Conservancies Are for Conservation, Not Politics

ConservanciesGeorge P. Ahearn, Phd
Co-founder and Former President and CEO
GEO Specialty Chemicals, Inc.


The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is doing politics in opposing fracking, not conservation, and it has its facts all wrong, thanks to New York’s Tony Ingraffea.

Is the Conservancy of Southwest Florida a real conservation entity or is it a political advocacy organization with only an environmental agenda? The consensus view of conservationism is that it should be a collaborative effort to ensure the economic, environmental preservation and safety of the community. Such an organization works with business, scientific, and political leaders to achieve these ends. 

Therefore, the developer, the corporate community and the local government should not be viewed as the enemy. There should be open dialogue about the agenda and all sides of the issues should be represented. Conservancy members should get a balanced exposure to the issues and the agenda should not be set by partisan politics.

On November 8th I attended an “information session” sponsored by the Conservancy on fracking, which was posed as a “critical issue” for SW Florida. We can argue whether this is true, but it is an issue that this Conservancy has on its agenda. 

The invited speaker was a retired Cornell University educator by the name of Anthony Ingraffea. He’s well known by the oil and gas industry as a hired gun at the service of environmental activists from the Northeast area.


Tony “the Tiger” Ingraffea with entertainment friends Mark Ruffalo, Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono

Ingraffea is less a fracking expert than an advocate for the elimination of fossil fuels. Other than using other researcher’s data and manipulating it to justify his arguments and opinions, he has done no original research on fracking of which either I or my contacts in the industry am aware.

Needless to say, he proceeded to deceive and delude 200 people that night with junk science and misinformation about the oil and gas industry practices. Since most of the audience was already pre-disposed to agree with the Conservancy management on the issue, they all gladly drank the Kool-aid. Here are just a few of the deceptions on which “Tony the Tiger” expounded:

  • Florida oil is of poor quality and it hardly has any. Florida oil has been accepted by refineries for years and they are also equipped to handle the heavy and high-sulphur crudes from Venezuela and Canada without a problem. Geological surveys only count “recoverable” reserves using existing technology. New technology developed in recent years and the shale revolution have changed that scenario. That’s why companies are doing exploratory drilling in Florida. North Dakota hardly produced any oil 5 years ago, now they are No. 2 in the nation as a result of the shale revolution.
  • The industry deforests the area, burns trees, strips reserves, and leaves the area” high and dry.” The only people who make money are those who “sell the shovels.” Of course, he did not count the retirees who were in the room and the millions across the nation whose retirement accounts have received billions in dividends from ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, etc. This is not to even mention the communities that have benefited economically by their activities.
  • The conversion to natural gas by the power companies has resulted in more CO2 and methane emissions. This is blatantly false and FPL would have blown a fuse if they were present. This conversion is the single most important reason for the reduction in CO2 emissions in recent years and that’s the Energy Information Administration reporting, not me.
  • Using debunked computer models, he stated SW Florida would be under water in 10-20 years. How’s that helping our tourism, Conservancy members? Where is the evidence these models are even close to accurate?
  • All states that banned fracking are better off. In NY, we import our gas from PA. He failed to say that New Yorkers pay 3-5X more for their power and that upstate NY, sitting atop the Marcellus shale, is an economic wasteland compared to adjacent counties in PA.

These were just a few of his outrageous contentions and, oh yes, as the audience filed out the Conservancy made sure they hustled their members and the public for donations to support their fracking ban efforts in Tallahassee. However, I never heard an offer for a debate or any other opportunity to offer an opposing view. 

 In the meantime, we produce 4 million more BBL/day of oil because of fracking and now export record-breaking volumes of natural gas. We have also significantly reduced the price of gasoline, taken the control of the oil price away from OPEC, achieved energy self-sufficiency and have a geopolitical edge on Russia and OPEC in Europe and Asia. These are facts that can’t be denied, but which are, nonetheless, being totally ignored by the Conservancy.

 Is this sort of demagoguery what a conservancy should be doing? I think not.

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