Times Newsroom Mounts Defense of Fracking Coverage: Memo
7/6/11 at 1:45 PM

The New York Times newsroom, under fire from backers of the natural gas extraction method known as fracking, is fighting back with a detailed defense of its reporting.

In the run-up to a ruling by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which issued a preliminary report last week lifting its fracking ban, the Times deployed muscular journalism that raised serious questions about dodgy gas-industry practices. Not surprisingly, the multi-part series triggered some vocal criticism from fracking backers.

The latest round in the fight between the paper and the gas industry played out June 26, when the paper published a front-page piece by reporter Ian Urbina that painted a bleak portrait of the industry, based on leaked e-mails from industry officials that questioned the economics of extracting shale gas from wells. Urbina quoted an unnamed analyst comparing the bonanza over shale gas to “giant Ponzi schemes.” He also quoted a former Enron executive who compared natural-gas companies to his corrupt former employer.

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Behind Veneer, Doubt on Future of Natural Gas
By IAN URBINA
Published: June 26, 2011

Energy companies have worked hard to promote the idea that natural gas is the fossil fuel of tomorrow, and they have found reliable allies among policy makers in Washington.

“The potential for natural gas is enormous,” President Obama said in a speech this year, having cited it as an issue on which Democrats and Republicans can agree.

The Department of Energy boasts in news releases about helping jump-start the boom in drilling by financing some research that made it possible to tap the gas trapped in shale formations deep underground.

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