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Willisms

« Paul Anka's Rock Swings. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 74 -- Budget Deficit. »

The New York Times Distorts Reality On "Big Oil."

Big Oil, in addition to its well-known culpability for destroying the environment, is putting our nation's very safety in jeopardy. So goes the narrative of The New York Times editorial page.

newyorktimes.gif

Just look at the alarmist NYT editorial entitled "Inside The Kill Zone (.pdf)," which appeared on May 22, 2005:

Chalmette Refining, a joint venture of Exxon Mobil, is one of more than 15,000 potentially deadly chemical plants and refineries nationwide. More than 100 of them put a million or more people at risk. These time bombs are everywhere, from big cities like Los Angeles to small towns like Barberton, Ohio. Many are so inconspicuous - a chlorine plant may be a couple of tanks and access to a railroad line - that the people in the kill zone do not even know to be worried....

The security holes at chemical facilities are glaringly obvious. On a recent visit to Chalmette Refining, a Times editorial writer had no trouble standing in the nearby park for 15 minutes with a large knapsack...

One glaring problem, however: The New York Times failed explain that the Chalmette Refinery employees did everything precisely how they should have. The facts don't match the hyperbole. ExxonMobil responds [a WILLisms.com exclusive]:

June 1, 2005


Mr. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.
The New York Times
229 W. 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036-3959


Dear Mr. Sulzberger:


I am writing this letter to express Exxon Mobil Corporation's concern
over a recent editorial in The New York Times (May 22, "Inside the Kill
Zone") which we believe created a serious misimpression through omission of key facts. Frankly, we're most concerned that the citizens of
Chalmette, LA, where the refinery is located, be told the truth. In this
case, the Times did not provide its readers with the full truth.


In the editorial, the Times singled out Chalmette Refining, LLC as "an
ideal staging ground for a terrorist attack." Your publication reported
your writer "had no trouble standing in the nearby park for 15 minutes
with a large knapsack" -- implying that his presence was never challenged
or noticed by the Chalmette, LA, refinery's security.


What the Times first failed to report -- and when confronted with the
facts, refused to report -- was that the Chalmette refinery security
manager walked outside the gates and across a road just outside the park
to confront the writer after observing him in the park. He advised the
writer that refinery security had him under surveillance while he was in
the park adjacent to the refinery and that his presence was causing
concern.


When ExxonMobil contacted The New York Times to ask why these important facts were not included in their editorial, we were told in an e-mail response from your deputy editorial page editor that these facts were "not relevant." ExxonMobil also provided your paper with photographs of the writer in the park, which were taken with a hand-held camera while the writer was under surveillance by security. Your editor dismissed the photos as simply "proof that our writer was there." While the Times does not deny the writer was challenged, the Times e-mail stated that your editorial did not result "in any omission in reporting that created an inaccurate impression."


We couldn't disagree more. The challenge by the security guard and the
photographs are proof that the writer was under surveillance in the park.
It certainly appears that the Times wanted a report on lax security at
the Chalmette refinery to support your editorial, so your paper simply
suppressed key facts. The action taken by our security personnel was
appropriate and professional. Despite your paper's denial of a
correction, clarification, or retraction, we continue to strongly believe
your readers and especially the citizens of Chalmette, LA, deserve to
know this full story. For this reason, we are sharing these facts with
our Chalmette employees.


ExxonMobil places the highest priority on safety and security at all of
the company's manufacturing facilities. We strive every day to be the
best in the industry in these two disciplines. We're trying our best to
do our job. However, the sad fact is that in today's world, no plant
operator can guarantee absolute security. We rely on local, state and
national authorities to assist us in this important activity. The Times
can assist the nation in this effort by reporting all the facts -- even
if they don't support your editorial stance.


Sincerely,


K. P. Cohen


The New York Times did not print the response, nor did it offer a correction, retraction, or even a clarification.

Doing so wouldn't fit its anti-energy industry agenda.

Meanwhile, The New York Times' editorial goes on to assert that "common-sense safety measures are being blocked by special interest politics," then, citing (ironically enough) a Greenpeace activist, demands five distinct new layers of federal regulatory burden on the energy industry. To not take these actions, according to the editorial, would be "grossly negligent."

