Friday, May 10, 2013

MEDIA ANALYSIS: 400 Wells per NY County an "unlikely assumption"?


An unsourced, passing phrase in a recent Gannett article on fracking attempts to slide a false premise past the audience, by making it resemble an oppositional statement. 

To wit: If hydrofracking came to NY, that 400 wells per 28 counties would be "an unlikely assumption".
In actual fact,  according to a variety of sources from industry, state regulators, and the professional press, an average of between 1,500 wells to 4,400 wells per county is likely.

Misrepresenting the impacts of fracking as being 1/10th what they really might be promotes an industry agenda.

This supports my assertion that most "news" from the corporate media actually is Public Relations, or serves an agenda which benefits the objectives of the Business Councils and Chambers of Commerce.

I found something strange in this recent "news" article by Jon Campbell:

``Overall, the paper...found that the 28 New York counties that lie within the Marcellus Shale could generate as much as $8.29 billion in extra income by 2015 if large-scale fracking is allowed. But that figure is based on an unlikely assumption: That all of those counties would see 400 wells drilled. The "sweet spot" of the shale is believed to be along the Pennsylvania border, while counties like Albany, Erie, Genesee and others on the outer edge are not believed to be targeted for development.``

 Hold on there, skipper. Let's take a closer look at what this is saying...

It sounds like those 28 counties are each getting fewer than 400 wells.
Let's assume that all 28 counties get 400 wells. What's the total?

400 * 28 = 11,200 wells total for NY.
Does that number seem right to you?
It seems WAY LOW to me.
And it is.

It could be low by an ORDER OF MAGNITUDE. 
That's a term scientists use to say, "A LOT".
It's a big error.

How many Marcellus wells are projected for NY?
I have assembled sources such as the NY DEC, the NY Times, Associated Press, and an industry study which puts the LOW estimate at 42,000 wells, and the HIGH estimate at 120,000 wells.  An industry source says that 81,000 wells  for both Marcellus and Utica is "very conservative".
42,000 wells (low estimate) / 28 counties = 1,500 wells per county
120,000 wells (high estimate) / 28 counties = 4,400 wells per county.

So in actual fact: 
1,500 wells to 4,400 wells per county is likely.  
Because I used mean (average) or nominal data where I could, this range is  nominal or conservative. Meaning, it could be much more. 

Jon Campbell's (unsourced) statement is 1/4 the low estimate and 1/10th the high estimate. 
In other words, it is WAY LOW.

Why would that be?

MEDIA ANALYSIS -- the MYTH of being Fair and Balanced

Robert McChesney has documented the history of Professional Journalism
in his book, The Problem of the Media.

It is important to note that "Journalism" as a profession
did not exist before the early part of the 20th Century.
So, what is the raison d'etre for this new profession you might ask?
 "Capitalist consolidation of ownership of the media"
is McChesney's answer.

Today, we are lucky if a city has one large newspaper.
In the 1800's, in a city the size of NY or Chicago, there may
have been 30! Each one representing a minority (advocacy) viewpoint.
There was the Labor Beat, the Socialist Worker, a paper about
the Environment, etc. 
Despite what we are told that capitalism favors competition,
in actual fact, the imperatives of capitalist profits
inevitable move towards consolidation.
(fewer owners, bigger outlets, maximized profits)

So as more smaller newspapers got gobbled up by larger ones,
for the customers to accept this, the publishers got the idea of
inventing the Profession of Journalism, with certain values,
such as "covering both sides of the story",
i.e., being "fair and balanced."

The Actual Bias of Corporate Media
So while they are telling you they are "fair and balanced",
you should understand that due to how newspapers
are funded (by advertising), with this funding model,
newspapers will inevitably promote the objectives
of the local Chamber of Commerce, the investor class, etc.
i.e., the values of money, profits, and business.
Issues like Peace, Sustainable Living, and Workers Rights
get ignored or worse (mocked), while the shinking
"news hole" is replaced by more advertising.
So in actual fact, they are NOT "fair and balanced",
yet they want to appear this way.
Rhetorical Techniques for APPEARING to be "fair and balanced"
So let's say we are talking about fracking.
And let's say the "story" here is not actually news,
but a "spiked story", i.e., a "research paper" which was actually
funded by industry, to promote industry objectives.
The corporate-funded "Think Tank" which published the paper,
issues a press release to media outlets, which beat reporters
such as Jon Campbell are assigned to "report".
So instead of "investigative journalism", what we really get
are stenographers who promote the interests of industry.
In fact, much (or even most) of what gets printed in the
newspaper actually is not what we would expect to be
called "news", i.e., investigations by the Fourth Estate
which keep a check against people with power,

but are in fact PUBLIC RELATIONS (industrial propaganda)
(NOTE: I do not mean to pick on Jon Campbell here. He's a fine
person, and he's done some good reporting around Shale Gas.
But he is employed by Gannett, and when they give him a task,
he knows he's got to do it. So even good journalists which a
quest for truth, get roped into being PR spokesmodels once
in a while. For all I know, this phrase could have been inserted by his
editor. This is more a criticism of the corporate media than of
any particular reported).

Industry PR disguised as a Contrary Position

Anyone who reads "the news" today is used to a certain style.
In a piece about fracking, there is almost always a 1/2 sincere
attempt to "cover both sides". So there is a back-and-forth style.
So we see phrases beginning with "However," or "But," or "Yet,"
when a contrary position is presented.

So here's where it gets really devious...
What if we could disguise industry PR as a contrary position?
Let's look at that except again:

``Overall, the paper...found that the 28 New York counties that lie within the Marcellus Shale could generate as much as $8.29 billion in extra income by 2015 if large-scale fracking is allowed. But that figure is based on an unlikely assumption: That all of those counties would see 400 wells drilled. 
This is really devious! Since it begins with "But", we expect it to be a contrary position.
When in fact, it is a LOW-BALL ESTIMATE of the size of the industrialization of rural upstate NY.

Since we can expect the environmental impacts of drilling
to be proportional to the scale, industry has an interest in
deceiving us about the true scale of the roll-out.

"OK, 400 wells per county! That doesn't seem so bad!"
Yet let's look at one county likely to be heavily drilled,
Broome County, at
715 sq miles. Since we have 640 acre
spacing units in NY, and since 1 mi = 640 acres, the calculation is easy:
715 square miles (assuming ideal spacing units) would me 715 Well Pads.
According to the DEC's rdSGEIS, 

"current information suggests that 6 to 10 wells per pad is the likely distribution"
--- rdSGEIS 9/2011 p 3-3

715 x 6 =  4,290
715 x 10 = 7,150

So BROOME COUNTY ALONE might get 4,000-7,000 wells!

I hope this is helpful and cause you to scrutinize what you read in the press.


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