Jun
03
2011

Drilling for Disclosure on USA Today's Op-Ed Page

The headline above this USA Today op-ed read like a slightly wordier version of a Sarah Palin bumper sticker slogan: "Cut the Red Tape: Free Up Oil Drilling in Alaska."

The author is former George H.W. Bush Secretary of State James Baker, and he writes:

Even more domestic offshore drilling will be required if our country is to increase its stable and secure energy. One reasonable place to accomplish that goal lies beneath the waters off of Alaska's northern shores.

He tells the tale of an underdog corporation fighting the good fight–only to be stymied by government bureaucrats:

An effort by Shell Oil Co. is a case in point. During the past five years, Shell has been acquiring 10-year federal leases in the Beaufort Sea to the northeast of Alaska and the Chukchi Sea to the northwest. The company has spent more than $2 billion on the leases and $1.5 billion preparing a drilling program with state-of-the-art mitigation and safety measures. These plans have been transparent to stakeholders, regulators and the courts. However, federal officials continue to balk at delivering the permits necessary to begin drilling, most recently questioning the effects on air quality in the region. As the bureaucratic delays continue, this has become a test case for other energy producers wanting to drill there.

Why talk about Shell's efforts? There are probably other energy companies doing the same. Why makes Shell so special?

That might have something to do with Baker's other gig–namely, the Baker Center at Rice University. Particularly the Energy Forum at the Baker Center, which is funded by a variety of energy companies, including Shell. In fact, the energy giant underwrites the Shell Distinguished Lecture Series, which is apparently "the Baker Institute's flagship speakers program."

It is customary for newspapers to alert readers to such conflicts–something USA Today failed to do.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.