Journalism in the Public Interest

Who Are America’s Top 10 Gas Drillers?

Though the industry sometimes touts natural gas drilling as dominated by small businesses, the 10 largest drillers account for one-third of all domestic production.

« Return to Story

Sort by: Oldest Newest  <  1 2


Sep. 13, 2011, 7:24 p.m.

And none of that is “the worst”.  Consider that the Republicans worked with the neoliberal Democrats to offshore our industrial sector to the PRC.  Consider that our economy is consequently in decline.  Consider that the number who live at or below the poverty level in America is consequently rising.  Consider that the PRC already holds trillions of dollars of American money in cold, hard cash.  Consider that to generate income, a nation must have a positive trade deficit; that is, no deficit.  Consider that we have been running massive trade deficits for…decades.

Now ask yourself if a government so corrupted by Big Energy that it is willing to permit the sale of our cleanest form of hydrocarbon-based energy regardless of future American need would prevent the sale of American foodstuffs in spite of desperate American need?

Finally, ask yourself how long it will be before the surging Chinese economy can afford to outbid the American people - saddled with and sabotaged by a wealthy, “conservative” overclass whose hatred for the American people is witnessed by their actions - for the food grown in America? 

Capitalism has been turned into a weapon against the American people; its wielders are unbounded by morality, ethics, or patriotism.  In a phrase, we’re in big trouble…betrayed from within.

Barry Schmittou

Sep. 14, 2011, 9:28 a.m.

Betrayed and goverment overthrown from within and without.

Treason and insurrection of the laws and the citizens of the U.S.

God please be with us in the suffering that is to come !!

Michael Hiner

Sep. 15, 2011, 4:44 p.m.

Many of the trouble wells that people are talking about were drilled very shallow.  These older wells are not the same depth as a lot of the new drilling and production.
ibsteve2u—I agree with many of your points for what you would say are all of the wrong reasons.  How can a conservative (oil industry evil doer) like myself be in agreement?  Some would say many unkind things or just call it out as an oxymoron.
Someone (Propublica) should investigate the lobbying of Midland Daniels Corporation.  Maybe ask why Brazil ethanol produced from sugarcane is not imported in large quantities?  I am pretty naïve about some things.  I admit it.  But I would look into how other lobby groups affect domestic American business.  In this example domestic corn production and limits on foreign products would be a good white paper on trade policy blunders.  That is—if we really do want to diversify energy from all sources.
Smiling to self—
Where were you guys when the price of oil dropped to $10 per barrel in the 90’s, and forced the layoff of 1,000,000 American workers in the industry?  You were all being smug and saying gotcha you evil doing oil robbing barons.  Nobody cared about the workers.  Wall Street said “make profit or die in the market.”  Nobody in Congress or any place in government said preserve American oil worker jobs for the future of our country.  Back then, I went to work every day and had to witness the targets being put on peoples backs for layoffs.  Nobody would think or care to research mining oil shales to replace foreign oil imports.  It was NOT profitable at $40 per barrel.  Congress said tax the evil doers, they make too much money.  There was no vision in this country on the future of the oil industry beyond a 5 year ROI.  Nobody cared about us (oil workers).  It was just gotchas…
Now 15 years later we see companies selling out across all of the oil industry to foreign investment because that is where the support money is.  China is cash rich because we sent almost all of our industries overseas.  Now they are investing in our domestic oil because there is no law that prohibits free enterprise.  Now with oil prices north of $75 people are crying tax the evil doers who sent their workers overseas to make money in foreign oil basins (because America was not going to have them work here).  Tax those robber barons of oil who pay dividends and return profits to investors on Wall Street.  Cry for alternative energy to finally drive the tycoons from American free enterprise.  Power (electrical) to the people!
Get real (smiling).  You all were duped.  Anyone can go back and read the CERA studies in the 1990’s and learn that investment institutions and oil companies saw this coming.  And legally, they diversified their business overseas to protect their portfolios.  They drilled offshore Angola, Nigeria, Brazil, Russia, China, and host of other high risk localities around the world.  They invested billions of dollars in foreign oil production to offset the schizophrenic policy for domestic American oil and gas exploration.  American technology was at the forefront of many technology improvements in deepwater exploration.  Share holder stock value good—profit good—foreign taxes bad but still profitable.
Along comes Wind energy and growing solar businesses and who is the winner?  GE, and its stock holders are the winners.  Oh, and yes they pay less taxes than any of the oil companies that people so vilify.  Yep, “them” evil doer oil companies are going to pay more taxes so that GE can charge more for power generation.  Free enterprise—yep.
If you want to save American jobs you need to bring industry back home.