The New York Times, in conjunction with its friends at Greenpeace, essentially seeks to make it so cost-prohibitive for energy companies to do business, that they either shut down or move operations overseas. The real motive for the Times is not safety; rather, the true force behind its misleading editorialization is its unhealthy engrossment with all things Europe, Kyoto, and global warming:

Here is another issue where the rest of the world seems to be rushing past Mr. Bush. In January, Europe imposed emission quotas on thousands of power plants and other industrial sites in an effort to meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement repudiated by Mr. Bush in 2001.

One glaring problem with faulting Bush for not agreeing to Kyoto:

Europe is not even projected to meet its obligations, all while emerging competing economies (and heavier polluters) like China are not subject to Kyoto.

It is perfectly fine, even admirable, for The New York Times to promote its position on global warming. The exchange of diverging ideas is part of any healthy democratic process. But the paper ought to be more candid about its true motives, not to mention more precise in its reporting.

Rather than an additional round of cumbersome regulation on top of the already labrynthine rules governing the energy industry, we need a coherent and balanced energy policy in this country that encourages both domestic energy exploration and development. A solid energy bill would also include incentives for the development of renewable sources of energy, as well as meaasures aimed at conservation. Ultimately, though, any energy bill should be pro-growth, should consider America's national security interests, and should be grounded in reality.

The New York Times editorial page, intensely partisan, holds a diametrically different worldview on the purpose of an energy bill. Rather than promoting domestic energy resources, the Times believes a good energy bill really ought to be more of an environmental protection bill; any energy legislation that does not punish the energy industry is not acceptable to the Times.

You may have already noticed above, but Jon Corzine's website is hosting the Times piece (.pdf), which praises the New Jersey Senator for his proposed legislation.

joncorzine.gif

How convenient for Corzine, who, incidentally, is gearing up to run for governor of New Jersey in 2006. One wonders how much "help" the Times had from Corzine's office in crafting its editorial.

So, The New York Times has the nerve to distort the basic facts to serve its "the-sky-is-falling" claims, and it has the gall to claim that those opposing additional layers of bureaucratic regulation on the energy industry are somehow pawns of special interests, even as it promotes the notorious anti-business agenda of laughably far-left special interest group Greenpeace.

Greenpeace!

Not only that, but the Times has the audacity to allude to the questionable editorial for another attack piece on Republican Representative Joe Barton on a similar issue.

joebarton.gif

By now, the true agenda of The New York Times should be perfectly evident-- derailing the President's push for an energy bill by the end of this summer. Americans want an energy bill, not more left-wing obstruction spearheaded by the out-of-the-mainstream NYT editorial page.

This kind of glaring partisan editorial bias, unfortunately (because it still generally drives the overall media agenda) is par for the course from The New York Times. Would you expect anything more from them? After all, these are the same people who recently called for a national 55-MPH speed limit to solve our nation's energy problems.

THE NEW YORK TIMES: WEAK.

UPDATE:

National Review's Stephen Spruiell is all over this story.

Plus, pictures:

chalmette.gif


Full disclosure:

Full Disclosure: I am a shareholder (albeit a small one) of ExxonMobil stock. I also have a family member who is employed by the corporation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 June 2005 02:18 PM

Comments

The New York Times did not print the response, nor did it offer a correction, retraction, or even a clarification."

Maybe full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and USA Today would get their attention.

Posted by: KipEsquire at June 10, 2005 03:08 PM

Typical Liberal Rag!

Posted by: Chip at June 10, 2005 04:03 PM

The only half way decent thing about the New York Times paper is the crossword...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at June 10, 2005 05:30 PM

Great reporting. And in your pajamas, no less.

Posted by: Giacomo at June 10, 2005 06:52 PM

This Willisms story is the type of incisive, honest reporting that the Times can only wish it was known for. Unfortunately, it reveals a Times mindset which reminds one of their style in the 1930s, when Stalin was presented as a great leader and Socialism the inevitable and desirable result of history. I am not sad that the media has become splintered among various viewpoints. It is good that the socialist central planners are happy with the NYT and freedom loving individualists can enjoy their Willisms and other great new blogs.

Posted by: bill at June 10, 2005 08:06 PM

Will

Fantastic post. This is a very interesting example of the left's habit of mixing disparate issues together to make some toxic rhetoric. A not so subtle attempt to conflate energy and terrorism. Somehow, "big oil/big business" is at the root of all of these problems, and the Times seems caught up in an Upton Sinclair type effort to expose. Incredibly shoddy stuff on their part/

The wheels are really coming off over there. You should check out a recent janegalt.net post on a -US aid to Africa - editorial. I linked to it this week, or you can just check out her blog.

