Friday, August 10, 2012

Dueling Videos of Drilling Air Emissions: CBF versus EID

Last year, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released a video taken with an infrared camera, purporting to show toxic pollution and methane streaming from gas production facilities in Pennsylvania.  Here's the video:

Most of the public seeing the video probably found it dramatic, worrying, and possibly convincing.  They likely were impressed by the professor from a prestigious university whom CBF asked to analyze the video.

Now many months later, Energy In Depth has released a rebuttal video.  See the video here:  To analyze the CBF video, EID's video expert presents a starkly different version of what the CBF video shows.  He says that the emissions are engine exhausts and not hydrocarbons and methane being vented.

I encourage you to watch both videos which are short.

After doing so, the question becomes, what to make of the competing videos?  Here's 3 lessons that I would offer:

1. If you want real facts, never jump to conclusions when one side presents its version.  The never-jump-to-conclusion rule is especially important, when video evidence is presented, since there is a tendency to find videos compelling.  This problem is similar to the fact of life in a courtroom that eyewitness testimony tends to be the most convincing to jurors and to have the highest probability of being wrong.

2. Interpretation of videos is critically important.  What you think you see may not be real or right or the facts.  Watch out for editing too that often changes the real meaning of interviews or information.

3. Choice of experts matters. CBF likes Professor Howarth, who at the least is controversial.  CBF has done a puff piece in his support so CBF is certainly aware that professor Howarth is crusading to shutdown the shale gas industry. Further CBF must know that Howarth's notorious study claiming shale gas is as dirty as coal has been debunked by 5 other university and environmental organization research teams. Colleagues of Howarth at Cornell too have issued a scathing paper, debunking his work.  Finally, does Professor Howarth's faculty position make him an expert in interpreting these video images?

CBF can do better than Professor Howarth and possibly right at Cornell.

No matter what one thinks of the dueling videos, I do agree with CBF, when it responded to the EID video, by partly saying that the real issue is not its now challenged video, but instead controlling air emissions caused by gas production.

On air emissions from gas production, the good news is that the EPA enacted in April important new rules that will slash methane and other emissions from gas production.  Even Professor Howarth conceded that much.


  1. Concerned ScientistAugust 10, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    EID's expert was the guy who co-invented the technology. Apparently within 3 seconds he was able to see that it was not methane but heat and exhaust from the equipment.

    I have been saying this for some time, Howarth, Ingraffea, the Duke professors and Myers are doing science a big disservice. These people are publishing out of their area of expertise and making a lot of silly mistakes. It will undermine the credibility of science in general. This will be especially bad news for climate science. A lot of people worried about climate change also seem to be getting on the anti-fracking bandwagon. When their errors on fracking are exposed, their credibility on climate change and other serious matters will be questioned as well.

  2. Concerned ScientistAugust 10, 2012 at 9:53 AM

    Another point

    Howarth himself has done a lot of work on eutrophication, which is a serious problem. His own work on that issue will also be questioned because he has shown no scientific ethics on this issue. Scientists should think long and hard before working out of their area of expertise or at least become an expert before publishing.

  3. Robert Howarth is interested in furthering the success of one thing and one thing only: Robert Howarth.

    And shame on the CBF. Their response says it all. "Uhhh, it doesn't matter that we knowingly, blatantly, and purposefully lied to you. Pay no attention to that.... Pay attention to THIS..."

    It's so very telling that these groups HAVE TO LIE to attack natural gas. And it's so very sad that the vast majority of the people have no idea they're being lied to. I'll be the first to admit that sometimes the gas industry is guilty of painting an overly rosy picture, but it pales in comparison to mischaracterizations being put out there by those opposed.

    As usual, thanks for being the calm voice of reason and telling it like it is John. I sure hope the right people are listening.