No Fracking Way

Natural Gas Methane – OMITTED RESULTS

by Dory Hippauf on May 3, 2013

omittedKevin Begos, from the Associated Press reported on April 28, 2013 that the EPA Methane Report Further Divides Fracking Camps.

Begos didn’t give a link to the report.    It really wasn’t all that difficult to find on the EPA website. Read or download the entire Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2011 (PDF, 503 pp., 14.10 MB).

I suggest you also go the EPA Climate Change Indicators in the United States page.

Global methane

The EPA report was issued in April of 2013; the report covers the period of 1990-2011.

Per EPA Report Section ES2 Recent Trends in US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks:  (emphasis added)

The decrease from 2010 to 2011 was due to a decrease in the carbon intensity of fuels consumed to generate electricity due to a decrease in coal consumption, with increased natural gas consumption and a significant increase in hydropower used. Additionally, relatively mild winter conditions, especially in the South Atlantic Region of the United States where electricity is an important heating fuel, resulted in an overall decrease in electricity demand in most sectors.  Since 1990, U.S. emissions have increased at an average annual rate of 0.4 percent.

Per EPA Report: Methane Emissions:

epa figure es-8 methane sourceepa methane significant trend

Meleah Geertsma does an excellent job of filling in what Begos didn’t mention.  Read: EPA Report Confirms Oil and Gas Sector is Among Nation’s Worst Climate Polluters.

When you actually do some investigation, the picture is quite different than the one painted by Begos.



One of the PR tools by industry and politicians alike is the use of an echo chamber.   Specific to news and information in the media an echo chamber describes a group of media outlets that tend to parrot each other’s uncritical reports on the views of a single source, or that otherwise relies on unquestioning repetition of official sources.

Begos often cites The Breakthrough Institute (TBI), for example:

EPA Methane Report Further Divides Fracking Camps: The new EPA data is “kind of an earthquake” in the debate over drilling, said Michael Shellenberger, the president of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental group based in Oakland, Calif. “This is great news for anybody concerned about the climate and strong proof that existing technologies can be deployed to reduce methane leaks.”

New documentary targets critics of fracking: “It’s great this guy’s done this documentary. I think it’s sort of a second wave to the more hysterical first reaction” to fracking, said Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute, a Berkeley, Calif., nonprofit that argues for new ways to address environmental problems.begos-breakthrough

And it seems to a mutual admiration society, as TBI predominantly features Begos’ article about Fracking and Government Investments on their sidebar.

Let’s take a look at TBI

From TBI’s “ABOUT” section:

“Breakthrough’s mission is to accelerate the transition to a future where all the world’s inhabitants can enjoy secure, free, prosperous and fulfilling lives on an ecologically vibrant planet.”

And that’s all it says, but it’s filled with staff and associate photos, go ahead and click on a few if you want. However, while advocating “green energy” research, TBI opposes any policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through putting a price on carbon (a.k.a. pricing the externality).

This was highlighted in Rebound effect: The Breakthrough Institute’s attack on clean energy backfires | By Joseph Romm | February 15, 2011

Excerpt: Recently, the Breakthrough Institute launched a major attack on energy efficiency.  They used talking points that right-wing think tanks have pushed for years (see The intellectual bankruptcy of conservatism: Heritage even opposes energy efficiency).  This shouldn’t be terribly surprising to longtime followers of TBI.  After all, last year they partnered with a right-wing think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, to push right-wing energy myths and attack the most basic of clean energy policies, a clean energy standard.

This year, Breakthrough’s attacks on clean energy were used by the Republican National Committee as part of their overall attack on Obama’s clean energy agenda.   Again, not a big surprise.  TBI’s work is consistently cited by those who want to attack environmentalists and climate scientists, “George Will embraces the anti-environmentalism “” and anti-environment “” message of The Breakthrough Institute.”

