Getting the word out: Industry organizations counter activist efforts

Two pro-energy organizations, the Consumer Energy Alliance and the Energy and Infrastructure Alliance, launched programs aimed at countering the messages of anti-energy groups.
By Patrick C. Miller | December 18, 2017

Two pro-energy organizations—the Consumer Energy Alliance and the Energy and Infrastructure Alliance—launched programs aimed at countering the messages of anti-energy groups.

CEA kicked off a nationwide program in late October called “Campaign for America’s Energy” focused on educating families, businesses and state and local lawmakers about the benefits of energy and the critical role it plays in everyday lives and budgets. Thus far, CEA has launched its programs in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

In November, Energy Builders—an arm of EEIA—announced a publicly accessible website called the Energy Infrastructure Incident Reporting Center. It catalogs violent acts aimed at shutting down energy infrastructure and tracks criminal attacks on critical energy infrastructure.

Toby Mack, who serves as EEIA’s president and CEO, has led the organization since its founding in 2013. Throughout his career, Mack has worked for trade associations representing companies supplying heavy equipment and related products and services to the construction, energy, mining and forestry industries in North America.

The announcement of the Energy Builders’ reporting center coincided with a bipartisan letter from 84 members of Congress asking U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions about whether the Department of Justice had the authority to deal with those who attacked energy infrastructure and whether it intended to prosecute them.

“We’re very concerned about the increasing incidents of illegal and sometimes violent acts against energy infrastructure—oil and gas pipeline infrastructure particularly,” Mack said. “The purpose of the database is to collect all of that information in one place and archive it so that anybody interested in knowing more about it can see the types, the frequency and the locations of those kinds of acts of violence against this infrastructure. It’s useful to catalog those things so that when something arises, becomes a story for a few days and then fades away, it’s not completely forgotten.”

Housed on the Energy Builders’ website, the incident reporting center enables the public to enter information on energy infrastructure attacks or vandalism in their area. Mack said the information is vetted before being recorded in the archive to make certain each incident is factual and correct.

“If it rises to the level that we think deserves to be recorded, we would then enter the details into the database,” he explained.

CEA’s education campaign focuses on holding the energy industry to a higher safety standard while bringing greater awareness to public officials, leaders and communities. The campaign also discusses how rejecting or delaying energy production, delivery and diversity hurts lower-income households and those on fixed incomes.

“Energy should be a non-partisan issue because it is something that both impacts and sustains everyone,” said David Holt, CEA president. “Protecting the environment is also a non-partisan issue because everyone wants a cleaner environment. Through new advancements in technology and innovation, everyone wins, because we can make energy more affordable and provide a healthy model for energy production that protects our environment and improves our communities.”

The launch of a national movement—aimed at balancing and depoliticizing the energy discussion—gives families and elected officials a balanced perspective to help advance policies that support energy production and delivery, as well as environmental standards. The effort will comprise a full-scale awareness program that includes new educational websites, media, community and stakeholder outreach, targeted digital advocacy efforts, and grassroots events and activities.

CEA’s campaign comes at a critical time when Americans, on average, spend more than $3,500 annually on energy-related costs. For a low-income consumer living at the poverty line, that could mean up to 29 percent of their individual income. According to the Census Bureau, more than 40 million Americans live in poverty, and 13.5 million are out of work or searching for full-time jobs.

“Americans shouldn’t have to choose between heating and cooling their homes, buying their next meal or filling their next medical prescription, yet too many are having to do just that,” Holt said. “We agree that the environment is vital to our future, and we’ll continue to hold industry to higher standards.”

Mack said that the oil and gas industry should be prepared for a long-term fight with those who oppose fossil fuels and the building of infrastructure to support the energy industry.

“The opposition isn’t going to go away,” he noted. “They’ll continue to innovate in their own way, so we’ve got to be very flexible and responsive and just be out there with all of the positive messages. If a bigger portion of the public understands the value, the benefits and the importance of oil and gas to their lives and their families and communities and careers, the extremist messages will get a lot less traction in the court of public opinion.”

Author: Patrick C. Miller
Staff Writer, North American Shale magazine