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Leaked emails from energy department show natural gas may not be as good as it sounds. Congressmen call for investigation. Restoration of Gulf requires replacing sediment. Oyster business out of business and shrimpers see low catch and low prices. Vitter being Vitter and oil jobs not lost because of drilling moratorium.

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Natural gas is the new oil, a source of domestic energy that has been embraced by both parties in Congress and which has blinded  the governor of  my home state, Pennsylvania with the dollar signs in his eyes. Those optimistic projections may not be all that they seem, according to emails leaked from the Energy Information Administration and reported by the NYT.  The EIA division of the Energy Department was created in response to the '70's energy crisis to provide independent analysis and information "to promote sound policymaking and efficient markets". There seems to be disagreement within the EIA, however, concerning the rosy future of natural gas and shale gas in particular. The emails were provided to the Times on the condition that the names of the senders and those receiving them not be used.              
“Am I just totally crazy, or does it seem like everyone and their mothers are endorsing shale gas without getting a really good understanding of the economics at the business level?” an energy analyst at the Energy Information Administration wrote in an April 27 e-mail to a colleague.

Another e-mail expresses similar doubts. “I agree with your concerns regarding the euphoria for shale gas and oil,”wrote a senior official in the forecasting division of the Energy Information Administration in an April 13 e-mail to a colleague at the administration.

“We might be in a ‘gold rush’ wherein a few folks have developed ‘monster’ wells,” he wrote, “so everyone assumes that all the wells will be ‘monsters.’ ”

The Energy Information Administration’s annual reports are widely followed by investors, companies and policy makers because they are considered scientifically rigorous and independent from industry. They also inform legislators’ initiatives. Congress, for example, has been considering major subsidies to promote vehicles fueled by natural gas and cutting taxes for the industry.

The reports released by the EIA are supposed to be independent and based on scientific evidence, free of industry or political pressure. It seems that some of the information in the EIA reports comes from outside contractors with ties to industry.

Two of the primary contractors, Intek and Advanced Resources International, provided shale gas estimates and data for the Energy Information Administration’s major annual forecasting reports on domestic and foreign oil and gas resources. Both of them have major clients in the oil and gas industry, according to corporate tax records from the contractors. The president of Advanced Resources, Vello A. Kuuskraa, is also a stockholder and board member of Southwestern Energy, an energy company heavily involved in drilling for gas in the Fayetteville shale formation in Arkansas.
In an April 27 e-mail, a senior petroleum geologist who works for the Energy Information Administration wrote that upper management relied too heavily on outside contractors and used “incomplete/selective and all too often unreal data,” much of which comes from industry news releases

“E.I.A., irrespective of what or how many ‘specialty’ contractors are hired, is NOT TECHNICALLY COMPETENT to estimate the undiscovered resources of anything made by Mother Nature, period,” he wrote.

Energy officials have also quietly criticized in internal e-mails the department’s shale gas primer, a source of information for the public, saying it may be “on the rosy side.”

The primer is written by the Ground Water Protection Council, a research group that, according to tax records, is partly financed by industry.

Once the Times revealed the contents of these emails Monday, federal lawmakers called for an investigation of the natural gas industry.

Federal lawmakers called Tuesday on several agencies, including the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, the Energy Information Administration and the Government Accountability Office, to investigate whether the natural gas industry has provided an accurate picture to investors of the long-term profitability of their wells and the amount of gas these wells can produce.

“Given the rapid growth of the shale gas industry and its growing importance for our country’s energy portfolio, I urge the S.E.C. to quickly investigate whether investors have been intentionally misled,” wrote Representative Maurice D. Hinchey, Democrat of New York, in one of three letters sent to the commission by four federal lawmakers, all Democrats.

The calls for investigations came amid growing questions about the environmental and financial risks surrounding natural gas drilling and especially a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, used to release gas trapped underground in shale formations.

Members of the House Committee on Natural Resources said they hoped to hold a hearing in the next several weeks to discuss natural gas drilling.

