Clean, plentiful, cheap and not in our back yard! Taken together, the voice of public groups mobilizing on energy issues is rising in volume and power, creating a major headache for the energy industry. And now, with the help of social media, public mobilization is lightning-fast. This instant groundswell of grassroots action determines how mainstream media will cover the issue and often forces political action. In short, it generates often-repeated #fail situations for energy players such as the others I have covered in the B2C sector previously.
Recently, I called out on LinkedIn to get some case studies from energy professionals and I thank those that gave me a hand! This post is a selection of recent social media mobilizations against energy projects and how industry has chosen to respond (when it responds at all).
Wind Power Opposition:
I want to start with this because it seems counter-intuitive. Who’s opposed to clean energy, after all? Well, it seems that wind projects are drawing more and more heat from local resident associations who do not want turbines close by. This reminds me of the energy industry view of public desires: B.A.N.A.N.A. or Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything. I hear from Dawn in North Carolina that such opposition has recently entirely shut down a wind project. Here are two other examples, one from Massachusetts and another from Ontario.
Oil Company Attacks:
There are surely dozens of examples here, the most recent of which is the dual campaign against Shell waged by Greenpeace and the Yes Men. The spoof postcard campaign slamming Shell’s Arctic exploration plans sure got a lot of attention! I have written on this in a previous blog post linked here.
Anti Shale Gas and Fracking :
Shale gas is causing an energy revolution in the U.S and, as it is a new technology that captures the public imagination (not in a good way), opposition abounds online. Fears about water contamination, earthquakes and ravaged countrysides make for viral content and those opposed to this industry are also very advanced content creators.
The website below is probably the best illustration of the messaging and content quality produced by the anti-fracking movement:
Energy Industry Responses:
The energy industry is entering social media at different speeds. I have personally approached the wind power sector to offer assistance on this but have been told that they would like to ‘wait and see’ how things develop. On the oil and gas side of things, where opposition has been more intense, there is more activity. Here are some highlights:
- Already back in 2009, Shell was hosting live webchats (Shell Dialogues) and inviting NGOs to discuss their concerns directly with Shell reps. Archives of these chats are hosted online here.
- Shale gas player Chesapeake Energy has begun responding to opponents directly through a blog/twitter strategy. An article on this from the Nieman Lab on journalism is linked here.
- Energy in Depth, a U.S. industry-funded initiative operated by FTI Consulting, runs a series of blogs, twitter and facebook accounts featuring content that aggressively refutes activist and journalist views against shale gas development.
- Michael Binnion, CEO of Canada’s Questerre Energy, is an advanced social media user, writing in his own voice and taking on hard questions and opponents directly through his blog and twitter account.
- And finally, Shaletalk, a project I have personally helped get off the ground, funded by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers invites public and industry to exchange Q+A on shale gas through a blog platform, a Facebook Page and Twitter account.
This is only meant to be a partial list. Other examples to share? Please add them in the comments section!