Talk Back

Phelim McAleer and his Wife Ann
Answers to a few of the talking points McAleer uses most often:

Environmentalists are elitists who want to tell ordinary people how to live.

Oil companies have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into lobbying and astroturf campaigns to promote an agenda that will make them profits and hurt ordinary people. It is the oil companies who want to tell people how to live by feeding them a misinformation campaign using tactics and certain scientists from the tobacco wars. The goal of this misinformation campaign is to confuse science and public perception long enough to lock in a fracking infrastructure that will keep us on fossil fuels for another 100 years.

Environmentalists are astroturf groups funded by Park Foundation.

Park Foundation only contributes a fraction of the money supplied by industry. Unlike industry, they have no direct financial stake in the outcome. The claim is especially ironic because the formation of astroturf groups is a very common industry strategy.

There has never been a single case of contamination.

There are now numerous documented cases of water and air contamination. Documented cases represent only a fraction of total cases because of gag orders and industry influence/intimidation of individuals, regulatory agencies, and state legislatures.

The EPA has said that fracking is safe.

EPA has found contamination in PA and Texas, but industry has outspent them in court, forcing the EPA to back down. The Railroad commission is elected on oil industry money and has historically represented oil industry interests. One of the biggest obstacles facing contamination victims is inaction by regulatory agencies.

Environmentalists want to keep people in third world countries poor and not allow them to develop using fossil fuels.

AEI projects $45 billion in energy infrastructure spending by 2030. This money should be spent on clean 21st century technology not dirty 19th century technology. It won’t do any good to have a first world lifestyle if the world is uninhabitable because of climate change. American strength in innovation can make us a leader in building this infrastructure. Oil industry projects around the world have been devastating for local people and the environments they depend on. 

Environmentalists are hypocrites because they drive cars and fly in airplanes.

Environmentalists don’t want people to stop going places or go back to a pre-industrial lifestyle. They want to build a zero-carbon, 21st century infrastructure for getting people around, heating buildings and communicating. It is the energy industry that wants to keep us on dirty, 19th century technology—so they can make more money.

Natural gas is a clean fuel that will replace coal and oil. It is a bridge to renewables.

Methane leakage makes these claims doubtful. Even if methane leaks can be fixed, projected use of natural gas for another 50-100 years will destroy civilization as we know it. The oil industry clearly wants to continue expanding fossil fuel use, not use it as a bridge to renewables. The underlying IBGYBG--I'll be gone, you'll be gone--philosophy is obvious.

Renewables are too expensive and do not supply reliable baseline energy.

The US government’s Interagency Working Group has calculated the Social Cost of Carbon at $34/ton of CO2. Many scientists argue that the real figure is closer to $100, and some argue that the cost could actually be infinite. If this cost is figured in, renewables are cheaper. Solar and wind are close being competitive with fossil fuels now, and many of the necessary technologies exist by need to be developed.

According to the IEA we have $45 trillion to spend by 2030. With additional investments in R & D and policies to encourage economies of scale, renewables are the only economically and morally responsible way to move forward.
The New York Times has praised "FrackNation" as a thoughtful documentary.

The Times reviewer got it wrong. Factual assertions in "FrackNation" do not stand up to scrutiny. The movie is character assassination and industry propaganda masquerading as journalism.

In "FrackNation," Jon Entine (from the American Enterprise Institute) claims the New York Times Public Editor wrote two consecutive columns strongly condemning an Ian Urbina story about the economics of the fracking boom. 

Entine completely distorts the entire incident. In fact, the Public Editor offered some mild and poorly thought out criticism of one of Urbina’s sources and a little commentary about the story's objectivity. The Public Editor’s comments were thoroughly refuted by both Urbina and his editor, and the Times has stood strongly behind the story. Rather than being a scandal, the whole episode was an example of journalistic transparency at its best. Urbina offers a vast online database hundreds of pages long, which has become an invaluable resource for government officials researching fracking issues. Only one of the two columns contains substantive criticism of Urbina’s article. The other simply summarizes positions of various people in the debate.