State lawmakers have also gotten into the act

In Maryland, Delegate Heather R. Mizeur, Democrat of Montgomery County, sent a letter to the state comptroller and the attorney general calling for an investigation into disclosures related to the financial and environmental risks of drilling.

In New York, Assemblywoman Barbara S. Lifton, a Democrat and longtime critic of drilling, sent a letter to the New York State comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, calling for a similar investigation and citing roughly $1 billion in state pension funds invested in shale gas companies.

The New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, sent subpoenas to five oil and gas companies ordering them to provide documents relating to the disclosure the companies made to investors about the risks of hydrofracking, according to sources briefed on the investigation.

 Oil and gas company representatives and energy market analysts all rejected the views presented by the emails in the Times. Eight bipartisan congressmen from gas producing states sent a letter to Obama stressing the need to promote natural gas drilling by any means necessary, but most especially, shale gas recovery.

Wonder where their campaign dollars come from, anyone?

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, established by Obama after the BP spill, wants to restore sediment to wetland and barrier islands. The group concluded its fifth of six public meetings in Galveston this week. The public meetings as well as behind the scene work by the task force members will determine what projects in the five Gulf states will be funded by the 1 billion dollars BP has agreed to pay for restoration. Each of the states will receive 100 million, with 100 million each going to the Departments of Commerce and  Interior and 300 million to other projects. The states also stand to benefit if a bill proposed by Senators Landrieu and Vitter passed. It would allow up to 80 percent of BP's fines under the Clean Water Act to return to the states. The loss of sediment is not a problem created by the spill, but restoring it will be crucial in undoing the damage to the ecosystem caused by the spill.
Sediment — nutrient-filled sand and rock that flow from rivers and streams into the ocean — are the structural foundation of the Gulf’s ecosystem. This sediment helps ensure the health of the barrier islands and wetlands that provide homes to birds, turtles, fish and other wildlife, while also creating a natural barrier from storms for the millions of people who live along the hurricane-prone Gulf Coast.
Terrence Salt, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for civil works and a member of the task force, told The Associated Press that sediment flow has decreased due to management of upstream rivers and land conservation practices. For example, the Mississippi River — a major source of freshwater and sediment to the Gulf of Mexico, its islands and wetlands — has about half the sediment it originally had, he said.

The problems can be dated back to the late 1800s, when the U.S. began designing and building levees and structures along the Mississippi River to protect residents from flooding, Salt said. And while the constructions allowed people to live along the river, they impacted the flow of sediments crucial to life downstream.

The extent of the damage was clear by the middle of the 20th century, and now, 85 percent of the coastal wetlands have been lost, said John Hankinson, the task force’s executive director.

The work that Florida has done in the Everglades and Louisiana's restoration of Deer Island were cited as types of projects that are needed.

BP puts 90 year old family owned oyster business out of business. Levy Collins started in the oyster business nearly a century ago. The Collins Oyster Company holds nearly 2,000 leases in the wetlands of Louisiana. The oyster beds were just recovering from the blow dealt them by Hurricane Katrina when they were flooded with fresh water from the Mississippi a year ago hoping to keep oil from the Macando well out of the wetlands. The decrease in salinity most surely killed the oysters, so recent dredging was to look for signs of hope for the future.
"I came out here today to see if I had a spat take, " Collins said as he picked his way through another dredge load of dead oysters.

Spats occur when free-swimming oyster larvae attach themselves to hard surfaces, often other oyster or clam shells, to grow.

"If there was a healthy spat take, " Collins explained after prying open another dead oyster, "I'd see 20, 30, 40, maybe even 50 inside there, a bunch of little red dots. Out of 100 spats, maybe three or four will make it. But if I have three or four oyster (spats) on every shell, in three or four years I'm going to have dredge loads of live oysters.

"But I don't see any spat."

