Former Mobil VP Louis Allstadt Comes Down Hard on Hydraulic Fracturing

Michael Teague  |

Until his retirement in 2000, and shortly before the bacchanal of supermajor couplings that opened the new millenium, Louis Allstadt was the Vice President of Mobil Oil.

Before the merger with Exxon created the world’s single-largest and most complex publicly traded oil and gas company, ExxonMobil (XOM) , Allstadt had been with the company for some 31 years and, aside from being in charge of Mobil’s Japanese marketing and refining operations, he also oversaw the company’s being grafted on to Lee Raymond’s Exxon juggernaut.

Now, over a decade after his retirement, he has become better-known as a vocal opponent of the very technology that is currently driving the US “shale boom,” namely hydraulic fracturing.

While most of the media, particularly the financial media, buzzes with excitement over the promise of hydraulic fracturing, Allstadt has unabashedly thrown his hat in with the growing chorus of voices that opposes the use of the controversial technology.

On Tuesday, Allstadt appeared at a press conference in Albany called by Elected Officials to Protect New York, where, among other things, he said "Making fracking safe is simply not possible, not with the current technology, or with the inadequate regulations being proposed..."

In terms of using the procedure to drill for natural gas, the plentiful reserves of the Marcellus Shale make the state of New York a ground zero in the recent bonanza of unconventional production. Allstadt pointed out at the conference that a fracked well can use 50 to 100 times more toxic chemicals than traditionally drilled wells, and, among other things, challenged the notion that the technology has “been around a long time,” saying that the modern advances in fracking technology make it far more dangerous than in its previous iterations.

He also touched on leakage of methane at the new wells, from which he says the harmful fumes are leaking at “far greater rates than were previously estimated.”

Allstadt also cautioned about the hazards of heavy industrial activity that invariably congeals around frack-wells. The advocacy group is pushing to maintain the various moratoriums that numerous New York state counties have placed on fracking, at the very least until more extensive cumulative studies are performed indicating if and where the procedure can be carried out safely.

Tuesday’s press conference follows a curious incident dating back to mid-February, when news got out that ExxonMobil’s current CEO Rex Tillerson had himself been involved in an anti-fracking lawsuit due to a well that was to be drilled near his home.

Allstadt penned an open letter to Tillerson at the time in which he explained to the CEO that he no longer owned any of the company’s stock, nor the stock of any fossil fuel company that is not contributing significantly to any efforts to develop renewable energy sources.

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