Sep. 16, 2011, 8:46 a.m.

@Michael Hiner:  I think it is easy to distrust the oil and gas extraction industry - and those who argue for them - because they say things like “Where were you guys when the price of oil dropped to $10 per barrel in the 90’s, and forced the layoff of 1,000,000 American workers in the industry?”.

If you go to the BLS website

and click on the little turtle under “Back Data” to the right of “Employment, all employees (seasonally adjusted)”, and then on the page that takes you to adjust the “From Date” to 1972, you will find that oil and gas extraction employment peaked at around 267,000 employees - less than one-fourth of your claimed “1,000,000” in layoffs alone” - in 1982 (or a decade before your claimed slump).

It really makes it hard to believe anything said by those who support the oil and gas extraction industry when hardly anything they say will withstand investigation.


Sep. 16, 2011, 9:10 a.m.

I misspoke…the maximum total employment in the oil and gas extraction industry of 267,000 would be “just slightly more than” rather than “less than” one-fourth of Michael Hiner’s claimed 1,000,000 in layoffs alone.

In my defense, when my mind is struggling with “I cannot believe what I just read!”, my ability to incorporate math into my writing frays a bit….some 7%, it would appear.


Sep. 16, 2011, 1:10 p.m.

It seems my reply was moderated.  Funny I didn’t say anything really out on the edge.  A bit flippant maybe.  Steve someday maybe it will get posted.  In short—oil prices did drop.  It is well documented.  In short—the statistics leave a lot of categories out.


Sep. 16, 2011, 1:28 p.m.

Some overly simple math.  Shell employees 93,000, Exxon employees 80,000, Chevron employees 62,000.  That is about 235,000 for only 3 companies.  It does not include all support services for marine and onshore operations.  Nor does it include shipyards, pipe fitters, welders, and a huge number of support companies.  It also does not even begin to tally independent oil and gas companies and their support services.  It also does not include international companies who have headquarters in the US.

Back to fracking.  From ongoing research even concerned agencies do not understand the physical properties of rock at depths, compaction affects in shallow acquifers, or by the numbers completion design for wells.  We have a serious education gap.  How can the general public get an honest understanding if even the decision makers in government do not understand the problem.
Kind regards,


Sep. 16, 2011, 2:14 p.m.

@Michael Hiner:  Do you support the banning of oil and gas exploration on Native American lands because those peoples do not want their homelands destroyed by rigs and spills?

Or would you say that the affected population is too small to be of significance?

For your argument that the United States should focus on employing those who are involved in gas and oil extraction ignores the fact that total nonfarm payroll employment is 131.1 million Americans.  If I give you the benefit of the doubt and say that oil and gas extraction does employ 1,000,000 Americans from fabrication to wellhead, that is only 0.76% of the workforce.

You bemoan the slump in oil prices…I would submit that when they soar (or are artificially pushed, to be realistic about it) high enough to drive a surge in employment in the oil and gas extraction sector, the rest of the economy pays an enormous price for energy affects all other sectorsEverybody else faces layoffs…

The United States would be far better off without our dependency upon hydrocarbons, because hydrocarbons are susceptible to artificial price manipulation by the energy companies, HNWIs and/or the hedge funds they control playing in the commodities markets, and even nations who get ticked off because half of the politicians in the United States are ever eager to subordinate our national interest and the well-being of the American people in order to facilitate the desire of “hawks” hither and yon to play bully (from the safety of the rear, always).

If we want to run America “like a business”, we eliminate a tremendously and artificially variable cost like hydrocarbon dependency.

Michael Hiner

Sep. 16, 2011, 3:12 p.m.


You make my day. You are speaking on themes I very much agree with.

First on native American lands, I thought the tribal councils hold imminent domain and decide if exploration and drilling can take place?  Casinos or drilling, I am glad they are finally getting a financial reward.

You mentioned the most important aspect of all of these discussions, and that is strategic policy to take us away from dependence on foreign oil cartels that have dictated world commodity prices for over 40 years.

I strongly support renewable energy development that is multi-dimensional and integrated into the economy.  The tough love there is nobody is coming to grips with the level of investment technology break throughs that have to occur over the next 30 years to make it happen.  But I support it, strongly!

