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SEO: ExxonMobil rep discusses benefits of natural gas Lecture transforms into heated debate Rhonda Pope faces

resilience from staunch environmentalists By Nora Strumpf

Exxon representative Rhonda Pope intended to inform a captive audience about the benefits of natural gas as part of her About Natural Gas and Hydraulic Fracturing lecture on Oct. 11, but spectators were not convinced. Pope introduced her role at Exxon as the Mid-Continent Crude Optimizer. She noted that natural gas heats more than half of the homes in the United States, and that it accounts for 25% of our energy. She provided projections for the next thirty years of gas use, and confidently stated that the supply of natural gas will exceed coal. The first skeptic touted the audiences intentions. Does Exxon Mobil consider the effects on the environment when it develops these models? asked Shane James, a member of Fossil Free UMd, who handed out anti-fracking flyers before the lectures start. Absolutely, Pope replied. One of Exxon Mobiles core values is to be environmentally

responsible with our energy supply. Her response was the catalyst for the crucifixion that followed.

Rhonda Pope presents an infographic titled The global energy mix continues to evolve. Photo by Nora Strumpf

Another student criticized that Exxon invests too much capital in gas when cleaner alternatives are available.

(more) The demand is in gas, Pope said, as she seemed to calculate her response to dilute the tension in the room. These other alternative energies [such as solar] have potential, but theyre not necessarily in a position where supply can meet demand for the next thirty years. Temperature rises The questions got more intense. Is Exxon assuming a carbon tax? How much consideration to biodiversity has Exxon considered?

How much deliberation was done with indigenous people of the Chesapeake? Pope gave vague answers to each, providing ambiguous statements rather than qualitative facts. Noticing how much time had slipped away, Pope continued discussing the abundance of natural gas, job opportunities and versatility. She later explained hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the process of drilling into the earth to extract natural gas. The Student Government Association sustainability director, Ori Gutin, provided Pope the statistic that in 2010, 6.2 percent of new gas wells leaked, but she was unable to provide a retort. (more)

I know that this is a passionate subject, Pope concluded. I can absolutely relate to your concerns and want to be as helpful and give as much information as I can. As the last audience member walked out of the classroom, Pope turned to her colleague and said, well, I wasnt expecting that.