For the amount of money the oil and gas industry pays FTI Consulting to run its Energy in Depth campaign, the quality of work it gets in return is remarkably poor.
PAI’s latest report, released last week, examined a list of research compiled and disseminated by Energy in Depth to support the industry’s claim that there is a settled scientific consensus on the safety and benefit of hydraulic fracturing. We reported how the industry’s case for fracking, as managed by EID, was marred by conflicts of interest and a lack of peer-reviewed research. We also found that the list of research that EID produced for its clients, and which was used by the industry to influence policymakers, was sloppily composed, listing several studies multiple times and relying on studies that had been discredited and retracted by the institutions that issued them.
That shoddy workmanship has carried forward to EID’s response to our report. In their response, EID claims that PAI singled out “only four studies that EID has used in the past,” bizarrely criticizes PAI for scrutinizing a study led by current Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and accuses PAI of “trying to instill doubt about scientific concepts” rather than “exposing real conflicts of interest.” EID did not provide its readers a link to “Frackademia in Depth,” and was either unwilling or unable to address any of the actual findings in the report, which we stand by.
Regarding EID’s first claim, in preparing our report we examined over 130 documents that EID included in its list “Hydraulic Fracturing: Tightly Regulated, Extensively Studied,” not four. What EID calls our “blanket statement” about most of their studies being industry tied is our finding that 104 of the studies EID listed had oil and gas industry connections. We documented those connections and released a data table along with our report with detailed notes on the type and extent of the industry ties in every study where they were found. That table is available here: https://public-accountability.org/frackademia.
EID’s assertion that “PAI suggests that conclusions from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy, the National Academy of Sciences, and even the president himself are all incorrect because they have some sort of ‘industry’ connection” is harder to make sense of because it is patently false. PAI reported no oil and gas industry ties among the reports we reviewed from the EPA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the DOE, or from the National Research Council, which was pointed out by EnergyWire’s Pamela King in her coverage of our report. We did profile a study from EID’s list that was led by Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz before his appointment to that post. That study, funded by the oil and gas front group American Clean Skies Foundation and released by the oil and gas-funded MIT Energy Initiative, had enough industry conflicts of interest that we devoted an entire report to it in 2013. To imply, as EID does, that conflicts of interest are not worth considering if they occur at the highest levels of government demonstrates a shallow comprehension of the concept, indeed.
Finally, Energy in Depth accuses PAI of “trying to instill doubt about scientific concepts” rather than “exposing real conflicts of interest.” It is a bold claim for EID to make considering its response spends more than 300 words attempting to convince readers to ignore the conflicts of interest that PAI reported. In saying that PAI is trying to instill doubt about scientific concepts, EID seems to be standing by the content of its research list as scientific, even those studies which could not be called such by the most charitable of spin doctors. PAI has been covering this issue for nearly three years and has uncovered far more than the peer review issues EID uses to frame its attempted smear. It is the height of arrogance (or perhaps of sloppy, inattentive work) for EID to repeatedly ignore the gross conflicts that have compromised the research they peddle as science and then accuse PAI of not doing enough to expose conflicts of interest.