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Mr. Raz, I like to think that NPR will present factual information on important issues rather than extreme exaggeration but your segment on U.S. oil production and resources (Sept. 24, 2011) falls into the realm of extreme exaggeration. Your segment highlighted the Bakken Shale, which is mostly in North Dakota. I believe you stated that the Bakken Shale has ~11 billion barrels of oil, if not more. An April 2008 USGS report estimated the amount of technically recoverable oil using technology readily available at the end of 2007 within the Bakken Formation at 3.0 to 4.3 billion barrels (680,000,000m3), with a mean of 3.65 billion. The state of North Dakota also released areport that month which estimated that there are 2.1 billion barrels (330,000,000 m3) of technically recoverable oil in the Bakken. Based upon historical estimates from the USGS, technically recoverable oil is an inflated estimate of how much oil that will ultimately be extracted from a region. I expect the 2.1 billion barrels to be too high. To place the figure in perspective, the U.S. consumes approximately 7 billion barrels of liquid hydrocarbons per year. Although one of your experts gave the impression that technology is improving daily, fracking technology is quite mature at this point in time. Through the first 4 months of this year (most recent US DOE/EIA data), North Dakota’s oil production had dropped 0.79% relative to the last quarter of 2010. That’s after increasing over 30%/year the last 2 years. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues. There seems to be considerable misunderstanding concerning the Bakken Shale and what is termed “oil shale”, theshale in places like Colorado. In the Bakken Shale, there is actually oil impregnated into the shale. That is not the case for most shale in the U.S. When you give a figure of 2 trillion barrels of presumably recoverable oil for the U.S., most of that estimate is based upon oil shalewhich has a solid organic material called kerogen in it. No amount of fracking will remove the kerogen from the shale. It appears unlikely that the “oil” in oil shale will ever be produced on a large scale. It is not at all like the Bakken Shale. You stated that U.S. oil production is increasing very rapidly. Based upon data from the US DOE/EIA, U.S. crude oil + condensate production, what I consider as oil, increased 2.66% through the first 6 months of 2011 relative to the first 6 months of 2010. I expect the second half increase for 2011 to be less than the first half. The decline in U.S.liquid hydrocarbon imports has been influenced substantially by an approximate 2 million barrel/day decline in liquid hydrocarbon demand in recent years.
One of your experts in the segment was Amy Jaffe. She may be a good cheerleader for U.S. oil production, but her forecasting record for oil has much to be desired. Here is the summary of an article she wrote in 2000: Summary: As oil flirts with prices that call to mind the shocks of the 1970s, the usual Cassandras have been warning of dwindling oil supplies and sky-high prices. But the danger is precisely the opposite. The next two decades will witness a prolonged surplus of oil, which will tamp prices down. This world of cheap oil will have serious political reverberations. Without rising oil revenues, such key states as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Mexico, and Colombiawill face worsening crises at home. The same is true in spades for Central Asia, where Washington's current wrongheaded policies could drag it into crises that make the Balkans look like a pregame warm-up. The world should worry less about a scarcity of oil than about a glut. At the time oil was $25-30/barrel and as I remember it, she was talking about ~$10/barrel for the next few decades. We’ve been a bit higher than $10 or even $20/barrel for a long time. Is that really your oil expert? You claim that soon, the U.S. will be producing more oil than Saudi Arabia and Russia. I view that as extremely unlikely. Realize that oil production in major producing areas such as the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and Alaska are declining. Through the first 4 months of 2011, GOM oil production is off ~163,000 b/d relative to the first 4 months of 2010 while that of Alaska is off ~40,000 b/d for the first 6 months of 2011 relative to the first 6 months of 2010. I personally expect that in 5 years, U.S. oil production will be less than in 2011. I think my record at predictions for future oil production rates are pretty good as this linked commentary shows: http://www.aspousa.org/index.php/2011/04/a-look-back-at-north-sea-oil-production-projections/ - Roger Blanchard Sault Ste. Marie, MI
Dear Mr. Schumacher-Matos, Last night I sent an email to you with a complaint about Guy Raz's puff piece on the North Dakota Bakken Shale, which ought to be an embarrassment to you and NPR. Today the NYTs published this piece, which characterizes some of the complexity of a boom scenario, and what the flaring of the Bakken gas wells means in terms of wasted energy and increased GHG emissions ought to give a thoughtful person pause. Now there's a story for you, reportedly 30% of this ND gas is being burned as waste, and additionally, " The flared gas also spews at least two million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, as much as 384,000 cars or a medium-size coal-fired power plant would emit, alarming some environmentalists."
