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September 13, 2011 06:49 PM UTC

Amid Spills and Concerns, O&G Industry Seeks 'Hipness'

  • by: ClubTwitty

(“Yes, Smithers. We’ve got to become ‘hipper!'” – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Amid growing concerns around oil and gas drilling that has ‘gone mainstream,’ the Colorado Oil and Gas Association is urging industry to make itself ‘hipper,’ according to Natural Gas Watch.

The shale gas industry has had its collective ass kicked, and kicked hard, by Gasland and others opposed to hydraulic fracturing and needs to redefine its core messages to defuse a burgeoning negative public perception of the controversial drilling technique, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA) said today.

…Today, she explained, those opposed to hydraulic fracturing can no longer be characterized as environmental extremists because the movement has gone mainstream.

As a result, Conoly-Schuller continued, the industry needs to change not only its messaging, but how it delivers its key talking points.

…”The issue is serious, but we shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously. We need to become much more clever. Our industry is going to have to become hipper.”

Sadly,  Talisman Terry the Friendly Frackosaurus has become extinct, so new outreach to the kiddies will have to be developed. As Connoly-Schuller noted:

…”People that like South Park are our audience,” she said, “and we need to figure out how to talk to them. We need to figure out what works and how to get it out to them.”

The lack of a friendly (or obnoxious) cartoon spokesperson is not the only wet blanket on the public’s embrace of our future as an energy colony.  Growing concerns come even despite various ‘environmental’ awards bestowed on industry.  Apparently the regular occurrence of spills and mishaps still make the more persuasive case in the minds of many gaspatch denizens.  

And while it was likely mostly in the industry’s mind that concern in the gaspatch has, until recently, only been the province of ‘environmental extremists,’ it is indeed the case that as activity spreads so does community concern.  Even to El Paso County, according to the Gazette:

There has been nothing specific to the industry in the El  Paso County land development code since 1990, said Craig Dossey, a county project manager. Energy companies that want to do exploratory drilling must apply for a temporary use permit, which involves county staff approval but is not brought before commissioners.

…A flurry of mineral rights leasing, though, prompted two oil and gas summits last month and the discussion of amending codes and setting fees for operators.

Mary Talbott, one of a handful of residents who addressed the commissioners Thursday, urged the board to adopt stringent regulations.

“Establish a set of rules for the county that incorporate maximum protections for the residents and the environment, while enabling drilling to proceed,” she said. “There are 45,000 wells in Colorado, and only 15 inspectors at the state level. There were 17,000 inspections done in the past year. Let’s include county inspectors to what the state does.”

Indeed, COGA’s own polling has identified this trend, according to Natural Gas Watch:

…Conoly-Schuller told the executives that COGA had recently completed some polling around the issue of how the public perceives hydraulic fracturing and the shale gas industry.

The news, she said, was not good.

“The public is skeptical of anything we say,” she said. “The favorable perception of the oil and gas industry polls at seven percent – that’s lower than Congress. The public does not believe us. We need someone else delivering our message for us.”

So while industry thinks hard about which cartoon and other spokescritters can better sell its message, helping to address the core issues at hand appears less of a priority, according to 9News:

A gas industry group says it is willing to help compile data on the effects of drilling on Garfield County’s air quality.

The proposal by the Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association follows the cancellation of a planned air quality study by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

…”Our membership supports filling the data gaps identified in the application related to air quality,” said association director David Ludlam.

Ludlam emphasized a study would “just collect the data,” not interpret it.

This proposal comes after industry successfully killed a Health Impact Assessment for Garfield County, the 9News piece continues:

In May, county commissioners terminated a draft Health Impact Assessment prepared by the school. They said it had become subject to an endless stream of commentary and objections.

Ludlam said “there was an unspoken uncomfortability” among drillers toward the school’s work because it “focused on interpreting data for its public health implications.”

