DeSmog guilty of same tactics it imputes to Frackfeed.com
In the great debate over climate and energy, the American public is not well served if only one side gets to communicate its message, a truth the DeSmog blog should take to heart after its petty attack over a new pro-fracking site.
Steve Everley is the man behind FrackFeed.com. “FrackFeed is a new way to present the facts about fracking, with the kind of engaging content and interactivity that reflects the digital age we’re living in,” he told American Energy News in an email.
“Fracktivists have been waging a misleading and unserious campaign against American energy development, often led by Hollywood celebrities. It’s important that the public is aware of their silly accusations – not just because we all like to laugh, but also because we should never confuse political activism with hard science.”
As a Sunday post on DeSmog by Julie Dermansky points out, Everley is employed by several pro-fossil fuels groups, North Texans for Natural Gas and Energy in Depth, which is funded by the Independent Petroleum Producers of America.
Dermansky spends most of the post smearing Everley and a meme FrackFeed created using an unauthorized photo of Frack Free Denton activists being arrested, along with regular potshots at how unethical industry is for funding “astroturf” organizations.
I have a couple of serious problems with this kind of snarky sniping by eco-activists.
One, as Vancouver-based researcher Vivian Krause has ably demonstrated, DeSmog (which got its start in Canada in 2007) and the plethora of environmental organizations fighting the fossil fuels industry are no more grassroots than FrackFeed. Environmentalists would like you to think their paychecks come from the pockets of many small contributors, but for the most part that’s just not the case. Big Green, even in Canada, is largely funded by huge American charities that keep quietly to the background.
Krause has pulled back the curtain and exposed just who is pulling the levers.
That said, I’ve avoided promoting Krause’s work because “exposing” the role of Tides charities in funding eco-activists’ anti-oil campaigns only comforts the comfortable who want to believe the status quo is just fine, than you very much. But even many of the comfortable in the energy industry have come around to notion that greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut.
So let’s not get sidetracked about who’s funding which side of the debate. DeSmog isn’t entitled to a monopoly – of the facts or of moral rectitude – and neither is industry.
The American and Canadian publics benefit most when they have free access to information from both sides, unfettered by the kind of obfuscating nonsense promoted by DeSmog.
Which brings me to my second point, which is that bad things happen when one side does gain a monopoly. Take the Canadian situation, for example.
Canadian energy executives have been much more timid than their American counterparts when it comes to engaging opponents, partly because they had their way for decades. If they wanted to build a pipeline, say, one only had to talk to (generally friendly) governments, regulators, a few minor stakeholders, and politicians. A bit of media advertising usually overwhelmed dissent from the hippy dippy crowd.
Everything changed in 2009, when major environmental groups joined forces to devise a strategy for strangling the Alberta oil sands in the bathtub by cutting off market access. American charities began pouring funds into Greenpeace, ForestEthics Advocacy, the David Suzuki Foundation, and many other similar organizations.
They very cleverly allied themselves with Canadian First Nations, particularly in British Columbia, where aboriginal groups had never ceded land via treaty and the courts were awarding ever more power over land claimed as traditional territory.
Industry, meanwhile, twiddled its thumbs.
Fast forward six years and all the momentum is with Big Green. The smart betting is that two proposed pipelines from Alberta to the West Coast – by Kinder Morgan and Enbridge – are dead in the water. The huge Energy East pipeline to Canada’s East coast – proposed by TransCanada – is being similarly attacked. And the granddaddy of Canadian pipeline projects – TransCanada’s Keystone XL – is mired in political inertia as President Barack Obama continues to deny a permit to cross the Canada-US border.
The situation is so bad in Canada that a 2014 poll found 70 per cent of British Columbians trusted First Nations and environmentalists for information about oil and gas projects, and only 30 per cent trusted industry – companies full of competent engineers and scientists who should be leading the public discussion, not shunned from it.
The low opinion of the Canadian energy industry is a direct result of campaigns like DeSmog that are at least partly – if not mostly – based on attacking underlying credibility instead of addressing facts, science, and engineering.
Americans want to avoid the Canadian situation at all costs. Industry has every right to fund organizations like Energy In Depth and FrackFeed, just as environmental groups can fund DeSmog.
A vigorous and fair debate about energy benefits everyone. Trying to bully the other side benefits none.