2012 Elections Not a Solution for Oil & Gas Industry’s PR effort

Political debates are already underway across the country as Republican Presidential nominee hopefuls throw their hat into the ring in an attempt to retake the political throne in Washington. While this early campaign rhetoric will likely focus on religion, past accomplishments and the infamous T.E.A. party, soon enough it will turn around to topics that actually matter to Americans such as the economy, getting past debt and job creation.

With America’s disapproval of Congress and politics in Washington at an all-time high, it’s no wonder America’s perception of the oil and gas industry is equally bleak. In the midst of the drama surrounding our economy lie the oil and gas industry, the Democrat’s scapegoat who has had a rough eighteen-months of public spotlight. Hit from all sides, the industry has dealt with everything from Josh Fox’s Gasland to hydraulic fracturing bans in New York and Pennsylvania, environmental protesters across the country screaming out against new drilling and the intentionally slow approvals of new drilling leases in the Gulf.

The industry would have to be ignorant to not realize that public relations are turning into a nightmare across the country and not enough is being done to rectify it. The interesting question that comes out of this situation is what is the correct solution to turn opinion around?

Two solutions are rising to the top right now: 1) The oil and gas industry needs to become more transparent and gain the public’s trust or 2) the elections for 2012 will bring the industry back.

When I first began hearing the two solutions proposed by those in the industry, I literally laughed out loud. I understand there is no love lost between the Democratic Party and the oil and gas industry. However, simply waiting until elections roll around and hoping the tide swings to a more favorable party doesn’t seem like a solution. It certainly isn’t a proactive solution.

Republicans may eventually make their way to the White House, but that doesn’t guarantee an easy road for the industry in terms of fewer regulations and restrictions and keeping tax breaks. In fact, I suspect that even if Republicans do win this next election that the oil and gas industry may be offered up as a sacrificial lamb to bridge the gap between those not in favor of Republicans in an attempt to keep approval ratings higher. Just a thought.

The oil and gas industry may not agree with or like the fact that to get you have to give a little in return, even if that means disclosing hydraulic fracturing fluid components – regardless of whether they truly are harmful. The point isn’t to steal patented chemical concoctions; it’s about building a relationship of trust with landowners across the country and showing goodwill.

More regulations handed down by either political party may not be in line with what the industry wants, but if it will help smooth tensions and also make the workplace and environment safer, then it should be embraced and not fought tooth and nail. And as I write this, I want to clarify beneficial regulations – not regulations imposed by the government for the sake of more regulation. I understand there is a difference.

A lot of time remains between now and when elections results are in. If the industry doesn’t jump start its efforts to foster stronger relationships with its communities and the public across the board, it will be too late, regardless of who’s elected to the White House.

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