The University of Buffalo’s Shale Shamstitute served its purpose – to blow the whistle on such shale shill frackademics. Buck Quigley’s articles set off a chain reaction of articles about similar frackademics around the country. Frackademics that were employed by frackers to write faux-scholarly papers favorable to fracking.
The collateral damage of frackademia is to the credibility of the university host. And to the academics at those tainted universities – that are not shale shills . . .The UB Shale Shamstitute backfired for its founder, Norse Energy, who are trying to unload their New York properties. And it did nothing to enhance the reputations or credibility of the frackademics that cranked out propaganda for it. Prof. Jim Holstun delivered UB a letter of 83 faculty and staff members, copy below:
Today, the UB Reporter published a letter from 83 UB faculty and professional staff regarding the Shale Resources and Society Institute. It calls on “the UB administration, the UB Foundation, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of Geology to make public all the documents they generated or received that bear upon the founding, funding, staffing, operation and governance of the institute.” Members of the UB community may comment at the end of the letter.
Oil, gas, and UB
The oil and gas industry was present at the birth of the UB Marcellus Shale Lecture Series and the Institute born from it. The whole thing may have been the industry’s idea, as suggested by Mr. Dennis Holbrook (Exec. VP of Norse Energy) at an 31 October 2011 industry conference in Houston, where he mentioned UB and said “we’ve gotten academics to sponsor programs.” Or it may have started with UB Geology, which felt it needed industry help to counter anti-fracking arguments coming out of “the Ithaca area” (presumably, Cornell professors Howarth and Ingraffea—see below), as Mr. Holbrook stated at a July talk in Buffalo. We still don’t know whether or not industry money has passed to the Institute via the FOIL-immune UB Foundation.
Introduction to the fracking controversy
For a good brief introduction to the fracking, see the debate in the 15 September 2011 issue of Nature between Professors Robert Howarth and Tony Ingraffea (against) and Professor Terry Engelder of Penn State (for). Access it here using your UB Libraries subscription.
Conflicts of interest
One of the frequently-mentioned concerns about the first (and, so far, only) publication of the Institute is that it fails to acknowledge the extensive the industry ties of its authors. If UB’s SRSI ever publishes another article, it might want to consider the conflict of interest policies of Nature.
For the article above, Nature lists no “competing financial interests” for Howarth and Ingraffea, and the following for Engelder: “Over more than 40 years, T.E.’s research on fracking has been supported by US government agencies including the NSF, DOE, RPSEA, NETL, NYSERDA, EPRI, GRI, NRC, USGS, and PA-DCNR. Industry support has come from Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Elf, Agip, Texaco, Shell USA, Exxon, ARCO, Mobil, Chevron, Chesapeake, Range Resources, CNX, Talisman, Samson, Southwestern, Encana, Hess and Schlumberger. He has also consulted for industry nationally and internationally.” That’s it—a short and sweet tribute to the intelligence of the reader, who is clever enough to judge for her- or himself how these ties affect the arguments.
The Governor’s plans
Governor Cuomo’s constant refrain is that he hasn’t decided yet about fracking New York. Most people think he and the DEC will be deciding soon.
The amount of news (local, state, national, and international) regarding the Institute has been staggering this summer. For a bibliography, click here (downloads as 42.7 KB docx). For a folder containing most of these items, click here (downloads as 56.5 MB zip file). Sara DiNatale will have an article in The Spectrum next Wednesday. Sometime before Labor Day, Daniel Robison will run a WBFO feature that will include interviews with members of UB CLEAR and with UB Geology Professor Robert Jacobi, Co-Director of the Institute.
Professor of English