In whole to-frack-or-not-to-frack debate that's gripped Ohio, a new report is being tossed around on the economic impact that could flood the state if Columbus doesn't slam the breaks on the controversial shale drilling technique.
The report is full of a lot of eye-candy stats, including the prediction that by 2014 the shale industry would be responsible for $4.9 billion in new investment and 66,000 jobs — the kind of numbers that keep economic development nerds sleepless at night. The AP wrote up the results of the study, and the article has popped up all over the web, from the Huffington Post to Yahoo. But while everyone's guzzling down the findings, no one seems interested in who brewed up the information in the first place.
The study was commissioned by the Ohio Shale Coalition, a “broad-based statewide partnership for affordable energy and jobs,” in PR speak. The group is a bunch of businesses, organizations and individuals organized by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce to “maximize the jobs and economic potential of shale gas,” according to the group's web site. (We emailed the chamber to ask for a list of the members of the coalition to see who's actually picking up the check — no response yet). They tapped energy and geology people from Cleveland State University, Ohio State University, and Marietta's Department of Petroleum Engineering to crunch the numbers.
The equation here seems pretty simple: You have a pro-industry group hiring the industry intelligentsia to conduct a study, and hot damn, they happen to conclude the industry is good for Ohio. We're not saying all the findings are complete bunk, but you got to hoist up a red flag whenever someone with so much skin in the game begins issuing “studies” and “reports” that fit snug with their agenda.
At least, red flags would have been nice. We guess $4.9 billion is enough to temporarily stun common sense. The fact that news outlets are just parroting back the findings as objective science is a little disconcerting. Big Frack is driving hard for the end zone on this one, and the defense is watching them slip by.