By Paolo von Schirach
June 27, 2013
WASHINGTON – Talk about transparent bias. Al Jazeera TV has a vast network of foreign correspondents. For this reason it is well worth watching. Plenty of coverage on often interesting issues that you’ll never find on resource constrained US TV networks that cut most foreign bureaus long ago. That said, do not count on Al Jazeera, a network based in gas rich Qatar, to give you fair reporting on global energy issues.
The horrors of shale gas
Case in point: coverage of the discovery of much larger than expected shale gas reserves in the UK is ridiculously tainted. Al Jazeera did report that IGas has dramatically revised upward its estimates of shale gas reserves in Cheshire, Northern England. Indeed, based on revised data, it would appear that just in the areas so far explored there are at least 102 trillion cubic meters of shale gas, possibly 172 trillion, as opposed to 9 trillion. For gas dependent Britain this should be extremely good news. This additional gas alone would guarantee self-sufficiency for at least 10 to 15 years.
So, good news? No, not really, Al Jazeera tells us. Shale gas extraction causes an environmental nightmare. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, (the technology used to free up gas gas from rock formations), is known to cause earthquakes and massive water contamination. Besides, the whole process releases methane into the atmosphere, thereby contributing in a major fashion to global warming. And this is why all the good people in England and across the world are opposed to fracking, concludes the Al Jazeera report.
No mention of the long history of fracking in the US
Really? In the US fracking has been safely used for decades and now it is used massively in several states, from Pennsylvania to Texas, in order to exploit huge shale gas deposits. As a consequence of a veritable, massive scale “shale gas revolution”, America now has more gas than Russia. There is enough gas for 100 years. This incredible bonanza represented by cheap domestically produced natural gas means lower electricity costs for America. Sure enough, there have been accidents and instances of water contamination. However, no study, official investigation or analysis, and there have been many, concluded that fracking constitutes a systemic threat to humans or to the environment and that for this very reason it should be banned.
Technology is safe
Most studies on hydraulic fracturing, and these include many conducted by environmental protections agencies in various US states, concluded that all the accidents that have been reported are due to shoddy work. In other words energy companies, often small contractors, did not follow proper industry standards. Wells were not properly built and protected, and so on.
The consensus of industry and regulators, and this includes Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, is that if sound protocols are followed, fracking represents no inherent danger. Indeed, precisely because the technology is safe billions of dollars have been invested by US and foreign energy giants in the enormous opportunity represented by shale gas.
Guess what, Al Jazeera is based in gas producing Qatar
But not even the slightet mention in the Al Jazeera TV report of the long and good shale gas exploitation record in the US. No mention that all the energy multinationals are heavily engaged precisely because they know the technology is safe. So, why this incredibly one sided and biased Al Jazeera reporting on the discovery of huge amounts of shale gas in the UK?
Let me think. Could the reason be that Al Jazeera is owned by Qatar, a tiny Persian Gulf country whose main and only source of wealth is exporting its own natural gas to places like Europe? What do you think?