“Frackademics” – Letter to Chris Smith, Task Force on Shale Gas

Dear Chris Smith,

We are writing in connection with our latest report that undermines the foundations of the four pillars (reports), which the government and industry have relied on to support their case for exploiting shale gas in the UK.

Our report shows that the fracking industry and their PR machine have infiltrated the academic community and skewed the scientific arguments in favour of shale gas.  For instance, the Mackay-Stone report manipulated input data that gives a result four times less than it should be.  This means, this report no longer has any credibility.

Considering the evidence now available, the best conclusion we can draw on, regarding the safety of unconventional gas and oil is that we don’t know the full scope or extent of its impacts. This was also the result of recent studies by public agencies in New York State and Quebec, as well as in other previous studies carried out in other areas where these processes are already under development.

The use of ‘scientists’ to represent the Government and industry case, and the reports they have produced to justify Government policy, raise questions of official bias within the use of science-based evidence. This is highlighted in the six case studies chosen for review in this report.

Within the report, case study six focuses on the task force, which you lead and reveals that despite your public denial last we spoke, there is significant evidence to suggest the task force is in all probability an ‘astroturf’ industry funded PR exercise.  If not, why are Edelman acting as the task force’s secretariat and is it mere coincidence that they were previously undertaking this role for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Gas and Oil?

Edelman’s clients have until very recently included the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s primary lobbying group, on a public issues campaign aimed at convincing Americans that the industry is facing severe challenges, even as its members pull in record quarterly profits.  In 2005, Edelman mounted an aggressive campaign against Robert Greenwald’s new documentary “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of a Low Price”, emailing reporters press kits containing a point-by-point rebuttal of the film’s trailer, which Wal-Mart fought to have altered or removed from the walmartmovie.com website.

Leaked documents obtained by Greenpeace expose a plan by Edelman for TransCanada to launch an aggressive PR campaign to persuade Canadians to support a Canada-based alternative to the stalled Keystone XL pipeline to get controversial tar sands oil to refineries in eastern Canada for export.  But, according to the documents, this Canada-centric campaign would actually be run out of an office in Washington, DC. A right-wing American political operative employed by the world’s largest public relations firm is leading the digital campaign. One of the identified tactics, pioneered by corrupt US tobacco companies, was Edelman’s recommendation that professors be identified and used as trusted speakers to advance the corporation’s point of view (while not disclosing that the academics had been recruited to do so or “armed” with corporate talking points).

Considering the background of Edelman’s work, can you comment on why you have chosen this firm to work in such proximity with the Task Force on Shale Gas?  In the interest of transparency, we would like you to publish details of all communications and correspondence from initial meetings prior to and since the establishment of the Shale Gas Task Force, from any PR companies. Whose idea was the task force?  Who recruited you at the head? How have PR companies been involved in the decision making process?

After reading this report, perhaps you can comment on what basis you think the public should accept the work of the Task Force on Shale Gas as a trusted, independent and impartial platform? Furthermore, we would like to know why you have you not recruited anybody to the task force to represent the public point of view?

We look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

Talk Fracking