What’s Behind the Pretty Face and Promises of the EnergyTomorrow Ads?

To listen to some of their ads you wouldn’t know that the promises lobbyists for oil, coal and natural gas are making about being energy independent are based on wishful thinking , deluding the American public that stalls our need to convert to clean renewable energy now.

Does this lovely lady look familiar?  She should.  You may have seen her warm and smiling countenance on a previous post of mine here.    It is more likely however that you have seen her more recently as the face of the pro-fossil fuel website, EnergyTomorrow.org, on TV ads sponsored by their lobbyist, the American Petroleum Institute(API).  These ads promote misleading information giving the public a half-baked view about the abundant energy below our surfaces to make America energy independent again.  Something we haven’t been since the 1950’s

Her name is Brooke Alexander, a former soap opera star, beauty queen and a former FOX correspondent.  Her new gig encourages viewers to “learn more” about how “we can secure our energy future”   Supposedly we have enough untapped oil & gas resources “to power 60 million cars and heat 160 million households for 60 years” Ms Alexander assures us in her ad here.

But learning more at the EnergyTomorrow website is like getting the news from FOX.  It’s all heavily slanted with circumspective data and substantial omissions.  And it doesn’t hurt when a smart, pretty woman is making the pitch for the likes of Exxon-Mobil, Conoco and Chevron.

Technically Ms. Alexander’s comments are correct but here’s what’s missing in her message:

In the oil & gas industry, resource means the amount of gas or oil that remains underground, and reserve means what could be produced from the resource.

Only a portion of the resources could be recovered technically.

Only a portion of the technically recoverable resources could be produced economically.

Only a portion of the economically producible resources could be produced into supply. That is called reserve.    SOURCE 

Much of the oil resources in North America touted in these ads are expected to come from the tar sand pits out of Canada.  The oil from these tar sands takes enormous amounts of energy to convert into liquid gas adding that much more CO2 into the atmosphere, warming the planet even further.  The ads also conceal the fact that any oil or gas we bring up from below the surface is not ours entirely.  All oil and gas are part of a global market.  Nor will its close proximity to us, like in Canada, mean cheaper gas.  The price of oil is set on world markets.

Within the United States, foreign companies are acquiring stakes in oil resources that can now be extracted with fracking, but regardless of where the oil is produced and who produces it, the price of oil is set on the global market. Such globalization means that widespread drilling and fracking for oil in the United States will do nothing for American consumers who are paying the high price of oil.    SOURCE 

So what “portion” of that oil and gas is actually capable of being converted into real sources of energy for consumers?   Well, according to Bill Powers, author of the upcoming book,  “Cold, Hungry and in the Dark: Exploding the Natural Gas Supply Myth”, there may be only 5-7 years of shale gas resources after the realities of extraction and production confront the industry.

My thesis is that the importance of shale gas has been grossly overstated; the U.S. has nowhere close to a 100-year supply. This myth has been perpetuated by self-interested industry, media and politicians. Their mantra is that exploiting shale gas resources will promote untold economic growth, new jobs and lead us toward energy independence.

In the book, I take a very hard look at the facts. And I conclude that the U.S. has between a five- to seven-year supply of shale gas, and not 100 years. That is far lower than the rosy estimates put out by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and others. In the real world, many companies are taking write-downs of their reserves.   SOURCE    

Powers is the editor of Powers Energy Investor and according to his website  has “devoted the last 15 years to studying and analyzing various aspects of the energy sector”.

Another expert in the field is Arthur Berman.  Berman is a petroleum geologist, Associate Editor of the American Association of Petroleum Geolgists Bulletin and Director of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil. He maintains the blog Petroleum Truth Report.   Berman tells us that the declining rates of shale gas validates Powers’ assessment about severely limited supplies.

“I’ve looked at this”, he tells James Staffiord with OilPrice.com.  “In the Eagleford shale, which is supposed to be the mother of all shale oil plays, the annual decline rate is higher than 42%”.  They’re going to have to drill hundreds, almost 1000 wells in the Eagleford shale, every year, to keep production flat. Just for one play, we’re talking about $10 or $12 billion a year just to replace supply.”    SOURCE

It appears then that if you take the industry’s perception of North American reserves and fill in the blanks they are leaving out with Berman and Power’s assessments, then the reality is not all that rosy about securing America’s energy future.  I heard essentially the same talking points at a recent Planning and Zoning Council meeting here in Denton.   Out of about 50 attendees to this meeting most were citizens and students who were there to oppose considerations by the city for drilling new wells within city limits, citing the unresolved hazards of leaks and water contamination from fracking fluids.  Two young and attractive ladies however were there to state the case for the gas well drillers.

