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Overcoming Fake News is Key to Our Energy Future

How Fake News and Forged Facts Hurt Infrastructure Development

This is Infrastructure Week across America. It is taking place with events, media coverage and advocacy initiatives to rally support for infrastructure development.

Pipeline infrastructure is critical to our country’s energy future, independence and economic prosperity, linking our abundant natural resources to power generation facilities,  customers, manufacturers and other end users. Check Twitter, Facebook and Google for hits on “pipelines” or “fracking,” however, and you might find a different story.

In the energy space, we are drowning in fake news, a new reality of forged “facts” and false information that spreads rampantly and negatively impacts the ability to finish pipeline infrastructure projects as planned, bringing jobs and economic development. Among concrete regulatory and logistical hurdles, overcoming fake news is one of the energy industry’s biggest challenges.

Here are examples of fake news, followed by the truth that was a bit more difficult to find.

False: Dakota Access Pipeline to Run through Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Sacred Land

True: The Dakota Access Pipeline route does not cross any land belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux, despite the massive protests, demonstrations and celebrity testimonials claiming otherwise.

False: Pipelines are Dangerous and Unsafe

True: Pipelines are the safest, most effective method to transport natural gas and natural gas liquids.  

This is a small snapshot of the information percolating among anti-pipeline activists. Just this month, the pro-industry group Texans for Natural Gas posted an open letter to Google asking the site to adjust its algorithm to demote anti-fracking websites in search results. The group believes this “will encourage a more honest public discussion about hydraulic fracturing, and oil and natural gas development in general.”

Of course, all constituents have the right to organize, protest and be heard. The danger in this new reality is the use of fear-mongering and false information to mobilize grassroots action and influence public opinion.

So how does the energy industry make progress toward overcoming fake news?

The answer: community education.

Energy companies must invest in comprehensive community education programs that address project concerns at every level. A one-size-fits-all approach to communications won’t cut it.

A successful community education campaign integrates a broad mix of communications tactics and messaging. Companies that successfully communicate with their constituents speak to all impacted stakeholders in ways those stakeholders want to receive their information.  

Open, honest communication regarding energy projects is the best policy when working with communities. Learn more about our Energy Infrastructure Services.

Adam Pope is a Senior Director of Bravo Group’s Pittsburgh office and a well-respected and versed member of the energy industry in Western Pennsylvania. Prior to joining Bravo Group, Adam served as the Community Liaison Officer for EXCO Resources, a leading natural gas and oil company. In this role, Adam managed all government and public relations for the company.