Gas Industry Report Calls Anti-Fracking Movement a “Highly Effective Campaign”

Gas Industry Report Calls Anti-Fracking Movement a “Highly Effective Campaign” by Katrina Rabeler, March 27, 2013, Yes! Magazine
A report intended to help the oil and gas industry squash the anti-fracking movement turns out to be full of useful information – and admits that much of what activists are saying is true. Communities working to stop a controversial gas drilling process are getting what sounds like encouragement from an unlikely source: a report prepared for the oil and gas industry on the risks posed by those communities themselves. Even more bizarre than a risk assessment about grassroots activists is one that basically admits the activists are right. Control Risks, the global risk and strategic consulting firm that conducted the report, calls itself “independent,” but it makes its alliances clear in the first few sentences. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could bring “a golden age of cheap, plentiful energy for a resource-constrained world,” writes senior global issues analyst Jonathan Wood, “but only if it makes it out of the ground.” Entitled “The Global Anti-Fracking Movement: What It Wants, How It Operates, and What’s Next,” the 2012 report uses the term “battlegrounds” to describe more than thirty countries on six continents where the issue of fracking is being debated. … Although the report is intended to provide gas companies with a plan for squashing the anti-fracking movement, people concerned about the environment or public health will find it worth reading for at least three reasons (besides entertainment). It contains reams of hard data about the movement, it identifies the tactics that have been most successful so far, and it ultimately backs up many of the movement’s key arguments. The report assembles a wealth of information about fracking and the movement against it. It begins with a world map in which shale gas reserves are colored blue. This reveals huge stores of gas buried beneath areas such as Tibet, southern Brazil, Libya, and almost the entirety of South Africa. Just a glance gives a global perspective on what the anti-fracking movement is really up against. A few pages later, there’s a chart measuring Google searches for the terms “fracking,” “shale gas,” and “Gasland”—the title of a 2010 documentary about natural gas drilling. The chart shows that before the release of the film, few people were searching for information about fracking. Only after a sharp spike in searches for the term “Gasland” is there a strong, steady rise in search activity for “fracking” and “shale gas.” This helps to demonstrate just how important the film was in raising awareness about the process. Wood says it provided the movement with a shared point of reference, and claims that the movement wouldn’t have gone global without the documentary’s scenes of flaming water pouring from people’s faucets. “They pretty much blame us for the whole thing,” said

Wood goes on to describe other tactics, besides creating a fiery documentary, that have made anti-fracking activists so effective. Citing national fracking moratoriums in France and Bulgaria, as well as local bans and stricter drilling regulations worldwide, Wood claims the gas industry has “repeatedly been caught off guard by the sophistication, speed, and influence of anti-fracking activists.” John Armstrong, coordinator for the anti-drilling group Frack Action, has his own theory about why that is so. The anti-fracking movement “grew out of the grassroots—it wasn’t led by any national NGO but stemmed from regular working people who have never been activists before,” he says. “It is born out of children who have become ill, farms that have been ruined, aquifers and wells that have been contaminated, and air that has been poisoned.” … To avoid ever-increasing blockades and moratoriums, Wood advises gas companies to follow his four-step plan for quelling the anti-fracking movement: acknowledge local grievances, engage communities, work to reduce the damage fracking does to the environment, and “create more winners” (by which he means giving communities a fair share of the money from fracking). Wood also suggests that, “Movements towards greater transparency and voluntary disclosure, however grudging, are a positive step in this direction.” In other words, the report advises oil and gas companies to give anti-fracking activists much of what they’re asking for or risk having the process banned altogether. In doing so, Wood concedes that opponents of fracking are often right. He describes the “cozy relationships” the industry has with regulators and power-brokers, and the “crippling trust deficit” it has with citizens. He confesses there really is inadequate knowledge about the environmental, economic, and health impacts of fracking and that the industry has funded most of the studies that do exist, sometimes secretly. … “Momentum is on our side, polls are on our side, the science and truth are on our side, and New Yorkers know that we are going to win.” By winning, Armstrong means a statewide ban on fracking. [Emphasis added]

This entry was posted in Global Frac News. Bookmark the permalink.