Thursday, October 25, 2007

I'm Not Interested in the Horse Race

I missed the League of Neighborhood Associations gas drilling "education event" on Tuesday night. But when I say "missed," that's a little misleading. It sounds like I didn't miss a damn thing.

What I hoped for was an honest exchange of information based on the first-hand experiences of people who have experienced gas drilling in their neighborhoods. What actually transpired sounded more like propaganda. That's part of what I am frustrated with today. Where do concerned citizens turn for accurate, objective information about gas drilling? doesn't count.

Maybe they need a Web site. Maybe I'll build one.

Anyway, I've got issues with what I read in the Star-Telegram. While I generally like the Barnett Shale blog and I think Mike Lee's reporting has been pretty solid, what bothers me is the underlying assumption that urban gas drilling is good for Fort Worth. The question posed isn't whether or not to sign, it's how much to sign for.

You can see it in the headlines. It's all about the horse race. Chesapeake is offering this many thousand dollars per acre or XTO is offering that much royalty. Most of the coverage centers on companies jockeying for position in certain neighborhoods.

What seems to be lost is the fact that decisions today will be lived with for decades. The functional lifespan of some of these wells could be 20 or 30 years. Most of the people who sign these leases will have moved along down the road or to the great hereafter long before these wells are gone. Yet the long-term impact seems to be little consideration.

Using the following assumptions, the average signee could expect to make a little under $50 a month in royalties, or about $11,695 over 20 years. That's about $1.62 a day, or barely enough to buy you a coffee at Starbucks.

So for most of us, the financial gain is nil. However, we will have to live with the safety and environmental impact for decades. The decisions we make will shape the Fort Worth that our children and our children's children live in.

So, please, a little perspective, Fort Worth. Please take the long view on this issue. I'd like to see the question asked: should people sign in the first place?

And Star-Telegram, a little less about the horse race and little more about the reality. Take a more aggressive approach to your reporting. Some things I wonder:

  • Serious questions exist about the independence and effectiveness of the Texas Railroad Commission to regulate oil and gas operations in the state of Texas. As the newspaper sitting square on top of the Barnett Shale, you should own this story. Go get it.

  • Injection wells in Fort Worth are in a holding pattern, but they aren't dead. Serious questions exist about using these wells to dispose of waste water from the fracing process. You have a short window to do important reporting. In the next six months, Fort Worth will know for better or worse the caliber of your reporting based on this one issue alone.

  • What is the long-term infrastructure cost to Fort Worth of urban gas drilling? Sure, there are giant royalty checks, but what about the stress placed on city streets from the water trucks and the oil field equipment? There is a cost attached to this. What are those costs?

  • And there's more, but this is a start. Actually, a start would be a lot less horse race. Feeding the gold-rush mentality does not serve your readers, Star-Telegram. Providing diligent reporting on living in the Barnett Shale in over the long term does. Go get it.

    1 comment:

    TXsharon said...

    I don't like the Barnett Shale Blog because they do not take unfavorable comments. If you aren't singing the B.S. praises, they don't want to hear what you have to say.

    If Mike is going to carry water for the oil and gas industry, I sure hope he doesn't drink any.