The New York Times Got it Wrong in “Drilling Down” and Shale Wins Again

cost of renewables - Tom ShepstoneTom Shepstone
Natural Gas NOW


The New York Times ran an extensive series of articles trashing shale development in 2011. Titled “Drilling Down,” it is now going down in history as the trash it was.

Ian Urbina had to be one of the most arrogant, pompous and biased reporters ever to grace the pages of the New York Times. His “Drilling Down” series was one long, seemingly unending at the time, attack on the shale industry as he trashed every aspect of it he could imagine. He did so by relying upon dubious “experts” from a class of fractivist malcontents, true believers and shills financed by the likes of the Park Foundation who fed him whatever he wanted to hear.

Reading “Drilling Down” now eight years later, one wonders how one man could have been so wrong, especially about the future of the industry. As it turned out, he listened to a goat farmer and got booted in the behind.

Here’s what goat farmer, model and former stock advisor Deborah Rogers told Urbina then:

“I think we have a big problem.”

Deborah Rogers, a member of the advisory committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, recalled saying that in a May 2010 conversation with a senior economist at the Reserve, Mine K. Yucel. “We need to take a close look at this right away,” she added.

A former stockbroker with Merrill Lynch, Ms. Rogers said she started studying well data from shale companies in October 2009 after attending a speech by the chief executive of Chesapeake, Aubrey K. McClendon. The math was not adding up, Ms. Rogers said. Her research showed that wells were petering out faster than expected.

“These wells are depleting so quickly that the operators are in an expensive game of ‘catch-up,’ ” Ms. Rogers wrote in an e-mail on Nov. 17, 2009, to a petroleum geologist in Houston, who wrote back that he agreed.

“This could have profound consequences for our local economy,” she explained in the e-mail.

The message was that shale was a dead end. Of course, Urbina didn’t tell his readers the message was being delivered by someone with an agenda or that the committee she was on was an agricultural one on which she was appointed to speak for the goats. It fit the theme of the Drilling Down series and that was good enough.

The same theme has been echoed by perennial pessimist Art Berman, Tony Ingraffea and a whole host of other sad sacks convinced disaster was right around the corner for shale and feeling darned good about it. Some folks aren’t happy unless they’re miserable, of course. But, sadly for them, and fabulously for us, shale has won the day. Here’s the data on the dry gas produced in Pennsylvania, for example, from the latest Energy Information Administration “Annual Energy Outlook,” available here:

U.S. dry natural gas production increases as a result of continued development of tight and shale resources,  account for nearly 90% of dry natural gas production in 2050…

  • Natural gas production from shale gas and tight oil plays as a share of total U.S. natural gas production continues to grow in both share and absolute volume because of the sheer size of the associated resources, which extend over nearly 500,000 square miles, and because of improvements in technology that allow for the development of these resources at lower costs.
  •  In the High Oil and Gas Resource and Technology case, which has more optimistic assumptions regarding resource size and recovery rates, cumulative production from shale gas and tight oil is 18% higher than in the Reference case. Conversely, in the Low Oil and Gas Resource and Technology case, cumulative production from those resources is 24% lower.
  •  Across all cases, onshore production of natural gas from sources other than tight oil and shale gas, such as coalbed methane, generally continues to decline through 2050 because of unfavorable economic conditions for producing that resource.
  •  Offshore natural gas production in the United States remains nearly flat during the projection period in all cases as a result of production from new discoveries that generally offsets declines in legacy fields.

And, here’s what’s happened since “Drilling Down” and what’s expected to happen:

Drilling Down

Notice it is anticipated shale gas is expected to grow to roughly 44 trillion cubic feet by 2050, which is up 69% over 2018 (see chart on left). It could be much more as the middle chart indicates; as much as 54 trillion cubic feet or a 108% increase. Even the low side estimate (right) shows a prospective 15% gain for shale.

More than this, it’s not just dry gas or even gas a whole; it’s all shale, including oil found in the Bakken and in Texas, which accounts for a resurgence in US oil production. EIA again:

The United States becomes a net energy exporter by 2020. In the Reference case, the United States becomes a net exporter of petroleum liquids in 2020 as U.S. crude oil production increases and domestic consumption of petroleum products decreases. The United States continues to be a net exporter of natural gas and coal (including coal coke) through 2050.

This, friends is what energy independence looks like, and it will be official in 2020. We’ve drilled down to achieve it and now we’re onto energy dominance. Ian Urbina, where did you go? Why haven’t we heard about you recently?

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3 thoughts on “The New York Times Got it Wrong in “Drilling Down” and Shale Wins Again

  1. Here in my county SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY… most of us welcome the industry, new hospitals lower taxes or no tax increase, new roads that just 10 years ago we couldn’t afford, very few of us resist the rewards that came to our county, in fact when NY CITIZENS ACTION put together a walk for clean water march in 2010 at MontroseRice Chopper, only 6 pa residents showed up and the rest were from Binghamton and Vestal with one NYC resident for a total of 17 people out of a population of 3000+.

    • American Patriot

      I am very happy that you and your neighbors continue to benefit from the resources beneath your feet, but I would offer a strongly felt suggestion to you in these matters … please continue to speak up.

      Encourage your like minded neighbors to spend but a few minutes a week to post their observations on any and every online site regarding these matters.

      The global audience is generally unaware of the real world, on the ground situation and local – especially positive – input is absolutely invaluable.

      We observers can then relay this info to the New Englanders buckling under the onslaught of misguided policy, to Floridians mulling over a massive buildout of new natgas plants, heck, even to Philadelphian suburbanites mistaking your area as a toxic, beleaguered warzone.

      Recognized liar Ray Kemble and his jug of brown water is what much of the outside world perceives when thinking of the gas fields of Pennsylvania.

      The fraudulent MSM in the US is all too happy to perpetuate this deception for their own nefarious ends.

      Those of us who continue this hydrocarbon battle in the cyber sphere are greatly assisted by truthful, factual accounts from those ‘ on the front ,lines’.

      Thanks for posting.

  2. The fact that shale oil & gas companies are still alive, is purely down to the fact that financial markets have been willing (for whatever reason) to keep financing their loss-making operations. As soon as this changes, their production will begin an extremely rapid decline.

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