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/27/business/energy-environment/in-north-dakota-wasted-naturalgas-flickers-against-the-sky.html The gas companies scream and threaten and sue communities saying we need this resource right now from every rock that can be drilled and fracked and yet they are allowed to waste it with impunity. This is not sound energy policy. Lisa Wright Brooktondale, NY
To the un-critical listener, your Sunday ATC piece "New Boom Reshapes Oil World, Rocks North Dakota" with Guy Raz sounded upbeat, comforting and down right exciting. To me, the piece sounded an awful lot like the industry propaganda we hear all the time from the big oil and gas companies poised to begin drilling using horizontal hydraulic fracturing where I live in upstate New York. And yet when you see a bill board paid for by IOGA, at least you know the bias of the message. Cloaking industry propaganda in the guise of "in depth" (did you manage to cover every aspect of industry's view point?) reporting is dangerous. I thought NPR, as a publicly funded news organization provided me with access to actual information about issues I do not have first hand knowledge of. After hearing this piece where I have an intimate personal experiences of the unreported and totally ignored "other" side of the story, I have has my eyes opened. How will I ever listen to another NPR story again and trust what I hear? Autumn Stoscheck Van Etten, NY
Dear Mr. Schumacher-Matos, I just discovered your response to emails from listeners who felt that NPR did not do a good job covering the shale-gas reserve estimates that had been reported from quite a different perspective in the NYTs and Bloomberg. http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/2011/09/09/140336124/hydraulic-spinning-oil-industryfavored-in-fracking-story I also just listened to this more recent story online-- which opened with an ad for the American Natural Gas Alliance. Please listen to this piece with an open mind, and tell me truthfully-- is this journalism? Is Raz's tone appropriate and balanced? Were the chosen experts appropriately balanced as well?
http://www.npr.org/2011/09/25/140784004/new-boom-reshapes-oil-world-rocks-north-dakota Here in upstate NY, small towns simply trying to maintain their non-industrial character are facing lawsuits from the oil and gas industry and their lawyers. People in PA who are resisting pipelines going through their neighborhoods are facing lawsuits as well. Energy-in-Depth, apro-drilling gas industry PR/media group sends its Pennsylvania bloggers to New York town meetings to snarkily post blogs that criticize winery owners, farmers and landowners who don't think upstate NY should be a gas field.
I don't know what else to say about the state of American media and what used to be called "journalism." I am wishing Edward R. Murrow was alive, but perhaps it is just as well he is not, for at least he is merely turning over in his grave, not watching us dig ours. -Lisa Wright Brooktondale, NY
I'd like to know if Dina Temple-Raston graduated from the Garrison Keillor School of Breathless and Uncritical Journalist. After listening to her piece on Drones today. She is fitting the mold of NPR journalists doing the work of government and corporate propaganda. There ismore to journalism than providing a platform for entrenched power. I'm sure she knows that but her reporting today was both laughable and deplorable. On the bright side, it was not as defective as Guy Raz's piece on the oil boom in North Dakota. That one should definitely getawards. Such enthusiasm! Such surprise at the enthusiasm! Such soft-ball questioning! Does that guy Guy work for the oil industry? Truly a shamelesspiece of prostitution. I can't wait to get some fracking done in my backyard. Guy convinced me its safe, good for the country, and will create jobs. But on a serious note. At one time I actually listened to NPR. Today it's my wake-up pill when I'm dull and stupid. Between the amateurish little girl reporters and the obvious propaganda pieces, it's enough to get my blood boiling. At 70, that's important. NPR has become a sendup of itself. What you really need is Diane Sawyer to elevate your staff to Olympian heights of inanity. Keep up the good work. -Mal Barsk Bangor, ME
The effects of your corporate sponsorship from the gas industry has finally, after many decades, caused
me to look elsewhere for my news. Last night's story on North Dakota gave barely a mention of the problems that have caused hundreds of people to lose their drinking water and in some cases, their health and livelihood, and thousands to lose the value of their homes. The premise of the story was: we will have this oil, at any cost. Even the most peripheral look at the stories surrounding this industry would have indicated a huge and growing national concern by people who live in the 30+ states living with fracking. I challenge you to find any state that has not had communities plagued with violations by drillers and lax enforcement as these lands have been sacrificed. The New York Times gets it- how can MY radio station be such a stooge for the industry? How can I trust the rest of what I hear, when I see how a story I've followed so closely has be so thoroughly twisted to meet the needs of your sponsors? Disgusted. And yes, I am a member of MY station- have been for 25+ years. -Paul Mendelsohn Cherry Valley, NY
