Yesterday Errors of Enchantment journeyed to Santa Fe to catch a viewing of “Chapter 1” of “Unearthed: The Real Story of Oil & Gas in New Mexico.” The “film” was produced by CAVU, a “public charity dedicated to helping solve complex problems related to the management and conservation of natural resources.”
CAVU was founded by the husband-and-wife team of David and Jordan Vaughan Smith. The former is a former bush pilot/”photojournalist,” the latter a former employee of “the brokerage firm FinansInvest” who “conducted quantitative market analysis of the Istanbul Stock Exchange” but left Turkey after “the collapse of the Turkish Lira in 2001.”
CAVU uses a “unique toolbox that includes flight, film, education and partnerships” to “provide compelling and balanced video and educational materials that serve as a platform for cooperative initiatives to EDUCATE communities, ENGAGE leadership and EMPOWER diverse audiences with practicable solutions.” Its mission is to provide “people with new insights and perspectives on complex human and ecological problems by using video to tell authentic stories from the voices of those most impacted by environmental degradation and climate change.”
But if “Chapter 1” was any indication, CAVU is anything but “balanced.” The 15-minute video, viewable here, trots out all the hysterical rhetoric and shaky claims it can muster to demonize the methane emissions of New Mexico’s oil-and-gas industry. Every single second of the production, which focuses on the San Juan Basin, is biased. Of the 21 people interviewed or quoted, 20 hewed to cancer, respiratory-health, and climate-change apocalypticism. The Environmental Defense Fund, EarthWorks, and the Sierra Club appear on-camera. And UNM climatologist David Gutzler gets a chance to peddle his taxpayer-financed willies: “Molecule for molecule, methane is a very potent heat-trapper. It is unambiguous — unequivocal — that the temperature’s getting warmer. The only way to explain the observed warming in a plausible way is by increasing greenhouse gasses.”
The shots employed were almost entirely of New Mexico’s finest scenery — lakes, rivers, grasslands, and rugged mountains. (Wildlife made the cut, too, of course.) But as anyone who’s travelled around the state knows, much of the oil and gas extracted in the Land of Enchantment is found in locales far less photogenic. The Four Corners’ infamous “methane hotspot” was mentioned, without inclusion of the fact that the secretary of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department believes — with good reason — that the phenomenon “has existed for at least the last 10 million years.” Also missing was the inconvenient truth that “methane emissions from oil and natural gas production in the San Juan Basin … declined by 47 percent from 2011 to 2016.”
Perhaps worst of all, CAVU attempted to link New Mexico’s social pathologies — subpar education, poor health, and disturbing child well-being — to “an estimated $180 million worth of methane … wasted every year due to venting and flaring” that could generate “$26 million in … annual tax revenue.” More government spending, apparently, is the key to wellness, skill-cultivation, and economic development.
Before the viewing, David Smith claimed that CAVU seeks to present “all voices of the people,” and asserted that his organization “doesn’t pick enemies.” Nonsense. CAVU is just one of hundreds of alarmist nonprofits that refuse to accept that the war for environmental improvement was won long ago. With nothing left to do, “environmentalists” use scare tactics and emotionalism to terrorize citizens with largely imaginary problems.
It was encouraging to see the industry — represented by the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico and the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association — present. Also in the crowd were several state lawmakers from the Land of Enchantment’s northwest corner. It’s clear that elected officials recognize the threat posed by CAVU’s slick agitprop, and are willing to fight the radical greens’ profoundly misguided, deeply dishonest campaign to hamper one of the state’s core drivers of economic growth.