Posted by Natural Gas Now Guest Blogger
Fossil Fuels Bias - Steve Fountain
Freelance Journalist and Marketing Consultant


The fossil fuels phobia of some newspapers is more than puzzling, given the heavy use of fossil fuels throughout the life cycle of a newspaper.

I never walked the hallowed halls of the New York Times or Washington Post during my 20 years in the journalism field. As an editor with a small Gannett-owned site, I adversely affected my career path when, upon getting off a bus and seeing our company’s new glass-faced Virginia corporate office, I commented about that old saying about people who live in glass houses.

I offer this for perspective. I walked in the world of newspaper elite, but I wasn’t ever one of them. If the big papers are the major leagues, I made it to AA ball.

In my four-plus years as a civilian, I have been blessed with a perspective shift from a producer of news to a consumer of news. As such, the hypocrisy of my former world has become clearer.


Fossil Fuels Hypocrisy
An example of this hypocrisy was offered when, on February 2, 2014, the Los Angeles Times — my former hometown paper — carried an editorial (an unsigned opinion piece representing the view of the paper) on the Keystone Pipeline. Here is part of what the editorial stated:

“And even if the Canadian tar sands extraction would not be, by itself, a devastating new source of greenhouse gases, the Keystone XL would be a sorry symbol of the world’s continued reliance on fossil fuels.”

Newspapers aligned with the environmentalist world view that any use of natural resources is inherently destructive, polluting and downright naughty find an amazing exemption when it comes to the fact the newspaper industry relies on ink printed on paper to make money.

Paper that comes from trees.

Trees that are cut down, transported by trucks powered by — gasp! — gas or diesel-fueled engines to a plant that uses energy produced by natural gas, coal or nuclear power to turn the trees into pulp and then into paper.

The paper is then transported by greenhouse-gas-producing trains or trucks to a printing plant that, again, uses energy produced by natural gas, coal or nuclear power, to run its press so that ink can be printed on paper. Natural gas heat is also often used to dry the heat onto the paper in the case of magazines by the way (see Goss M-300 press below, one example).

That paper gets sold and, after a day’s use, finds itself in a recycling bin or trash can. Which is then picked up by gas or diesel-fueled trucks to be taken to the appropriate place.

Newsprint is a newspaper’s second-highest expense behind labor.

Yet, we never see a newspaper oppose the cutting of trees as a symbol of the newspaper industry’s continued reliance on trees.

Nor do we see too many newspapers equipping their carriers — the non-living-wage workers who deliver newspapers to houses and businesses — with electric cars.

Newspapers Are Sticking with Fossil Fuels Themselves
Perhaps the greatest hypocrisy is that newspapers, more than any other long-standing industry, are already positioned to eliminate printed editions through electronic delivery to computers, tablets and other devices. It would be an environmentally revolutionary step.

But, of course, it is not an economically viable model, so it’s being resisted. Most newspapers are only seeing 10-15 percent of revenue from electronic distribution and ad sales.

The cash cow is still ads in the print edition. But ad revenues at newspapers are in a decade-long nose-dive because the industry was slow to embrace new technology and vision in 1990s and, ironically enough, because the economy is tanking amid a President who is implementing many of the policies endorsed by the majority of newspapers for the past 50 years.

Stopping the use of gas, diesel and natural gas in the U.S. economy would be even more devastating than newspapers stopping print editions tomorrow.

And, unlike the newspaper industry, technology, innovation and discovery have the energy industry moving forward in providing safe, cost effective and plentiful supplies.

The saddest part of editorials like these is that my disappointment comes not from the view, which is expected, but from the failure of environmentalist-leaning newspapers to at least come up with a new spin for this tired, wacky argument.