Earl Melancon Jr., professor of biological sciences at Nicholls State University, said Snail Bay experienced "100-percent mortality" of its oysters due to the infusion of fresh water following the BP oil spill. A month after Collins' trip, tests Melancon conducted in Snail Bay showed there was a spat set.

"It's not a stong set, but it's a fair set, " Melancon said. He called the discovery "the very first signs of life on those reefs since the freshwater diversions over a year ago. But these oysters are so small and so vulnerable that you're looking at three years before they're harvestable."

While hurricanes can cause destruction the sweeping out of the oyster beds can create a healthier environment for growth, meaning increased yields down the road if growers are patient. No one is sure what the combined effects of fresh water, oil and dispersant will be.
The 2010 oyster season was supposed to bring the Collins Oyster Co.'s lean post-Katrina years to an end, thanks in large part to the restored health of the beds in Snail Bay. The fishing closures triggered by the oil spill dashed those hopes, and the 2011 season is proving to be even more grim.

Oyster production in Louisiana was down more than 55 percent in 2010 compared to 2009, according to Wildlife and Fisheries, putting Louisiana No. 2, behind Washington state, as the country's top domestic oyster producer. The same period shows a nearly 50-percent dip in dockside value as well. The oyster catch the first five months of 2011 was 18 percent of 2010's total and just below 9 percent of 2009's, according to Wildlife and Fisheries.

The Collins Oyster Company, according to patriarch Wilbur, had a $300,000 to $500,000 a year business with an 8 to 10 person crew. All but Wilbur and his grandson Nick were forced to find other work. The company has received $48,000 in combined payments from BP and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and a $60 check last week.
The oysters they have been able to harvest were served when Collins hosted the media and representatives from the seafood and tourist industry for an cruise off Grande Isle and lunch. A little PR never hurts.

Shrimpers in Mississippi are unhappy over the state of their catch.Although the brown shrimp season has gone reasonably well; shrimpers are unhappy with the amount of the catch and the low prices.

Traci Floyd, director of the state Department of Marine Resources Shrimp and Crab Bureau, says 903,908 pounds of brown shrimp were caught in the two weeks after the brown shrimp season started on May 25. She says that compares with first two weeks of 2007 when the catch was 1.96 million pounds.

Mark Stewart, an Ocean Springs shrimper, said the shrimp have been small and scarce in Mississippi waters. He says that has resulted in low prices.

Vitter being Vitter!  Senator David Vitter of Louisiana has written a letter to Secretary Ken Salazar threatening to hold up a bill that would provide Salazar with a pay raise unless Salazar speeds up passing out drilling permits. (I had to laugh hysterically when I read this...I assume Salazar did also.) Maybe equally overreacting was a call to have Vitter investigated for bribery.
Last week, the longtime Vitter critics at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to investigate whether, with that letter, Vitter was guilty of bribery. "Whether it is a defense contractor buying French furniture for a congressman in exchange for earmarks, or a senator who ties a department secretary's pay raise to approving permits, bribery is bribery," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said.

Vitter spokesman of course responded that he was only trying to protect Louisiana jobs, calling for Harry Reid to be investigated for something call the Louisiana Purchase.

Vitter spokesman Luke Bolar countered that "CREW has a clear track record of filing frivolous, political attack complaints, but that certainly won't deter Sen. Vitter from using every tool available to reopen the Gulf and defend Louisiana jobs. If CREW thinks this is bribery, then it should file complaints against their buddy (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid for buying votes with the Louisiana Purchase and Cornhusker Kickback."

The so-called Louisiana Purchase increased Medicaid funds for the state of Louisiana.
As if that was a bad thing in a state that ranks 44th to 49th by all government healthcare standards. And why would a Senator from that state be opposed to it? Oh, it didn't involve giving money to oil companies.

Vitter needs to look at the facts!  As it turns out, there was no real loss of oil jobs during the moratorium on drilling, so increasing the rate of permits isn't necessarily going to increase jobs. Turns out that more jobs were lost in 2007 to 2009. (Can't really blame that on the Obama gang can you?)

