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Frackademics turn universities into gaseous PR agencies
Frackademics turn universities into gaseous PR agencies

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Published by: James "Chip" Northrup on Jul 23, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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By Rob
Jun 13, 2012 at 10:56 EST
Businesses in controversial industries often turn to the academy for evidence exculpating
them for the harm that they do, with trade groups funding “scholarly” reports claiming that
their products and business practices are safe for the public. In much the same way that BigTobacco funded research claiming that secondhand smoke is not harmful, natural gasassociations such as the Marcellus Shale Coalition have been paying for research that
exaggerates fracking’s economic benefits and downplays its environmental risks both by
funding individual studies and by donating to myriad shale gas research institutions, such asthe University at Buffalo
Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy.
 In addition to receiving industry funds to run these institutes and conduct these studies,researchers are often tied to the natural gas industry through former or continuingemployment either for the frackers themselves, as consultants, or both. Timothy Considine is one such frackademic. Considine is the primary author of a number of studies touting the
economic benefits of fracking in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, the director of theUniversity of Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economics & Public Policy, and president of 
Natural Resource Economics, Inc., a consulting company.Most recently, he was the lead author of the University at Buffalo Shale Resources and
, wherein he and his co-authors massaged Pennsylvania Department of EnvironmentalProtection data to support untenable claims that environmental violations by frackers are onthe decline.  A recent PAI report 
assessed and refuted the report’s assertions, exposing theostensibly independent institute and Considine’s pro
-fracking bias.
Considine’s lack of academic rigor and his c
ozy relationship with the gas and coal industrieshave resulted in criticism from within academia and without, even as his publications areused to promote fracking in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and elsewhere.
Industry ties
 Considine has a history of publishing research on behalf of pro-fracking organizations. Since2009, he has published annual reports bearing the Penn State name for the Marcellus ShaleCoalition, a consortium of natural gas drilling companies and related businesses that profitfrom fracking in Pennsylvania. In 2010, he wrote a piece for another trade group,the  American Petroleum Institute (API)
,on fracking’s economic impacts in Pennyslvania
andWest Virginia and making predictions for New York; and in 2011 he wrote a report arguing
against New York’s fracking moratorium for the conservative think tank the
is the title of Considine’s first repo
rt issued under the aegis of his alma
mater and former employer, Penn State, and had the school’s logo on every page. The
report was funded by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, whose website describes the group as
providing “in
-depth information to policymakers, regulators, media, and other public
stakeholders on the positive impacts of shale gas.” The organization’s
 membershipincludes nearly every major company engaged in hydrofracking.
It was not until the second of Considine’s annual Marcellus Shale Coalition reports came out
that the landowner advocacy group the Responsible Drilling Alliance,noticing improbable  jobs estimations, direct advocacy (the study recommended that Pennsylvania reject aseverance tax on gas production and called the proposition that fracking be regulated under 
the Safe Drinking Water Act “ominous”), and
the lack of sponsor attribution, wrote a letter to
Penn State’s president. In June 2010, the Dean of the College of Earth and Mineral
Sciences, William Easterling, retracted the original version of the report and chastisedConsidine: [W]e found flaws in the way that the report was written and presented to the public. First, the
report did not identify the sponsor of the research, which is a clear error… Second, the
authors could and probably should have been more circumspect in connecting their findingsto policy implications for Pennsylvania, and may well have crossed the line between policyanalysis and policy advocacy.
The report was reissued with Penn State’s logo
removed from all but the cover page and an
acknowledgement of the “Marcellus Shale Gas Committee” for funding the study. The 2010and later updates acknowledge the “Marcellus Shale Gas Commission”. The study promises
hundreds of thousands of jobs for Pennsylvanians in fracking and related industries.Through his consultancy, Natural Resources Economics, Considine authored a report,titled 
,on behalf of another trade organization, the  American Petroleum Institute (API). API is an oil and gas trade association active around the KeystoneXL and fracking issues whose members come from all sectors of the industry andinclude Chesapeake Energy, Talisman,  Anadarko, Shell,and Chevron,five of the tentop Marcellus drillers in 2011.The API study is essentially a rehash of Considin
e’s Marcellus
Shale Coalition work, purporting huge jobs gains and billions in benefits from fracking.
Considine’s 2011 report for the conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute is called
.Here, he reiterates the benefitsPennsylvania and West Virginia have seen from fracking, and introduces the analysis of Department of Environmental Protection violations he developed further in 2012 in his report
for the University at Buffalo’s Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI). At the end,Considine concludes that New York’s drilling moratorium “is far costlier than its proponents,or even its opponents, realize.”
Considine’s gas s
tudies are not his only work to come under fire for its industry funding. In2009, Considine published a report commissioned by the Wyoming Mining Associationentitled 
 that drew headlines such as: 
.Like his reports for the Marcellus Shale
Coalition, the API, and the Manhattan Institute, this study touted the coal industry’s positive
economic impact and argued against what he perceived as hostile legislation, in this case,
renewable portfolio standards. Not wanting to “open up that can of worms,” Considine did notfocus on environmental impacts of mining and coal’s contribution to global warming. He told
the Casper Star-
Tribune “[i]t’s not easy to estimate the economic values of these costs.”
 His coal study was described as a product of the University of Wyoming in the media, anassertion the school did not rebut. That school, where Considine is a professor at the Schoolof Energy Resources and director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy,has
ties with both the coal and gas industries. Considine’s Center for Energy Economics and
Public Policy publicizes their affiliation with advocacy groups such as the American Petroleum Institute (for whom Considine wrote the report urging against a frackingmoratorium in New York State) and the  American Gas Association.Among the School of  Energy Resources funders,through the donation of money, facilities, and services, are  Anadarko Petroleum,  Arch Coal, BP, ConocoPhillips,and Halliburton as well as other 
energy industry names. These ties are particularly worrisome in light of SER’s partnershipwith “Wyoming’s schools from kindergarten through 12th grades to promote innovatingenergy education.”
Questionable research
Considine’s work on behalf of the gas and coal industries paints an optimistic picture, with
hundreds of thousands of jobs and declining environmental problems; however, the veracityof these claims is widely disputed.
“An Emerging Giant: Prospects
and Economic Impacts of Developing the Marcellus Shale
Natural Gas Play”, predicted that fracking would create in excess of 48,000 jobs in 2009,
107,040 in 2010 and almost 175,000 jobs in 2020.
 A year later, in “The Economic Impacts of the Pennsylvania Mar 
cellus Shale Natural Gas
Play: An Update”, Considine and his co
-authors found the 2009 jobs number fell short of their previous prediction (44,098 as opposed to the more than 48,000 they originally hadcalled for). Accordingly, the authors scaled back their 2010 prediction to 88,588 jobs, butstrangely they boosted their 2020 forecast to 211,909 jobs.
The 2011 update, “The Pennsylvania Marcellus Natural Gas Industry: Status, EconomicImpacts and Future Potential”, went back to 2009 and increased their repor 
ted jobs gains bymore than 16,000 to 60,168 and reported that 2010 beat their prediction by 57.9%, claimingthat the state gained 139,889 jobs that year. Considine again increased his 2020 projection,now holding that that year would see 256,420 jobs, i.e
. 4 percent of Pennsylvania’s entire
labor force, supporting the shale gas industry.These numbers have drawn the scrutiny of academics and environmental groups. A2011 
rom the Marcellus Shale Education & Training Center (MSETC),a collaboration of Pennsylvania College of Technology and Penn State Cooperative Extension,
found fracking gains of “between 23,385 and 23,884 new jobs” in 2009, about 54% of 

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