This blog’s purpose is two-fold. One is to explain a recent survey and report Makovsky’s Energy & Sustainability practice completed around one of the most polarizing energy issues facing our country today. And the second is to provide a quick recap of an industry event our practice leader, Andy Beck, attended where he distributed said report.

Even for folks not interested or involved in the energy sector, most people know about hydrofracking (fracking)—a process to produce oil and natural gas. Despite huge advances in safety and environmental procedures, fracking continues to have a negative stigma when talked about in media and in social circles.

We wanted to know why. Moreover, in a continually digitized world, we wanted to know where this conversation was happening. Once we drafted and published our survey, the responses were eye opening.

Our survey was delivered via social media, specifically leveraging geotargeted Facebook ads to solicit responses. There were two sample sets. The first was from a group of respondents that live in one of nine areas where shale gas is produced or is currently being debated. The second was from respondents that do not live in one of these areas (anywhere in the U.S.) for comparison. In total there were 1600 respondents.

The survey was completed from June to July of this year and revealed that the majority of Americans (57%) believe that fracking is one of the top three most important environmental issues in the country; and 71% of people hear about the issue at least every week through digital news (43%) and social media (34%). We also found that 87% of Americans believe energy needs are on of the most important issues of the day. Using the survey results as a starting point, we further explored the issue of fracking in social media. Social media conversational data was segmented and filtered using several sophisticated analytical techniques (hat tip Scott Ziegler, our social strategist) to identify trends and make comparisons. We were then able to provide five distinctive recommendations for the oil and gas industry on how to effectively gain a social license to operate in communities and areas where they have a project or presence.

In the week of the report’s reveal, Andy Beck travelled out to Denver—arguably the epicenter of the issue around fracking—to attend the Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s Rocky Mountain Energy Summit. Actually, the Monday the conference kicked off, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced a compromise to keep oil and gas measures off of November’s upcoming ballot. The Energy Summit provided a perfect platform to not only hear about the challenges and opportunities in the oil and gas space, but also to share our report with folks in the industry.

We’ve all been to industry conferences so instead of an exhaustive rundown, here are quotes from presenters and speakers that still resonate a couple of weeks later. As you’ll see, the experts seem to agree with the recommendations found within our fracking report.

“The oil and gas industry needs a long-term commitment to raising the level of education and needs to engage with all stakeholders. There has to be a willingness to engage and emotion begins the debate before logic and fact.”

– Doug Settles, President and CEO of Encana

“Collaboration is absolutely necessary for energy companies to gain a social license to operate.”

– Tom Petri, Chairman of Petrie Partners

“We are going to be burning natural gas for a while so the issue is not about banning fracking, but figuring out the best way to do it safely and cleanly.”

– Fred Krupp, President of The Environmental Defense Fund

“We are still not doing a good enough job of educating the American people about the good things we are doing in the oil and gas space.”

– Scott Sheffield, Chairman & CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources

“You need to continually evolve and change to remain at the forefront of innovation. And you have to continually collaborate and work hand in hand to figure out the right solutions. The ability to turn data into solutions is key in accomplishing these tasks.”

– Lorenzo Simonelli, President & CEO of GE Oil & Gas

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