As things turned out, 2010 was the first year in more than a decade that the United States imported less than half the crude oil it consumed, according to the Energy Information Administration. As for losing energy jobs, mining support employment in Lafayette and St. Martin — oilfield service — was actually up by 100 jobs to 13,300 for the year ending in May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That's not to say the industry isn't hurting. Oilfield service here shed 3,100 jobs — about one in five — during the 2007-09 recession. Those cuts may have been so deep that, moratorium or not, companies now have to keep the people they have left, even if it means losing money. If so, why not just say that instead of forecasting layoffs? Maybe it lacks the apocalyptic touch.

Guess its all about the spin.

PLEASE visit Pam LaPier's diary to find out how you can help the Gulf now and in the future. We don't have to be idle! And thanks to Crashing Vor and Pam LaPier for working on this!

Previous Gulf Watcher diaries:

6-26-11 12:25 PM Gulf Watchers Sunday - So Exactly What is the EPA For? - BP Catastrophe AUV #532 Lorinda Pike
6-24-11 06:31 PM Gulf Watchers Block Party - Has it been forty years? Lorinda Pike
6-22-11 04:00 PM Gulf Watchers Wednesday - Top Deepwater Horizon drilling honcho takes 5th - BP Catastrophe AUV #531 peraspera
6-19-11 12:07 PM Gulf Watchers Sunday - Disasters Smell Like Cash - BP Catastrophe AUV #530 Lorinda Pike
6-17-11 06:35 PM Gulf Watchers Block Party - Bucket List la deuxième partie Lorinda Pike
6-14-11 04:33 PM Gulf Watchers Tuesday -EPA Releases Some Information on Dispersants - BP Catastrophe AUV #529 shanesnana
The last Mothership has links to reference material.

Previous motherships and ROV's from this extensive live blog effort may be found here.

Again, to keep bandwidth down, please do not post images or videos.

Originally posted to Gulf Watchers Group on Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 03:24 PM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (22+ / 0-)

    Many people inhabit a closed belief system on whose door they have hung the "Do Not Disturb" sign. --Bill Moyers

    by shanesnana on Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 03:24:23 PM PDT

  •  Friday Blockparty? (13+ / 0-)

    I think we should dedicate it to Fishgrease. A random google during the Gulf spill led me to DKos and the GulfWatchers. He will be missed.

    Many people inhabit a closed belief system on whose door they have hung the "Do Not Disturb" sign. --Bill Moyers

    by shanesnana on Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 03:27:21 PM PDT

  •  Always, always, thank you all for keeping (11+ / 0-)

    us up to date. Love the format and the meaty content. Great work.

    Oh, and since I don't see it, republished to DK GreenRoots.

    Science is hell bent on consensus. Dr. Michael Crichton said “Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing to do with consensus... which is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right,”

    by Regina in a Sears Kit House on Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 03:39:34 PM PDT

  •  It will be interesting to see the Wall Street gang (9+ / 0-)

    squirm between being lied to in the EIA report and their knee-jerk hatred of policies that are good for the environment. I hope the House Dems will be able to toss some monkey wrenches into the works of what is undoubtedly the House Republican plan to discredit those who have pointed out the natural gas emperor may be missing some essential pieces of clothing.

    My worry is that huge Gulf Coast dredging companies and greedy pols will be the only ones who benefit from the money to restore Gulf wetlands. The Gulf doesn't need any repeats of Jindall's $360 Million utterly worthless sand berm boondoggle.

    As far as I'm concerned Vitter and Salazar can feud over Salazar's grossly undeserved raise 'til the cows come home. Salazar has been worse than useless and Vitter rarely misses an opportunity to prove what a rotted piece of offal he is.

    Fishgrease leaving is just plain heartbreaking. His charm, wit, generosity and kindness will be sorely missed. However, comments in popular diaries seem to be increasingly resembling an unflushed toilet which certainly makes his decision understandable.

