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In college I learned about the hierarchy of values, in which people evolve from purely selfish beings (as small children) to having an ultimate sense of right and wrong. Along the rungs of this hierarchy are several steps, including the step just below the top, where people are faced with ethical dilemmas and don't always make the right choice.
Studies have indicated that many of the protestors during the Vietnam War were at this phase in their ethical development. However, others were at a much lower stage, where if something felt good, they did it – skip school, burn flags, do copious amounts of drugs, and hurl insults at the police.
Somehow the oil and gas industry is the modern version of the Vietnam War. Between the Occupy movement and the hue and cry over hydraulic fracturing, protesting is becoming almost a vocation. No doubt some of these people are very sincere, though possibly misled, about the evils of the industry. But I think others just enjoy the party atmosphere of a good solid protest.
Take tiny Erie, Colo. Energy In Depth recently reported on a petition brought forth against natural gas development in Erie and the surrounding area. Copies of the petition were delivered by "Erie Rising" activists (and their children) to Encana Corp.'s US headquarters in Denver as well as the governor's office. The event was captured by local news crews.
At first blush the petition was impressive – 21,000 people signed it on behalf of Erie. But only 100 of those signatures were those of Erie residents. The rest were gathered over the Internet from often far-flung locales like Greece and Australia. In fact, only 1,000 signatures were gathered from the entire state of Colorado.
"Winning the approval of celebrities and out-of-state activists has come at a price," wrote Courtney Loper of Energy In Depth. "The remarkably low number of local names on the petition proves Erie Rising has lost credibility where it really counts: in the actual town it claims to represent."
This bears out my personal experience as well. Last year E&P reported on a protest in Dimmock, Pa., in which hardly anyone from Pennsylvania was represented, let alone local residents. And Hart's DUG and DUO conferences typically generate some protestors, although at the recent DUO conference in Denver they showed up late because they'd been up late the night before protesting a city council vote on the homeless.
Interesting career choice. All we can counter it with is education. I have no hard and fast answers – if I did, I would be implementing them. But the industry is long overdue for a public relations campaign. I applaud the efforts of organizations like Energy In Depth and encourage our readers to support them in any way they can.