So while COGA acts to actively thwart good science locally, the American Petroleum Institute was instrumental in the successful lobbying campaign to postpone science-based smog standards nationally.

It may be that industry has a PR problem. But rather than clever gimmicks and cutesy propaganda, perhaps the better strategy would be to address the root cause: oil and gas development is an industrial activity that brings with it many impacts. Its time for industry to pay attention to those and leave the cartoons to Comedy Central.    


10 thoughts on “Amid Spills and Concerns, O&G Industry Seeks ‘Hipness’

  1. Attempts by hopelessly unhip corporate types (and this is not one of your hipper industries) to appear hip are usually just embarrassing. Besides, who is the target audience for all this hipness? Is this target audience paying any attention to oil shale controversies?  Good luck with that.  

    1. . . . sung by a group of slack-dressing Q&G executives as they tour around the state in a Kia Soul.

      That’s what this industry needs . . . just sayin’.  It’s way mondo frack-o-listic, dude!

      (And, keep a big eye peeled for — Up with Frack-o-rama, the musical.  Coming soon to an awesome hip venue at a middle-school Octoberfest near you.)  

  2. You can’t be hip AND play the victim card at the same time.

    When one of the O&G industry’s shiny new terms (frac’ing) gets tweaked slightly (fracking) and becomes the hip way of saying the “F” word, industry spokespeople start playing the victim card instead of embracing their inner hipness.

    The Marcellus Shale natural-gas industry has gotten tripped up by the F-bomb.

    Not that word.

    “Fracking has become almost a dirty word,” said Brian McDermott, spokesman for Gregory FCA Communications, an Ardmore, Pa., public relations firm … (


    “I take exception to the fact that drilling opponents have taken to using frack as euphemism for a curse word I can’t print in this family newsletter,” wrote Will Brackett, managing editor of the Powell Shale Digest, a trade weekly based in Fort Worth, Texas.

    But one industry promoter has a typical Frank Luntz solution:

    6. Language is important. The very term “fracking” has a negative connotation, and scores lower in public sentiment than terms such as Marcellus Shale. A better, more positive term is warranted. The industry needs to identify negatively charged words and replace them with positive language.(Greg Matusky)

    Tisha and her boys at COGA better figure this out — should they embrace the hip? Or run away?

    1. It’s a great word!

      Go frack yourself.

      Frack off.

      You’ve got to be frac’in’ kiddin’ me.

      Oh frack.

      Endless frackin’ fun.

      On another note – your comment about the number of inspectors is spot on. If the state (cough, Hickenlooper, cough) is serious about efficiencies and red tape, one smart way of saving money is to allow local government inspection of wells. The limited number of state inspectors is very worrisome and if counties or cities have the resources and the knowledge, which many do, they can inspect the wells creating impacts within their jurisdictions.

      Of course, the industry hates this idea…

    1. All the kids want those frackin’ frac’ing jobs. And frack those people who want clean water. Besides, when they’re done fracking up the water, there’ll be more jobs cleaning it up! It’s a win-frackin-win (so long as you don’t touch those oil subsidies).

    2. I mean that’s the model you are holding out, right?  A burger flippin’ executin’ kind of place…soon it could be here too!

      Texas, however, still faces many challenges on the jobs front. Many of the positions that have been created are on the lower end of the pay scale. Some 550,000 workers last year were paid at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25, more than double the number making those wages in 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

      That’s 9.5% of Texas’ hourly workforce, which gives it the highest percentage of minimum-wage hourly workers in the nation — a dubious title it shares with Mississippi.

    3. and the flavor of the month is JOBS !  

      Truth be told I really don’t know much about them, or how they are created, (and I’ve never had to meet payroll either, whew!) but I am going to bring the subject up endlessly because it sounds pretty neat and maybe, just maybe, the gullible and or desperate will listen to me because they need them.

      And I mean neat in an I know what I’m talking about sort of way.  If anyone asks me for any specifics on how to create jobs, I’ll run away.

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