Why does the general public have an innate distrust of oil companies? Loren Steffy, writing for Forbes, reckons he has the answer:
“One answer is that the industry needs to stop acting like it has something to hide”.
This answer seems to ring true most. On the debate over fracking, Steffy explains, the industry ceded its chance to lead the public discourse because it retreated to its usual posture of denial and opacity rather than transparency. In recent years, some companies have gone to great lengths to change that, but those doubts over oil companies have long since taken hold in the public’s minds.
Not only do oil companies not like discussing or explaining their activities, they also don’t like anybody talking about them. Steffy points to a great example: land owners in Pennsylvania in the USA settled a dispute with Range Resources for $750,000 that related to alleged health and environmental damages from fracking on their land. As part of the deal, Range’s attorneys required the company agree to a gag order that prevented the family from commenting in any fashion whatsoever on fracking activities. A transcript from a court hearing in 2011 shows Range’s attorney insisted that the gag order extends to the landowners’ children, ages 7 and 10.
Fracking has the potential to be a game-changer in the energy world – countries across the world are finding shale reserves, and in turn loosening the grip the Middle East has on the Western world. While fracking can do damage to the environment, the method is often better for the environment than that of coal and oil. The industry, however, has failed to get this message to the general public, or indeed any message. It hides behind its institutional secrecy, and when that doesn’t work, it takes cover behind an army of lawyers. The oil industry needs to start taking the discourse to the public, and discuss energy exploration in an academic and democratic manner.
As Steffy concludes, reactions like gagging families is exactly why the public doesn’t trust the energy industry. What can the industry do about it? “Well, for starters, it could stop getting gag orders against children,” Steffy advises.
Read full article at Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/lorensteffy/2013/08/05/why-no-one-trusts-oil-companies-on-fracking/?ss=business%3Aenergy
- Why No One Trusts Oil Companies On Fracking (forbes.com)
- Dangers of Fracking: Public Asks Tough Questions of Hastings Panel (fox17online.com)
- Fracking settlement puts permanent gag order on 7-year-old and 10-year-old (rawstory.com)
- Fracking Companies Issue Gag Orders and Buy Victims’ Silence (ecowatch.com)
- ‘Frack Gag’ Bans Children From Talking About Fracking, Forever (thinkprogress.org)