By now just about everyone has jumped on board the natural gas bandwagon (see “The Gas Revolution,” April 18, 2011). Its newfound abundance inside the four corners of the United States is proving to be a disruptive factor in the nation’s energy mix. Cheap natural gas adds to the pressure on coal-fired electricity, but also makes wind and solar power much less feasible, even with massive subsidies. Natural gas-powered cars and trucks might offer a way of significantly lowering our oil imports, while at the same time the technology that has unlocked new gas supplies is starting to deliver a substantial increase in domestic oil production, reversing a 30-year slide. Cheap, abundant, domestically produced energy? Naturally all the usual suspects are unhappy about this.
No one seems more unhappy than the New York Times, which was late to recognize the unfolding natural gas story, even though much of it was happening in its own back yard. So late last June the Times published a multi-part series by their gas beat reporter, Ian Urbina, suggesting that prospects for the “gas revolution” are not merely hyped, but constitute the next bubble certain to burst. There’s even an insinuation of possible fraud on the part of the gas industry, of natural gas as a “Ponzi scheme.” And just to make sure none of its readers missed the point, the Times even deployed the “E-word” in the headline: “ ‘Enron Moment’: Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush.” The two stories are more evidence of the Times’s long slide into agenda-driven journalism that excuses shoddy practices, dubious sourcing, and appalling economic ignorance.