It is rare when a member of the news media takes on one of his brethren over bad reporting, but that's exactly what CNBC's Jim Cramer did on "Mad Money" June 28.
Cramer soundly criticized Ian Urbina of The New York Times for his June 25 story warning that natural gas is a "bubble," likening it to a "Ponzi" scheme and saying it "may not be as easy and cheap to extract " as the industry is saying. The colorful CNBC host also noted that Urbina had written seven "hit pieces" on natural gas in the past five months (Transcript ).
Cramer said that when he read that latest Urbina piece: "I was perplexed, and not because the Times' Ian Urbina wrote still one more negative story about the industry - this, by the way, is the seventh hit piece on natural gas in the last five months - but because if anything the industry may be understating how much nat gas there is in this country."
Just by looking at some of his recent headlines  it is obvious that Urbina has an anti-natural gas bent:
- Behind Veneer, Doubt on Future of Natural Gas - June 26, 2011
- Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush - June 25, 2011
- Millions of Gallons of Hazardous Chemicals Injected into Wells, Report Says - April 17, 2011
- E.P.A. Struggles to Regulate Natural Gas Industry - March 4, 2011
- Gas Drillers Recycle Wastewater, but Risks Remain - March 2, 2011
- Regulation Lax as Gas Well's Tainted Water Hits Rivers - Feb. 27, 2011
But it was his July 25 article that Cramer criticized as not making sense, and others have called "inaccurate." Citing huge investments by Exxon Mobil, the Chinese national oil company and other companies in Japan, France and Australian in U.S. natural gas from shale, Cramer asked, "Were they all duped? Every one of them? Could they all be useful idiots for a couple of nat gas charlatans?" implying that if Urbina was correct, major companies around the globe would have to have been fooled.
United Press International (UPI) quoted Regina Hopper, CEO of America's Natural Gas Alliance, on June 29, following up on the "controversial" Times story.
Hopper said, "Recent New York Times reporting on natural gas has been deeply flawed, inaccurate and misleading ." Her statement continued, "The paper has apparently chosen to ignore important facts that would have presented Times' readers with a more balanced perspective."
Aubrey McClendon, the CEO of Chesapeake Energy, appeared on Cramer's show and was asked about the Times' article. McClendon said, "… I think this particular reporter and this particular paper has probably been captured by environmental extremists. There were some e-mails yesterday by the - or on Sunday, rather by some environmental groups claiming credit for having coached this particular reporter, who apparently doesn't have an editor anymore, into saying something that's completely not true."
McClendon attacked the premise of Urbina's claim. "How in the world, when gas prices are at a seven-year low in the US, where we have passed Russia to be the largest producer of natural gas, when gas supply and demand are at all-time highs in our country, and you come out now and say that, 'Wait a minute, there's not as much gas as we think.' It's ludicrous," she said.
Chesapeake Energy has been fighting back against the Times' report with McClendon's interview, but also with social media , according to Talking Biz News.