As operations have picked up in the Marcellus shale, companies have developed safer, more advanced technologies to address not only extraction and production issues but environmental concerns as well. Finding a way to achieve harmony with the environment will be critical to continued shale gas development.

As most people in the industry are aware, these concerns are the reason some US states have balked at developing their unconventional reserves and why countries in Europe, such as France, have formally announced they will delay shale development.

It is important to put factual information in front of decision makers, who are acting out of distrust, much of which is based on vocal opposition groups that are disseminating misinformation.

The actions of one of these groups became obvious to Hart Energy employees who traveled to Pittsburgh, Pa., in November for the DUG East conference and exhibition, an event that received the dubious distinction of drawing the attention of the “Occupy” movement. The “Occupiers” set up shop near the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and did their best to disrupt DUG East – though in fact, their presence had little if any effect on attendees, who numbered a record-breaking 3,000+ this year.

Probably the most interesting thing about the protesters was the complete disconnect that exists between their opposition platform and their seeming ignorance of their own reliance on oil and gas. This was apparent in the list of donation needs they posted on their website. First on the list of needs was gas for cooking and heating – an irony that evidently was lost on the protestors.

On the surface, this is laughable – much like the requests for vegan and gluten-free food and soy and almond milk donations, which also were on the list of requests. The visibility and influence of these protestors, however, is no laughing matter.

Shale opponents have been diligent in recruiting and have found many ways to attract media support. Protests against hydraulic fracturing are widespread and continue to draw followers despite the fact that the majority of those voicing dissent have no understanding of what fracing is. The outcry against hydrocarbon development is strong, and whether informed people within the industry admit it or not, opponents of the industry are having a significant impact. The fact remains that the truth is considerably obscured. As long as emotion remains in the spotlight, emotion, not fact, will be the basis for future decisions. Clearly, it is in the interest of companies to educate the public and engage stakeholders. Without their support, it will be difficult to move shale gas development forward.