November 14, 2007

Fact-Finding Trip Disclosure

I will travel the next two days to Houston and Corpus Christi on a tour arranged by the American Petroleum Institute (API). The tour includes other bloggers, including Bruce McQuain of QandO, who announced it earlier today. We will take a tour of Chevron's Blind Faith platform before they deploy it -- a platform designed to pump a new field in the Gulf of Mexico. We will also tour their visualization center, get a briefing on deepwater drilling, and have a lengthy Q&A session with Chevron representatives.

Obviously, I hope to get a better perspective on oil drilling, the petroleum industry, and energy policy as a result. However, Captain's Quarters readers should know that API has covered my travel and lodging expenses for this trip. The following disclosure statement comes from API and it constitutes the only stipulation for the trip:

API has underwritten Edward Morrissey’s travel expenses to attend the Chevron location tour in Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas. Edward is not required to blog about API initiatives. The only requirement as a condition of underwriting these expenses was to include this disclosure of this relationship on his blog.

Why take the trip? I have written about energy policy for quite a while, and like any industry that has important public-policy connections, their representatives engage the blogosphere on a regular basis. I have had API representatives on my show in the past, including today. Earlier this year, they attempted to arrange a blogger tour under the same conditions, but it stalled for scheduling reasons. The trip gives me an opportunity to meet some of the same people in person, allow them to conduct a more effective presentation for their position, and give me a look at the facilities themselves.

This does pose a few questions about credibility, which I hope to address. First, no money has made it into my pockets. API doesn't even buy blog ads for Captain's Quarters. They arranged my travel and paid for it directly, rather than reimburse me. The value of this travel and lodging will probably be in the neighborhood of $1600, roughly, and I'm flying coach. I expect that they'll cover a couple of meals based on the itinerary I've seen.

Will the free trip make me write something I don't believe, or pass along information without care to its authenticity? Readers will have to judge that for themselves, but for my part, I will say absolutely not. Given my financial status as non-wealthy, I wouldn't have spent the money to make the trip on my own, but it's not a weekend at a luxury resort, either. It's a working trip with almost no room in the schedule for any other pursuits, and frankly, I'm not that keen on travel in any case.

I'll have more over the next two days. Keep an eye on me, and I promise to report exactly what I see and hear, and remain honest in my analysis.


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