Thursday, 27 February 2014
Is Exxon's CEO a NIMBY?
Can you guess who is the latest star of the anti-fracking movement? No, it's not someone glued to something up at Barton Moss, but Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon. According to the Wall Street Journal, Tillerson has joined a lawsuit trying to prevent fracking in his local area. This would be something of a surprise, seeing as Exxon subsidiary XTO Energy is a major player in the US shale industry.
As you'd expect, the anti-fracking twittersphere has been set alight once more with this news. After all, if Exxon's CEO won't put up with fracking in his back yard, why should the rest of us?
However, is Mr Tillerson really against fracking? As so often seems to be the case, it pays to dig a little deeper. It seems that Mr Tillerson's opposition is not to shale gas extraction in his area, but to the construction of a large water tower next to his ranch. Moreover, while the water company involved has supplied water to fracking companies in the past, it has not done so since 2009: the primary use for the water tower is to supply residential demand.
I wouldn't otherwise want to dwell on a clear case of mistaken reporting by the WSJ. However, this example leads on to a larger question about shale gas development - are the executives involved in shale gas development happy to have the process in their own back yard?
Mr Tillerson lives in Bartonville, a suburb to the north of Dallas-Forth Worth. You can find it on google maps here. Wikipedia reckons that it has a median household income of close to $100,000, as you'd expect given that Exxon's CEO lives there.
This area sits on top of the Barnett shale, which is the original US shale gas play. The Texas RRC has a handy map viewer that lets you see every well drilled in the state. The image below shows a screen-grab centered on Mr Tillerson's ranch in Bartonville:
The red dots show well-heads, and the black lines show horizontal wells extending from these wellheads. Clearly, there's plenty of fracking going on in Mr Tillerson's neighbourhood. While he might be a NIMBY about water towers, he's clearly doesn't seem to be a NIMBY about shale gas development. Are the executives involved in shale gas development happy to have the process in their own back yard? The answer, it seems, is yes.