The shale gas industry’s favorite go-to professor
Professor Tim Considine, whose research reports are funded largely by the shale gas industry, has written numerous papers proclaiming the benefits of all things shale gas over the last several years. His papers include estimated claims of huge job creation, arguing for no severance taxes on Pennsylvania shale gas production along with a recent report stating dramatic reductions in fines against shale gas companies operating within the state.
Yet at times he has failed to fully disclose the shale gas industry funding behind his research while typically not addressing the environmental costs of drilling and brushing off critics who allege his work is neither completely objective, accurate or fully transparent.
A recent Associated Press article by reporter Kevin Begos states, “Considine, now at the University of Wyoming, has received funding from industry groups such as the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Wyoming Mining Association, the American Iron and Steel Institute, and the American Petroleum Institute.” Each of these industry front groups has very large vested financial interests in pushing through shale gas development at every level of the U.S. economy.
In conjunction with Penn State, Considine authored a July 2009 economic development report on drilling in the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania. In it he projected more than 83,000 jobs to be created as well as the position the state should not levy a severance tax on in state shale gas production. His position on severance taxes was considered highly unusual as such states as Texas and Oklahoma levy such severance taxes on companies drilling in their states and often on the very same firms who reside in those states. Oklahoma based Chesapeake Energy is one such firm and has been very active in drilling in Pennsylvania. Houston, Texas based Cabot Oil Gas Corporation is another.
While Considine used the Penn State logo on every single page of his report, he failed to disclose it had been paid for by the shale gas industry front group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition based in nearby Canonsburg, PA. Chesapeake Energy and Cabot are both members of the Coalition. The original version of this report, without funding disclosures, can be found at the University of Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy where Considine is currently employed.
After local protests, Penn State required the report be re-issued with proper disclosures while the dean of school’s Earth and Mineral Sciences stated the original report, “crossed the line from policy analysis to policy advocacy” regarding the position on severance taxes. In the reissued report, now with proper funding disclosures, Considine increased his job creation estimates to more than 110,000 even while the Pennsylvania Department of Labor estimated 13,000 jobs to be created.
In the ensuing months, he would go on to write several more follow up economic development reports in the form of updates to his original work while expanding his analysis for the entire Marcellus region to now include New York State. These reports came at a time when the shale gas industry was pressing New York legislators to open up shale gas drilling in that state. This series of reports became known as, ‘The Penn State Studies’ and have made their way to various state legislative representatives in Pennsylvania, into the hands of Chesapeake Energy’s CEO Aubrey McClendon who has referred to them in his speaking appearances and onto the desks of Wall Street. The subsequent Penn State reports were properly disclosed regarding funding provided by the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
In an interview with the Wyoming Star Tribune about his 2009 report while at Penn State and his other pro-oil and gas industry reports, Considine told a reporter critics of his have blown things out of proportion. “They criticized the report that it doesn’t consider the environmental cost. Well, that’s not the question,” However a frequent charge of critics of the oil and gas industry is the true price of their products do not reflect all of its associated costs such as the types of environmental impact issues now being raised about shale gas drilling operations.
Two weeks ago, controversy yet again surrounded Considine as one of the authors of a shale gas industry report in conjunction with the University of Buffalo, even though he is currently employed at the University of Wyoming.
The new report claimed a dramatic reduction in environmental fines issued to Marcellus region shale gas operators by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. According to the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI), a non-profit and non-partisan entity for corporate and government accountability, Considine and the other author’s work contained significant factual errors and failed to clearly state within the report who funded it. The PAI stated further the report contained significant source material from the conservative Manhattan Institute along with noting the University of Buffalo originally stated the paper was “peer reviewed” until the university retracted this statement.
University of Buffalo is located in New York State which currently has a statewide moratorium on all shale gas drilling as implemented by its legislators. The shale gas industry has been aggressively lobbying for the removal of this drilling moratorium.
Considine’s latest report was belatedly disclosed to be funded by his employer, the University of Wyoming located in Wyoming, a well-known big oil and gas state. The university has strong ties to the oil and gas industry in which Considine heads the University’s Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy.
Industry funded research is the hallmark of many respected academic institutions which has resulted in a significant amount of American economic development. Given shale gas fracking is a huge and controversial issue; it is an American value for all parties to go forward using their most advantaged position. As well it’s a given parties will disagree over what economic estimates they believe in or not.
Yet the shale gas industry’s practice of using a select handful of academic ‘experts’ who at times fail to clearly disclose who is paying for what research and why only serves to diminish the reputations of the academic institutions and academics involved in the minds of the American public.
Or as an old Texas oil wildcatter saying goes, ‘A man has got to know who has what dog in the fight.’
Disclaimer: The author holds no U.S securities in shale gas development companies nor plans to in the next 30 days. The author has no financial arrangements with any entity or person referenced in this article.
To see the original non-disclosed funded Penn State report and the rest of the “Penn State Series”, go to the University of Wyoming website at: http://www.uwyo.edu/cee/working-papers.html
Click on: http://Considine, T.J., R. Watson, J. Sparks, R. Entler. “An Emerging Giant: Prospects and Economic Impacts of Developing the Marcellus Natural Gas Play,” The Pennsylvania State University, Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering.
To see the University of Buffalo reports go to the University of Wyoming website at: http://www.uwyo.edu/cee/working-papers.html
To see the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) report on Considine’s University of Buffalo report, go to: http://public-accountability.org/2012/05/ub-shale-play/
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