dirty from one end to the other. Worse, in this instance, is that it  promotes a theory so absolutely bizarre; one an eight-grader could recognize as dissembling. It suggests oil and gas companies are getting a subsidy because they don’t pay the Federal government royalties on gas that’s flared off and represents lost profits, as if lost profits were the objective of every company.

This is what passes for seriousness in the world of fractivism; junk science so bad only a journalist paid by the same people could possibly report it with a straight face – you know, guys like this:


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26 thoughts on “Peer Review Abuse Flares Up Yet Again

  1. I haven’t read the study, I’ll get to it later as I’m sitting in the doctors office waiting room for my annual checkup, but I’m guessing a plausible interpretation of the argument might go like this: flaring represents in part lost profits, though that’s the least of its sins. That is lost revenue that cannot be taxed. I’d say it’s a theft, rather than a subsidy.

    As a way of forcing gas companies into green completions, federal and state governments should estimate the revenue going up in flames and tax it anyway, times two. Betcha flaring stops real fast.

    • You must have failed Econ 101. Imagine if the pharmaceutical companies were taxed on the drugs that might have been and failed to make the research cut and you have an appropriate analogy.

      • I didn’t take econ 101 but in any event, no your analogy is totally inappropriate.

        Pharma spending on research is innovation and completely different from deliberately wasting a valuable fossil fuel that should have been captured, because, as you have argued elsewhere, “this technology has been around for 60 years” and is not innovative.

        Can’t have it both ways, Tom.

        • Flaring has nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing, Michael, which demonstrates to me how little you understand what’s happening here. Moreover, the idea that oil and gas companies are deliberately wasting a valuable fossil fuel is dreadfully naive. I know no other way to put it.

          • They are not flaring it deliberately. I don’t know where you get your information from. Here is an article from Western Energy Alliance that explains why they do it and that the oil companies are addressing the issue.

            “Flaring is the practice of combusting excess emissions from oil and natural gas wells. Industry makes every effort to reduce flaring of gases but sometimes must do so for safety reasons, regulatory requirements, or lack of sufficient infrastructure to move the natural gas to market.”

            “The North Dakota Petroleum Council has set up a flaring task force to reduce flaring in the Bakken with the goal of capturing 85% of associated gas by 2016 and 90% within six years. Industry has committed to investing an additional $1.7 billion on top of the $6 billion already invested to build gathering lines, pipelines, processing plants, and other infrastructure to capture natural gas. Often, when companies are developing the infrastructure, obtaining the rights of way to lay new pipelines across multiple property owners’ land takes time and flaring must occur in the interim.”


          • Pioneer Energy of Lakewood CO. has developed a mobile system that captures the gas, instead of flaring, and processes it so it can be shipped via truck to market. It can then be used as a transportation fuel.

            This is from their Facebook page:

            “Pioneer Energy has now demonstrated the ability to operate multiple Mobile Alkane Gas Separator (MAGS) units in parallel. Each MAGS can capture 300,000 cubic feet per day (300 mcfd) of mixed wet flare gas and separate it into dry gas wich can be used to replace diesel fuel, and natural gas liquids, which can be trucked out and sold. With two together we can process 600 mcfd, with three, 900 mcfd. The units are on wheels, so they can be rapidly moved around whereever they are needed to catch new flares.”


          • One argument or another ….Flaring creates air pollution by releasing toxic substances that are not burnt off …!Not only locals are affected but it adds to regional issues too .

          • Oh Tom, really? You are quite well aware that my argument has always been, and still is, about the totality of operations. This is getting silly now: I could easily say how little you understand, and I would have far more to base that on, but it won’t advance the discussion will it?

            I’ve made my point, I’m done with this thread.

    • Bill, while you and your anti-fracking friends are crying and whining about it, and demanding we stop using fossil fuels, the industry is addressing the issue, as I pointed out. Technology sucks, doesn’t it Bill ?? At least in your luddite minds.

      • @ Donald my mind works quite fine ! …stories about Green completion are wonderful ,but just stories since in the real world (as of today most co’s still use flaring to get results….I’m all for improvements in industrial operations next to my home !However even with Green completion there are many other nuisances ( hazards ) produced from HVHF a heavy industrial operation that will always be just that no matter what BS is spread by industry and supporters like you .

      • Also Donald why should the O and G industry be allowed to experiment with our health when it comes to implementing new technology .I blame the states for allowing this to happen without having done an impact study and having proper regulations on air emissions near pads and a lot of other issues I have recorded in place before allowing the drilling .Just more greed and lust on their part.