    I'm so sorry to hear you got hit with a nasty flu bug. I hope you are being careful about not running yourself down tending to family. How's the new grandbaby doing? Any word on when he will be sprung from the hospital?

  •  nana, I am late again (I know, Phil). I looked (8+ / 0-)

    for the GW diary earlier and then got swept up in the Deoliver on the FRONT PAGE story and CIK. Lost track of time and looked for GWers again and I was three hours late. Man, I'm sorry.

    That story about the oyster family is so deeply heartbreaking.

    Thank you, nana. This is a great diary.

    I have been thinking about your baby grand boy and hope he is 100% well really soon.

    Sorry again for being so late.    

    "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

    by rubyr on Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 06:35:15 PM PDT

  •  nana, I am even later than rubyr. Slam me for (6+ / 0-)

    being elitist, but do you think maybe we could subject some of these yahoos who run our lives to IQ tests? Or maybe a common sense index of some kind? I get that empathy and altruism are way too much to ask for, but jeez....

    And if we have to lose Fishgrease (wah!!), couldn't it be to a larger arena? (Like Secretary of the Interior.)

    Sending huge bundles of grandbaby mojo, dear nana.

    I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.– Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by DawnN on Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 07:04:20 PM PDT

  •  Good diary... (6+ / 0-)

    I am sorry about your grandbaby, 'nana.  :(  I had hoped he would be doing better by now. Many hugs to all of you, a sick baby is a hard kick in the pants, hope things improve soon.
    Fishgrease. Sigh. What the hell is happening around here?!
    I'm with DawnN, Fishgrease for Secretary of the Interior!
    Take good care, sweet Gulf Watchers...I'm not around all that much but apparently it's uglier than usual.

    Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

    by JanL on Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 07:18:59 PM PDT

  •  No good solution (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shanesnana, peraspera, Lorinda Pike

    I noted in the last GW diary about my concerns over redirecting fresh water flows to restore sediment -- I think it is a horrible idea but there are many who disagree. I don't claim to have any answers, I'm just a lay observer.

    The recent record flooding has also done significant damage to already-denuded areas, adding more (imo flimsy) justification for the process.

    The oyster beds may indeed eventually benefit from our meddling. I certainly hope they do. In the short term, we see the results already.

    "If we want to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, we need to reduce the number of our senators dependent on fossil fuel contributions." - Rodney Glassman

    by Darryl House on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 10:40:28 AM PDT

    •  I'll be greatly relieved if redirecting (3+ / 0-)

      fresh water flows ever comes down to a legitimate scientific debate. Meddling with Mother Nature is always a dicey business even when done with the best of intentions and the best, most current scientific knowledge. However, judging from the past, it's hard not to think that the fight will be over who can put the most pork into politicians' buddies pockets.

  •  Having missed yesterday-I offer this disappointing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peraspera, Lorinda Pike, shanesnana

    news from NY's "liberal" Gov:

    The Cuomo administration is expected to lift what has been, in effect, a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial technology used to extract natural gas from shale, people briefed on the administration’s discussions said on Thursday.


    Goes from hero one week to bum the next.....

  •  some news (4+ / 0-)


    Today jeudi 30th June, the french parliament has forbidden the use of the hydraulic fracturing technique for the exploration and exploitation of shist oil and schist gas. [Eh, isn´t schist already cleaved enough?], under pressure of a strong mobilization of the concerned populaces. France will herewith be the first country in the world to interdict the usage of this technique which is generally judged highly polluting.

    The vote was with 176 versus 151. Le vote a été acquis par 176 voix contre 151. Only the senatorial majority of UMP and centrists [note that these terms have different meaning there than here] agreed with the proposed text. The left has voted against, denouncing a "recul" [dont know what that is] and many ambiguous passages. The Parti Socialiste in the parliament said that in effect the law text lacks precision: while it forbids hydraulic fracturing, it doesnt forbid exploration and exploitation of schist oil+gas by other means.