Keep up the good work.

Posted by: paul at June 10, 2005 08:37 PM

Fascinating use of language to mislead in the NYT piece. In particular "a Times editorial writer had no trouble standing in the nearby park for 15 minutes with a large knapsack..."

Which is technically correct. They didn't give him any trouble.

The fascinating thing is that this has clearly been set up for a catch-22 for Exxonmobil. If they don't hassle the writer, he will complain that their security is lax. If they do, then the writer gets to pull a "Roger & Me" and start asking foreboding questions about what anti-environmental skullduggery they may be trying to hide.

Needless to say, from a journalist, it is absolutely reprehensible behaviour. The fact that such is no longer surprising from an NYT editorial is an indicator of why journalism is suffering from a serious credibility crisis as a profession.

Posted by: Korgmeister at June 11, 2005 09:36 AM

You do make some good observations, but I don't understand your fervent defense of the energy industry. They have time and again proven their inability to independently make responsible decisions in situations where public health and environmental concerns might hamper their ability to make a profit. The Times' suggestion that dubiously secured chemical plants posing a threat to perhaps millions of americans might need a little bit of government regulation is far from over the top.

Posted by: Noah at June 12, 2005 10:51 AM

There is one thing in particular I really don't like about the relationship between the government and the oil industry, and that is the allowal of the big oil companies to consolidate further (hence ExxonMobil, remember when they were separate?) Energy is a crucial market that needs to remain competitive. These consolidated companies aren't using their cash to find new sources and exploit them, or build new refineries to help keep up and ease the prices of ever-increasing demand. In fact, the companies have attempted to restrict oil flow and refining capacity so as to drive up profits. Kind of sick, if you ask me.

Posted by: Robert Mayer at June 12, 2005 07:31 PM

55 mph.?... That was a Carter strategy... I thought that the statistics for 55 mph. were shown NOT to have made enough of a difference in the consumption of fuel to change the speed back?

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at June 13, 2005 03:17 PM

Robert,
the reason new refineries aren't built is because it's cost prohibitive. The amount of regulation has made it that the profits involved don't justify the risk/cost to build one. Additionally, government can cause price spikes in gas, not because of lack of foreign supply, but because state governments (frequently in california) change their requirements on what must (or must not) be in the refined oil. When these changes occur, the refineries must stop everything, re-tool, and then restart, which cannot be accomplished in one day. Hence the supply is suddenly cut-off, which forces prices up.

If government stopped changing regulations and allowed for larger profits, then more refineries would be built, which would cause the price of oil to smooth greatly in the US.

This is all based upon my understanding as explained to a former commonwealth edison co-worker of mine. I've seen this explanation elsewhere, so it seems very plausible to me.

And to Noah - more government regulations aren't the way to solve everything. The public can do quite a bit to pressure companies to clean up their acts. I believe a study circulated earlier this year that showed that the US's emissions had improved more than Canada's the last few years in a row. So we're on the right track. I prefer more public scrutiny over more governmental scrutiny. What the Times reporter tried to do (test security at a potential terrorist target) was commedable - the story he wrote about it was unethical.

Posted by: Bryan McRoberts at June 14, 2005 01:41 PM

Robert,
this is attempt #2 - my first comment didn't appear. Appologies in advance if it gets duplicated!

The government's regulations don't allow the corporations to get much profit from building refineries, hence there's no incentive to do so. Also, when governments (typically at the state level, California is the most notorious for this) change their requirements on refineries (what additives can/must be added, what impurities must be removed, etc.) the refineries have to stop, re-tool and then restart, which is not a trivial task. This cuts off domestic supply (hence increasing our foreign reliance short term) and raises prices - this has resulted in a number of price spikes and has nothing to do with corporations merging. This is my understanding as explained to me by a former co-worker who had worked at commonwealth edison. I've seen this explanation elsewhere so it seems very plausible to me.

Noah,
I think the energy industry is over-regulated as it is. I prefer public scrutiny to pressure corporations to do their job right rather than government regulations. Then again - I look at government's role as basically to keep us safe from external threats. The smaller we can keep the government, the better. With the internet it's even easier to call corporations to task when the err.

Posted by: Bryan McRoberts at June 14, 2005 02:00 PM