Monday, April 18, 2011

Joe Nocera Disappoints

As readers of this blog know, I reviewed very favorably All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis, which Joe Nocera coauthored with Bethany McLean. Consequently, I was disappointed to read two columns Mr. Nocera has written recently in his new position as an op-ed columnist for The New York Times with which I disagreed. They concern natural gas.

Mr. Nocera, who discloses he is a friend of T. Boone Pickens, argued in his first column on this subject, "Pass the Boone Pickens Bill," that tax incentives should be passed to the tune of a billion dollars a year for five years to encourage the use of natural gas. He writes: "Natural gas is cheaper than oil. It's cleaner. And it's ours. If Congress can't pass this thing, there's really no hope." This column generated a torrent of comments concerning the environmental problems associated with natural gas, especially the extraction method known as "fracking" which has resulted in polluted and sometimes flammable tap water. One commenter wrote: "We can survive without natural gas but we won't survive without clean water. Here in PA we've learned the hard way that current technologies for mining natural gas are a huge risk to our water tables."

In reaction to the criticism, Mr. Nocera penned a second column on this subject a few days later, "About My Support for Natural Gas." The article begins, "Oh, puh-leeze!" It then proceeds by making an unconvincing case that the environmental issues associated with natural gas are vastly exaggerated and that "every problem associated with drilling for natural gas is solvable," though it does not say at what price. This column too has received a torrent of mostly negative comments.

Many of the comments are well written and well argued, unlike those one sees at many other sites, both conservative and liberal. Mr. Nocera should have admitted that there were environmental concerns in his first column. Inexplicably, he has yet to mention the 2010 Oscar nominated film for best documentary – Gasland – on this subject. (Incidentally, Inside Job won, a documentary certainly more to Mr. Nocera's liking.)

For those interested, Gasland makes a powerful case against fracking. It is readily available for sale or rent on DVD.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that fracking poses huge risks to our water supply. Thanks for flagging this concern.