    The law proposal filed by the chef of the presidential majority party (UMP, right wing), "envisioning the outlawing of exploration and exploitation of hydrocarburant mines", and which was filed as an urgent measure (i. e. one pass through the chamber), in its original version still suggested the outlawing of the exploration of these petrols.

    But the text has been amended in first lecture by the assembly - to the great grief of the socialist deputies who liked the original text - an (now) only proposes the interdiction of the hydrofracturing technique as such.

    Holders of permits (concessions) have two months to declare the techniques they are using, and it is only when they say they make use of hydrofracking, or if they don´t respond, that the permits are abrogated. The amjority of the parliament does not wish to definitely close the door to these hydrocarbons, which are a potential richesse of the french sub-soil. [Which it should be noted is public property. Says I.].

    The left wing opposition, in contrast, wanted the simple and straightforward ban of exploration and exploitation of these hydrocarbons in the interest of the preservation of the environment. She (the Left) demands the annulation of all (such) permits and [une remise a plat du code minier - thats too difficult for me].

    What alerted the public powers (and goaded them into this action) is a coalition of local elected officials and ecologists, angered by the silent awarding of exploration permits for nonconventional hydrocarbons in March 2010 in the South East of France, and in the Paris region.

    That is all of course an article of this source, Le Monde, and I feel entitled to have all paragraphs in there as its my own translation and therefore contains my own artwork (and errors). (I hate this silly American copyright nonsense).

    Greetings to all GWers. I was largely away for a long time and am not up to date about all this commotion - Fishgrease gone? still have to read up. Also had an accident whose after effects are slow in fading.

    •  Sending you healing hugs and mojo. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lorinda Pike, Darryl House, marsanges

      Hope you are back to 100% soonest.

      Fishgrease left because of some RKBA childish nastiness—a very sad loss for the DK community.

    •'re right about schist... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Darryl House, marsanges, shanesnana
      [Eh, isn´t schist already cleaved enough?]

      Yep, it is...  :-) (dropped a piece from my collection - Vishnu schist, from the bottom of the Grand Canyon - and it just up and cleaved itself into three pieces...)

      I miss Fish already.  

      And I hope you are feeling better soon!

      (-7.62/-7.90) .....It was their destruction. They delved too greedily and too deep... Gimli in Moria, JRR Tolkien

      by Lorinda Pike on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 02:06:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  thank both you (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lorinda Pike, shanesnana

        as usual a little thankyou, but it ain´t too easy .. but it´s what one gets, if one gets all these foreign cultural influences ...

        Leila (real name: Leila Arab, born 1971) is an Iranian musician who moved with her family to London after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. ... She has ... recorded experimental and rare music ...

        Indeed. :)

        I think this diary on the current rec list top has it right: that the groups by their very nature are an implicit threat to the public discussion place that something like DKos should be. Its a step to private appropriation of issues as "issues". I have seen similar effects in other internet communities: they started out highly political on extremely flat hierarchy and became less and less politically active or relevant as people disaggregated themselves in more and more "clubs". Being political means just the opposite - not seeking out friends but staking a position and expecting to have to hold it against comers from all sides.

        But that´s OT here. It was just lucky chance that I ran across this French decision right after reading this GW diary. It´s good! And I can add that the discussion in Germany goes in the same direction - fracking and related gas are looked at but the political consensus begins to form that that´s imply not a good idea to even begin with that. And if a number of high profile european countries deliberately shut down hydrofracturing for its environmental irresponsibleness then that can not fail to have some effect on the American discussions. In so far, that helps you a little bit too :)

        Something easier, and goodnight :)

        •  Thanks, marsanges. (0+ / 0-)

          I'm glad to know there is a measure of logic, sanity, and better environmental standards somewhere on the planet...

          and thanks for the music - lovely, as always!

          (The first one is really interesting...I like it!)

          (-7.62/-7.90) .....It was their destruction. They delved too greedily and too deep... Gimli in Moria, JRR Tolkien

          by Lorinda Pike on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 05:28:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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