Yes, I know, The Breakthrough Institute will insist it’s purely a coincidence that they are the darling of the anti-science, pro-pollution right-wing disinformers.  The fact that they push right wing myths and even partner with right-wing organizations to push those myths has nothing to do with it.  Nor does the fact that they spent the past two years dedicating the resources of their organization to help kill prospects for climate and clean energy action — and to spread disinformation about Obama, Gore, Congressional leaders, Waxman and Markey, leading climate scientists, Al Gore again, the entire environmental community and anyone else trying to end our status quo energy policies (see “Debunking Breakthrough Institute’s attacks on Obama, Gore, Waxman, top climate scientists, progressives, and environmentalists“).  Nor does the fact that they even attacked Rachel Carson, who died decades ago after helping launch the modern environmental movement!

It is interesting Romm mentions TBI’s connection to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  Per Sourcewatch:

The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is an extremely influential, pro-business, conservative think tank founded in 1943 by Lewis H. Brown. It promotes the advancement of free enterprise capitalism, and succeeds in placing its people in influential governmental positions. It is the center base for many neo-conservatives.

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council: In August 2011, AEI President Arthur C. Brooks spoke at a “Leadership Dinner” sponsored by Reynolds American at the 38th Annual Meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

Casting Doubt on Global Warming : In February 2007, The Guardian (UK) reported that AEI was offering scientists and economists $10,000 each, “to undermine a major climate change report” from the United NationsIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). AEI asked for “articles that emphasize the shortcomings” of the IPCC report, which “is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science.” AEI visiting scholar Kenneth Green made the $10,000 offer “to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere,” in a letter describing the IPCC as “resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent.”

The Guardian reported further that AEI “has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil, and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI’s board of trustees,” added The Guardian.

To their credit, TBI does disclose funding sources, whether this is complete or not, I don’t know.

 Who Funds Us – Breakthrough Institute is supported by the following foundations and individuals:  The Comer Foundation, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, Nau Partners for Change, The Lotus Foundation,   The Bellwether Foundation, Steve Kirsch,  Jim Swartz,  and Alex Walker Foundation

We are dedicated to the public interest, and as such only accept charitable contributions from individuals and charities without a direct economic interest in any of our analyses or policy prescriptions. Breakthrough is a fiscal project of, but not funded by, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers.

How to Donate:  The Breakthrough Institute is a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc., a not-for-profit 501(c)(3)corporation. As part of its mission and services, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors facilitates the charitable purposes of The Breakthrough Institute, serving as the fiscal sponsor for the initiative. For more information about Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, please visit

Per Sourcewatch: TBI is not a 501(c)(3) nonprofit; it operates under the umbrella of nonprofit Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, so it files no IRS Form 990s documenting revenues, programs or expenditures.

 TBI Dots

Chairman and co-founder of TBI is Ted Nordhaus.   Michael Schellenburger is co-founder and President.  The two have also co-founded the Apollo Alliance and American Environics.

tbi diagram

Per Sourcewatch:

Apollo Alliance began in 2003 when “Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger co-founded the Apollo Alliance to unite major environmental groups and labor unions around a high-tech vision for the future of the American economy. The coalition called for a new “Apollo Project” to revitalize the American economy built around a $300 billion, 10-year effort to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

American Environic “is a research and consulting firm created to bring cutting edge research about the evolution of American social values to progressive political projects.

“The company was founded by a team of American strategists and Canadian researchers to offer the Environics science—used for over 20 years by governments and Fortune 500 companies to create and position new products and brands to take advantage of changing social values—for use by American philanthropists, social change leaders and political candidates.” (emphasis added)

In 2006, TBI, along with the Center for American Progress and the American Environics issued a white paper titled: A Plan for Global Warming Preparedness: A Proposal to Manage Risk & Invest in Resilient Communities

Excerpt (emphasis added)

In November 2005, the Nathan Cummings Foundation supported the Breakthrough Institute and the Center for American Progress (CAP) to conduct research and develop one or more Strategic Initiatives that would better prepare America for future disasters. Together, Breakthrough and CAP developed a proposal for “Global Warming Preparedness,” which reframes global warming from prevention to preparedness, from certainty to uncertainty, and from limits on human activity to greater activity.

tbi posterSide note: The Center for American Progress (CAP) was begun in 2003 with funding from philanthropists Herbert M. Sandler and Marion O. Sandler.  It is a Washington, DC-based liberal think tank created and led by President and Chief Executive Officer John D. Podesta, the head of Barack Obama’s presidential transition team after the 2008 election and former Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton.