These two women gave only their names and addresses, indicating that they were nothing more than mere residents who saw positive contributions for drilling more wells.  But clearly they were there to promote the industry’s talking points about “energy security and independence” and “job creation”.  One read directly from written notes in a monotone voice without looking up while the other ad-libbed essentially the same comments but with little conviction about what she was saying, unlike those who gave testimonials in opposition to inner city gas well drilling.

America will never be energy independent because no matter how much we produce we will still consume more at current rates than we can produce.  Friendly tar sands oil from Canada won’t change that picture either.

[There is] the distorted viewpoint that the U.S. will soon become energy independent and will no longer need to import foreign oil. The U.S. has used more oil than it produces since records were kept in 1920 but became a true net oil importing country after World War II.   SOURCE 

The Fossil Fuels Job Myth

The notion too that oil and gas production creates thousands of jobs is somewhat dubious.  For instance, one report shows that direct hiring specifically related to oil extraction and production is a far cry from the claims of 1 million jobs being touted by the industry.  The 1 million figure relies on the multiplier effect where the true figure of 36,000 oil related jobs created will be expected to impact other businesses in their community and this only occurs after about seven years according to one report.

While job estimates, using a so-called multiplier effect of spending, are common in economic impact calculations, the “direct hiring” by the oil industry is far more modest [than other industries].

The 36,000 jobs specifically created to drill for oil and natural gas, refine petroleum or coal products, or for pipeline operation or in gas stations, came in well below “direct hiring” in other industries, which don’t enjoy the same tax breaks the Obama administration has been fighting to end for Big Oil.

The construction industry is prime among them — adding 69,000 jobs in 2011.

Roll into this the fact that these jobs also will continue to contribute to air and water pollution along with increasing green house gases that threaten our ecosystem and the image of an earned income becomes diminished with increased health care costs.  This information also ignores that job creation in renewable energy fields will easily supplant and even surpass job creation in the fossil fuel industry, absorbing a lot of the fossil fuel industry workers into the more green technologies.

… a 2009 report published by the University of Massachusetts found that net job creation is substantially higher with clean energy investments than fossil fuels at different educational levels. The paper determined that, when compared to fossil fuel energy, clean energy investments create 2.6 times more college degree jobs; 3.0 times more ‘some-college’ jobs; and 3.6 times more ‘high school or less’ jobs. While average wages are higher in fossil fuel, there are more types of all jobs in cleaner energy.

The Massachusetts researchers also found that a shift from fossil fuels to clean energy investments will yield a net increase in U.S. employment of 1.7 million jobs—i.e. an increase in 2.5 million jobs through clean-energy investments and a corresponding decline of about 790,000 jobs in fossil fuels. This assumes that there is available unemployed labor (there would be no change in employment if people had to be moved from one job to another).   SOURCE   

These are jobs that reduce potential health and safety hazards for workers and the people in the communities they are positioned near.  Healthier workers and their families are more productive and able to keep more of their earned income for other things outside doctor and hospital bills, such as college tuition and retirement savings.  But such positive outcomes are not something shared with you in ads aimed at continuing more of the same practices of extracting finite resources that are destined to expire in a lot less time than we are being led to believe.

Just Another Case of Corporate Profits Over  Human and Social Needs

So why the apparent deception by the oil and gas industry?  If the writing is on the wall as Mr. Berman, Mr. Powers and others are strongly suggesting, why not take all of the huge profits that the oil industry has seen (natural gas entrepreneurs are barely breaking even) and start making smarter, long-term choices that will not only be profitable for them but truly make us energy secure and independent?  Rather than invest vast sums in an infrastructure to accommodate the limited resources of fracture-extracted carbon products, especially natural gas, why not reinvest and re-tool for the inevitable conversion from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy sources?   There clearly is a future for those who become engaged at these early stages.

It appears the answer lies within the concepts of short-sightedness and simple greed.  The current leadership within the oil industry is tied to the past and like anything else, real change is hard to turn towards when your bread has been so amply buttered for several decades now by bleeding every conceivable drop of carbon-based material from the earth.   The record profits that the oil giants have been experiencing of late will not be apparent early on with clean, renewable energy sources as the conversion process begins to reconfigure their industry, even with the aid of government loans and start-up financing that will be at their disposal.  This is a turn off for people who have become accustomed to a steady flow of great wealth.

The corporate mind is too locked-in to profits rather than making contributions to a future that essentially has them leaving their comfort zone and consists of unfamiliar risks.  A global market makes for a bigger playground to continue their old practices and as along as they can still influence the governments of various nations, including our own, there’s no reason or incentive to consider human and social needs over stock holder and investor expectations.

