By Kate Fried
Like leg warmers and Grunge, Where’s Waldo was an inescapable phenomenon for many who came of age during the 80s and 90s. I probably don’t need to remind you that these books featured colorful, detailed illustrations designed to trick the reader’s eye from finding the eponymous Waldo, hiding in plain site in his signature striped red shirt and round eye glasses. Where’s Waldo? He’s everywhere.
Another person who seems to be everywhere these days, hiding in plain sight, is Professor Timothy Considine, director of the University of Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economics & Public Policy and president of Natural Resource Economics, Inc. Considine is notable within the debate over fracking because he is the author of a number of studies that exaggerate and promote the so-called economic benefits of the process. In other words, he’s the oil and gas industry’s go-to guy when they need a little research to distract the public from the ways in which fracking negatively affects public health, rural economies and the environment.
Open up an “academic” study that finds value in fracking and chances are, Considine was either somehow involved, or influential. In fact, the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) just published an interesting study highlighting exactly how central Considine is to the oil and gas industry’s propaganda machine.
As disturbing as it is, the symbiosis between the academy and corporations isn’t really news. But what is noteworthy is how, if you look closely, you’ll find Considine behind the scenes in so many of the industry’s spin jobs. Since 2009 he’s written or been linked to several pro-fracking studies published by Penn State, the American Petroleum Institute, the Manhattan Institute, the Wyoming Mining Association and the University at Buffalo Shale Resources and Society Institute to name a few.
A number of studies have debunked Considine’s key points, revealing his body of work to be a house of cards. Somehow his fuzzy math always makes fracking look better than it actually is for the economy. Waldo’s glasses are clear, but Considine’s are obviously rose-tinted.
The role of universities should not be to validate corporate rhetoric, and slapping an academic seal of approval over faulty research doesn’t make it accurate. Ultimately, partnerships such as the ones between Considine and the oil and gas industry undermine the value of all information generated by scholars.