2011-05-24

The gas industry has embarked on another discreditation campaign, this time against a research professor at Cornell University.

Robert Howarth is a biogeochemist and ecosystem scientist who recently authored a study that said gas may produce as much greenhouse gas emissions as coal production. Howarth’s study has gained much attention, especially from the America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), who apparently felt so threatened by Howarth’s work that they embarked on a discreditation campaign.

All one has to do is give ‘Howarth’ a quick Google search to notice that the first thing that pops up is a smear campaign against the professor. The first link from the search result takes you to the ANGA site where several “experts” explain why they think the study is wrong.

“It used to be that if you Googled my name and my boring lab site at Cornell University was the top pick up. Now there’s an ad from the gas industry which has a critique of why my science is wrong. They are trying hard to push back,” said Howarth.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5KkCvAHFL0]

As for the criticisms made by those on the America’s Natural Gas Alliance, Howarth describes them as being “way off base,” and indicative of the fact that the experts may not have even read his report.  “They say things like we didn’t consider the electricity generation and we did. It is in there. You just have to read our paper,” he said.

Others involved in the Cornell study like Anthony Ingraffea, say the attacks on the study and those who conducted it have become personal, which he says he expected. “For the industry to take an approach that attacks Bob and indirectly me, my name is mentioned, is not a good way to conduct a scientific response to what we think is a scientific inquiry. So I am disappointed but not surprised,” Ingraffea said.

Discredidation campaigns have been a frequent concern of citizens who have tried to speak out about fears surrounding gas production. In western Colorado several landowners have described what they call, “economic blackmail” as means of silencing any landowner fears that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is known, is contaminating water supplies and causing other health problems. Another Colorado researcher, who now teaches at the University of Wyoming, says he lost his job at the Colorado School of Mines after doing a study that linked fracking to contamination in the West Divide Creek in Garfield County, Colorado. And as recently as April, citizens in Pennsylvania expressed frustration at the fact they were allowed to speak at a public hearing in Harrisburg, only after several pro-industry voices got speak first.

Now, thanks to some cash from the America’s Natural Gas Alliance, it appears scientists from Cornell University are the latest to have their reputations sullied by the gas industry.