Natural Gas Industry Claims Outrage Over Fracking Is Merely a Perception Problem


Well guess what? The natural gas industry is blaming “perception” for the public outrage and outcry over the extraction process known as fracking. In translation, the industry is really saying: “The people who think or perceive that fracking is unsafe are simply wrong. They’re misinformed. We need to do a better job educating them so they understand that they have nothing to worry their pretty little heads over.”

This is “Damage Control 101,” plain and simple – a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding. Despite a high-priced PR campaign, not many are buying the industry’s latest efforts to spin its way out of an increasingly tense situation.

CNN Money senior writer Steve Hargreaves reports from the big IHS CERA conference that the natural gas industry is “listening” to protests on the heels of the devastating “GasLand” documentary and a relentless stream of damaging coverage from the New York Times, ProPublica, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and others. Of course, according to the industry, the problem is not grounded in reality – only misinformed perception.

Mr. Hargreaves quotes one gas company executive as saying: “We’ve done a terrible job at getting our message out to the public.” The comments during a round-table discussion on fracking at the annual energy conference continued to lament “…now we’re locked out of New York.” He refers to a state ban prompted by widespread public protests.

But the CNN report includes this nugget (sans attribution): “Most energy experts believe fracking can be done safely – the trick is finding the right amount of regulation that still keeps it economic for industry to produce the energy.”

Right. And there you have the industry talking points duly recited by a powerhouse national media outlet: It’s not a real problem, only the perception of a problem. I’d like to see the names of the “energy experts” who claim that “fracking can be done safely.”

The industry, feeling serious heat, has ramped up a big-budget PR and advertising campaign to persuade people that the fracking process isn’t so bad after all. As usual, the industry is hiding behind job creation (as well as the “perception problem”) – or more accurately the loss of jobs if fracking is banned or new regulation emerges. The ads, of course, fail to mention that the process also destroys the environment and poses a grave human health risk.

It’s good to know that the fracking issue was on the agenda at the IHS CERA conference, which was mostly a love-fest of industry elites and the government officials who serve them. But nobody in that conference had much to do with why New York “closed” its doors to fracking – that honor would fall to the environmental protesters.

Here’s the CNN piece:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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