I also agree that oil prices are artificially manipulated by the cartels and by speculation.  It has happened too many times.  The federal investigation last year was given very short attention by the media, apparently because the results showed the price swings were from speculators and not the oil companies.

Michael Hiner

Sep. 16, 2011, 3:33 p.m.

I believe that in the coming weeks we will see much more discussion of energy policy as strategic policy.  It makes sense.  We are in this situation because we don’t want to go after all of our natural resource potential.  Ok if that’s how people want it, we vote.  Every resource needs to be put on the table and assessed for its near term and long term value, and time to market.  If strategic independence is the Queen of spades then we should think nationally about how we pay for it.  Nobody is currently doing that.  We could nationalize the oil industry and tax it to death.  But all measures are reflected back to the consumer at the pump price, or the home heating cost.  If we take away a resource we have to go and buy it outside of the US.  If we do that we are again at the mercy of the cartels and others.

I saw a number once that we need to add about 2.5 million megawatts in our goal to become energy independent.  One could put a 100% tax on oil profits and not even come close to funding an alternative program that size.

So should the Marcellus be in play as a national strategic resource?
Tar sands in Canada?


Sep. 16, 2011, 3:52 p.m.

I shouldn’t have constrained the land to just “tribal lands” many (if not most) cases, oil and gas as well as mining (for gold, for example) operations affect game lands and the river and ocean fisheries that Native Americans as well as more recent arrivals depend upon….have depended upon for thousands of years, in the case of the former population. 

The argument of the involved industry is always that the long-term disruption of and threat to the local population resulting from the pollution and other alterations of ecosystems that took millennia to evolve is offset by the temporary jobs that the resource extraction process will bring in.

I.e., it is the extraction industries’ stance that the deciding factor is the simple count of who would benefit - and the duration of the benefit isn’t even to be considered.

It is my position that everybody in America except those directly involved in the harvesting, refining, distribution, and manipulation of the markets for hydrocarbons would benefit from the replacement of hydrocarbons with alternative forms of energy.

(Preferably, point-of-use energy generation so that the ability of a handful of wealthy individuals or entities to manipulate - to sabotage - the economy of the United States of America is eliminated…say, by the use of organic photovoltaics such as is being researched by the project at )

Were the rules of the resource extraction industries applied to all situations, then we would indeed be making a concerted effort to rid ourselves of our dependency upon hydrocarbons.

But common sense can’t buy politicians as readily as the wealth those aforementioned industries can bring to bear…a virtually endless supply of wealth, since the effective monopoly that exists in the hydrocarbon industry permits the levying and raising of the private tax that is known as “profit” at the whim of the handful of individuals who control that industry and/or its market.

Michael Hiner

Sep. 16, 2011, 6:45 p.m.

Censorship of dissent is alive and well.  The moderator still hasn’t put my earkier reply on the board.  I guess I will have to post provocative discussions under an anonymous moniker.  Too bad, silly humans. 
( I am smiling! ok :)

Oil is hear for some time.  It is important to build a national transition strategy.  If done—one will likely see the oil companies migrate more rapidly to alternative systems.  They did that early on with solar.  The problem with some of it is the foreign market floods our economy with solar cells cheaper than what we can produce at home, thus driving our alternative energy businesses into bankruptcy.  Pretty much the same tactic that OPEC used in previous decades.  Over supply, under-sell, drive the competition to the sidelines, and then close the spigot a little at a time.  :)

Tactic 1:  Regional natural gas strategy for home heating and co-generation.
Tactic 2:  Determine and clear legal and environmental hurdles for imminent domain for giant wind turbines.
Tactic 3:  Chart national grid for power line systems and clear environmental hurdles
Tactic 4:  Determine milestones for wind and solar capacity by 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050…  tell the people the truth about how much land space will be required, and how far transmission lines will have to run to smart grids
Tactic 5:  Provide resource play tax and production deductions identical to the oil industry… ensure that wind and solar pay royalties to the Federal and local governments for wind and soloar rights—just like mineral and water rights
Tactic 6:  Demonstrate to the general public the cost of buying foreign oil from well head to pump and the magnitude of political cycles, versus a 30 year program of oil exploration and production that will gradually phase out as international oil prices rise to meet alternative energy prices.

