The money behind the dirty faces

Chesapeake Energy’s Aubrey McClendon isn’t shy about sharing his opinions, particularly when it comes to what he sees as the benefits of natural gas. That’s why Chesapeake is one of the only companies that has fessed up to funding a recent advertising campaign against Dallas-based TXU’s plans to build up to 11 new coal-fired power plants in the coming years.
The ad campaign appeared in papers and magazines several weeks ago with no clear notice of who was behind it. Chesapeake admitted to funding the campaign, at least in part, after reporters did some digging.
Following a panel discussion at the CERA conference Wednesday on the role of investment banks and hedge funds in energy commodities, McClendon said the company’s support of the campaign was all about pushing his company’s main product, natural gas.
“My role in life is to be the first to do things and say things. Sometimes I’m wrong, sometimes I’m right, but I believe Chesapeake can play a part in leading the way for Texas to make a better decision,” McClendon said. “It makes no sense to import dirty, filthy Wyoming coal into the state when you have a home-grown product that generates jobs, royalty payments, sales tax payments to Texans.”
McClendon acknowledged that coal is cheaper than natural gas as a power plant fuel, “but coal consumers are allowed to spread their costs downwind through greater pollution.”
McClendon said he expects the U.S. to regulate greenhouse gases, namely CO2, which would actually make coal more expensive than natural gas.
McClendon wouldn’t say who else was involved in the campaign or if his company took the leading role in the ad campaign.
“A lot of ideas come to us. We support a wide range of projects,” he said. “We’re not anti-TXU. We just think Texans ought to use a clean burning fuel. Our answer to that question could be different if it was in Illinois or West Virginia.”