Last week, Rolling Stone released on its website an epic 6,200-word article about Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake Energy and fracking. The story, which was written by the lefty environmental journalist Jeff Goodell, will appear in the March 15th issue of the magazine.
If the headline (The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind the Gas Boom) and sub-head (It’s not only toxic – it’s driven by a right-wing billionaire who profits more from flipping land than drilling for gas.) doesn’t give it away, the article is not exactly pro-Chesapeake. It makes the Forbes bankruptcy story from a few weeks ago look like strawberry cheesecake, angel wings and robin eggs.
Just check out the first and last paragraph of the story:
Aubrey McClendon, America’s second-largest producer of natural gas, has never been afraid of a fight. He has become a billionaire by directing his company, Chesapeake Energy, to blast apart gas-soaked rocks a mile underground and pump the fuel to the surface. “We’re the biggest frackers in the world,” he declares proudly over a $400 bottle of French Bordeaux at a restaurant he co-owns in his hometown of Oklahoma City. “We frack all the time. What’s the big deal?”
5,800 words later…
I look at the $400 bottle of wine on the table. Much of what McClendon says is misleading – wind power is as cheap as gas in some places and falling fast, and cutting back on gas doesn’t have to mean burning more coal. But his plan is clear. He’s not going to back off until every last square foot of shale rock in America is drilled and fracked and sucked clean of gas. McClendon may rely on sophisticated new drilling technologies, but at heart, he’s driven by the same dream of endless extraction that has gripped oil barons and coal companies since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. In the end, all his talk of energy independence and a cleaner, brighter future boils down to a single demand, as simple as it is disastrous: Drill, baby, drill.
Wow…and that’s the nice part!
I know liberal environmentalists attack energy companies with the same objectivity and zeal as social conservatives going after Planned Parenthood, but do yourself a favor and go read the entire article. It is a biased piece. I’m pretty sure that Goodell wants you to believe that Aubrey McClendon is Mr. Burns’ nephew and that Chesapeake is as dirty and filthy as your office breakroom’s microwave, but he does bring up some interesting points that you’ll never hear about in the local media.
When you’re finished, head over to Chesapeake’s website and read their official response. It comes across as a little corporate and stale, but they do a decent job addressing and refuting some of Goodell’s claims.
(UPDATE: Chesapeake let us know via Twitter that they have set up a special response page on their website. You can read it here.)
Anyway, here are my thoughts on the whole thing:
• In the past month, both Forbes and Rolling Stone have published articles that warn of bad times ahead for Chesapeake. Just like anyone else in town, the last thing I want is for the company to fail or go bankrupt. They are a huge employer, driver of the economy and supporter of many local non-profits and charities, but (beating dead horse alert) IS IT NOT ABOUT TIME SOMEONE IN THE LOCAL MEDIA LOOKS INTO OR RECOGNIZES THIS!!! !!! Where there’s smoke there is usually fire, and two national publications on different ends of the political spectrum are sending smoke signals that are visible from sea to shining sea. Or Kevin Costner just burned an elk that he found in the Chesapeake fitness center. One of the two.
• Aubrey…maybe it’s time for you to stop treating magazine reporters to expensive bottles of fancy French wine. I’m sure that’s something that impresses your friends and colleagues at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club, but it only pours ridiculously clean, abundant and natural fuel on the fire of cynical journalists who are out to brand you as a greedy, decadent and extremely out-of-touch CEO.
• On that note, I would love to do a profile on Chesapeake Energy and Aubrey McClendon. Unlike these guys with Forbes and Rolling Stone or whatever else, I can be totally be charmed and bought-off. Hell, it doesn’t even need to be a $400 French Bordeaux. I’m good with some Kendall Jackson or Riunite.
Anyway, what do you all think? Should Chesapeake’s employees and vendors be scared? And what about fans of Christmas lights ? Or is Chesapeake just a target and scapegoat for activist journalists. Let us know in the comments.