Monday, June 27, 2011

ExxonMobil Execs Say Fracking is Perfectly Safe and They’re Rolling Out a Big, Expensive Ad Campaign to Prove It

May 26th, 2011 | By admin | Category: Fracking, Lead Articles

From the Why People Hate Big Energy file: after yesterday’s shareholder meeting, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson stepped in front of the microphones to say that fracking, despite any claims or evidence to the contrary, is perfectly safe, according to a story in this morning’s Wall Street Journal.

From the Wall Street Journal story:
“There are risks” to the environment when the industry drills for natural gas in shale deposits, Mr. Tillerson said at a press conference following the oil company’s annual shareholder meeting. “We’re not trying to characterize this as an activity that does not have risk,” he said. “But we think there have been a lot of pretty casual statements about risks that are simply not backed up by facts.”
“The early detractors slap a label on something, and then it takes us a long time to get it peeled off,” he added.
Nevertheless, Tillerson continued, the company has done some polling on the issue and determined that, indeed, more than a few people — including a sizable contingent of ExxonMobil shareholders — are concerned about the environmental consequences of fracking, aka hydraulic fracturing, the process by which millions of gallons of water spiked with a toxic brew of chemicals are injected deep underground to break up shale formations, thereby freeing the natural gas trapped within the rock.
As a result, Tilleson said, ExxonMobil is rolling out an “aggressive” advertising campaign that will “telegraph its sense that the industry can drill safely and can clean up any environmental problems that result.”

Here’s the problem with that response, though, and it goes a long way toward explaining why people mistrust all the companies that are so heavily invested in fracking the Marcellus shale formation: the evidence that fracking has some very serious environmental consequences is piling up, both anecdotally and empirically. For a company like ExxonMobil to come out and say that not only that evidence, but the people putting it forward — that is, the people who have to live with the consequences of fracking day in and day out — are both wrong is condescending, arrogant and insulting, to put it charitably.

If ExxonMobil is serious about speaking to people’s concerns about fracking here’s what they need to do.

Step One — disclose the exact nature of the fracking fluid. Tell us what it is you’re injecting into the ground. If there’s nothing to be afraid of, there should be no problem telling the people who live within shouting distance of the well what is going into the ground beneath their feet.

Step Two — voluntarily comply with EPA water regulations. Right now, fracking is exempt from EPA regulation, thanks to an exemption carved out in federal law by former Vice President Dick Cheney in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. If fracking is safe, like ExxonMobil wants us to believe, this should be no problem, either.

Both of these could be accomplished easily if ExxonMobil threw its support behind the FRAC Act, currently pending in Congress.

Absent that kind of committment, unless the ExxonMobil ads feature Tillerson himself chugging a big ol’ glass of fracking fluid, all the talking points in the world don’t mean squat.

After all, who are you going to believe — ExxonMobil or your own eyes?

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