The new entrepreneurs whose efforts will usher us into the 21st century with green, clean innovations to fuel our autos and heat our homes are in place and waiting to be unleashed.   But as long as the aging fraternity of oil, gas and coal still hold most of the cards with their influence in Washington and state legislatures, progress will be sluggish and consumers will have to tolerate the consequences of this greed and short-sightedness; the biggest consequence being ever more numerous and larger natural disasters from man-made climate change.

Resources:

Shale Gas Bubble About to Burst: Art Berman, Bill Powers (DeSmogblog.com)

Why Fracking for Oil and natural Gas is a False Solution 

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15 responses to “What’s Behind the Pretty Face and Promises of the EnergyTomorrow Ads?

  1. I dispise fracking and frankly whenever I see an add that is so sweet about the environment, it turns out now to be one of the energy companies that is behind it. I assume they are trying to talk me into something that will harm me or the earth. How stupid do they think we are?

    • I think they are hoping that enough of us are pretty stupid Sherry but ultimately it doesn’t matter what we think if we can’t get the numbers in Congress to agree with the public on fracking and man-made global warming.

  2. One of the other blogs I read for information is The Oil Drum. A few years ago, one of the posters there pointed out something about the new “play” – the Marcellus Shale. That is, if you take the figure the gas companies are touting as the amount of natural gas in that shale – which sounds incredibly impressive – and divide it by the annual usage here in the US, it amounts to …. a 7 year supply. That’s one of the battles here in New York, and one of the things that people can do here is just look over the border at Pennsylvania.

    Now, if fracking is done absolutely correctly, it probably isn’t a problem. The actual issue is that most of the drilling companies are rushing to drill, and they’re not all that careful about doing correctly.

    • “Now, if fracking is done absolutely correctly, it probably isn’t a problem.”

      Rushing to drill may be part of the problem Norwood but more evidence is popping up that suggests all fracking is inevitably bad because as it creates permutations in the rock it allows not only more opportunities for the chemical in the fracking fluid to escape in unwanted areas but now there are signs that this process could be the cause of increased earthquake activity, depending on where they drill.

      • That’s why I put in the conditionals. ;-) One of the lessons we’re learning from PA is that the gas companies are sloppy as hell when it comes to drilling, go out of their way to hide that, and would just as soon no one noticed the spills of fracking fluid that happen with distressing regularity.

        From my own perspective, all they’re doing is lying about the inevitable. Cheap oil is gone. Tar sands are only “economically viable” if the price per barrel is over $80, and the profit is much less. The natural gas “bonanzas” are at best limited in time. That’s why we need a much wider range of alternatives and a modernized (and hardened) electrical grid.

  3. How stupid do they think we are? There’s no thinking involved. They have California to prove that, with enough money behind you, you can get the people to believe anything. Proposition 37 was an initiative to label all genetically modified foods as such. A pretty innocuous bill that was handily beaten down by scare tactics in advertising, and was paid for by the food companies who are heavily committed to genetically altering the fruits, vegetables, grains and meat we consume. Their reasoning? Labeling these foods as GMO would raise the costs to the consumer. I give up!

    • They take advantage of the general dumbness of the public. We are a nation that has failed Jefferson’s basic criteria to keep such snake oil salesmen from running and ruining our lives.

      “. . . whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right.” – T. Jefferson

    • If only we could make them cite disclaimers like we do pharmaceutical companies then there might be a few more informed people in this country. As it stands though, people believe what they want and are pretty easily convinced of things that they have already made their mind up about. Things that on many occasions have little to do with facts and the truth.

  4. I was too busy checking her out, to listen to what that fracking idiot was saying. More solar panels on our roofs is the answer as far as I’m concerned. problem is, how do ya charge folks for sun-light?

    • You don’t. They make all of their money off of the equipment and maintenance thereof.

      Denton, where I live, encourages homeowners to install solar panels, offering a $15,000 subsidy. That and a federal government tax credit of $3500 makes installing solar panels relatively cheap. I priced some for my house and after the tax credit and the city subsidy I would only pay about $9000. I could conceivably see an ROI on this in as little as 6-7 years. Not too shabby. Solar panels also make resale of the home more easy.

  5. Nothing technical from me, but every time I see Elizabeth Ariosto the
    actress dressed in black with these Energy Tomorrow commercials I think she is dressed up in a disguise to fool the public by looking like the real Erin Brockovich (someone who did good for the environment).
    Just my thoughts…

    • Brooke’s appeal I’m sure comes from the character she was cast as on soap operas. A calculating but smart and informed vixen. Her beauty was a deception of what lied within the dark recesses of her heart which is the way we should read the natural gas industry’s message with this celebrity

  6. I can’t hit the mute button fast enough when these stupid commercials air. Can’t stand the spokeswoman either. She did a Smart Balance cereal commercial “how dumb of me.” Get a new actress!!!

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