Anti-fracking activists, as depicted in "FrackNation," are all like the Sautners—unable to accept facts when confronted by them.

This is the premiere example of character assassination masquerading as journalism. There is widespread and conclusive evidence of water well contamination in the Carter Road area. (See the three Cabot Consent Orders in which DEP is explicit about the contamination and its link to fracking.) McAleer’s specialty is getting in people’s faces until he can get them angry enough to say something he can use against them. He likes to prey on unsophisticated country people, or ambush movie stars that he can frame as publicity-seeking elitists. He should be ashamed of himself for using these techniques.

The video of Steve Lipsky lighting his water on fire is a fraud. Steve put the gas there himself.
This claim has been thoroughly refuted—even in the evidence presented to Trey Loftin, the Texas oil-patch judge who ruled the video was evidence of a conspiracy. The video clearly shows, and explains, that the hose was attached to the wellhead vent. There is no propane tank, and it is clear from the video that the gas and water outlets are separate. The Loftin ruling ignores testimony from the well driller that they attached the hose for safety reasons. There are numerous other factual errors in the Loftin ruling—many of the already documented by local and national media. Additional testing has shown that Steve’s water is indeed contaminated by industry. 

Fracking activists want to take away people’s freedom to profit from their own land.
A long tradition of common law limits the rights of private landowners to pollute the commons. Air and water pollution, increased truck traffic, and industrialization of the landscape impact everyone and need to be addressed as communal issues. Some people do make a lot of money, but profits from fracking are often vastly overstated. The profits from drilling and fracking operations are often offset by damages to the land and many, many landowners find that what they get falls far short of what was promised.

Fracking will create revenues that will save local economies and small farms.
The boom and bust nature of fracking makes this claim dubious. Wells are not producing nearly as long as expected. The vast majority of wells do not pan out economically—and the promised revenues often fail to materialize. Damage to local roads and the environment, health consequences and losses from industries like tourism and farming are often not factored into these calculations. In twenty years, when the fracking boom moves on, leaving hundreds of abandoned wells, local economies and small farms will be worse off. Fracking is not a long-term solution to the problems facing small farmers and rural economies.

Josh Fox lied in "Gasland." Methane was always in the water.
There is naturally occurring methane in water wells. But the explosion of gas contamination around fracking sites comes from fracking. There have been numerous cases of contamination confirmed. Josh Fox was perfectly right to say that naturally occurring methane is not relevant to the discussion of contamination from industrial operations. All these people are not lying about contamination of their wells. There is also contamination from other chemicals—especially benzene. Spills and mismanagement of fracking water is common. Problems with disposal of flowback is also common.

Fracking activists claim that there is “weapons grade uranium” in their water (snicker, snicker—one of McAleers’s snarky applause lines when speaking to conservative audiences).
In fact, testing at the time of the water contamination in Dimock did show the presence different isotopes of uranium. Another victim remembers being  told by DEP that his water had weapons grade uranium in it.  McAleer claims there was widespread media coverage of this sensationalist claim with no fact checking. In fact, McAleer is the only "journalist" who covered this claim, and he apparently didn't do enough research to figure out that there is both uranium and radium flushed out from deep underground with frack fluid flowback--and that existing water treatments don't remove it.

Fracking will lead to American energy independence and well-paid American jobs.
Renewables are the best path to American energy independence. There is a huge amount of work to be done. Research and development jobs—in which Americans have a natural advantage. Retrofitting of the national energy grid and installation of a distributed network of renewable energy generation sources will create millions of well-paid blue collar and research jobs. By its nature, renewables are less centralized, which will mean less dominance by large corporations and more opportunities for local business and innovative start ups. The boom and bust nature of fracking makes it a poor source of jobs in the long-term, and the further concentration of financial power in mega-corporations will continue to gut the American middle class, not expand it. Putin is more afraid of solar panels and wind turbines than he is of fracking.

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