Who is the dumpkopf who had the stupid idea to put music and drum rhythms etc. as a background to news stories (like the NorthDakota oil story on right now)? It is a TERRIBLE idea and that person, and the practice, should be terminated immediately. The so-called music is terribly distracting, irritating, trivializing, cheapens the story and obscures the words so that at times they are not audible. I will stoplistening to your broadcasts if you continue to add trashy stunts like this to your newscasts. By the way, this message is for all the NPR newscasts, not just Sunday Weekend Edition. - Cheryl Payer Notes New York, NY
Please, Guy Raz, go watch "Gasland." It has been awhile since I have been so disappointed in a story on NPR . . . however inadvertent it might have been--although, that is hard to tell. There has been so much discussion of the safety issues involving fracking that towhip past them to, instead, laud the national security benefits (for what? 4 years of oil?) that I find it difficult to believe you aren't aware of them. I expect better from NPR. - Stephen Lofgren Rockville, MD
I just posted a comment on your 9/25/11 story on the Bakken formation and its potential impact on domestic oil. I started looking because I could see no good reason for the Keystone XL pipline from the Canadian tarsands if that source is about to be eclipsed by the Bakken. The comment speaks for itself. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/storyComments.php?storyId=140784004&;pageNum=2&pPageNu m=2 Snopes seems to think that this story is an 'urban legend.' Their last update was 3/11/11. http://www.snopes.com/politics/gasoline/bakken.asp Who is right? How one-sided is the film, Gasland? www.gaslandthemovie.com/ It is hard to reconcile the problems that Josh Fox outlines in his film about fracking and natural gas, and a "problem-free" use of fracking to release oil from oil shale. NPR, please put an 'investigative reporter' on this story and get to the real bottom of it. - John Baum Palo Alto, CA
Today while listening to All Things Considered I was surprised and confused when music suddenly started playing over an interview about the U.S. oil boom. When the music started I was searching through my internet windows and background programs to see what the source was, and only after closing the NPR Media Player did the music stop. I thought that the music itself was rather annoying to listen to due to the fact that it was playing over an interview which I found distracting. Additionally the music itself was rather tasteless and made me feel like I was in a cheap club. I have come to expect NPR to have a high standard for the music played on the air, and this violated my expectations and detracted from the overall listening experience. Please refrain from playing music dubbed over interviews in the future unless it is directly related to the content of the interview. This being said I feel that your programming is among the highest quality and the most even handed reporting available online. Thanks for the high quality programming, please keep up the high standards.
Thank you and kind regards, -Nicholas Kontgas Price, UT
I am shocked by the niavete your reporter showed in today's report on hydro-fracking. Gee-whiz breathless boosterism and not a single hardball question about the environmental dangers. You got an academic to say that he felt sure that the industry would manage things just fine... Would you mind telling us how that opinion was the one you decided to air? Do you think that there are no academics who have serious misgivings? Think interviewing someone with that opinion might be useful? Or has NPR been bought off by the oil industry? - James-Henry Holland Geneva, NY
The towns near the Bakken, Barnett, and Marcellus formations have been or are being "industrialized". Concerning the report about the Bakken gas field (Sunday 9/25): Some of the down-side aspects were not mentioned. My concern is not a knee-jerk reaction to drilling per se because there are beneficial aspects, but there are few controls, regulations, or laws with respect to drilling, casement cementing, water withdrawal, holding ponds, dust- & noise-control, pipeline-laying, air contamination, water contamination, disposal of waste drilling muds and hydrofracturing fluids, and vehicular access for all of these activities. In addition, in some areas of the U.S., such as SW Pennsylvania, some sections of northern West Virginia, and southern New York, there is a high density of wells (number of wells per square mile) being drilled or have been permitted for drilling in farmland and residential areas. Additionally the number of state inspectors and enforcement officials is much too small for the rapidity with gas shale drilling is occurring. -G. Paul Richter Buckhannon, WV
I was shocked by your story on hydraulic fracturing and the way that the story gave the impression that it was safe for the environment as long as they are careful. The story also claimed it could be a way of reducing the need for oil from the Middle East giving theimpression that hydraulic fracturing is
wonderful. The back ground music gave story an air of a long ad for the oil industry. Hydraulic fracturing is one of the most harmful ways to produce energy and should be stopped. Millions of gallons of fresh water is poisoned even if it does not leak into local water supplies yet even the corporations profiting from Hydraulic fracturing admit that they can not protect all the wells where they frack. This is only the tip of the problems caused by this criminal practice. Your story was so one sided and pro industry I realized again why I have stopped listening to NPR. I could watch Fox TV if I wanted pro oil lies. -Keith McHenry Taos, NM