  2. Peer review used to mean something – now it means something else or nothing at all. Personally – I treat it as nothing at all.

  3. dogma- the only real “theft” thus far is the uncompensated destruction of Southern Tier minerals value by that lying #@*& Cuomo and the far left. btw, have you stopped using fossil fuels yet? didn’t think so. the sanctimonious fractivist attitude is so cheaply bought…

    the incestuous web of deception and inflated opposition to any pragmatic energy policy in this country is criminal. it is urban elitist war on the rural middle and lower classes.

    • I walk my talk, yes. I minimize my use of fossil fuels as much as possible. Because I live in the city at the moment, I ride a bicycle or use mass transportation, or simply walk. I get my electricity from wind via Con Ed.

      I don’t believe that the earth’s resources “belong” to anyone. Mankind is a custodian of the earth, not an owner to use and abuse as (s)he pleases.

      • But, of course, I’m sure you expect the obligation to pay the taxes on the property will belong to someone. And, your electricity doesn’t come from wind but from gas, which ensures the ability to use the wind and permits the shell game that allows someone to suppose their electricity comes from wind when. in fact, almost none of it does. You pay for wind and that’s a noble thing to do in one sense, but it’s also resulting in other ratepayers and taxpayers having to pick up much more of the tab.

        • Through my utility my electric is supplied by 100% wind from a company .Penn Electric is the utility .Ethical Electric is the wind power suppler .Cost is competitive (actual the same as others ) …..also solar is becoming more competitive everyday …all aside extraction using HVHF will always be industrial ( pretty redundant right ) and never a safe procedure ……only for the deniers and the profiteers !!

          • Bill, this is your first and only warning: no more comments consisting of nothing but propaganda links. I kicked you off Facebook for repeatedly posting links without commentary after being told too stop it and I will do the same here if necessary but am not going to give you a second chance because you abused it the last time. You’re welcome to the debate and to post any link you want to help make a point but I will not tolerate links that have no purpose other than to push your own agenda without bothering to even argue.

            By the way, this link is garbage as the point it makes it is based on subsidies. Solar is a largely a scam at the expense of other ratepayers and taxpayers. There is no parity whatsoever.

        • @ Tom …..think what you want about my link which by the way was posted for reference in this discussion .Why is it every time I post articles related to back up our conversation you threaten to shut me out …..By now you know me enough to know I’m not just some elite environmentalist getting paid to promote antifracing ,but I am a concerned citizen ( with industrial/technical background ) that only posts about what I have experienced without twisting my sources…..seems you just can’t take the facts from the other side ….I learned quite a bit about the whole drilling/fracing operation over the past 5 + yrs and No one will ever change my mind that it is nothing but heavy industry and will never be Safe close to our homes .Money does not influence my position ,only experience …..

        • Also Tom solar is not the only industry that receives some sort of subsidies or tax credit ! O & G industry gets it’s share too ( even more ) .

  4. dogma- sorry but that’s not good enough. “minimize” does not = eliminate, which is what your side is advocating. you save a bit of energy by living your life in a tight geographic circle in NYC but other than that you are no better than those of us you condescend to here.

    you conveniently ignored the elephant in the room- heat and hot water. NYC uses immense quantities of NG. your massive man-made urban center would be on it’s knees in a few days without fossil fuels. the idea that wind and solar are going to replace it all is absurd. those wind turbines you like to feel all PC about are located upstate where you don’t have to look at them. they supply a tiny fraction of NY’s electricity.

    what you “believe” about who owns resources flies in the face of the property deed i have that legally states that i own the mineral rights under it. your camp is very good at ignoring, lying, not thinking things through, and changing the rules in the middle of the game like spoiled children.

    you and corrupt Albany Democrats have robbed me and tens of thousands of others up here. we’re pretty pissed.

  5. @ Keith …well any nuisances created on your land that exceed the property can be considered a legal issue by your neighbors .Even though you own the mineral rights under your land this doesn’t give you the right to allow operations that cause nuisances to connected properties .Other people have rights too !

  6. Bill how do you stand on farming? Should that be considerd a nuesense ? How about stone quaries?How about wind generaters? And how close is too close? A few hundred feet,maybe a few thousand feet? Any thoughts on that?
    Keith, Will you pickit Albany with myself and any others we can gather up? Anyone else?How pissed are ya?

  7. Pingback: The Fractivist Echo Chamber at Inside Climate News

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