In a session titled "Energy Policy & Regulatory Changes" during the 2010 Summer NAPE Conference on Aug. 18 in Houston, Swift Energy president and IPAA chairman Bruce Vincent discussed the origin of some of the negative comments from both government and private organizations against the energy industry during recent years. Vincent added that a good many environmental supporters are well-meaning and not influenced by ulterior motives, sincere in their desires to lessen mankind's impact on the planet. But he said they act out of misguided and poorly conceived agendas. On the other hand, pointing his fingers at groups like MoveOn.org and former U.S. vice president Al Gore's entourage, Vincent said that organizations that seem to be the most against traditional U.S. energy sources tend to have their own long-term agendas while hoping to ride on public ignorance and distrust of the energy industry. Vincent said, "Al Gore's goal with 'An Inconvenient Truth' wasn't to make money in the movie theater or win a Nobel Prize. It was to raise support for his constituent's businesses." Gore was shoring up support for green technologies that were being designed by his constituents, including GE which is one of the major fabricators of the giant windmills being championed by the wind industry, according to Vincent. The money Gore made releasing his film was minimal compared to the amount he and his supporters stood to gain should major U.S. legislation be passed encouraging wind power technology development. As for MoveOn.org, Vincent said the left-wing activist group has been active in the state of New York, spreading negative information about shale drilling concerning fracing and water issues related to shale gas production in order to prevent Marcellus production from heading north of Pennsylvania. The interesting story behind this, according to Vincent, is that one of MoveOn's biggest financial backers is billionaire investor George Soros, who is one of the shareholders in Papua New Guinea-focused E&P company InterOil. InterOil made headlines last year with its Antelope-2 well which tested at a world-record daily rate of 705 million cubic feet of gas and 11,200 barrels of condensate on Dec. 1. Like a lot of companies with gas operations based in foreign countries, InterOil was hoping to benefit from selling gas to the U.S. market as LNG. The presence of shale gas in the U.S., however, lessens America's need to import foreign gas supplies. Therefore, Vincent said the Marcellus is harmful to InterOil's bottom line, and places Soros in a position of needing to trash shale gas production through MoveOn for hidden business purposes while trying to appear altruistic and pro-environment on the surface. Finally, Vincent launched into the activist documentary film "GasLand" released earlier this year, which focuses on the supposed dangers of allowing fracture drilling near communities in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Vincent said the film is filled with numerous inaccuracies such as a scene where a resident displays that he has flammable drinking water coming out of his facet, an occurrence Vincent said was due to coal seams leaking into the water source, not gas. Anti-drilling and anti-fossil fuel activists have made a good job of trying to scare residents against shale drilling by playing up the narrative of a "new and unknown" process to the public, trying to turn fracture drilling into a bogeyman that wants to kill them. The reason why they're winning the debate, Vincent said, is due to a lack energy industry response to such baseless accusations with the same frequency and drive as the anti-industry proponents that make them. He said that energy producers will always have to deal with--as part of the business--both irrational distrust of the industry by the public and vitriolic hated by those with an agenda against drilling. The best way to combat distrust and silence critics is for the industry to maintain a steady public education policy and make sure local residents understand the care the industry takes to avoid polluting the environment. Vincent said, "It's imperative that shale producers continue grass roots campaigns in the local community."
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