Remember it will take 30 years just to build all of the wind turbines. And—there will be 30 years of litigation over who’s backyard they will end up in.  Solar will not fare well until we have protection from foreign cartel-like underselling in the market place.  It keeps our feet tangled and makes us so mad at the oil companies whom we think are behind it.

So is the Marcellus, and the Arctic national refuge a resource area?
Should Florida offshore be off limites while Cuba drills closer the reefs than our own industry is allowed too.  Those are the insanities in our current patchwork of policies.


Sep. 17, 2011, 5:25 a.m.

@michael hiner:  One of the problems with perceiving the Marcellus shale and other methane plays as “transitional” energy is the right is busting their…tails…to defund government and so eliminate government’s ability to launch or fund large-scale alternative energy research and/or implementation.  The right’s claim is that “the market should decide” - by which they mean that hydrocarbon scarcity should be the driver.

When that scarcity arrives, which nations would suffer the most?  The obvious answer is those nations which remain dependent upon hydrocarbons - and the right’s plan is that will be America.

And what would America be able to do, when that day of hydrocarbon depletion comes? 

Nothing…for America’s economy will have already been severely disrupted by waves of price instability in hydrocarbon energy forms caused by true scarcity and amplified in magnitude by speculation.

Nothing…for the Republicans are trying to shrink government down to nothing even as they are attempting to put all of America’s wealth into the hands of a few, meaning that “the many” will not have the income required to absorb a tremendous tax increase sometime down the road when the need is dire even if the governmental structure were to remain in place - particularly not when food and heating prices shoot through the roof because of hydrocarbon dependency. 

Nothing…for those few who benefit from Big Energy’s empowerment and funding of the right’s political action arms cannot be depended upon to save their own country.  They don’t want to pay existing taxes, let alone accept tax increases…not even when the United States of America is in trouble as America is right now!! 

What will “We, the People” be able to do?  Nothing - because as the cheap labor of the People’s Republic of China serves the few who own the right and the neoliberals well as both a profit generator and as a weapon for use against American labor (against unions, against the minimum wage, etc. etc. etc.), and because the destruction of alternative energy efforts serves Big Energy well and so perforce pleases the right’s political arms (the Republicans, the Tea Party, the Libertarians), the government of the United States of America does absolutely nothing when the PRC undercuts our nascent alternative energy industries and so destroys them.

Which happens nearly every day…

The truth is the few - with Big Energy’s money and the propaganda enabled by the gift of Citizens United from their property on the Supreme Court - are likely to attain their goals of shrinking government, impoverishing the American people, and keeping America addicted to hydrocarbons until it is far too late…unless we do something now

Barring a concerted effort to get off of hydrocarbons, I find it easy to predict the future:  The smart ones of the few who are the true right will flee America when energy scarcity becomes bad.  The dumb ones will stick around under the misconception that public or private armies will be able to protect them, and the many - acting first as uncoordinated mobs and then in a coordinated search for vengeance - will eat them. (Figuratively, I doubt literally.)

And when the fires of rage in the many in America burn out, they will grow too cold…too hungry…and America will become a vassal state of the communists in China.  That is the optimistic conclusion (there is also, unfortunately, the fact of nukes and the likelihood that some idiot will see them as levers in a high-stakes game of “barter” in the equation).

For anybody who cares about America and the futures of America’s kids, there is no “tomorrow” to wait for…there is only “too late”.  Act now, or Big Energy and their vassals among the right’s politicians will destroy us.

lolll…which is what they want to do, else they would not have offshored America’s industrial infrastructure - any nation’s true arsenal - as one of their opening gambits.  One might ask our right what their position is on exporting the gas in the Marcellus, Eagle Ford, and Niobrara shale formations for a little hint as to what our right intends to see happen to the American people.


Sep. 18, 2011, 5:06 a.m.

There is a solution but none of us able to see now. A new concept-I know will triumph over failed formulas of man-maid western economy.
A balanced trade without deficit will do the majic. How? Just wait with smiles!


Sep. 18, 2011, 5:06 a.m.

There is a solution but none of us able to see now. A new concept-I know will triumph over failed formulas of man-maid western economy.
A balanced trade without deficit will do the majic. How? Just wait with smiles!

Commenting is not available in this section entry.
This article is part of an ongoing investigation:

Fracking: Gas Drilling’s Environmental Threat

The promise of abundant natural gas is colliding with fears about water contamination.

Get Updates

Our Hottest Stories