The natural gas industry face a media double standard when it comes to public relations, leaving fractivist groups able to say whatever they want.
The ongoing battle of public relations is the biggest hurdle that faces the natural gas industry in Maryland. I actually find this fairly surprising because what we hear so often is that the oil and gas industry is full of “spin” and has the ability to control the story. Of course, we mostly hear this from fractivists. I have come to realize, though, the oil and gas industry is weak on this front. Or, perhaps it just allows the facts and science to speak for them. Unfortunately, that’s seldom enough. The industry needs to contend with a media double standard.
The issue with letting science and peer-approved studies do all the talking is that fractivist groups do a better job getting their story out. They’re better at coordinating their communications – regardless of how baseless the communications are. They use outlets that reach the greater public much more effectively. This constant bombardment of news outlets with false information is nothing new, but when a layman hears the same misguided information over and over from different sources, then they begin to believe it.
I have mentioned before a weekly “opinion” piece that airs on my local NPR station, WYPR 88.1FM in Baltimore. The program, “Environment in Focus” is hosted by Tom Pelton, Director of Communications for the dishonest Environmental Integrity Project. On this program, Pelton most often spends the program discussing things like illegal turtle farms or the importance of the Chesapeake Bay’s water fowl, which I don’t mind. However, more and more often, he discusses fracking. He has a knack for bringing up highly biased points in seemingly innocent manner. Many people unfamiliar with the topic could easily buy into his well-spoken radio voice.
Listen to the program below:
Recently, Pelton brought up fracking one again. The manner in which he begins the segment is interesting as he says how fracking is coming to Maryland unless the General Assembly approves expanding the moratorium. He introduces Sen. Bobby Zirkin, with a sound bite of him calling fracking “fools gold.” They discuss his plan to introduce a statewide fracking ban because of “health concerns” as if they fact not supposition.
Immediately following that nonsense was Pelton’s introduction to how Montgomery County Delegate and Chair of the Maryland Environments and Transportation Committee, Kumar Barve, is seriously weighing Johns Hopkins studies of increased premature birthrates and asthma attacks. The fact neither of these studies were credible and both were led by a fractivist got no air time, of course. Zirkin’s comments are no surprise as he is a political pawn looking for a legacy.
It is frightening to hear lawmakers are actually considering the junk science claims of Brian Schwartz. He was the lead author on both debunked studies and Post Carbon Institute Fellow where one of the mottos is “Busting the Shale Hype.” How is that some lawmakers are so willing to rely on studies so flawed, not to mention being funded by the likes of agenda-driven Robert Wood Johnson Foundation? Their “peer-reviewed” defense rings hollow, too. As Dr. John Ioannis notes:
“Peer-reviewed studies have come to opposite conclusions on whether using cell phones can cause brain cancer, whether sleeping more than eight hours a night is healthful or dangerous, whether taking aspirin every day is more likely to save your life or cut it short, and whether routine angioplasty works better than pills to unclog heart arteries.”
No, peer review is no defense. If the Johns Hopkins studies by the guy who calls fracking “a virus” were of any validity, they would be able to address causes of the premature births. There would no need for the following declaration from a report where the authors when wouldn’t even declare their blaring conflicts of interest:
“Residential UNGD activity metrics were statistically associated with increased risk of mild, moderate, and severe asthma exacerbations. Whether these associations are causal awaits further investigation, including more detailed exposure assessment.”
Pelton continues the story by citing ridiculous polls equivalent to telemarketing, but the kicker is his inclusion of innocent Paul Roberts, introduced as just an old wine maker from Western Maryland. I have written about Roberts at least four other times. If he were just a winemaker, then he wouldn’t be on my radar. What he is, is a fierce opponent of fracking and founding member of Citizen Shale, a fractivist group with close ties to the Chesapeake Action Network and Don’t Frack Maryland. Roberts was also on the O’Mally Fracking commission as a “Maryland Citizen.” No doubt he is a Maryland citizen, but to use this as his title, is unfair to the public who may believe the commission may have sought out a regular Joe Schmoe.
Apparently, Roberts is concerned small businesses will be hurt and that trucking will be a disruption. Sticking with coal in that area should be the concern. Small businesses need income from locals with jobs in a steady industry – the one thing that the local coal mines cannot provide.
This entire Pelton clip was one deliberate deception, delivered by an organization funded to oppose fracking and put on NPR as if it were, somehow, valid news. It wasn’t. It was propaganda. Be that as it may, it was a perfect example of how antis are reaching the public. If the gas industry tried to set itself up in a similar manner from a public relations perspective, there would be shouts for anti-trust investigations into the industry. There’s clearly a media double standard. One can only dream of NPR going after fake environmentalist groups the way it goes after industry, highlighting the money trail for the public. Perhaps it’s because the same people who fund fractivists and the phony Environmental Integrity Project also fund NPR outlets.