Somewhere along a Dallas highway is an eye-catching, emerald-tinted billboard for Breitling Energy. It features an oil derrick and an expanse of sky emblazoned with the legend "American Oil from American Soil." It always seemed odd that a local fracking concern would be spending money directly on a billboard campaign rather than, say, an industry trade group that buys airtime during Meet the Press, but it wasn't odd enough to send Unfair Park to the courthouse to research Breitling CEO Chris Faulkner.
Would that it had! The Texas Observer yesterday published a story by energy-industry reporter Steven Bodzin contrasting Faulkner's meteoric rise as a pro-fracking talking head, which led to his brief appointment to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick's energy advisory committee, with a background that contains remarkably little drilling for natural gas and a remarkable amount of legal trouble. Also, a company called "Porn Toys Corp."
Among the highlights of Faulkner's, according to Bodzin:
- He enrolled at SMU in 1995 but never graduated. His tenure there ended in a lawsuit in which he accused a chemistry professor of defamation for accusing him of violating the honor code and demanded $69 million.
- His $290,000 Cabo San Lucas wedding was featured on Season 3, Episode 2 of Platinum Weddings.
- Records filed with the Texas Secretary of State list Faulkner and his wife as founding officers of BigVideos.com LLC (BigVideos.com once carried the "best selection of high-quality adult DVD movies, anime, hentai, fetish and gay titles") and Porn Toys Corp., which is self explanatory.
- He has claimed to have an honorary doctorate from Concordia College in California, a degree the college has no record of.
- Faulkner has filed for trademarks on the names "Frack Master," "Frackmaster," and "Frackman."
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None of this is to say that Faulkner isn't successful. Quite the contrary, as his lavish nuptials attest, he has enjoyed considerable entrepreneurial success, thanks in large part to C I Host, the web hosting company he founded two decades ago. It just demonstrates that he doesn't have a deep background in the oil business. As Bodzin's story summarizes it:
In Faulkner's rich paper trail through the early 2000s, one thing is conspicuously missing: fracking. In testimony to the Denton City Council, Faulkner said, "My company has done it for 10 years without incident or upset." And in an interview about oil and gas wells, he told the BBC, "We've fracked a thousand of those personally."
Oklahoma state corporate records show that Faulkner started an energy company, Southwest Energy Exploration LLC, in 2004, and in 2010 changed its name to Breitling Oil and Gas LLC. But Texas Secretary of State records show Breitling Oil and Gas Corp. was founded in Dallas in 2009. Faulkner told the Observer that he started to spend all his time working on Breitling in 2008.
Even today, Breitling is a relatively small oil company. Faulkner said the company has interests in 607 wells, most of which have been fracked. The company began to operate its own wells only at the end of 2013, and as of January 2015 had seven oil and gas wells pumping the equivalent of 600 barrels a day, he said. By comparison, EOG Resources, Texas' biggest oil producer, pumps 239,000 barrels oil a day in Texas.
The story's bottom line: Thanks to a canny PR campaign and round-the-clock cable-news availability, Faulkner has managed to establish himself as an internationally recognized fracking expert. If you weren't doing so already, be wary when watching cable news.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.