Former Mobil VP Warns of Fracking and Climate Change
Friday, 19 July 2013 00:00 By Ellen Cantarow, Truthout | Interview
Few people can explain gas and oil drilling with as much authority as Louis W. Allstadt. As an executive vice president of Mobil Oil who ran the company’s exploration and production operations in the western hemisphere before he retired in 2000. In 31 years with the company he also was in charge of its marketing and refining in Japan, and managed its worldwide supply, trading and transportation operations. Just before retiring, he oversaw Mobil’s side of its merger with Exxon, creating the world’s largest corporation.
The first in a modest Long Island German-American family to graduate from college (the US Merchant Marine Academy), Allstadt got a master’s degree in business administration from Columbia University then was hired by Mobil. Before his retirement he wasn’t aware of a new, sophisticated form of rock fracture, high-volume hydraulic fracturing, developed only in the late 1990s. “It just wasn’t on our radar at that time,” he said. “We were heavily focused on developing conventional oil and gas offshore in deep water.”
Quaint, arty Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, is perched on the shores of Lake Otsego, which supplies drinking water to the village and glimmering, placid expanses for kayakers and boaters. Allstadt launched his leisure years in this idyllic spot, intending to leave the industry behind. He founded an art gallery with his wife, Melinda Hardin, made pottery, kayaked, taught other people to kayak, and played tennis. But then friends started asking him questions about fracking – it had been proposed near the lake. What he saw as he began investigating the technology and regulations proposed by New York’s state Department of Environmental Conservation (1,500 pages titled “Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, a.k.a. ‘the SGEIS ‘ “) alarmed him. In these pages last year he called high-volume fracking “conventional drilling on steroids.” “Just horrible,” is how he described the 2011 SGEIS in our conversation in June 2013.