Meanwhile, CAP has promoted Natural Gas: A Bridge Fuel for the 21st Century.

Read the white paper, it includes several advertising campaign posters.


You got me there.

TBI opposes carbon tax, which would encourage decreasing greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change.  TBI’s attacks on clean energy are cited by climate deniers and the like.

All this seems to lead the reader to believe we can continue on the same road, drill baby drill, and climate change isn’t a problem as long as we switch to natural gas.

Despite the attacks on clean energy, and other proposals which may help avert climate change, TBI is also saying Be Prepared.  They even feature a boy scout in one of the posters.

This leaves me with a few of big questions.

If Climate Change isn’t happening – why do I have to be prepared?

Is TBI and their associates now saying we have to be prepared because Climate Change IS happening?

How is promoting a drill-baby-drill policy, which adds more gases to the atmosphere and speeds up climate change going to prepare us for Climate Change?  It’s like trying to stop your car by standing on the accelerator.


Other Reads:

©2013 by Dory Hippauf

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

TXsharon May 3, 2013 at 9:41 am

Wow! Who would ever have guessed that and AP reporter would be part of an echo chamber?


BH May 3, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Dory, this is most excellent. First, that you “connected the dots” at the Breakthrough Institute, something I’ve been meaning to do…. (Begos seems to be the only person who’s heard of this bunch, and he cites them all the time as being “leading environmentalists”… Leading? Is in “directing, guiding” the discussion?)

…but also because of this:

“Together, Breakthrough and CAP developed a proposal for “Global Warming Preparedness,” which reframes global warming from prevention to preparedness, from certainty to uncertainty, and from limits on human activity to greater activity.“

I just observed on our local Public Broadcasting station, WSKG, which played a Community Conversion episode about Climate Change. What was strange about the show was this statement by the host at the beginning of the show:

“This not the place to talk about the CAUSES of climate change, but how we cope with it”.

I thought, HUH? Why not? It turns out there is a good cover story: this was not the area of expertise of the guests. BUT STILL– when will be the time to talk about the causes?

I thought to myself, I wonder of there are some shadowy funding sources which are making production grants to local PBS/NPR stations to talk about “Climate Change”, but rig the discussion with “strings attached” (like many grants have)? You may have helped solve a piece of the puzzle. Thanks!

Here’s the show– the strange announcement happens at 00:38, less than 1 min. in to the show.


Dory Hippauf May 3, 2013 at 4:40 pm

BH – Thanks.
I came across a video of a presentation by Dr. Ingraffea. He talked about the impact on the climate, but did not refer to it as climate change, but rather climate instability.

So I do what I usually do, I ran a google on climate instability.

UK Energy Minister: Wars over water on the horizon
Water wars, civil unrest and a breakdown of free trade could all be witnessed in a world of worsening climate change, UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey has warned.

Speaking to a “Climate & Resource Security” conference of high-ranking politicians and diplomats from around the world, Davey said the world must start planning for climate instability.

“For too many people, climate security is about making sure you always have an umbrella with you,” said Davey. “The reality, of course is rather more serious.

“Around the world, governments – and militaries – are planning for climate instability. From flood defences to foreign aid, climate security is part of the policy discussion.

“But it’s not yet part of the public discussion. And that’s something that we have to change.”


William Huston July 29, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Begos cites Breakthrough often, usually as “a leading environmental group”. (Then how come we’ve never heard of them before?– nevermind)

Here, Breakthrough Institute has just “debunked” Ingraffea’s latest Op-Ed:


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